“Breaking Bad” is over.
The spoilers flow from here on out, but with a show record of 10.3 million viewers tuning in to the final episode, who with even a tiny interest in the program didn’t watch?
Walter White has gone to the meth lab in the big blue sky.
For a man known for murdering, money laundering, meth cooking, drug dealing, bomb making and more, death was a kindness.
Unlike some fans – many of whom rooted for him until the final frame – Walt lost my support along the way. It’s a credit to Vince Gilligan as a writer and Bryan Cranston as an actor that the character was ever sympathetic.
I turned on Walt during season three. Jesse (Aaron Paul) lay battered, beaten and bruised in a hospital bed for the second time in the series thanks to Walt’s manipulations.
Walt visited with a business proposition. Jesse lashed at him, underlining for the master meth chef that his life continued to decline as long as Walt was in it.
That’s when I saw Walt through Jesse’s eyes. Walt didn’t just have cancer. He was the cancer.
I watched the rest of the series wondering how much darker Walt would become and whether he would pay a cosmic price for his misdeeds.
I’m not sure he did.
The greatest pain he endured came in “Ozymandias,” an episode sure to go down as one of TV’s finest hours. Walt lost two things he’d sought to preserve throughout the entire show: The life of his Drug Enforcement Administration agent brother-in-law Hank and most of his $80 million.
By the scene’s end, Hank’s body was tossed in a hole in the desert and Walt had one-eighth of his riches. Hours later, with his secrets exposed to his son, Walt went fugitive, forced into six months of cold, expensive seclusion in a cabin in the New Hampshire wilderness.
This was Walter’s penance, not the death he paid at the end of the series.
In “Breaking Bad” terms, purgatory was being isolated in that cabin with just two copies of “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” to watch. That’s a horrifying fate, indeed.
But it was temporary. Walt’s excursion to New Hampshire served as prelude to his final act, in which he found a space between damnation and redemption.
He returned to New Mexico to right as many wrongs as he could. As his parting moments with his wife, Skyler, demonstrated, he opened too many wounds that will never heal, but did what he could to right them in the eleventh hour.
Instead of the anguish of dying alone from cancer, Walt sacrificed himself in a parting act of contrition.
From the viewer’s chair, that reads like handling Walt with kid gloves.
For me, he deserved the misery he felt in New Hampshire, so desperate for human contact that he paid his once-a-month guest $10,000 to play cards for an hour.
This is an emotional, visceral response to being a fly in the lab for years. Almost like a superpower, Walt became a bigger monster than each successive one he outsmarted – Krazy-8, Tuco, Jane, Gus, Mike, Uncle Jack, Todd and Lydia.
His transformation changed the tone of the series. Early episodes are dark and comedic. Later episodes, such as “Ozymandias,” are shots of adrenaline.
Walt eroded from a fish-out-of-water chemistry teacher into a self-deluded narcissist who showed no compunction about plotting 10 simultaneous prison murders.
Dying secluded and jonesing for cancer meds was a less satisfying conclusion, but it was the kind of ending he deserved.
Instead of having his antihero pay a cosmic price, Gilligan offered a different perspective: No one is irredeemable. Even the most rotten human beings are capable of admirable acts.
If nothing else, I love that the show delivered on the pilot’s promise. The first episode put a clock on Walt’s life and gave him a goal. That he got to achieve it has a twisted admiration to it, even after the countless lives he wrecked.
Walt’s death sentence from cancer and his flawed but appreciable notion to leave his family with a nest egg after he expired paid off.
But the price he paid to meet that end – and the ones he could have – don’t feel equitable.
To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.