How will “Breaking Bad” end?
How might the writers put a period on an epic journey into darkness, the devolution of a once-good man into a malicious human being?
Whether or not you're still rooting for Walter White — and he did begin as an appealing antihero, framed with an undeniable streak of black humor — you must know things can't end well for him.
Asked how the series should end, Bryan Cranston once joked that the characters ultimately would “hug it out.”
Don't hold your breath.
One of the constant achievements of television's Emmy-winning best drama is its ability to surprise the audience with inventive turns. We wouldn't presume to know what creator Vince Gilligan has planned, but Sunday's 75-minute finale, airing locally from 7-8:15 p.m. on AMC, has us guessing.
A few theories on how all “Bad” things must end:
• Walt (Cranston) manages to get himself back from frozen New Hampshire where he was hiding out, giving himself chemo injections, a bag of chemicals dangling from the antlers of a deer head on the wall, and returns to Albuquerque where, we know, his old home is now a tourist attraction. He turns his machine gun on his former partners in the invention that ended up leaving him embittered and marginalized: Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz of Gray Matter Technologies, who cut Walt out of a fortune, are toast.
• Jesse (Aaron Paul) has one more escape plan and successfully eludes the neo-Nazis after one last meth cook. He goes to Walt's house where, in a pathetic fit of anger, he spray-paints “Heisenberg” on the wall.
• Unless it's his son Junior (RJ Mitte) who spray-painted the place in anger at his father.
• After retrieving the vial from behind the switch plate in his former home, Walt ingests the ricin himself. His final act is aimed at outsmarting the cancer, outrunning the police and relieving his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior of his destructive presence. Whether suicide would be a satisfying conclusion for those still rooting for Walt is irrelevant. It would be sad, but dramatically right. Oh, and after all this, Skyler and kids never see the money.
• Or ... Walt kills his son, maybe accidentally, completing his transformation from Mr. White into Heisenberg and finishing the character's journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface. In previous episodes, Junior wished his father dead and protected his mother from his raging father. Junior has grown into a better man than his father, a fully adult opponent to Walt (read Oedipal meaning into the family triangle). Junior must die by Walt's hand in the finale to cement the idea that WW is irredeemable. While Walt has spoken endlessly of the primacy of family, his actions belie his words; he is now permanently exiled from the thing he claims to hold dear, the family.
• Or ... Junior kills his dad, becoming in essence the man of the house, ending the torment for Skyler and himself, and paying Walt back for the murder of uncle Hank (Dean Norris). The image of Junior in shackles, headed for prison, is one more heartbreak demonstrating the unintended consequences of his father's bad decisions. Skyler looks on, detached from reality, now completely dissociated (not in the chemical sense, but in the psychological sense). She's not breaking bad, she's breaking schizophrenic. Breaking, breaking broken.
• A few loose ends need tying. Huell? Uncle Jack? Todd? Maybe all fall at the hand of the desperate, deranged Walter White in a final shootout as the cops storm the meth lab. Marie (Betsy Brandt) and Skyler share one more not-so-sisterly verbal smackdown. And Jesse lives to locate Andrea's son Brock, now motherless, who is shown watching news of escalating drug violence on TV. Walt coldly kills Jesse, his one-time surrogate son, before Jesse can whisk Brock to safety as the series concludes.
• Or just maybe, Walt settles into a seat at the diner where Todd and Lydia held their secret meetings and opens the menu. A stranger in a Members Only jacket enters. The man walks through the diner eyeing the customers, takes out a gun, fires several shots off-camera and the screen fades to black.