Walter White’s fate in Breaking Bad was established in the Pilot: he was going to die within two years. All of the horrible things that have followed have been based on that decision, and as we watched Mr. Chips become Scarface, we conveniently forgot that both movies end with the central character dying. We knew this was coming as the final episodes began. And the flashforwards showed us what Walter White’s future was, but not how he got there.
The last few episodes have been revealing that, and trying to give a man who has spent the last five seasons completely corrupting himself the chance to buy back the tiniest piece of his soul. It is clear that as badly as he wanted to avoid his brother-in-law, the late Hank Schrader, from ever finding out who he was, he didn’t want him to die. The massive shootout that ultimately culminated in his death clearly rocked him in a way few things had. And even though he sold out his partner, and the young man who ultimately rejected him Jessie, it’s now clear that the fate the Aryans gave him was much worse then the death Walter wanted.
Fate for Walter wasn’t quite as cruel, but it was close. Walter Jr., the only person left on the show who had no idea who his father was, learned the truth, and his first reaction was to turn on Walt. Skyler was even more appalled by what had happened then Walt was, and was left in the unenviable position of having to be the one left behind for the FBI to turn out. Walter went on the run to New Hampshire, completely isolated from his family. (We also learned the reason he wasn’t wearing his wedding ring in the flashes; it had slipped off, because of the effects of the chemotherapy. So much for the online theory he’d killed Skyler.)
But for the family man, the cruelest blow came when his own son rejected him for being the monster that he was, finally refusing money he had given everything to make. Then, to add insult to injury, his colleagues who he had founded a billion-dollar business, and who’s buyout was at the centre of why he wanted to become a drug kingpin in the first place, denounced him on Charlie Rose as having nothing to do with them or the foundation of their company.
So, he moved towards his final act. By using his former friends ( but not their money) he found a way to give the last $10 million he had as a charitable trust for his son when he turned eighteen.(He also scared the shit out of them, thanks to Jesse’s old running buddies, in one of the few light moments of the show.). Then he returned home to get the ricin cigarette he made back in Season 2. I thought he was going to save it for himself, but he’d figured out a better use for it. Finally, he went to Skyler, and did what little penance he could manage— hopefully giving her a bargaining chip with the FBI. (But let’s face it, Skyler survived the finale, but the rest of her life will be horrible, no question.) Then he finally owned up why he had done all this— for himself. It made him feel alive.
He then made one last visit to Lydia, and gave her a little sweetener for her tea. Then he returned to the compound where Terry and his Uncle were holding Jesse, and for the last time in his life, outsmarted the bad guys, rigging the machine gun he’d bought at the beginning of the season to kill everybody in the compound. Jesse earned a measure of revenge by choking Terry to death with the chains they’d use to hold him prisoner. And in a final farewell, Lydia called in to learn if Walt had been killed, only to learn that he’d used the ricin on her. She had it coming. It would’ve been fitting if Jesse had been the one to deliver the fatal shot, but he finally broke free of him, and left him to die.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the shows final season was that there were so many survivors. Skyler, Walter Jr., Jesse, Marie, even Holly who everybody though, with the show’s tendency to kill the most innocent of victims might die. But they will live through the shadow of Heisenberg, and that is nearly as bad as a fate as Walter White got. One thing’s for certain: creator Vince Gilligan most assuredly stuck the landing of this series.