I don’t really want to speculate either, June. But I do have an observation that I think I can make with a fair amount of certainty: Whatever happens, Vince Gilligan is going to have left me wanting more.
And that may be the show’s greatest achievement. Typically, the economics of television dictate that a show will either be killed before its time (Firefly) or will drag on longer than it needed to. The last few episodes of The Sopranos are great television, but the entire final two seasons of the show don’t really tell us anything about Tony that we didn’t already know.
With Breaking Bad, on the other hand, I’m endlessly curious about what we haven’t seen and don’t yet know. There’s just no way the final episode can pack in everything I would conceivably want to see—a full backstory on Gray Matter, the internal politics of the Nazi gang, more insight into Lydia and Todd, Saul in Nebraska, Skyler under an entirely new sort of pressure.
And the one thing we’d really all like to see—justice—is something that’s probably impossible at this point.
Walt is dying. Whether he gets killed or gets caught will not, at this point, really change anything. What hurts him now is the idea that he failed—that his family isn’t benefiting from his actions, that they aren’t grateful, and that they don’t love him.
And this means the only way for Walt to suffer is for him to experience the suffering of other people secondhand. The thought of his kids growing up in poverty, for example, clearly worries him. He’ll be sadder still if Skyler’s ability to identify Lydia ends up getting her killed or hurt. At this point, these are the only ways for Walt to be “punished”: Bad things can happen to other people, and by contemplating his role in their occurrence, Walt will suffer.
There’s no real justice in this. His children are innocent, Marie is innocent, and if Skyler and Jesse aren’t exactly innocent, they’ve both suffered enough already. The show and the audience are in a sort of ethical Chinese finger trap from which there’s no escape: We don’t know how much more punishment the writers will dole out, but however much—or little—it is, it won’t make things any better.
I just hope someone got Huell out of that hotel room.
TODAY IN SLATE
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The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
The Other Huxtable Effect
Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.