Does the Finale Clear Walt of Five Seasons of Misdeeds?
Was Walter White redeemed in “Felina,” the finale of Breaking Bad? As for the million dollar question—is redemption truly possible? Is redemption a purely faith-based idea? The idea that one does something right to vindicate themselves of prior wrongs suggests belief in an afterlife because surely no one who has murdered another human being can believe that other people will give them a blank slate in the same world. So, is redemption about being saved from the past, or is it about saving oneself from guilt?
Does Walt Think He Can be Redeemed?
The short answer is “no.” The finale is essentially Walter ensuring his last will and testament gets to the right hands before he is inevitably caught or killed. He does not care about clearing his name or saving himself in the eyes of someone else. Everything he does is in pursuit of making sure the people he is (or was) responsible for are taken care of. In fact, Walter further hurts and terrorizes other people in pursuit of providing for those who could’ve been brought down with him.
In the penultimate episode of the series, “Granite State,” Walter’s last attempt at redemption was leaving the seclusion of his New Hampshire cabin, walking to the nearest town with a box of money and calling Walt Jr. (Flynn). It was a somewhat pathetic attempt at not only doing right by his family, but clearing his name with them as well. All thoughts of being saved from the worst consequences of his actions are carried away in a cold draft of air the moment that Flynn hangs up on him. What inspires Walt’s final crusade isn’t pure devotion to the right thing—it’s ego. After being rejected by his son, Walt miraculously sees Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz on Charlie Rose talking about Gray Matter Technologies and publicly diminishing Walt’s role in the billion-dollar company. The anger in Walt begins to swell, the same anger that inspired the countless selfish decisions that landed him on this barstool in the first place. He knows his family doesn’t want him anymore, and he knows he’s never going to regain the power he had at the top of the meth game. So, he finds inspiration in a new kind of power: not giving a damn. His life is essentially over, so now he’ll do everything he can to prove that all the work he did in the last two years will leave some kind of legacy to say the least.
What Does Walt Do and Why Does He Do It?
Walt (a.k.a Heisenberg) steals a car so that he can drive across the country to New Mexico. He breaks into the Schwartz’s home and threatens them into setting up a fund for Walt’s family, using Skinny Pete and Badger as stand-ins for hitmen. He sneaks into Skylar’s house and gives her the coordinates to Hank and Steve Gomez’s graves in order for her to use the information for a plea bargain. He uses ricin to kill Lydia out of revenge, and he sets up a machine gun mechanism to kill Jack, Todd and the skinheads to free Jesse from captivity. Walt does a tremendous amount of killing in this episode. In fact, his body count probably tripled in the span of twenty minutes in comparison to the previous seasons.
Lydia has a child, and Walt killed her; Todd views Walt as a father figure, and he kills him; Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz are average, although obnoxious, NPR-listening adults, and Walt threatens to kill them. Walt has a Uhaul truck’s worth of misdeeds and guilt collected through the series. Instead of clearing the cache, he uses the weight as momentum to propel him toward his destination, cranking the steering wheel in a different direction at the last minute. Like any start-up on the verge of collapse, he pivots.
Are Walt’s Final Acts Good or Bad?
The answer to this question is that depends on who is observing Walt. If it is someone who believes in redemption, Walt’s final acts are atrocious. The most forgiving and charitable people accept someone’s past if they lead their lives free from “sin,” afterward. Walt, however, embraces his sins. He is a selfish man, as he alludes to Skylar in their final moments, and he hurts many people in pursuit of protecting what is his. His actions are positive for his family and Jesse, but a detriment to anyone who has what he needs in order to fulfill his last will.
Avid TV watchers who are accustomed to prestige cable dramas and, thus, are susceptible to the charms of an on-screen psychopath were likely pumping their fists in the air as Walt stole from Elliott and Gretchen, laughing as Lydia realized she was going to die and let out a long sigh of relief as a dozen or so neo-nazis were mowed down at the waist. It just so happens that Walt put himself in a position where correcting his misdeeds involved killing other bad people, but these were certainly not objectively redemptive acts.
Did Walt redeem himself? To the faith-based and the higher powers that be, absolutely not. To fans of The Sopranos, this was the satisfying, near gushy conclusion left hanging in the air for six years. Altogether, Walt doesn’t care if he was redeemed nor does he care if others feel that way. He’s going to hell in a handbag, and he just wants to make sure that he’s in control of the way he goes. Plus, Walt’s final moments were a a lot more entertaining than playing board games in a winter shack.
Breaking Bad Season 5 Trailer