September 29, 2013 Season 5, Episode 16
When asked by GQ Magazine how he thought Breaking Bad should end, Bryan Cranston said, "However Vince Gilligan wants it to end" ("The Last Stand of Walter White," Brett Martin).
In an interview about Season 5, Episode 16's Breaking Bad Felina finale, Vince Gilligan said, "I think plenty of people out there will have had a different ending for this show in their mind's eye and therefore we're bound to disappoint a certain number of folks (including this folk to a certain degree, but that's fodder in the last chapter of my book), but I really think I can say with confidence that we made ourselves happy and that was not remotely a sure thing for the better part of a year. I feel that the ending satisfies me and that's something that I'm happy about"('Breaking Bad': Creator Vince Gilligan explains series finale," Dan Snierson for Entertainment Weekly. This is a very insightful interview with Vince Gilligan about "Felina." It includes a few alternate endings of what could have happened in the Blue-White-Pink world of Breaking Bad's ABQ as well as the old western movie that highly influenced the very end of the episode.) Whether or not you thought Breaking Bad's series finale met your likely lofty expectations, here are 10 moments you might have missed in "Felina." (Even though I'm sure you didn't, because if you were one of the 10.3 million people who watched the finale, you couldn't take your eyes of the scree.) And buckle in. This is going to be an extended edition, because I'll never get another chance to write one of these posts!
Breaking Bad Felina
1. "Felina" is an anagram of finale. But, more than that, versions of this tweet floated around the Internet prior to this last half-season. I never would have figured this out: https://twitter.com/MediaEasterEggs/statuses/375764593504555008 2. The music in "Felina" was a veritable smorgasbord of pointed, poignant, and purposeful lyrics. First, we see a Marty Robbins cassette tape, then Walter listens to "El Paso" off that tape after he prays to just get home. That song may hold the main key to the episode's title as Marty sings about a gunfighter who has fallen for a girl named Felina. The gunfighter is ultimately killed by a bullet. [youtube id="kIHRgisdbeY"] Next, Odd Todd's ringtone for Lydia, the dead Juliet to his also-dead Romeo, is Groucho Marx singing "Lydia The Tattooed Lady."[ref]HT @TheAlanNoble on Twitter[/ref] [youtube id="n4zRe_wvJw8"] Lastly, and quite fittingly, Badfinger's "Baby Blue" plays as Walter comes to terms with his terminal diagnosis, which kicks off with "Guess I got what I deserved ... "[ref]Personally, I would have liked to have heard Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue" as the closing song, but the Badfinger choice was sublime.[/ref] [youtube id="TkA7xQb6uPk"] The music for this series has been outstanding, and some kind soul had compiled a Breaking Badplaylist on Spotify, which is well worth the listen. 3. Does Walter White pray? In the opening sequence, Walter's alone in a frozen car, trying to hotwire it. When he's unsuccessful, he says to no one in particular, "Just get me home. I'll do the rest." A few seconds later, keys fall out of the sky like manna from heaven. However, even if that was the last prayer of a dying man, it seems like his characteristic Heisenberg smirk suddenly appears as if to say, "I still got it. The world still bends to me." It's a small but intriguing moment because nothing else like it occurs, as far as I recall, throughout the series. 4. The Walter White Serial Killer Copycat Theory Lives! Buzzfeed suggested that Walter adopts certain traits of those he kills, i.e. cutting off bread crusts (Krazy-8), driving a Volvo (Gus), placing a towel beneath his knees (Gus), ordering a drink "on the rocks" (Mike). When Walter breaks into Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz's home in "Felina" and Elliot attempts to protect his family, Walter—in a dead-ringer of an impersonation of Mike Ehrmantraut if I've ever seen one—says a memorable line, the cadence of which echoes every threat Mike ever made: "Elliot, if we're gonna go that way, you're gonna need a bigger knife." 5. The blood of Christ makes an appearance, of sorts. While still at the Schwartz's, Walter tells them, "You must have one great view of the Sangre de Cristos." The Sangre de Cristos is a real mountain range in northern New Mexico. "The name, Spanish for 'blood of Christ,' is said to come from the red color of the range at some sunrises and sunsets, especially when the mountains are covered with snow."[ref]Wikipedia, so you know it's legit.