AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has become one of the biggest phenomenons in the last 10 years of television. Equal parts cruel and funny, the story of the Walter White (Brian Cranston) turning from struggling chemistry teacher to methamphetamine producer/kingpin has taken its audience on a trip to view the corruption of pure intentions and the violent eruptions caused by a man who is facing insurmountable odds. Now, four years after Walter White and his junkie turned right hand man Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) first began to cook, “Breaking Bad” ended its fourth season with a literally explosive conclusion.
“Breaking Bad” has gone through a large metamorphosis since the show’s first two seasons. The original attitude of the show’s story was a deliberate slow burn, with the majority of the humor coming from the mismatched team up of White and Pinkman and much of the drama forming around White becoming acclimated with the criminal world. The looming threats of the show were also largely mundane, focusing around the birth of Walter’s baby girl, the severity of his cancer diagnosis, and the constant danger of his D.E.A. agent brother in law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) discovering his operation. Come midway through the third season however, the show took a sharp turn into high speed escalation, with the introduction of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), a major meth distributor posing as a restaurant owner becoming a main stay of the show. With Gus as the new source of money for White and Pinkman and a new focus of much of their conflict, the severity of the situations began to rise along with the magnitude of the resolves. While this seems like a natural progression for a show to take, much of what made the first seasons of the show so unique in the current climate of heavy drama based television seemed to become slightly lost in the transition. This was probably never more apparent than in the season four finale.
The entire last season of the show has been a plot line that would have to end completely and abruptly for the show to be able to begin any other sort of story. Gus, while a fantastic character and brilliantly played by Esposito, was a sort of multi part threat that dominated the show’s direction for a season and a half worth of episodes. So when it came to the last three episodes of season four, some leaps had to be made to clean the slate to make way for the show’s final season, many of which seemed a bit patched together. Every member of the Mexican Cartel and Gus’s crew is dead (except for the x factor Mike (Jonathan Banks) who was moved out of the story line after the Mexico incident.), the multimillion dollar meth lab is burned to the ground which simultaneously ends both Hank’s investigation into Gus’s operation as well as the operation itself, and Skylar White’s ex-boss/lover Ted (Christopher Cousins) seems to have died after tripping and breaking his neck. This seems to indicate that the story had gotten to a point where no real resolve could be had other than a complete purging of everything that had come since the introduction of Gus as a major player.
While much of the story elements seemed to be put in place to move the story back to square one, it must be said about the season finale that it put to bed any ideas that Walter has become anything short of a terrible person. The reveal that it had been Walter who poisoned Brock Rios (Ian Posada) and his use of his neighbor to flush out any waiting threats at his house showed that the moral gray area that the character had existed in within the first part of the show had completely given away to a ruthless pure survival outlook on life. This is a major development in Walt’s character, and also leaves the viewers with an entire season of following a completely tragic and corrupted protagonist who will need to be in one way or another justified, unless he is to be made into someone who no empathy can be felt for.
In the end, the season finale of “Breaking Bad” Season 4 did the only thing is could do. It ended every plot thread that the season had set up from the introduction of Gus on and got the show back to its origin point from the high amounts of escalation that had been occurring for the last year and a half. It unfortunately also showed where the show had gotten off course and what extreme leaps had to be made to get it back to its original charm. All in all it showed that “Breaking Bad” is at a point that now has to start over from the beginning while simultaneously ending the entire series. Fans of Season 4’s feel will be a fan of the high energy pacing of the episode and the complete wrap up of all loose ends. Others though, may find it to be a culmination of the over the top attitude that the show has taken and a purging fire that was needed to get it back to being the character driven story of a man and the decisions he makes in a world where the cruelest people are often the most successful.