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TV Monolith

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 16 "Felina" Part 1

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Exactly one year later. A retrospective. Are your thoughts still the same as when it originally aired?

I won't lie. I do tend to flip-flop between liking it a lot and holding criticism. The neo-nazis as antagonists lean more towards stereotypical than dynamic, and Walt having to go up against them kind of muddles the point of his graduation to the despicable guy he is. Perhaps the intention is to blind those of the audience even further who still believe his actions are justified. While I believe that Walt admitting to Skyler the truth behind his intentions was a significant step forward, I still don't think he's being redeemed here. He's merely just coming to terms with who he is and yes, he's providing Skyler with her ticket for freedom as well as money for Junior and Holly, but it still doesn't bring Hank and Gomez back or excuse what he has done and what he'll continue to do. He is unmistakably an awful person.

Do I think Walt's last mission comes with great convenience? Yes. Do I believe this is a dying fantasy being played out on screen as Walt gets dragged by police from a snowed-in car or as he freezes to death? No, but I won't discount the idea that using fantasy and 'peace of mind' as definite themes is in an intention for this final hour. Consider this possible bookend from the pilot: The cold open is a flash-forward of Walt preparing for the final showdown. Sirens can be heard but not revealed until the end to be fire trucks. In "Felina" we have Walt sitting in the car with a flash of red and blue, no siren, lurking outside the car right from the start.

There is no mistake it's the police this time and that by the end, they WILL zero in on him. Walt prays "Just get me home" as if he's aware of his creator. He folds down the sun visor and Vince hands him the keys. It's without a doubt playing on fantasy yet everything here is absolutely happening almost as if the show is calling attention to itself. The show has always been a gritty fantasy, even when the plausible execution was there to back it up. It's not criticism that the show is not as real and expansive as say, The Wire, because that's just not Breaking Bad's nature. I believe the omission of showing how Walt was able to manage for this entire episode is a point being addressed that Walt's journey is exclusive to the show itself and won't translate in real life. Am I saying it's merely a shallow "don't try this at home?" thesis or an excuse for catering the character? Not necessarily, but I do recognize an intention behind it. I'd say the main theme of the episode is "If you could fulfill the ultimate dying wish, would you still be deluding yourself or be excused from who you were and the effect you had on the world?"

I feel like the red and blue flashes was almost like fate or the universe saying "Go ahead. See if you can prove yourself. We WILL be closing in either way." I especially feel this when the brightest of the red siren passes right through Walt's eye which reminds me of the marble eye from the pink teddy bear which has always represented the universe arguably being aware of Walt's actions. And from here on out, we are going to get a romanticized tale. Just look at how precisely convenient the dialogue is between Gretchen and Elliot. Elliot is made out by Gretchen herself to be unintelligent and she questions "Did I really marry you?" while Elliot diffuses the discussion by saying "I just want to kick off my shoes and have a very large glass of wine" like some rich snob. It is exactly what Walt would want to hear. Part of me would wonder if this is just what Walt is imagine them saying, especially with the thai food vs. pizza debate since I'd imagine Walt hasn't eaten in a while.

Of course Walt walks right in, even closing the front doors mockingly to any explanation, and really I chalk this all up to a man with nothing to lose. If you wanted to strip naked in the middle of the afternoon and walk into town, you would probably get away with a lot more than you thought, but of course nobody is going to experience that, because we know what the end result is. Prior to this, we are reminded of the "Live Free or Die" theme with the New Hampshire license plate. The universe is so limited of choices, yet he's freely walking around because he knows his time is up as he hangs the watch from Jesse on the pay phone. I guess the point is that even when you are at the point of no return, you still have your last moments of freedom until you don't. At this point, you better damn hope the character dies or gets caught by the end of the episode because then it just wouldn't make sense.

In my opinon, the most monstrous thing that actually shows some shocking graduation to Walt being awful is the very act of showing up and threatening his former colleagues. It is quite unexpected, even thrilling when Walt gives the signal and the lasers come shining through. Yes, we've been swayed that they screwed him over and I'm sure the audience went gaga over the idea of Walt getting the ultimate revenge on Gretchen, but this just proves how thoughtlessly wrapped up we are in the protagonist.

Notice how unlike the red lights from the police cruiser going in Walt's eye, it's now red light orchestrated by Walt glaring right into our POV in passing. I detect a feeling of delusion for the character and the audience. I take it as a hint to question, question, question. Is this right? Is this wrong? Walt doing this is reallynot okay especially when you could tell in season 2 that it was probably he who sabotaged himself back in the day. These people tried to give Walt the money that he earned (season 1), as well as an invitation to work with them again as a respected equal, but Walt instead stuck with his selfish pride. In turn, he's granting money for his kids, but look what he's doing in order to do so. Even if it isn't out of arguably selfish love to be the man that provided, he's not redeeming himself by inducing fear and harm (law conflicting-wise) to two other innocent people. You can't trade damage for damage already done. As Kenny says later on, "There's no replacement for displacement."

Badger and Skinny Pete being the "assassins" was a great reveal and seeing them this late in the game was something to cherish, but what they all just did was still scary nonetheless even if the scene is doused with comedy. As we can see, Walt isn't driven just by making things right with his family, but he's out for revenge. He's still wrapped up in justifying the darker parts of himself. He isn't trying to save Jesse when he hears that the blue meth is still out there. Instead he's set out to kill. Ever since "Ozymandias" Jesse and Walt have been confined to the most climactic hell that they each blame the other for, but the next scene with Jesse working on the wooden box proves to breathe a little more...seemingly kafkaesque. He's not having a revenge or redemption fantasy in order to have peace of mind. He's a miserable slave to the cook who has come to terms with his punishment, but he copes on the inside spiritually, completely detached and focused on a time of goodness, and probably the fork in the road that could have put him on the better path. Unlike Walt, it's a more honest peace of mind.

Part 2: