Breaking Bad: The Final Season Review

Spencer Mullen, Managing Editor

images (1)
Courtesy of Google Images

(Spoilers, obviously)

“You see, technically, chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change.”

Throughout the 62 episodes of the series we watched Walter White change from a milquetoast cancer stricken chemistry teacher into a violent and arrogant crime kingpin. We watched Walt’s devoted wife Skylar break bad herself. We watched Jesse, Walt’s former student and partner, change from a flippant punk into a man haunted by the things he has done. And we watched Hank, Walt’s brother in law, change from an obnoxious meathead into the moral center of the show. But the biggest change that took place was the show itself.

Breaking Bad, which premiered January 20, 2008, and wrapped its final season on September 29, 2013, had evolved from a quirky black comedy that was on the verge of cancellation into what is now undisputedly one of the greatest television shows ever made and a pop culture phenomenon. As Walter became a darker and less sympathetic character, the show became darker as well, and showcased some of the most disturbing moments in television history. (Who can forget Gus with the box cutter?) Breaking Bad also sported some of the most famous and quotable lines in television over the past few years. (“I am the Danger!” or “Yeah Bitch! Magnets!”) The fifth and final season of Breaking Bad consisted of 16 episodes. The first eight episodes aired in 2012, while the final eight aired in 2013.

One of the most interesting aspects of the first half of season 5 was Walt’s gradual transformation into a ruthless drug kingpin. After defeating Gus Fring, Walt became extremely arrogant and controlling. Walt also became a master manipulator, shown when Walt was able to trick Jesse into thinking that Gus poisoned Brock. After spending the last four seasons being nagged at by Skylar, Walt was able to terrify his wife into submission. One of the most powerful scenes in Season 5a was the confrontation between Walt and Skylar after Skylar’s suicide attempt, in which Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn both gave amazing performances. One of the things that made Season 5a so great was that Mike was given a major role for the first time. Throughout Walt’s rise to power, Mike remained to be a pragmatic voice of reason, and a thorn in Walt’s side. Mike’s final scene is beautifully shot and beautifully acted  by Jonathan Banks and Cranston as well. Season 5a also ended on the greatest cliffhanger that the show has ever had, when Hank finally discovered the real identity of Heisenberg.

The second half season 5 was even better than the first half and was most likely the greatest ending for a show in the history of television. The second half was a full sprint to the finish line and is as intense and emotionally as TV can get. As we watched Walt rise to power in the first half, we watched Walt’s world fall apart in the second half. Walt and Hank’s confrontation in the garage was more powerful than anyone could possibly expect, and “tread lightly” became another classic quote for Breaking Bad. Walt’s faulty confession tape that implicated Hank as Heisenberg and the firefight in the desert were two of the biggest jaw dropping moments that the series ever produced. But it was the antepenultimate episode of the series “Ozymandias” that was the best episode that the show ever made. The episode was without a doubt the most brutal and devastating hour of the series (Or of any series possibly). From the tragic death of Hank, to Walt sadistically telling Jesse about his involvement in Jane’s death before Jesse is dragged away to meth slavery, to the knife fight between Walt and Skylar, “Ozymandias” was the episode that the past 59 episodes were building up to. Though the final two episodes felt more like an epilogue of the show instead of a climax, they successfully ended the series in a satisfying way.

What made Breaking Bad so great was that while many shows start with promise but then deteriorate in quality in the later seasons of the show’s run, (ex: Dexter, Weeds, The Office) Breaking Bad got consistently better each season. The fact that we could not only sympathize with but root for a drug dealing child poisoning murderer is a huge triumph for Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show, and for Bryan Cranston. People often say that we are living in a golden age for television, and it is clear that Breaking Bad is at the pinnacle of it.