Writers like endings, be mindful of that if you ever happen to be dating one. This is why, in general, writers are so bad at real life – we like arcs, big revelations, the bad guy always getting their comeuppance, a relationship dying a death in a dramatic way, the valiant yet flawed hero coming good – we like everything wrapped up with a neat little bow. But nice, clean endings never happen in reality – something always comes afterwards; a thread is always left dangling.
This may be a reason why no one is ever completely happy with the way their favourite TV show (or film franchise) ends, not even the writers. It wasn’t the ending they envisaged or felt in their bones that the show deserved, there was too much mess to clean up – and not all the characters got enough screen time, too many plots had spun out of control because they’d gone on for a season longer than they thought they would – the list goes on… though not, obviously, here.
This is why I was so perplexed when I saw, on this very website no less, that Bryan Cranston – a man with lips so thin you couldn’t point them out on a billboard – told The Hollywood Reporter: “I was content with the end of Breaking Bad. I thought it was the perfect ending. I know I’m biased, but I don’t recall seeing the ending of a show that was so well-constructed, satisfying and legitimate. Everything just seemed to fall into place so extraordinarily well.”
Now, I love Breaking Bad – it’s one of only two Blu-ray boxsets I own, even though it’s available to stream (the other one is Mad Men, since you’re asking… which also has a fiercely debated ending). I also have nothing but praise for what Cranston brought to the role of Walter White, and every other casting decision for that matter – the journey of ‘Mr. Chips turning into Scarface’ was brilliantly executed at almost every turn – truly one of the finest TV shows ever made. The only problem with what Cranston said? It was wrong. So wrong. The ending of Breaking Bad was one of the worst things about the show… and yes, Skyler haters, I’m including her.
Now, before we go on, I am contractually obliged by my editor to give you a spoiler alert. Though, really, would you have made it this far into the piece if you hadn’t seen the show… you’ve had 7 years to get around to it, for crying out loud. Anyway… SPOILERS AHEAD.
First, let’s deal with the positive stuff, because I like to save up the acerbic bits… it’s more fun. I cheered at Jesse’s ending (this is of course before El Camino was released) – even though the bad decisions that led to his imprisonment, his eventual escape and screaming release of pent-up everything as he drove away, was pure poetry. Walter’s journey back from New Hampshire and his more remote methods of revenge were also delicious – securing money for his son, poisoning his adversaries, revelling in the silent realisation of impending doom over the phone as he broke the news to them. But then. But. Then.
In fact, I’ll briefly hand over to Wikipedia. Please meet back here afterwards to discuss. “He connects the machine gun to a pivoting turret inside the trunk of the car he is now driving, which is rigged to the remote unlock button of the car he stole in New Hampshire.” Of course, we’ve all been there – when you’re struggling to wreak bloody and deadly revenge on a large number of armed bastards simultaneously, why not rig your handy machine gun to a pivoting turret you’ve constructed while on the run in a stolen car. Of course, when I put it like that, it would seem ridiculous… and that’s because it is.
It’s a contraption less believable than one The A Team might have thrown together from the contents of a wrecker’s yard, a washing up liquid bottle, and 200 metres of sticky-back plastic. I hate it when a plan comes together. It’s less likely than Wile E. Coyote buying a large boulder and plank from the ACME company and actually succeeding in flattening Road Runner. Walter White’s previous efforts had a sense of believability about them – his ingenuity and genius made you suspend disbelief. But now, just at the very end, Breaking Bad managed to jump the shark – the final episode only just saved by the final shot of Heisenberg dying on the floor amid the ruins of his empire.
I don’t need to implore you to watch Breaking Bad, it is as close to perfect as TV drama gets. But, Brian – and I know you’re reading this – you just took it too far with the word “legitimate” – it was a cartoon pay-off worthy of Home Alone, Vince Gilligan’s version of a big red button. Like I said – there’s no such thing as the perfect e