Ever since its debut, “Breaking Bad” has had the potential to become one of the best shows of all time. Now in the fifth and final season, the show’s final legacy is taking form.
“Breaking Bad” centers around the choices of chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) who is dying from lung cancer. Hoping to save his family from debt related to his chemotherapy treatment, Walter realizes he can cook remarkably pure meth and leave his family a small fortune. The plan is simple: Walter cooks and his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) handles distribution and sales.
Walter’s other identity goes by the name of Heisenberg, a famous chemist, famous for the perhaps thematically significant uncertainty principle. It’s Heisenberg who destroys the lives of local meth dealers, steals the infrastructure for national level meth distribution, and negotiate contracts to distribute meth internationally.
Heisenberg’s essence is indomitable will power. Anyone that stands in his way dies. Instead of being a world-renowned chemist, Walter gets no credit and struggles to keep his family afloat. While talking to his partner, Walter says, “Jessie you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.”
Walter’s alter-ego as Heisenberg always exists oscillating between the foreground and the background given the situation. Through the constant use of the mirror symbol, the viewer gets a barometer for where Walter is.
Very few shows on air now focus so intensely on character development and also maintain an exhilarating plot. Yet in “Breaking Bad,” nearly every character can be understood in this incredible depth and that’s what makes this show spectacular.
The fifth season explores Walter’s escape from the latter persona. He leaves the meth game, but struggles to be accepted by his family as the consequences of his meth empire haunt him and his family. In the fifth season, the plot maintains its steam as the viewer watches lives crumble and Walter struggle to find meaning in his deeds. One interesting device is the use of a flash-forward. The viewer knows how the story ends, but even just one episode away, has no idea how the characters get there.
In the most recent episode, “Granite Slate,” Walter tries to wire his son, Walter Jr., money, but Walter Jr. refuses since he knows Walter is a criminal. It becomes clear that Walter’s two identities have starved each other of meaning. The family man is utterly rejected by his family. The businessman has left his empire behind. And the last episode seems poised to explain the recourse Walter chooses in face of this dilemma. Producer Vince Gilligan has a lot of thematic explaining to do and viewers should be excited for the series finale.
Going into the fifth and final season, “Breaking Bad” has consistently lived up to its own reputation as an action-packed story with compelling characters and ingenious plot development. There’s a piece of insight for every gunshot. On September 29th, the series finale “Felina” aired. The hype is there and this show seems on course to surpass its high expectations. This very well could be its final mark on the history of TV.