WARNING: Unsurprisingly, heavy spoilers for the series finale of Breaking Bad follow. So it finally ended. Breaking Bad has been described as the TV equivalent of a Morality Rorschach Test (the now clichéd psychoanalytical technique of showing a person an ink blot and seeing what they make from it) as everybody seems to interpret the actions of the ethically-challenged main characters very differently. This probably applies more than ever to the show’s finale, which, depending on how you look at it, shows Walter White redeeming himself and getting away with it, or shows him dying from his own hand before even cancer could end his life prematurely.
Personally, I like to think Walt died as more of an anti-hero than a villain and redeemed himself in regards to the ludicrous amounts misery he caused to the people closest to him. Firstly, Skyler, who’s main issue with Walt throughout seems to be the simple fact he’s a pathological liar with the believability of Clinton’s “I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman” statement (when it comes to talking to her anyway) gains an iota of closure when Walt finally admitted all the murder, drug manufacturing, money laundering and baby-snatching was carried out more because it made him feel good than because it would benefit his family. Without her knowledge, Walt also ensured that her and their children would be financially secure proving to us he can provide for his family without his Heisenberg personality needing to be given credit.
More dramatically, Jesse Pinkman, whose life White had ensured was surrounded by death, (whether he was almost being murdered, made to murder or left to see his girlfriend’s murdered corpse twice) was saved from the carnage of a James Bond-esque M60 Machine Gun massacre when Walt decided last-minute to save his partner from Heisenberg’s last stand. When Jesse emerged a broken man, beaten and bedraggled like Jesus at the hands of the Romans, Walter decided to act as Jesse’s surrogate father one last time and throw himself on top of him in one of the episode’s most moving scenes.
Finally, Walt’s short-term nemesis and DEA brother-in-law Hank, who was shot in the head by Walt’s neo-Nazi friends despite Walt’s pleas for him to be spared is avenged as their leader gets a bullet in the head mid-sentence after offering Walt the exact same pile of money Walt had tried to buy off Hank’s execution with. Oh, and he gets a decent burial now after Walt tells the GPS location of his body, which Hank would’ve probably liked. So did Walt redeem himself in this modern day morality tale? Well only partially, most of the damage was done but Walt managed to make amends on his bucket list without trivialising his past actions.The show ended with a certain closure not seen in other famous finales, like Lost or The Sopranos. Walter White had finally come full circle, every enemy of his is now dead and his long-term obsession of leaving his family a lottery winner’s amount of money was finally fulfilled. One visual cue to this is that Walt wears the same dull beige and green trouser and jacket combination during his final stand as he used to wear way back at the start, reminding us it was his bad treatment by people which turned him into a monster
In the end, Walt’s virtuous, family-man quest was realised, as was Heisenberg’s bloodthirsty, ego-driven craving for revenge. Having said that, the man that died on the floor of a meth lab wasn’t quite Mr.White or Heisbenberg, he was either a combination of the two or neither. The figure on the floor didn’t act with fear and trembling or unbridled anger in the lead up to his death; he was shown as a broken man at last getting to tie up his loose ends. And Breaking Bad has also tied up all the loose ends; although I would’ve like to have seen Walt escape a painful death and the police by finally trying and overdosing on his beloved blue meth, the end of Walter White wasn’t high-octane but rather sad, sublime and satisfying.