If you've read this site much, you'll know we're huge fans of AMC's Breaking Bad. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to chat with its creator, Vince Gilligan, just after season two began and it was pretty much just me telling him how awesome his show is. But with last night's season-two finale, I'm frustrated AND happy--and that's exactly what Vince wanted.
[Spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the finale yet. You have been warned.]
There are going to be two camps of thought on the finale. One camp saw the season-ender as a triumph of metaphorical delight, with the audience witnessing disaster fall all around Walt (quite literally) after a pair of airplanes crash in mid-air over Albuquerque. This was all Walt's fault--his decision to get into the drug trade resulted in a chain of events leading to the deaths of innocents, and he was being judged by something no mortal can truly comprehend.
The other camp sees it as one big disappointing "WTF?" moment. The black-and-white teases we've been digesting all season long were rather pointless. The contents of the two body bags were not disclosed in the final scene, and any attempt to guess who was in them prior would be futile, because they weren't even part of the story that we knew. Ditto for the teddy bear and the damage around the ABQ.
So which camp is correct? It's got to be both. The philosophical intent (specifics well-laid out here) of the final scene is brilliant and what's in store for season three promises to be HUGE--but that doesn't mean I'm not ticked off about the way the writers teased us with the body bags, a stuffed animal, and debris simply to toy with us.
But on further reflection, I think I actually like being ticked off. Suppose we did find that the body bags were filled with Jane or Jesse or Skyler or Flynn or Hank or the Pollos Hermanos guy and the damage was caused by a DEA raid or a Mexican cartel hit--would we still be talking about the finale like we are today? No way.
Last night's episode was the moment Breaking Bad transcended being simply a good drama. Vince Gilligan and his writers have thrown down the gauntlet and delivered a message--things are going to be different around here from now on. This isn't easy-chair television… this is suck-you-in-and-slap-you-around-entertainment. Kudos to them for providing a challenging, entertaining, and delightfully frustrating finale.
Notes from the season two finale:
--The best shot of the show involved Hank talking to his crew about the mysterious Heisenburg and how his identity is still unknown. Meanwhile, Walt's picture is on the donation jar right in the foreground. Trying to help the same man they're trying to bring down… love it.
--Last night's title "ABQ" is the final piece to a hidden message. The four episodes featuring the black-and-white teases are titled "Seven thirty-seven," "Down," "Over," and "ABQ." Now read those titles back quickly. Clever, Vince (props to Alan Sepinwall of The New Jersey Star-Ledger for cracking the code).
--Gilligan has confirmed that the body bags are passengers from the plane crash. No need for further investigation.
--Was anyone expecting the quality of the final three minutes or so? The plane crash itself looked as good as or better than any of Lost's ,and the perspective we got tumbling from the sky was exactly what one wants from a final scene.
--Aaron Paul (Jesse) is a vastly underrated actor; playing a wannabe gangster isn't as easy as it looks. And who didn't get misty-eyed when he collapsed into Walt's arms? Same thing for Anna Gunn. She's fantastic.
--Like The Wire, it's the penultimate episodes each season that are Breaking Bad's best--but the finales are the talking points.
--Now it's definite: I'll take Breaking Bad over anything else on television right now.