It’s coming. Breaking Bad, a series which has won awards, fuelled messageboard debates and made Netflix in the UK is about to enter its concluding acts. Will Walter’s empire come crashing down? Will Hank finally get his revenge? Will Saul inexplicably avoid jail? All we know for certain from Vince Gilligan is ‘there will be blood’, and that there will be no dangling plot line a la Twin Peaks, but let’s look ahead and see what might be in store over the next 8 (7?) episodes.
We’ve already seen Walter before the end. In the teaser at the start of the last run Walter was in a diner, unshaven and downtrodden. He left in a car filled with guns, presumably to the inevitable fate that awaits our tragic hero at the end of the story. The former school teacher has come a long way, as we’re constantly reminded by Cracked and Gawker articles getting excited at the scientific references. Yet there is something deeper than pseudo-intellectualism to Walter’s change – his transformation has captured the same sense of hubris and ambition that is familiar in all great stories. Last season Walter thought he could be his own boss, taking over Gus’ empire in his own bloody fashion. As the episodes went on though this sense of control all but unravelled around him – the hat, the calm voice, the apparent determination to make people bend to his will all lacked the authority that Gus exuded. It was as though the act he has been putting on for the last 5 seasons was beginning to wear thin, so that we saw the helpless chemistry teacher behind the facade of the gangster he so wants to be.
Now the whole performance is about to end. We’ve seen Walter live out his gangster film fantasy (Scarface was playing in the background last season) but now reality is going to hit him hard. For all the near misses and scientific marvels Walter has conjured out of nothing he has always been on the precipice of getting caught – Gus went decades before even a hint of his empire was found out, and that was Walter’s fault. Expect to see Walter hit low after low, battered from all fronts and finally aware his destiny does not lie in his own hands. All the time affected by the eroding presence of cancer that caused all this in the first place, ready to sneak up and finish him off.
If Walter’s mask is about to slip then Jesse is going to continue as the show’s moral centre. Throughout his adventures he’s always been loyal to his feelings, even if those feelings haven’t been the most well-intentioned (selling meth to recovering addicts, etc.). While Walter has acted out his fantasies Jesse has never believed his own hype, always acting with a self-deprecating air that has recently morphed into moral soul searching. Despite backing out of Walter’s operation last season Jesse knows he hasn’t been absolved of his crimes, and there’s almost a side to him which wills to get caught. He’s made a lot of bad decisions in his life but paradoxically they’ve allowed him to develop into a far more principled man. Unfortunately for him Walter has already led him too far. We’ll no doubt see the White family collapse around Walter in this series, but maybe his most devastating victim will be Jesse? For all his faults he’s easily the show’s success story, an example of transformation that has gone the other way to Walt’s. It just won’t be enough to save him.
Skyler’s descent into schemes and evil has been almost as dramatic as her husband’s. After money laundering the drug money and fixing her boss’ tax affairs she bordered on a mental breakdown, and even with Walter out of the meth game and her family safe at home she still seemed on edge. Fans of the show have often criticised her, perhaps unfairly, for taking the children away from Walt, yet she’s only ever acted in the interests of her loved ones, it’s just Walter isn’t one of those any more. Of all the characters she is probably the most vulnerable to Walter’s demise, unable to protect herself from him, or from the demise of his empire. It may be a long, painful way down for her.
‘This is the season where Hank finally gets his revenge’ said actor Dean Norris. Hank has been haunted from the beginning, his American Dream of clean cut citizens waving on their drug-busting hero always affected by the mysterious Heisenberg. Now he’s found him, and he isn’t going to let go lightly. Hank has been Jesse’s convex mirror image in the series – where Jesse has gone from meth addict to increasingly questioning moral doubter, Hank has gone from unquestioning All-American hero to a more nuanced, thoughtful character. That’s not to say he’s abandoned the buccaneering, frontier spirit but it’s become a little more doubting, doubtlessly helping him see the finer details of Walter’s drug ring. Expect Hank to be vengeful and ruthless, but also more subtle and cunning than his brash persona might suggest.
While all around him are losing their heads (literally, in some cases) Saul can keep his. A real-life Lionel Hutz, he’s easily the least moral character in the show, which paradoxically makes him the least damaged – once you’ve sunk to the lowest, you might as well stay there. As the final credits roll and the series comes to an end, no matter what happens to anyone else, Saul will be sipping cocktails on a beach somewhere, Hawaiian shirt and all. He has his own spin-off lined-up after all.
Charles will be commenting on the season as it progresses so watch this space!