Breaking Bad, S5E16 “Felina”

10 Overall Score
Acting : 10/10
Story: 10/10
Cinematography: 10/10

Great, understated ending | Thoughtful callbacks to series details without being cheesy | Disappearing/reappearing Walt/ Emotional weight without cathartic explosion | Nearly all loose ends tied

Wish there was more of Jesse and Walter Jr.

I’d like to think the world came to a halt yesterday at 10:15 p.m. EST. In truth, it was just me sitting in my living room. The finale was as good of a finale as I could have hoped for. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted to it be. I guess the feeling of numbness is something everyone experiences when they love something and have to see it go. I couldn’t believe Walt died. I didn’t believe the ending was as sad and yet peaceful as it was, but it was. After the show, people jumped on social networks to boast over-displayed gratitude to a bunch of people they didn’t know. “Thank you Vince Gilligan,” as if he saved a life with “Breaking Bad.” There’s going to be a lot of babies middle-named “Vincent,” after Dean Norris started it with his son. Being a writer, I assume thanking the people behind the show would be acceptable, but it feels like a step above celebrity – almost religious – which serves to show how much of an impact “Breaking Bad” will leave in culture and a television society. To the writers of the show, I say congratulations. It’s no small feat to produce a show as thoughtful, anticipated, nuanced and obsessive as “Breaking Bad.” The series finale, anagrammed and titled “Felina,” successfully ended Walter White’s journey from “Mr. Chips to Scarface.” In the 75 minutes that it was on-air, Gilligan (who directed the episode) borrowed from Westerns and the meticulously crafted past to finish telling the story of a villain who heroically got what he deserved.

Walter White was no longer Heisenberg. He had held on to this identity for so long, it’s safe to say he lost himself. But who he lost, the original chemistry teacher, was not at his identity’s full potential. Walt’s identity comes with the power of his intellect. As his tricks toppled one another ingeniously throughout the seasons, his self-esteem reached dangerous territory. By the end of Season 4 and most of Season 5, Walter let Heisenberg absorb his identity. It wasn’t until he was left to waste in solitude, the most wanted man in America, that he realized he wasn’t really any of these people. Like every human, he wasn’t just good or bad, but rather every good intention had some selfish, “bad,” psychological reasoning behind it, and every bad action was tinged with some inherent good that was so hard for some people to see.

In the end, Walter was just Walter, a man who was continually handed the short end of the stick in life, whose pride was his virtue and who tried to become the person he always wanted to be, the person everyone tried to hide away.

I didn’t notice it the first time I watched “Felina,” but in Skyler’s final scene, Anna Gunn sheds an almost-invisible tear. She’s mourning the man she loved, sad to see her family destroyed, but most of all, understanding of what led to that point. For the first time, Walter told the truth. “Breaking Bad” wasn’t the story of a chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook. It wasn’t about the moral ambiguity of manufacturing drugs for the financial security of his family. Superficially, it was all of these things, but the series finale was so successful because it had us really understand that “Breaking Bad” was a story of selfishness, the happiness that comes from it, and the implications it has on others.

Instead of Walter barging back into Albuquerque, N.M., like the bad ass we expected him to be, his return goes largely unnoticed, save for a few rumors. He never makes a grand entrance but merely materializes in these spaces, like a shadow you haven’t noticed until the sun blares too bright. It’s an interesting way to handle camera movements. It became a sort of running joke for me when I was suddenly surprised to see Walt appear out of thin air, like in Gretchen and Elliot’s apartment, at the diner where Lydia and Todd meet, and in Skyler’s new home. That’s the magic of movies – or television (That line is steadily dissolving in this Golden Age of Television.). It wasn’t done with a green screen, just picky cinematographers who decided what they wanted to reveal and when. It didn’t dawn on me that Lydia’s murky chamomile tea with her obsessive need for Stevia was anything more than just a clever shot to end a scene. That is, until we realize the solid white beam of sugar-substitute was actually the overdrawn plot device, Ricin. An object that was the source of anxiety for 3 seasons, finally served its purpose largely under the radar, much like Walt and the finale as a whole.

