Editor’s note: Spoilers follow.
One of TV’s best shows delivered one of TV’s best finales on Sunday night as “Breaking Bad” ended in the most appropriate of places: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) dead on the floor of a meth lab, the victim of his own plan.
The 62-episode saga of a good man turned meth lord/murderer didn’t wimp out. It gave us the tough finale the show required. There could be no happy ending for Walt, who transformed from a mild-mannered science teacher who, upon learning he had cancer, determined that making meth was the way he could provide for his family.
Or, as we learned, that was his excuse. Which was the big truth that creator/executive producer Vince Gilligan told.
For the first hour of the 75-minute finale, “Breaking Bad” was sort of surprisingly low key. Because Walt was setting up his own finale.
After finding a way to provide for his family, Walt built a remote-control machine gun into the trunk of his car. He used the ricin we saw him retrieve from his abandoned home to kill Lydia (Laura Fraser), removing one threat to his family.
Then he traveled to the compound where Jack (Michael Bowen) and Todd (Jesse Plemons) were cooking meth, fully aware they planned to kill him. After some tension over getting a hold of the key fob that controlled the deadly weapon in his car, Walt tackled Jesse (Aaron Paul) to the ground — taking him out of danger — and activated the gun, killing almost everyone in the house.
Todd survived, until Jesse strangled him to death. A wounded Jack survived, until Walt finished him off with a gunshot.
Walt asked Jesse to kill him, but Jesse declined and escaped. And then Walt made his way to the lab, where he died.
It was the perfect ending to a great show.
And the first hour kept viewers guessing and provided several surprises:
Surprise No 1: Walt was not out to kill his wealthy ex-partners, Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz, after he saw them interviewed on TV. Instead, he located them and dropped off $9,720,000 with instructions to give the cash to Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) in the form of a trust. And he convinced them that hitmen will kill them if they don’t follow through.
Surprise No. 2: Skyler (Anna Gunn) receives a call from Marie telling her that Walt is back in town. Skyler seems numb and almost non-responsive.
Turns out Walt is there in the house when Skyler takes the call.
Surprise No. 3: Walt admits to Skyler that, while he has always maintained that everything he did was for the benefit of his family, that wasn’t true.
“I did this for me. I liked it. I was good at it.... And I was alive,” Walt says.
Perfect words for the perfect ending.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.