Breaking Bad: Felina   Rewatch 
February 8, 2015 12:52 PM - Season 5, Episode 16 - Subscribe

The series finale.

"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really ... I was alive."

The mystery of the title.

Much speculation. Andi Teran at Previously.TV lays out the case for Marty Robbins' song El Paso, which was indeed used in the episode: "just a CRACKPOT theory that could ALSO turn out to be totally spot on."

Ghosts and legends.

Donna Bowman, AV Club:
After the heart-in-the-throat violence and suspense of the last few episodes, tonight’s finale is quiet. It doesn’t try to impress. A legend has no need to do that, as Walt shows that he understands when he quietly scares Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz out of their wits. Nobody can believe Walter is right next to them because his modus operandi has never been to remain unseen. Over and over again in this last appearance, Walt remains in the background while his legend does the work for him.
Spencer Hall, SBNation:
Walt finally admitted what we knew all along: that he liked it, was good at it, and enjoyed the hell out of it. There is a lot to like about that scene in Skyler's kitchen: that Walt is now a small enough figure to be obscured by a simple support beam, that Walt's last will and testament are written on the saddest of longshot bets, the lottery ticket, and that The One Who Knocks does not knock once in this episode. When Gretchen sees him in the house, she screams like she's seen a ghost mostly because she has: Walter White floats in and out of rooms here, unannounced and telling nothing but the truth.
Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture:
In this episode and last week's, we were really watching a ghost, at times vengeful and terrifying, but mostly sad and hopeless. A guy who seemed to think he was a decaying but still formidable modern version of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning — a guy who'd figured some things out and was ready to act, dammit, settling old scores, righting old wrongs, and helping his wife and kids buy the largest turkey in the window — but who was ultimately, probably, more like Jacob Marley, materializing in people's homes to scare the hell out of them by pointing an accusing finger or moaning in misery while clanking his pitiful irons.
A happy ending?

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:
Given everything that Walt had been through, and put us through, over these 62 episodes, I think I might have preferred the whole package be wrapped in a bow that wasn't so tight. "Granite State" suggested a world in which Heisenberg was dead and useless, but "Felina" brought him back to life, briefly more potent than ever before. It's a more cathartic, upbeat conclusion than if the series had ended with Walt getting into Robert Forster's van or living alone in that snowy cabin, but is it ultimately a more fitting one for this series?
Maureen Ryan, HuffPo:
Given how much he's wanted to control events and other people, I thought the finale might find Walt struggling at times with forces that tried to overcome him. To not have the upper hand rankles Walt to no end, and he mostly got to have the upper hand here. [...] It allows a man who's done many bad things to control key outcomes yet again, and it's perhaps not as dramatic if Walt encounters no real obstacles in his endgame. He ticks items off his list and that is basically that.
Willa Paskin, Slate:
This is where the finale is not quite so satisfying: After everything, after five seasons in which the writers were clocking Walt’s every misdeed, at the very end, they turned out to be Team Walt. Despite everything he did, Walt was rewarded—not with life, too much had gone down for that—but with a death on his own terms. He died having provided for his family, without going to jail or giving up on his legend.
Laura Hudson, WIRED:
There are going to be a lot of people who feel like this episode absolves Walt – that it gives them the excuse they were looking for to forgive him all over again. Which is why my feelings on the episode are perhaps best summed up by the “two deadliest hitmen west of the Mississippi,” Badger and Skinny Pete, after they helped terrorize Gretchen and Elliott with laser pointers. “I don’t exactly know how to feel about all this,” says Badger. “The whole thing felt kind of shady, morality-wise,” agrees Skinny Pete.

Much like Walt, the episode simply decides to pay us off, glossing over the atrocities of Heisenberg and the shattered lives of Skyler, Flynn, Marie and Jesse with a kick-ass action scene and a few hundred rounds from an M60. “How does it feel now?” Walter asks, handing them each a satisfying bundle of cash. Better?
Chris Heller, in The Atlantic's roundtable:
Walt was an irredeemably terrible person, and no matter what he accomplished, the world will remember him as a drug kingpin who died in a shootout. I want to believe he knew that with his dying breath. I want to believe that as he stared at his reflection, he understood that his sins would not be cleansed. That he could never undo the damage he caused. That he did not control his legacy. I want to believe, but I just don't know. All we know is what he did. No, this wasn't a happy ending. It was a difficult one.
Too neat?

Kevin MacFarland, BoingBoing:
So much of this finale sets up perfectly for Walt, right from the moment the car keys fall into his hand. I imagine dissidents are going to cry foul at the sheer amount of things that fall Walt’s way during “Felina,” how he moved about Albuquerque as though nobody but Hank would be capable of tracking him down. Walt’s freedom in the absence of a true opponent tracking him down felt uneasily simple. But it’s the most theatrical ending to a very theatrical show, and as long as you can accept Breaking Bad on those heavily Shakespearean terms, it is extremely satisfying.
Sean Collins, Rolling Stone:
Even Walt's admission of "I did it for me," was, in a sense, a way to let Walt off the hook. He died knowing that what he'd done was wrong, which is basically why he wanted to die in the first place. He taught himself a lesson and left the audience knowing exactly how to feel about it, which made it hard to feel devastated, or disgusted, or delighted, or anything much more powerful than merely satisfied. Walt built a box to die in, climbed in, and pulled the lid shut after himself. It was a beautiful box. I just wish it had remained ever so slightly open.
The it-was-a-dying-dream theory.

Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker:
Wouldn’t this finale have made far more sense had the episode ended on a shot of Walter White dead, frozen to death, behind the wheel of a car he couldn’t start? Certainly, everything that came after that moment possessed an eerie, magical feeling—from the instant that key fell from the car’s sun visor, inside a car that was snowed in. Walt hit the window, the snow fell off, and we were off to the races. Even within this stylized series, there was a feeling of unreality—and a strikingly different tone from the episode that preceded this one.
Uproxx: Norm MacDonald Thinks The ‘Breaking Bad’ Finale Was A Fantasy That Played Out In Walter White’s Sick Mind.

Daniel Carlson, Pajiba: "This is all kind of cute, and even enjoyably creative on a certain level, but it’s also totally wrong."

Vince Gilligan.

On Talking Bad: "This story was finite all along. It's a story that starts at A and ends at Z. It's a very closed-ended thing."
On the Breaking Bad Insider podcast: "[It] felt right and proper that [Walt] went out on his own terms."
Interviewed at Entertainment Weekly:
There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. [...]

I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. [...]

So it’s a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is where the finale is not quite so satisfying: After everything, after five seasons in which the writers were clocking Walt’s every misdeed, at the very end, they turned out to be Team Walt. Despite everything he did, Walt was rewarded—not with life, too much had gone down for that—but with a death on his own terms. He died having provided for his family, without going to jail or giving up on his legend.

This sums it up perfectly for me. I thought Walt realized too many of his goals for this to be truly satisfying for me. My model ending would have included Walt's arrest, and subsequently seeing him in a prison clinic learning that his cancer was in remission, such that he would have years to contemplate his inability to control his future and the effect of his actions on Skylar, Flynn, Marie, Jesse, and everyone else who he so badly fucked over.

Also: this has been a fabulous re-watch effort. Thank you!
posted by MoonOrb at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm with Norm McDonald with this one. This episode works much better as a dream. Walt's ability to slip through the police net is absurd for a man dying of cancer, the gun attack works perfectly, he even manages to teleport ricin into stevia.

This episode is almost embarrasingly Walt centric. The death of Lydia , the humiliation of Gretchen and Elliot. Cruel cruel cruel. The one pay off that I like is Walt finally admitting that he did it for himself to Skyler.

Personally, I like to imagine Walt Jr donates all that blood money to charity, then goes and spits on his father's grave.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:19 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was not unhappy with the finale but I do have problems with it:

1. Walt gets to think he's partially redeemed himself and he doesn't deserve it in the slightest.
-Walt Jr doesnt want the money and Walt decided he should have it anyways and forces it on him
-He tells Skylar to bargain for a lighter sentence with her sister's husband's body. I dont think that's going to go over very well with Marie, if there was any chance of salvaging that relationship
-he gets to see Jesse go free (not that he knew he was there in the first place) and he gets to die, not only surrounded by his only love in the lab, but also with a bigger legend because of his destruction on the Nazis.

Fuck him. He doesn't deserve any of it.

2. Breaking Bad as a show has always been very dark and getting darker with each episode/season. I felt like they had a big opportunity to go incredibly, heart-wrenchingly darker. And they didn't. They wussed out on the ending.

very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers
You've been kicking us in the teeth for 5 seasons. Now that you've made me like it and want it, you couldn't follow through on the end.

The dream stuff, I could see that being a theory if at any point in the show the writers were ambiguous about what they meant. But they weren't. This wasn't a dream, this is what the writers wanted to happen. Saying it is a dream makes people feel better about some of the weirdness of the last 2 episodes, but it is only wishful thinking.



This rewatch has been really great. Thanks for all the work you put in Kyle.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:33 AM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


"I liked it.
I was good at it.
And I was really - I was alive."
-- Walter White or We had a deal, Kyle at the end of this rewatch? You decide.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:07 AM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I liked that Walt took Jesse's advice from 46 episodes earlier ("Four Days Out") and built a robot.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Breaking Bad writers are very good at call-backs, or as Vince Gilligan has said, "mining our own history".
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:22 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The hand wringing over "Team Walt" is annoying for the exact same reasons the fretting over whether Don will be sufficiently humbled in Mad Men is. If the critics want a morality play where you can be sure everyone will get what they "deserve", there's about 99% of all other stories out there.

If you wanted dark ending, then you really couldn't come up with a better one than "crime sorta pays". All of Walt's plans failing in order to satisfy some instinct to punish just turns Walt into an incompetent at the last second. Who cares what he's "earned"? The issue is what Walt became, and that's a doomed man who can cobble together something for his family, fueled by genius, resentment, ego and the freedom of knowing you're going to die soon anyway. Walt traded being a "good guy" and his family to become the person who could do that, if he couldn't put it together then he would be the same person he was the day before he got his diagnosis. That's a lot more undermining to the story than the writers not hating Walt enough.