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I’d like to think that poisoning Lydia with the Ricin was a secret nod to Mike, who knew she had to go from the beginning when she was ordering hits on his men like a child who likes action films but could never imagine being a cop.

There was another nod to a set of minor characters, Skinny Pete and Badger, who reminded us of how funny “Breaking Bad” was before everything came crumbling down. Walter finds Jesse’s friends and pays them $200,000 to point lasers at Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz, pretending to be snipers so that the billionaires will launder his money and give it to Walter Jr. on his 18th birthday. It’s also a nod to the ruthless Heisenberg, whom Walt realized is nothing more than an urban legend. Even the musical score of this episode deals with remembering. The moment the lasers hit the Schwartz’s chests, a sort of Heisenberg-theme comes on. It’s reminiscent of the music that plays in “Crawl Space,” when Walter finds out all of his money is gone, or Jesse right before pouring gasoline over the White’s living room in “Confessions” and “Rabid Dog.”

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The entire episode was a thoughtful nod to details of past seasons without being showy or cheesy like sitcom finale montages. Jesse’s Season 3 woodshop monologue was referenced in one of the show’s only dream sequences that took place in “Felina.” Jesse’s shown in a good place – a celestial woodshop with golden lighting – building a small wooden box. He romances the wood, and with this scene we can see that he is truly happy. Juxtapose that with the reality of his enslavement and you’re bombarded with pathos. In Season 3’s rehab scene, Jesse recalls making this box, and in many ways it symbolizes his story on “Breaking Bad.”

“ … And by the end of the semester, by like box number five, I had built this thing. You should have seen it. It was insane. I mean, I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood. It was fitted with pegs — no screws. I sanded it for days, until it was smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. You know, you put nose in it and breathed in, it was … it was perfect,” he said.

His rehab coach asks him what happened to the box.

“I … I gave it to my mom.”

Said his coach: “Nice. You know what I’m gonna say, don’t you? It’s never too late. They have art co-ops that offer classes, adult extension program at the university.”

“You know, I didn’t give the box to my mom. I traded it for an ounce of weed,” Jesse said.

Jesse got the happy ending he desperately wanted when Walt used his last genius invention with the machine gun and the car to create an automated killing machine. With the click of a button, Uncle Jack and his band of Neo-Nazis were dead. Walt got to put the final bullet in his head, mid-sentence, remembering how Jack killed his own brother-in-law. Jesse killed his oppressor Todd in one of the most relieving scenes of the episode. I seriously felt tense up until that point, but who didn’t? The only thing left to settle was their fate. I think Walt decided not to kill Jesse after seeing what state he was in and also realizing he was partly responsible for Jesse’s fate so far. He gives him the gun and tells him to shoot him if he wants.

Calling back to “Rabid Dog,” Jesse remembers he’s done doing what Walt wants him to do. He demands Walt says he wants this, himself.

“I want this,” Walt says, just as he revealed to Skyler, “I did it for me I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really … I was alive.”

“Then do it yourself,” Jessie replies, and Walt gives him his keys and he leaves screaming joy. For the first time, he is free.

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Walt’s left alone with a lab that isn’t his, but whether or not he set it up, it was his legacy. Killing Jack and Co. provided that his blue-meth legacy would die with him. He places a bloody hand on his lab, his baby, just like he placed his hand on Holly a few minutes earlier, saying goodbye. He might not have been a hero, but he died heroically, and more importantly, on his own terms. He wasn’t a charity case; he wasn’t second place. He was Walter White, reawakened with the news of cancer, who created a life for himself that was worth living.

His story ended and while it was a wonderful journey to go on, he did it for himself.

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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

112 Comments on "Breaking Bad, S5E16 “Felina”"

  1. Mars October 2, 2013 at 4:55 am - Reply

    So many nods of approval! The show really brought about every possible emotion, excellently written, casted, and directed. I couldn’t agree with you more. Overall nicely put.

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