SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS
I think this review is good, mostly in the sense that having the final episode be a fever dream of Walt’s last minutes of death would be pretty fucking cool, but I think it misses a central point of the series’ later seasons: it really stop being about Walter and starts being about Jesse. Yes, Walter is the one doing everything, but one of the things we really want to see is Jesse get out of there. I mean, we want to see everyone get out of there—Skyler, Marie, Hank, Walt Jr, we want everyone to get out from under Walt’s thumb, and the finale does a good job of doing that the only way Walter will let it: by removing the thumb himself. But I think the scene we were meant to see, the ultimate scene of catharsis for the audience, is of Jesse driving off to a new life.
In a way it reminds me of another series finale, Six Feet Under, and Claire’s driving off at the end, away from her family. Made me realize that in dramatic television series’ like these, one of the things the audience wants to see (even if they don’t realize it) is some character who gets out of it, who moves on. Because what else is a dramatic TV show but a handful of years of a group people stuck in some serious shit that they can’t get out of? Six Feet Under did such a great job of showing this, the pressure the Fisher family had of continuing their father’s legacy despite outside pressures. And in the end, Claire, the baby who grew up amid this chaos, is the one who gets out, who moves on. And I don’t know about you but I balled like a baby when that happened, because it was so damn cathartic. (It also didn’t help that I watched the entire series in a week long bender.)
In falling with the usual theme of the series, Walter gets what he wants in the end and, I mean, I don’t know about you but it makes me uneasy. Walter is not a good person, and he doesn’t admit that until the end of the show. And we spent five years dealing with his shit and the repercussions from it, and Jesse arguably dealt with it the worst. So for me, the scene of him driving off, leaving Walt to die alone with his empire of sand was the most cathartic moment of the entire series. He got away. He finally gained his freedom.
Good storytelling doesn’t give you the easy answers. Jesse’s freedom comes from Walter, probably the last person he wants it from. In the end, Walter’s legacy benefits, and yet continues to stain, his family. This is not a happy ending, but it’s also not a terrible ending, either. It’s just the end. The only happy moment in the entire episode is Jesse driving off. Keeping the finale in the landscape of a dream would rescind the catharsis necessary for—nay, begged by the audience for the last season (if not more). I understand the argument that Walter should not get what he wants because he doesn’t deserve it. But I would argue that he doesn’t get it in the end. All he gets is his pride.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”