Walt was interesting because he made choices that he didn't think were "right"; because he lived in a way that was only possible because of his impending death, and because it demonstrates how much one's ethics can really just be a product of circumstances. "Will Walt be sufficiently punished?" is about the most boring topic you could look for in Breaking Bad.
posted by spaltavian at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


If you wanted dark ending, then you really couldn't come up with a better one than "crime sorta pays". All of Walt's plans failing in order to satisfy some instinct to punish just turns Walt into an incompetent at the last second. Who cares what he's "earned"? The issue is what Walt became, and that's a doomed man who can cobble together something for his family, fueled by genius, resentment, ego and the freedom of knowing you're going to die soon anyway. Walt traded being a "good guy" and his family to become the person who could do that, if he couldn't put it together then he would be the same person he was the day before he got his diagnosis. That's a lot more undermining to the story than the writers not hating Walt enough.

That's a fair take. But it's worth noting that the show is not one without a sense of justice. Villains on the show have been killed, often in satisfying ways. I didn't feel like (for instance) the Wire needed to punish its villains necessarily, because it consistently set up that sometimes people don't face justice.

Breaking Bad has a more pulpy feel at points, especially in this season, and it uses its pulp to essentially celebrate Walt's career in this final episode. Felina is a triumph for Walt, start to finish. He gets to do what he wants, die how he wants, save who he wants, punish who he wants. I don't find that as satisfying. For me, emotionally, Granite State felt like an appropriate ending.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:29 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


For me, emotionally, Granite State felt like an appropriate ending.

And Ozymandias for me. These last 3 episodes kind of act as a choose-your-own-ending adventure.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:33 PM on February 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Didn't mind the finale. Couldn't care less about what any of the characters deserve in a universe that is outside the story, which was basically a hell of a graphic novel.
posted by juiceCake at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm curious now about a complete list of the people Walt killed or had killed throughout the series: Krazy 8, Jane, Gus, Mike, the prisoners, Lydia, the Nazis: all people Walt couldn't control. He might have been able to control Gale if he had enough time, but he didn't, so Gale was killed too. His actions inadvertently resulted in Hank's death, because he couldn't control Hank. Hell, even the fly--how much a threat of contamination could it possibly represent, given the volume of what they cooked? In retrospect I'm even more surprised that Jesse lived given that he refused to follow Walt's final order, and less surprised that Gretchen and Eliot did given that his final act against them was one of control. Was there some lingering love left for Skyler and Walt Jr.? They were under his thumb throughout most of the series, but at the end he couldn't control them, seemed even to forgive them (and of course no one can control a baby).

Throughout the series Walt wants to be in control and cannot stomach uncertainty. He wants to know both where people stand and where they're headed. How odd that he calls himself Heisenberg.
posted by johnofjack at 5:35 AM on February 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


a complete list of the people Walt killed or had killed throughout the series: Krazy 8, Jane, Gus, Mike, the prisoners, Lydia, the Nazis

It would also have to include Emilio (Krazy-8's cousin), Tio (after convincing him to commit Gus's murder-by-suicide), Tyrus (along with Gus and Tio), the two gangsters he ran down with the car, and even though they lived I would also count Brock, Ted, and their neighbor Becky (whom he sent into the house as a decoy for the assassins) as people he was willing to kill off if necessary.
posted by psoas at 10:57 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


According to IMDB, there are sixty-eight different characters who appeared in at least three different episodes of the show. A quick count suggests about half of them are dead (or in the case of Lydia, presumably about to die), while many more are bereaved (Marie, Brock, Kaylee), facing criminal charges (Skyler), out of a job (Huell, Francesca, and I suppose the unnamed Los Pollos manager), broke (Skyler, Flynn and Holly), living under what they believe to be the threat of death (Gretchen and Elliott), possibly quadriplegic (Ted Beneke) and so on. Jesse is last seen cackling madly, and no telling how much trauma he suffered from his period of captivity and having Jane and Andrea killed in his presence. Bogdan is last seen being humiliated, Merketz is forced into an early retirement because of the stain of having never noticed Gus Fring's activities. I suppose Skinny Pete and Badger are pretty much unchanged (likewise Kuby), and Carmen suffered nothing much worse than an awkward skeevy pass from Walt. I think Dr. Delcavoli is about the only person to interact with Walter more than once or twice and not come away worse off than he was. Oh, and the unflappable detectives Kalanchoe and Munn are presumably okay, but I think they share only a single brief scene with Walter, when they pick up Jesse at the hospital.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:42 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, emotionally, Granite State felt like an appropriate ending.

I keep thinking of this, and I think I'd like Walt dying alone in a cabin with a barrel of money a lot more than the ending we were given. (It does remind me a bit of the ending of The Godfather Part II, but even the idea of The Godfather Part III seemed so superfluous that I still haven't watched it.)

ricochet biscuit: yes, Walt is poison, if not societal carcinogen.
posted by johnofjack at 6:46 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


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