As I’ve written before, AMC’s series Breaking Bad is one of the best shows currently on TV, and last night’s Season Two finale just solidified this fact. My only complaint is that it’ll most likely be another year before we get a new season to see how everything in this finale plays out. A whole year?! That’s like, sooo far away!
In one of the bleakest moments of the show so far, at the end of the penultimate episode, we saw Walt stand by and let Jane (business partner Jesse’s formerly recovered addict girlfriend) die while choking on her own vomit after a massive heroin bender. You could see in his face that he was asking himself the same question we were: “What the hell have you become?” What started as a business venture of desperation to provide for his family after his guaranteed demise has morphed into something much darker and sinister.
Walt’s cancer responded well to treatment, and while not cured, he now has time. But rather than letting this news lead to his gradual retreat from the world of dealing meth, he’s working with a shady lawyer who has the hookup (or the hookup of the hookup) with one of the southwest’s biggest underground dealers. Atrocities that would once have sent him in a tailspin, like the gunning down of one of his distributors, he barely bats an eyelash at. And of course there’s that whole stand back and watch Jane die thing. What happened to Walt the concerned family man who just happened to know the recipe for the best crystal meth? Is he still a guy we want to root for, despite all the illegal things he does?
Maybe he is. One of the things Breaking Bad does best is play the moral ambiguity card with finesse. It would be easy to look at all his wrongdoings and say that Walt has completely lost himself, but then you get glimmers of his old self peeking through. He’s absolutely distraught at having missed the birth of his daughter due to having to deliver his stash to a new distributor when Jesse is too drugged out to do it. He can barely keep from falling to pieces when his son tells a TV news reporter about what a great, stand-up guy his dad is, and how Walt is his role model. And when going back to the dead Jane issue, you have to wonder, did he let her die so that she wouldn’t rat him out, or because he saw how she was bringing Jesse with her in her downward spiral?
While Walt and Jesse have never exactly had a tender and loving relationship, it became clear over the course of this past season that Walt does care for his former student, despite the number of times he screws up. When Walt gets annoyed and lays into Jesse for his various mistakes, a large part of his anger comes from the fact that he knows Jesse is smarter than he acts and is capable of so much more. When Jesse’s recreational drug use turns into addiction, primarily influenced by recovered addict Jane falling off the wagon, it’s almost like Walt is watching his surrogate son self-destruct. Their final scene together, when Walt finds Jesse drowning his sorrows in a horrifying drug den, then takes him to a fancypants rehab spa to get clean, is one of the most bizarrely touching scenes I’ve ever seen on a TV show (especially one about drug dealers).
While the finale did answer some of the questions that have been lingering all season long (we finally know where that one-eyed burned teddy bear came from), it raised even more for the next season. Is Skylar really kicking Walt out for all his lies? And will he finally confess everything to her? And if he does, will that make things better or worse? Will Jesse finally get his shit together? Will Jane’s grieving father play a part in what’s to come? Were the two bodies in Walt’s front yard after the plane crash simply passengers from one of the planes, or are they affiliated with Walt’s story in some way? And what’s going to happen now that the chicken man/meth kingpin knows that Walt’s brother-in-law is in the DEA? Next spring never seemed so far away.