Why Breaking Bad's Neo-Nazis Are The Perfect Villains For The End Of The Series

By Katey Rich 2013-09-16 12:07:10 discussion comments
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Spoilers below for Breaking Bad up to this point, obviously.

Hank is dead. Gomez is dead. Marie is a widow. Jesse is imprisoned by the terrifyingly placid sociopath Todd. Skyler and Walter Jr. are cowering for their lives alone in their home. Holly is alone, abandoned at a fire station. And Walt, having unleashed an unbelievable amount of bile that was only partly for the benefit of the cops he knew were tapping the phone, is on the run, off into the magical life-erasing red van and on his way to becoming Mr. Lambert of New Hampshire.

I can't be the only one who hopes it can't get worse from here.

Walt is truly the last remaining Big Bad of the show, as he's been the entire time. Everything awful that's happened to every character we've cared about has happened because of Walt, and though at the end of this episode we might think he's walking away from the carnage and refusing to create more, we know he'll be back with a machine gun and some ricin to settle one last score. Most guesses point to the gang of neo-Nazis and Todd being the target of the gun, and that really does seem like the only possibility (with, hopefully, time to rescue Jesse from his nightmarish imprisonment in the meantime). It's full circle, just like the teaser from last night's episode implied-- Walt started by killing two lunkheaded gangsters, and he'll end it by offing some of the most vile, stereotypically terrible villains the show has ever featured.

Walt has been brought incredibly low at this point, but there's an insult to injury element in his challenge against the neo-Nazis, who are not nearly as smart or interesting as Gus Fring, Hector Salamanca, Gale Boetticher, the Cousins or even Tuco. They are the tattooed monsters you might have expected to lord over a meth empire in a less complicated show than Breaking Bad, people whose capacity for blank brutality makes them awful even before you see their Swastika tattoos. Walter White, who always thought he was smart enough to stay clean and above the fray of the meth industry, will now be forced to grapple with these monsters. And that's precisely what he, and the show, deserves.

There was an epic scope to everything about last night's episode "Ozymandias," from Hank's final stand-- "My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself"-- to Walt's open-mouthed grief to the hell Jesse has been brought into. In its final episodes Breaking Bad is allowed to get Biblical, or Greek, or whatever comparison point you want to use for storytelling that is unafraid to aim huge in its emotions and ambitions. Of course, we knew that before the show even aired, thanks to the title "Ozymandias," a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about another fallen empire, the Egyptian one (Ozymandias was the Greek name for Ramesses II, the Egyptian pharaoh):
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Ancient Rome brought an end to the Ancient Egypt that Ramesses presided over, and Rome was then sacked by the Huns*, another gang of warriors who wiped out "smart" warfare with brute force. The "colossal wreck" of Shelley's poem could refer to so many things in Breaking Bad, from the destroyed White family house to the bullet-riddled cars in To'hajilee to Walt himself, who like an earlier line in the poem we see "Half sunk, a shattered visage" after Hank's death. But what brought the poem's statue and Walt down was not the hubris that's so clear in both; it's the elemental, unpredictable forces of violence and nature that can best even the most calculated, powerful of men. The neo-Nazis are not foes nearly on the level of Walt in terms of cunning and forward thinking, but they prove better than anything else on Breaking Bad how inadequate his power truly is.

Photo of Todd and the neo-Nazi gang via "Ozymandias" director Rian Johnson.

*Reference corrected to say that the Visigoths, not the Huns, were responsible for the fall of Rome.
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