Not to be sentimental, but the very first Lazlo’s Clicker I ever wrote was a recap of the Breaking Bad season finale which featured Gus Fring getting half his face blown off.
It is a true pleasure, this week, to recap the series finale of the best dramas ever to air on television. Let’s get right to it.
So why is it so hard to do a finale right? Great shows have tried, and look what’s happened…The Sopranos was too abrupt, Battlestar Galactica left too many unanswered questions, Lost was a big fat hot mess, Dexter, a fizzle. Not so, though, with Breaking Bad. I am confident that in the annals of television, this will be remembered as one of the five best television shows ever to air, ahead of The Sopranos, a notch behind The Wire. An all time classic. And Vince Gilligan and company delivered a finale worthy of the show’s greatness.
SPOILER ALERT: If you somehow haven’t yet watched the finale, or if you’re just now binge watching Breaking Bad to see what all the fuss was about, don’t keep reading.
One way to make sure you have a worthy finale is to have a great set up, and Breaking Bad certainly had that, including a brilliant one episode guest spot by Jackie Brown’s Robert Forester, so the finale was designed to pay off all of the great work leading up to it. We begin with Walt (Bryan Cranston) paying a visit to his old business partners, the Schwartzes, (Adam Godley, Jessica Hecht) who had been dissing him and distancing themselves from him on Charlie Rose. He dumps his almost $10 million on the table and makes them promise to give it to his family. The government won’t seize it, he reasons, if it’s coming from them. As an added incentive, they get lit up by laser sites. Walt hired hitmen to ensure their compliance, he explains. Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz will do what they’re told.
Back to the car and surprise! The hit men are actually Badger and Skinny Pete (Matt Jones, Charles Baker) with laser pointers. This small bit of comic relief in the midst of the hyper intense atmosphere was a stroke of genius.
Walt shows up at the diner where Lydia (Laura Fraser) is meeting with Todd (Jesse Plemons). Breaking Bad has always had great villains like Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), but Todd might be the creepiest of all, a cross between 30 Rock’s wide-eyed simpleton Kenneth Parcell and Michael Madsen’s ear-severing Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs. Walt says he has a new business proposal. We know this is a set up. So does Walt. Lydia and Todd don’t necessarily know it, but they plan on killing Walt off because he’s a loose end. The final confrontation is set.
Next stop, Walt must confront Skyler (Anna Gunn). The brilliant Anna Gunn shows why she won an emmy in this scene. Skyler is chain smoking, her eyes have a deadness to them. She doesn’t fear Walt, she might still love Walt, she definitely fears the future. Walt confesses that he never did “all of this” for the family. He did it for himself. He liked it. He was good at it. He concludes by giving her a lottery ticket that has the GPS coordinates in the numbers so Skyler can trade the location of Hank’s body to the FBI in exchange for…whatever she can get. Finally, he has truly done something for his family.
Last stop, the Aryans’ headquarters. We know Walt has something rigged up in his trunk. He calls out Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) for working with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). In the final twist, Walt learns the truth. Jesse is being kept as a slave laborer in psycho Todd’s meth dungeon. Walt has one more act of altruism and forgiveness left in him. He rushes Jesse as a ruse to get him to the ground and then activates the BFG we know is in the trunk of the car. Bullets fly everywhere. Everyone dies except Uncle Jack and Todd (and Walt and Jesse of course). Jesse gets his vengeance on Todd by strangling him with his chains. It is a fitting nasty death for nasty psycho Todd. It is also a small bit of redemption for Jesse. Uncle Jack tries to bargain with Walt by telling him he will trade his life for the rest of the money he stole but before he can finish his sentence Walt puts a bullet through his head. Walt and Jesse are left standing, just the two of them.
Two final threads to tie up. Lydia calls Todd’s phone to see if Walt’s dead. Walt asks her if she’s feeling OK since he poisoned the crappy sweetener she always puts in her tea. He hangs up. No more Lydia. Walt wants Jesse to shoot him. He wants to go out on his own terms. Jesse refuses. No more damage to Jesse’s soul. He drives away exuberant that he’s still alive.
