Plenty of pop-culture stories from 2013 were fodder for public outrage. As the year comes to a close, Zap2it takes a look back at some of the biggest uproars and asks: U Still Mad?
The end of “Breaking Bad” was not ambiguous, like that of “The Sopranos.” It didn’t reveal the show to be a figment of anyone’s imagination, a la “St. Elsewhere” or “Newhart.” It didn’t negate any of the series that came before it the way “Dexter’s” finale, which aired a week before the “Breaking Bad” finale, did.
But man, some folks sure were angry about what the finale did with “Breaking Bad’s” main character, Walter White. The finale touched off a heated discussion among critics and fans about whether Walt (Bryan Cranston) got off too easily — even though he dies. “Breaking Bad” was the story of a man’s descent into evil, and you’re kind of supposed to hate Walt by the final episode. Still, the debate over the finale may have marked the first time in TV history that fans (some of them, at least) were hoping for a show’s main character to suffer more than he did.
Part of the reaction to the finale, and whatever measure of redemption Walt may have achieved in it, came from the fact that preceding episodes “To’hajiilee,” “Ozymandias” — widely regarded as the show’s all-time best installment — and “Granite State” were so unremittingly bleak that anything that even approached a happy ending seemed impossible.
Looking back at “Granite State,” though, it’s a bit of an attempt to rebuild our sympathies for Walt after the show spent five seasons destroying them. The episode depicts Walt at his absolute lowest, hiding out in a snowbound, one-room cabin a couple thousand miles from home while his cancer, and the chemo drugs he has smuggled in, ravage his body. It’s a fate he unquestionably deserves, considering the other lives he destroyed, and nothing in the episode suggests otherwise. Still, it’s hard to see someone suffer physically the way Walt does (Cranston is alone for much of the episode and sells Walt’s decline amazingly well) and not feel a little bit of compassion for him.
The series finale does do a lot of tidying up: Walt makes sure his kids are provided for; he at last admits to Skyler (Anna Gunn) that much of what he did was for himself; and, in the show’s final big set piece, mows down the neo-Nazi gang that has been holding Jesse (Aaron Paul) hostage and forcing him to cook Walt’s meth formula.
That sequence at Uncle Jack’s compound stuck out to some as terribly unrealistic, given Walt’s fragile health and its too-neat conclusion: The Nazis are all dead, Jesse goes free and Walt, struck by a stray bullet, can die near his beloved tools of chemistry. That sequence, though, was arguably no more farfetched than the bombing Walt orchestrated to take out Gus Fring at the end of Season 4 — it’s just that then, the audience still had some shred of rooting interest for Walt.
I’m on record as having enjoyed the finale quite a bit, and that hasn’t changed in the three months since it aired. But what about you? Did the way “Breaking Bad” ended disappoint you, and if so, are you still upset about it? Or are you just waiting around for the next series finale to give you something new to discuss?