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In the wake of five of the most electrifyingly stellar seasons, the final season of Breaking Bad came to a close last night with “Felina.”

Written and Directed by Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, this episode was the final note in what has been an opus of writing, acting, directing, cinematography, set design, and editing that has ultimately changed television forever.  It seemed only fitting that as the credits rolled, it was Gilligan’s name as writer and director, which accented what has been the most protected, the most opined, and the most anticipated finales in the long history of television.  Gilligan has us all craving bad things, and despite an incredible finale, we are sad to see them end.

As the episode opens, Walt is still snow-bound in the “Granite State” of New Hampshire, aptly named because there, our protagonist has hit absolute rock bottom.  At the close of that episode, after almost giving himself up after a harsh confrontation with his son, Walt is compelled to return to home after his ex-partners tell Charlie Rose that we was of little importance to “Grey Matter.”  Walt steals a car and heads west, to finish what he started so long ago.  Soon after he gets back to New Mexico, we are given reasons for the foreshadowing of moments in earlier episodes: Season 5 opening episode where Walt is seen arranging his bacon into a “52”, and then the opening episode of The Final Season, where he returns to his former residence and retrieves the Ricin from the wall socket.

These moments could have remained sequential in the finale, but as Gilligan so poetically unravels, these editing choices work as a narrative clue – the fifth and the final season episodes are not being told sequentially, but as figments of Walt’s memory.  As he sits in isolation in a cabin in the middle of nowhere – miles away from the “heat at home” – he has nothing left to do except contemplate his actions and the effect they have had on his world. It is this reflection that leads him to his final admission to Skyler: that he didn’t take this journey for his family, as he had always proclaimed.  Walter White became Heisenberg because he wanted to be someone else. He wanted the power, the money, and the credit – and in that journey, he ruined the lives of his family, and several others along the way.

As he admits this, the cold exterior of Heisenberg melts away, and you finally see the Walt that was so near and dear to our hearts at the start of the series. While he loving strokes the hair on his infant daughter’s head, Skyler looks on at this man – a murderer, drug kingpin, and liar – and gets a glimpse of the father and husband that was there before. But that revelation came too late, and there is no going back from where they are now. This concept is accentuated by a long shot through a window as Walt Jr. comes home from school. Walt is on the outside of his family, and as Walt Jr. closes the door – without ever looking back – the viewer feels the finality of that connection.

The final minutes of the episode unfold as most people may have expected. This is a final conclusion of all of the “bad” people left in this world – the gang, Lydia, and Jesse Pinkman.  In true Breaking Bad style, it is Walt’s intellect that seals the fates of all involved. Just as he was able to outsmart Tuco and Gus, he does so again by single-handedly taking out Jack’s entire gang by rigging an M60 to his car. As Walt stands over Jack’s body, holding a gun to his head, Walt comes full circle. Jack dangles the prospect of Walt’s money in his face, and without hesitation, Walt pulls the trigger. He is no longer the money-hungry kingpin, but a man with nothing left to lose, who is desperately trying to make something right before the end. This change is not lost on Jesse, who looks up briefly from his handcuffs to watch his captor die.

Freed from his manacles, Jesse and Walt are now face-to-face for the first time since Hank’s death. Walt slides the gun across the room to Jesse, surrendering himself. And in keeping with his true nature, Jesse refuses to give Walt the satisfaction. Jesse notices that a stray bullet has hit Walt, and death will soon be knocking, so Jesse passes on his vengeance and chooses a fresh start. These two have faced death many times together, and in the end, they are both culpable for their circumstances. No one of them is more at fault then the other, and so they just leave – Jesse for freedom, and Walt for peace.

In the final moments of the show, Jesse is speeding away from his past – supposedly going to get away from all of this – and Walt is exactly where we first met him – in the middle of the desert, in a meth lab. He takes a stroll through the laboratory, admiring the knobs and gauges. He catches his reflection in the pristine steel of the cooker and smiles – this is where he belongs. And as he falls to his death, overtaken by the bullet in his side, the lasting image of his bloody handprint on the meth cooker is symbolic of the entire series.

The finale of Breaking Bad was everything we hoped it would be: true to the series, a complete sentence in the story of Walt, and a truly poetic and valiant end to the most groundbreaking series on television. It is with great sadness that I write this recap, being such a fan of the show. I will miss tuning in each week to see how bad things can get when you cross the boundaries between good and evil. But I will forever be grateful to the show for the incredible performances, the heart-pounding storylines, and the memorable cast of characters that populated this morally bankrupt ensemble. The last six years of television were made better by Breaking Bad, and to Vince Gilligan and all of his crew who brought us these masterpieces each week, we thank you for taking us on the wild ride with you. Television will forever remember your name as one of the greatest series to ever broadcast.