The saga of teacher-turned-kingpin Walter White comes to a conclusion this Sunday night.
I’ve discussed Breaking Bad extensively over the last few years, from podcasts to recaps to theories and general speculation. Yet, with the series finale looming, I’m totally confident about only one thing: Vince Gilligan and company will find ways to surprise even the most dedicated fans.
With that in mind, here’s a final round-up of my thoughts on the finale. These are a few possible directions the show could go. Note that not all of them are mutually exclusive. First, here’s what we already know: Walt returns to Albuquerque. He acquires an M60. He drives to his house to retrieve the ricin. This is where we move into “theory” territory . . .
1. The Most Likely Scenario: To the extent there’s any way to predict this, I think Walt is fairly obviously seeking to go out in a blaze of glory after the Schwartz interview rekindled the ol’ Heisenberg fire. The M60 is to get his money back from the Neo-Nazi crew, and the ricin is for someone who must be killed in a subtler way (more on this in a second). Incidentally, the scene that opened Season 5 probably doesn’t come at the beginning of this episode. I think it happens maybe halfway through. Once Walt goes and gets the ricin, he knows his time is very short, as law enforcement will be all over the place very shortly now that he’s out in the open. So, I think Walt has already killed Todd (the jacket thing again) and set things in motion by the time the breakfast diner “52” scene occurs. There will only be a handful of scenes after Walt gets the ricin and Carol sees him.
Armed with the M60, I think Walt carries out his plan—whatever it may be—in miraculous, meticulous fashion to the delight of the pro-Heisenberg portion of the audience, only for Jesse to appear and kill him at the end, blaming Walt for everything from Jane’s death to his own slave existence. It’s important to note that Walt almost certainly thinks Jesse is dead at this point, while Jesse likely thinks Walt is dead as well.
2. Ricin for Lydia: Walt may want to tie up all possible loose ends associated with the meth business, knowing that Lydia was ultimately the one pushing Todd’s crew to cook in the first place. He tried to “ricin” her before, but called an audible when she proposed the European meth distribution. It’s also possible Lydia (who is terrified that Skyler will out her to the cops) will have taken action against Walt’s family (likely via Todd), which may be what causes Walt to go after Todd first. In a twist, the ricin, in turn, could also be for Lydia’s daughter in an “eye-for-an-eye” / “family-for-family” retribution move. I’m not sure the show will go into “Walt poisons a kid” territory again, however.
3. The Shield Ending / Ricin for Walt: I talked a long time ago about the fact that I thought Walt might ultimately die of ricin poisoning in the final episode, even before cancer, Jesse, or the Nazis have a chance to kill him. It occurred to me that Walt might play a variation on the Vic Mackey strategy from the final episodes of The Shield. For those of you who aren’t Shield fans, Mackey (a dirty cop and the show’s primary character) negotiates an immunity deal for himself and his wife before confessing everything to the feds—who had no idea what the extent of his crimes were.
Here, I could see Walt agreeing to surrender himself and plead guilty if all charges against his wife are dropped. Once he signs on the dotted line and delivers his confession, he suddenly drops dead. Why? Because he secretly and strategically used the ricin on himself to prevent a painful death from cancer and to eliminate any risk of spending time in jail (let’s not also forget he had a BUNCH of guys murdered in the joint).
4. Happily Ever After: One of the recurring themes in the show has been Jesse’s inability to hold on to the people he loves, largely due to his relationship with Walt. He winds up estranged from his parents (although that one isn’t on Mr. White) which also cuts off contact with his little brother, he loses two girlfriends, he loses two mentors, and he ends up in a shell of an existence, driving aimlessly around ABQ, tossing money from his car.
After finally ridding himself of Mr. White, whether through his own doing or not, Jesse finally finds a purpose: Raising Brock. The show ends with Jesse going to live with Brock, at last having a reason not just to live, but to enjoy living.
5. The Marie Outlier: You may recall a couple of episodes ago that Marie confessed to her therapist that she was fantasizing about / researching different methods of poisoning someone. And that was before Hank died (an even she undoubtedly blames on Walt). One far-fetched ending for the show would have Marie discovering Walt is in town, with her being the one who ultimately offs Walt, possibly via a slow-acting poison. I’m not particularly high on this theory. But it’s a theory. I’m hoping that they just brought that up as a red herring. Speaking of red herrings . . .
6. The M60 is a Red Herring: We got a very early look at the M60, all the way back in the first episode of 2012. It’s possible, though, that the M60 isn’t being used in a frontal assault on the Nazi compound (which seems like a mission doomed to failure, without knowing more). Either (1) Walt never gets to use the M60, because he gets sidetracked as unexpected events occur, or (2) the M60 isn’t being used for the purpose we think it is.
What we do know is that Walt is very probably going to be the one who tries to use it—note that he asks for an instruction manual. We also know that, unlike the M60, the ricin was revealed much later as part of Walt’s plan. To me, that makes it more likely that Walt will get to use the ricin, at a minimum. Still, I’ll be more surprised than not if we don’t see the M60 fire off some rounds in the hands of someone on Sunday night. It’s a literal Chekhov’s Gun.
7. The Schwartz Outlier: Have the Schwartzes made their last appearance on the show? I think they probably have, but there’s also a nutty idea that they might show up again so that Walt can “prove” to them that he did more than come up with the name of the company. Or possibly so he can kill them. Whichever. Want an even crazier theory? The Schwartzes were the secret backers of Gus Fring (via Madrigal) and the couple are even bigger criminals than Walt. Note: I do not support that theory. The timeline doesn’t quite work, for starters. But, again, it’s an idea I had.
8. The Most Outlandish of Them All: During the pilot for Breaking Bad, there is a scene in which Walt receives his cancer diagnosis. Upon hearing the news, Walt “zones out” as the doctor continues to talk. A loud ringing noise plays as the doctor’s lips move and Walt stares at a mustard stain on the doctor’s coat. If you’re looking for the most insane theory reasonably within the outer limits of the realm of possibility, it would be that the entire series from that moment on had been Walt’s Mittyesque daydream about how he was going to provide for his family under these tragic circumstances, culminating in the death of himself and most of the people he loved.
Thankfully, I think the writers are too smart to alienate a huge chunk of the audience by attempting that kind of ending. I think it would be interesting, but probably not worth the tremendous backlash. Jason Whitlock might have a heart attack, for one. Or his fingers might actually fall off from his 100,000 mocking post-show tweets if this were to come to pass.
So, what happens? I think it’s #1 (obviously), with a dash of some of the others, especially #3 and #4. Walt both pulls off one last brilliant scheme, yet also gets his in the end in some form or other. That will be true whether Jesse gets him or ricin / cancer does, but Jesse survives and gets to move on with his life at long last. All of the other people directly connected to the meth business are very likely dead. Skyler is probably dead as well, but, if not, she avoids jail thanks to Walt. I should also point out that I think Walt will be “ready” to die when death finds him, content in a way that he has somehow redeemed himself—not true redemption, but some kind of “parting shot” that salvages some element of everything he did.
Here’s a final tally sheet of who I think survives the finale . . .
Walt: Dead, or in the process of dying when the final credits roll.
Jesse: Probably Alive
Skyler: Probably Dead (If she dies, it likely comes fairly early, as I said above)
Walt, Jr.: Coin Toss
Huell and Kuby: Alive
Hank: Still Dead
See you on the other side, fellow BB geeks.
Long live Heisenberg.