'Breaking Bad' Finale Postmortem: What Will Happen Next Year?
Now that we've had a few days to let the implications of Hank's bathroom epiphany settle in, let's talk about what it will mean for the rest of the season/series. There are only eight more episodes left, which isn't a ton of time to finish Walt's story... which means that things are probably going to go very bad, very fast.
Let's start with the facts, i.e. things that have been presented in the show that we know to be true:
- The kids moving in with Hank & Marie happened around Walt's 51st birthday. In the finale, Marie mentioned that they had been there for about three months. So, with the extra time that elapsed between Walt saying "I'm out" and the final scene of the finale, we're approximately eight or nine months away from the flash-forward at the beginning of the season premiere.
- That flash-forward showed us that Walt is spending his 52nd birthday in a diner, and has assumed a new identity, Mr. Lambert. Whether it's Hank, Todd, Declan or someone else, Walt has been forced into hiding: it's tough to say if Walt actually went to New Hampshire and came back into town to settle something, but considering the ID, license plate, and the fact that he knew exactly how long a drive it was from New Hampshire back to New Mexico, it looks like he may have.
- On his 52nd birthday, Walt purchases an M60 machine gun, which he says "won't leave town." Whatever Walt is planning on using it for, it's going to be in town.
- Walt's cancer is back in some form: in the Denny's bathroom, after the purchase, Walt gives a slight cough and takes a pill. Given that, it's likely that Walt's doctor's visit in the finale showed him that the cancer has returned.
Here's another fact: Hank knows. To what extent he's sure about Walt's involvement is unclear, and knowing that Hank is an investigator, he'll want to back up his accusation with proof. But assuming he quickly becomes sure of Walt's guilt, what does that mean for everyone's future?
Here are some theories about the future of each character in the last eight episodes:
One important thing to recognize about Hank's involvement in all this is that if he brings Walt in, it will not bode well for him. For the new ASAC's brother-in-law to be revealed as the one and only Heisenberg, and for all of that to have gone on right under Hank's nose... well, considering Hank's former boss got fired for his fraternization with Gus, it goes without saying that Hank will be out a job at the very least, and most likely completely disgraced.
Will that make him reluctant to turn Walt in? It might give him pause, but considering the horrible things that Hank now knows Walt to have done, and the pain that Walt has cause Hank personally (including that horrible injury), he's not going to forgive easily.
It's also important to remember how deeply Skylar is involved in all of this now. It won't take long for Hank to follow the money and find that all of it has been laundered through the car wash. Knowing that, if Walt goes down, so does Skylar.
Unless, of course, she can manage to talk her way out of it. After all, Skylar has proved herself to be pretty smart about this stuff, and phenomenally good at lying. And, having been Walt's prisoner for this long, you would think that she would have come up with some kind of contingency plan in case he got caught.
Then again, getting caught might be the least of Skylar's concerns. When Walt arranges his bacon in a 52 on his plate, he does it with a great degree of melancholy: could it be that Skylar is dead by Walt's 52nd birthday? Would Walt have skipped town without her? Probably not.
Normally, on a television show, killing off a kid is a big no-no. But as this season proved (and last season almost proved), "Breaking Bad" is not above killing a child or two. That means that even Walter Jr. and baby Holly aren't exactly safe. Walter Jr. will probably survive, because of the complex reaction that would come from him learning the truth about his father. How much of a knife in Walt's gut would it be to see his son be disappointed in him for breaking the law?
There's a growing sense of doom, though, about Holly among fans. Many have pointed out that the ricin capsule is being kept pretty close to the ground, so all it would take is for that outlet plate to come loose for her to get into it. You'll notice in the finale that there are two scenes highlighting Holly's mobility: one in which we see a closeup of her feet while she walks, and another in which Walter Jr. pushes her around in her toy car. That mobility could mean trouble.
Then again, I don't know that the Walt that we saw in the flash-forward was one who inadvertently killed his own wife or daughter. He looked disheveled, but not that much of an emotional wreck.
Of all the characters on this show, Jesse probably has the best chance of survival, if only because it would be so impossibly cruel to kill him. Admit it: you'd rather see Holly die than Jesse. Go ahead, admit it. I won't judge you.
The simple fact is this: "Breaking Bad" has been grooming us to love Jesse from the start. He was a bit too hapless at the beginning, and got annoying, but while Walt has gradually changed for the worse and become a damaged soul, Jesse has worked hard to become a healthier, better person. Jesse is the only one in the gang who still believes it's wrong to kill people. That's where we're at morally on this show.
Of late, we've seen Walt manipulate Jesse again and again. Ruthlessly, effectively. He made Jesse think that he lost the ricin and Brock got into it; he made Jesse kill Gale; he convinced Jesse to dump Andrea; and he is still harboring the secret about Jane (and Mike for that matter). If and when that stuff comes to light, Jesse is going to be pissed.
Having seen Jesse be so selfless, so Zen, so cool about everything this season, gladly giving up his money on more than one occasion just to avoid conflict or to keep anyone from getting hurt, it's easy to be on Jesse's side. Heck, the dinner scene alone should have done it.
Plus, how easily could Jesse be tied to things now? Hank would have no idea that Jesse was involved at this point, unless Walt or Skylar ratted on him. As far as Hank knows, Walt's only cooking partner was Gale.
Jesse has to live. He just has to. And preferably, he'll be the one to kill Walt.
We already know Walt will make it to 52. But what will happen in the meantime? And what is that huge gun for?
It would seem that there are four possible paths ahead for Walt:
1.) Walt lives, and gets away with it all (not likely)
2.) Walt lives, gets locked up, and everyone knows he's Heisenberg
3.) Walt dies, and everyone knows he's Heisenberg
4.) Walt dies, but nobody knows he's Heisenberg
Matt Zoller Seitz over at Vulture puts it best about Walt's fears: his greatest punishment would be anonymity. I've talked a lot about Walt's ego this season, and it's true that option #4 might be the absolute worst one for Walt. If you add someone else (like Skylar maybe) getting credit for the huge pile of money, then that's probably Walt's worst nightmare: he dies with no one knowing how brilliant he was, or how well he provided for his family. He's not an alpha male. He's still just the nebbish chemistry teacher who lost the fight to cancer.
But you can bet that Walt will do everything in his power to fight that. That's probably why he has an M60 in his trunk. That's not a gun that you use when you want to be subtle.
The question is, who is that gun supposed to be used on? Is Walt planning to take a stand against the DEA? We don't know how Walt suddenly withdrew from the meth business without any loose ends... could it be that he screwed over Declan or Todd, and now they're after him with a small army of criminals?
For more in-depth coverage of the finale episode, check out our episode recap. Leave your theories on how everything will end in the comments below.
And may you find another show sufficiently distracting to last you through to next summer.