[/ref] Walter's words are so short that conjecture's the best anyone could do with whether or not the writers meant anything more with this loaded sentence, or if it just made geographical sense to have the über-rich Schwartzes to live near the Sangre de Cristos mountains. However, it does help to fulfill the "Fe" part of FeLiNa ... although the later parts of this episode does that in spades. 6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, er, Skinny Pete and Badger, make a stellar appearance. Breaking Bad and "Shakespearean" have been tossed together more times than Jesse's been beat up. Theories comparing the show to Hamlet or MacBeth have been put forth, some of which hold water. While Badger and Skinny Pete escape the ultimate outcome that befell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,[ref]Immortalized in this funny movie[/ref] Skinny Pete's line following their laser-pointer hitman routine at the Schwartz's, "The whole thing felt kind of shady, moralitywise," seems like something Rosencratz would say, a knowing, wink-to-the-audience comment about the play going on around him. 7. What was up with Jesse's woodworking dream? It's a heart-rending callback to an earlier episode, of course, "Problem Dog," but I wouldn't have remembered that had I not read about it: "Even the dreamy scene where Jesse, still in shackles in a meth lab, fantasizes that he is in a woodworking shop sanding a beautiful box had a precise antecedent: in an episode when Jesse was in group therapy, he reminisced about the satisfaction he felt in high school of making a perfect box from 'Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood.'[ref]"A Clear Ending to a Mysterious Beginning," NY Times[/ref] 8. Walter's true confession. I think we were all just as shocked as Skyler when Walter told her, "You have to understand, everything I did, I did it for ... me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was ... alive." This is the true confession that Walter couldn't bring himself to say in previous episodes. This was his final revelation. This was the fulfillment of his chemical prophecy from the pilot episode: "Chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change. .... Well that's, that's all of life, right? It's the constant, it's the cycle ... It's solution, dissolution, just over and over and over. It's growth, then decay, then transformation." Should we have been surprised by his final transformation? Which brings me to my penultimate point. 9. The ending both surprised and frustrated me, but I wasn't the only one. Of course, I think the ending surprised most people, but I was of the opinion that Walter would inadvertently kill Jesse, maybe even as Jesse sacrifices himself to save Walter's family from Walter. Having finally crossed a line too far for even him in killing his almost-son, Walter would realize how depraved he's become and swallow the ricin. That's a bleak ending, and the fact that Vince Gilligan ended the show on a somewhat redemptive plot point made me feel as if I'm more depraved than Breaking Bad's writers, and that's saying something![ref]After writing this post, I've since listened to the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast for "Felina." In the opening 10 minutes, Vince Gilligan shares an idea he had for the end of the first season that's one of the darkest, most terrifying stories I've ever heard. So, maybe my comparative depravity isn't on par with Vince's ... [/ref] I'm going to write more about my expectations about the finale and what actually occurred in this episode for the updated chapter of my ebook, but until then, I take solace in the fact that many others were similarly duped into believing that Breaking Bad was going to end on a very dark note, the same note that had been ringing like Tio's bell for the last 61 episodes. 10. I wish this would have been a tagged ending to the show. Major kudos to Christian Becker on Facebook for this warm, fuzzy, and fitting ending for two people whom I feared would suffer far too much by series' end:
Six years later a young blonde girl walks into her woodworking class late. The teacher shoots her a glare. "Late again?" "Sorry Mr. Pinkman, just had to go over some stuff with my Chemistry teacher." Jesse smiles. "It's alright. Take a seat, Holly."[ref]Part of this comment thread[/ref]
What else caught your attention in this epic finale?
As I mentioned, I'll be adding a new chapter to my ebook,
, this month and subsequently releasing a print edition with the updated chapter, hopefully in late November. If you've enjoyed this post, check out the other seven in the series,