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Breaking Bad: Our Final 8 for 8

by Ethan Alter September 30, 2013 6:02 am
<i>Breaking Bad</i>: Our Final 8 for 8

It’s all over but the burial of Hank and Gomez’s bodies. For the last time, here are the eight standout moments from “Felina,” the eighth episode of Breaking Bad’s final season and the final episode of the series.

8. The Robbins Report
In the first of what would become many narrative conveniences, Walt jacked a New Hampshire-plated car whose owner happened to have the right cassette tape to score his final road trip. (And before you question the authenticity of anyone in the 21st century still owning a cassette player, just remember that one of the benefits of residing in the "Live Free or Die" state is that you don't have to put up with anyone telling you to upgrade your in-car audio set-up.) Not only that, but when he turned the car on and the music commenced, the cassette was cued up to the exact song that would essentially explain the rest of the episode. The singer was Marty Robbins and the song was "El Paso," the story of a cowboy who fled town after killing another dude and then returned because he missed his lady love, only to be killed himself not long after re-entry. And the name of that lady love? Felina (also spelled Feleena) a.k.a. the title of the episode. Way to give away the ending right upfront, Vince Gilligan.

7. Red Dots in the Morning, Assassin's Warning
While we're pretty sure Elliot would have honored his handshake agreement with Walt to pass along Heisenberg's $9 million cash-only savings account to Flynn in the form of a trust (Gretchen, on the other hand, seems like she'd lose little sleep over reneging on the arrangement), nothing seals a deal more effectively than a sniper laser sight aimed directly at your heart. Making that moment all the better was the eventual -- and, we gotta say, kind of expected -- revelation that none other than Badger and Skinny Pete were playing the roles of "the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi" that Walt claimed to have hired to shoot them if they don't follow his instructions to the letter. (The two best Star Trek nerds, maybe.) It's a good thing that Junior is turning 18 fairly soon, because two people as smart as Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz would likely be able to see through Walt's ruse eventually. But we're willing to buy that their fear of Walt (and potential guilt about screwing his son out of cash) would linger about ten months and two days.

6. "I Did It for Me."
If there's one major disappointment we had about finale along with a host of minor quibbles, it was the general lack of Skyler, who only appeared in a single scene. On the other hand, what a scene! Fully aware that this was the last time they'd see each other, Mr. and Mrs. White had maybe their most open and honest conversation in the course of the show. (And mostly free from sentiment, minus Walt peeking in on a sleeping Holly.) And the above line is really what Skyler (and most us in the audience) had been wanting to hear from Walt all along -- an admission that his adventure in the meth trade was fueled by a rampant ego rather than noble sacrifice.

5. One Door Closes
Since the last words he heard from Walt Jr. were "Why don't you just die already?" it's understandable that Walt Sr. wouldn't try for a face-to-face farewell with his kid. And frankly, the wordless goodbye that Gilligan granted him -- with Walt watching from a distance as Flynn entered the sad little apartment where the Whites currently live -- was so much more appropriate and powerful in the way it denied Walt what he wanted most: his son's forgiveness and love. A good portion (some might say, too much… and we'd tend to agree) of the finale allowed Walt to go out of this world on his terms. His relationship with his son, though, was the one thing he wasn't able to fix before dying.

4. Just Shoot Him Already
During the course of its run, Breaking Bad has defied clichés so often that it's extra distracting when it falls back on them. Three weeks ago, in "To'hajiilee," Gilligan couldn't resist employing the familiar "Last Phone Call to a Loved One" device whereby you know a guy's number is up (in this case Hank) because he takes the time to ring up his wife/daughter/girlfriend with ostensibly happy news only to be murdered an instant later. And in "Felina," Gilligan traffics in the age-old "Fallacy of the Talking Killer" trope by having Uncle Jack delay his execution of Walt in order to drag Jesse out of the meth dungeon to prove he's not a willing partner in the operation… thus buying Walt the time needed to reacquire his car keys and put the next part of his plan (i.e. the gun in the trunk) into action. Yes, Jack has been shown in the past to have an easily ruffled ego (and, to be fair, he's not doing that much talking while waiting for Jesse to show up), but even so, this felt like a fairly big stretch on the show's part -- a bit of business that's necessitated by plot rather than character. Too bad Jack didn't have Syndrome from The Incredibles on retainer as a criminal consultant. He would have made sure that his "no monologuing" rule was part of the neo-Nazi's general M.O. (One wrinkle to this cliché that we did appreciate: Walt didn't give a dying Jack the time to chat about where the remaining $70 million was, instead cutting him off by putting a bullet in his head. Honestly, that's probably how Jack should have handled Walt the moment he entered the compound.)

3. Choking Up
Even if we call B.S. on Jack taking the time to retrieve Jesse, his presence in the room did pay off big time when he choked the living hell out of Todd, who survived the wild spray of gunfire only to be on the receiving end of a Pinkman Neck Break Special. Betcha wish you stayed in Dillon now, huh, Landry-in-Disguise?

2. Lydia On My Mind
At least Todd didn't exit this world without one final joke about his eternal crush on Lydia. (And that crush is now literally eternal, since they're both on their way to the great beyond -- Todd immediately, and Lydia in a day or so courtesy of Walt's ricin-for-sugar-substitute switcheroo.) Immediately after his death, his cell phone rings to the tune of that old Groucho Marx ditty, "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." And despite her buttoned-up demeanor, we can easily imagine Lydia hiding a tattoo somewhere on her body. Our guess is a picture of Todd on her left shoulder blade.

1. Heisenberg Down
Breaking Bad ended really the only way it could: with Walter White dead on the floor of a meth lab. After all, that's pretty much the fate he signed up for when he embarked on this dubious career path two years ago (show time) and five seasons ago (our time). And while we're not one-hundred percent onboard with how this final episode brought him to that point (as good as much of it is, the finale loses points for a few too many narrative shortcuts and allowing Walt more control over his demise than he arguably deserved -- let's just say that The Shield's last episode easily remains the finest farewell to an antihero around), it's the right way for Walt and the show to cut to black. Though there really should have been a post-credits sting with someone finally remembering to let Huell out of that safe house…

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