Monday, September 30, 2013
"BREAKING BAD" Finale and Greek Tragedy: A thank you to Vince Gilligan
BELOW IS MY PERSONAL ANALYSIS TO BREAKING BAD'S SEASON FINALE. IT CONTAINS CRUCIAL PLOT POINTS (SPOILERS). IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FINAL EPISODE YET, DO NOT READ THIS POST. I DON'T WANT TO RUIN SOMETHING I CONSIDER TO BE ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT PIECES OF TELEVISION DENOUEMENT I'VE EVER SEEN. (BY THE WAY, I POSTED THIS ON IMDB THIS MORNING, BUT WANTED TO SHARE IT HERE, TOO.)
YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.
I suppose the mark of any great work of art is that it is divisive, though I must confess I was surprised to see so many people dissatisfied with "Felina". I personally believe it to be a most stunning and fitting denouement to a series that truly deserves comparisons to a Greek Tragedy.
Part of the issue that seems to be sticking in a lot viewers' respective craws is that the series finale was "predictable". "Lydia and the ricin", "Walt going after Jack and the gang", are two big points people are making as arguments. But I ask these people: the foreshadowing with the gun made it clear long ago that Walt was going after somebody, and really, by this point, who else would he be going after with that kind of firepower? And Lydia and her tea has also been foreshadowed abundantly. Now, I think most fans must confess that Vince and all of the other writers on "Breaking Bad" are pretty clever, right? So isn't it logical to assume that perhaps they wanted us (the viewers) to know, or at least strongly anticipate these two plot points?
Here's the deal: "Breaking Bad" has been about a man backing himself into corners and finding a way out for five seasons. The writers have provided more amazing solutions than I could have ever dreamed of. However, the reason "Ozymandias" was so satisfying, at least to me, was to finally see the tragic hero with no other corners, no other solutions. He had to run.
After "Ozymandias", in true Greek Tragedy fashion, there was nothing left but denouement and catharsis. And "Felina" provided this. Big time.
In a sense, because "Breaking Bad" has such a loyal, rabid following (I am part of that--- in fact, this is the first time I have ever posted on a message board)--- this final season and all of its secrecy has led to a kind of achieved mythology of its own. We have been guessing about this last episode ("Will Jesse die?", "Will Jesse Kill Walt", and a million other things), and, of course, we all perhaps believed that this was going to be one more corner and one more clever solution we didn't see coming.
But that's not the point to tragedy. In Ancient Greece, the audience knew how the story ended, but they still went there for the catharsis, to see things tie up. To finish the journey.
And, besides, I don't think people are giving Mr. Gilligan and co. enough credit. There were still surprises, even if, as some people claim, they called how Walt was going to use Gretchen and Elliot (which I personally didn't). I was surprised when Walt admitted that he liked it, that he did it for himself (a tragic hero admitting his tragic flaw). But I think, perhaps the greatest surprise for me was that this finale didn't involve Heisenberg tying up loose ends and taking care of business. It amazed me that Walt came back as Walt. And, no, I don't think that makes Walt any more sympathetic, but merely reminds you of his humanity. He did not come back to be the kingpin, or the badass... he came back to end things on his terms.
And, to die, of course.
This episode, while riveting, was not designed to be "shocking" in the way others have been. Haven't we had enough "shocking" from this show? What is so brilliant about "Felina" is that it is about the inevitability of a person's actions, and following that inevitability. Mr. Gilligan gave us a series where the questions were answered... he didn't skimp, he didn't cheat. He delivered a Greek Tragedy, and a final image so haunting of our morally bankrupt tragic hero dying in the arms of his "Felina" so to speak. In the embrace of the only place he ever felt significant.
So, from me, Mr. Gilligan, I simply say thank you.