Just one episode of Breaking Bad to go, and all we know about the final episode "Felina" is… basically nothing. But that won't keep Katey and Sean from trying to guess ahead anyway. Today we're focusing on the fate of our main character, the man who started it all, Walter White.
KATEY: Sean, last week we debated whether or not Jesse would die at the end of Breaking Bad. Since then we've had another episode, "Granite State," but my opinion on Jesse's fate hasn't changed. But, weirdly, my thoughts on Walt have. For a while I thought he would be forced to stay alive and reckon with everything he had done to those he loves. Now I tend to think he doesn't have enough of a conscience for that to be effective, and he'll have to die, like a Terminator who has to be unplugged so he can stop hurting people. How about you? What's Walt's fate in your mind?
SEAN: I wish I could say with any certainty, Katey. But "Granite State" reminded me that when it comes to Breaking Bad, what we think we know is wrong, and so speculating can be an exercise in frustration and futility. Once Andrea hit the ground, leaving Brock to be an orphan who will wake up in the morning and find his mother dead on the porch, I realized it's time to stop guessing on Bad and just buckle in for the brutal ride.
But, we're here to talk about Walter's fate, and I remain convinced that he'll live, and be forced to rot with the horrific sins he has created. Am I confident? Absolutely not. But if BB has taught us anything, it's that Walt makes it to the end of BB unscathed. Jesse spelled this out for us. He's smarter than us. He's INCREDIBLY lucky. I can see him taking on the Neo-Nazis, and somehow bumbling into a safe corner where he survives the impending war. I've changed my tune, and think that Jesse somehow lives, as well. But for both men, as we have pointed out, to live with the devastation they have waiting for them is hardly living at all.
KATEY: I agree on that for Jesse-- Jesse has endured enough to the point that he'll never have a happy ending, but I firmly believe he deserves the chance to live (and I'm glad you're on my team!) But what "Granite State" showed me is that Walt doesn't have the ability to think upon his sins. He did, for a while, but all it took is one reminder of his past for him to go blazing back to Albuquerque and leaving his safe haven behind. I think no matter what happens with Walt and the Nazis-- and I agree that he kills them, because who wants to live in a world where Uncle Jack goes free?-- he never feels bad about it. And someone-- maybe Jesse-- has to take him out for the sake of everyone else.
SEAN:The wild card, I believe, is the Ricin capsule ... which I'm beginning to believe is the biggest MacGuffin in BB history. At the moment, I think that Walter has the capsule in his possession as insurance, in case his plan fails and he's captured by Uncle Jack. In which case, he'd take the Ricin, and end this "crusade." He realizes this is his last stand, but he's smart enough to realize that if it fails, he needs to be able to die on his own terms, and that's what the Ricin is for. In my opinion. I'm sure I'm wrong.
The reason "Granite State" still helps me to believe in Walter White is the phone call to Junior. After everything that he has done, he still wants to get the money in the hands of his family. Now, I think the Grey Matter conversation on Charlie Rose triggered Walt's crushing ego yet again, and I assume he's headed back to ABQ with guns ablazin' to remind the world that he isn't the "sweet" man Gretchen made him out to be on Charlie Rose. But death just seems like too clean of an ending for Walter White. Should he die? Absolutely. Will Vince Gilligan let him die? That's a whole 'nother story.
KATEY: I like your ricin theory, and I think it would be perfectly dark and funny for the ricin to never get used after all. But the LAST thing I want is for Walt to be able to die on his own terms, and I don't think Gilligan lets that happen, for all the moral universe reasons we've talked about. I do think Walt dies, but I think it's someone else's decision-- Walt does not want to die, obviously, and his eternal confidence that he can get out of any situation would keep him from taking the ricin, I think. I love how uncertain Gilligan & co. have you though. Were you ever less confident in your predictions about the future of Breaking Bad?
SEAN: Never. And the only reason I STILL have no idea how this will play out is because there isn't enough time for any set up for the theories I used to have. Where will this last episode begin? How much time will be spent on the battle with Uncle Jack? Is Walt even GOING after Uncle Jack, or is he going to storm the corporate headquarters of Grey Matter and demand recognition? There are countless ways that the show can go, and I'm OK with 99% of them. (A song-and-dance routine at the end would be awkward. Outside of that, Gilligan and company have earned the right to do anything that they want.) I honestly can't tell you if BB goes out in a blaze of glory or a slow fade to darkness. The latter feels more in line with the show, which hasn't been "action for action's sake" at all. But as Don Cheadle pointed out in a Talking Bad episode, when someone shows a gun on BB, that gun is going to get used. So Walter will fire away at someone in the finale. And a small part of me still thinks his dumb luck will help him prevail by the show's end.
KATEY: I will be kind of furious if Walt shows up at Gray Matter, because the entire existence of Gretchen & Elliott has been metaphorical, a lurking reminder of Walt's past potential and an opportunity for him to constantly wear that chip on his shoulder. People who think that there are still "mysteries" about Gretchen & Elliott, or that we deserve to know just what caused their falling out, are watching the show wrong, IMHO. I can see a way that Gray Matter gets involved kind of obliquely in the finale, but if Walt is headed there with the shotgun, I'll be kind of furious. To me, the endgame is all about Walt & Jesse-- even if neither of them actually thinks that's what going to happen. Now that you're on Team Jesse Will Live, do you think that's the basic purpose too?
SEAN: I do, and I don't. Yes, in theory, the show should boil down to Walt and Jesse. But that bridge burned to the ground in "To'hajiilee" and "Ozymandias," and I think that's intentional. Jesse sold Walt out. Gave him up to the Feds. Walt told Jesse about Jane. Not for any elaborate end game. Simply to destroy him. This is all intentional. These two are done. Done! In "Granite State," Walt never once mentions Jesse to Saul. I don't think he gives a rat fuck what happens to Jesse. And now, if anything, Jesse will blame Walt (indirectly) for Andrea's death, because Walt got them involved with Uncle Jack, with Todd ... hell, with the entire meth business, in general.
I know you love Jesse. I know you love Aaron Paul. But the show, in the big picture, has only been about Walter. Jesse has been a pawn. To be honest, I'm a little confused by BB has kept him around the past two episodes (and I think the writing has stretched a little thin to justify keeping Jesse around). Hopefully they'll have an end game for the character, because he is valuable to the series, but honestly, I think his association with Walt ended weeks ago.
KATEY: Oh, I don't think either Walt or Jesse wants anything to do with each other. But the way the show has kept the two tied to each other is intentional. Everything awful that has happened started when the two of them teamed up together, and they have been brought back together time and again even when they were unwilling-- Walt bringing Jesse to cook with him in the Super Lab so Jesse wouldn't press charges against Hank, Jesse helping Walt kill Gus thanks to the Lily of the Valley trick. Even if they want nothing to do with each other, they will meet again-- because that is how the fates of this show work. It began with them and it will end with them, I'm sure of it.
SEAN: OK, I'll go along with that. It will somehow return to Walt and Jesse. But if that's the case, it solidified my belief that somehow, Jesse will die, and Walt will live. That's the true torture, the fate awaiting Walter White. He has to realize that getting involved in the meth trade cost him his actual son, and his metaphorical son. He'll watch Jesse die, and live with the consequences or the rest of his cancer-stricken life.
KATEY: Ooooh I like that. Super dark. At this point, I'm trying to disconnect myself emotionally and prepare myself for the absolute worst. But then I keep turning on the Breaking Bad marathon on AMC and remembering the early days and it feels so painful again! Oh, this show. I'm going to be a million pounds lighter when it's finally over.
Will Walt die?