Walt is alone. We hear sirens in the distance. The end is near. Walt takes one last trip around the meth lab, admiring the perfection of the set up he designed. The bullet he took during the shoot out with the Aryans is draining him of blood. Flash to the sirens. Flash back to the lab. Walt is lying on the floor. Heisenberg is dead, long live Walter White.
Every question answered. Every story arc resolved. No loose threads, but enough open endedness to let us imagine where the story might have gone next. Breaking Bad was cl0se to perfection during its run on AMC. In its final episode, which drew its most viewers ever, it achieved it.
THERE ARE A HOST of new sitcoms debuting this fall, with plenty of big names returning to television, but don’t miss out on Mom, which features Anna Faris and Allison Janney.
For starters, it is so gratifying to see Anna Faris given a role with multiple dimensions. Few actresses ever did the “dumb blonde” better or funnier than Faris did as Cindy in the Scary Movie franchise, but she was typecast after that, and in Mom, she’s given a chance to be funny and have an actual personality too.
Christy (Faris) is a single mother. Her life is a wreck. She’s a recovering alcoholic. Her teenage daughter (Sadie Calvano) doesn’t respect her and seems doomed to repeat her mistakes. She works at a restaurant where she’s dating her married boss (Nate Corddry). How could it get worse? Enter Christy’s mom Bonnie (Janney), a recovering alcoholic who doomed her daughter to repeat her mistakes.
Comic brilliance: Janney & Faris
The set up may not sound like a slam dunk, but the comic performances are top notch. Janney is amazing at making Bonnie simultaneously loathsome, sympathetic and very funny. Faris works the pathos of her character’s failings like a pro. It is easy to be funny when you’re the one making the wisecracks. Being funny when you’re the butt of more than half the jokes is tough. Faris excels at it.
The writing here is crisp and clever. They’ve even found a way to make French Stewart effective and funny, having him zip in and out as a condescending ethically challenged head chef at the restaurant where Christy works.
This show has a great cast and a ton of potential and is definitely my favorite new sitcom of the current crop. It’s not getting a lot of press, but it deserves some.
I THOUGHT I WAS GOING to like Lucky Seven, ABC”s drama about a group of blue collar workers who win the lottery, but the show falls flat for me.
With such a novel premise, you would have thought the storytelling would be easy, but instead it is forced. A contrived network of conflicts dragged the pilot’s set up along for 45 minutes. By the time they actually win the lottery, I almost didn’t care.
Be Lucky. Watch something else.
There are no standouts in the cast, and no memorable character development in the writing that gives you even one storyline to latch on to. Instead, these are stock characters thrown into a blender with the viewer invited to watch what tumbles out after a few presses of the pulse button. Skip this one. It won’t be around long.
Is that Larry King on ESPN doing sports?! Yes it is. During the baseball playoffs, King is temp hosting Olbermann while Keith Olbermann is on location. King’s signature blend of anecdotes and conversational tone are a distinct departure from Olbermann’s intellectualism, but the culture shock of Larry King doing sports is just too much fun to resist.
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Rule #1 of Christianity: No Forgiveness MotherF**ker (The Colbert Report); 2) Heaven is for pussies (Key & Peele); 3) On the third day, God made trees and grass and nature, so, basically a bullsh*t day (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia).
Two episodes in to the new season of Nashville, and the one thing really striking is that Hayden Panettiere has crafted Juliette Barnes into the most conflicted character on television. Cynical but vulnerable, ambitious but remorseful, we don’t quite know what Juliette is going to do next, only that she’s going to second guess herself after she does it. It’s a terrific acting job molding what could have been a stereotype soap opera “bitch” into something a whole lot more.
Christopher Titus: Voice In My Head airs on Comedy Central on October 5.
The Witches of East End airs its series premiere on Lifetime on October 6.
The Simpsons annual Treehouse of Horror episode airs on Fox on October 6.
Beauty and the Beast returns to The CW on October 7.
The Biggest Loser is back on NBC on October 8.
Arrow airs its season premiere on The CW on October 9.
The Tomorrow People debuts on The CW on October 9.
American Horror Story: Coven premieres on FX on October 9.
Once Upon A Time In Wonderland airs its series premiere on ABC on October 10.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!