Why Breaking Bad's finale will disappoint—and we're all to blame - Macleans.ca

Why Breaking Bad’s finale will disappoint—and we’re all to blame

There can be no satisfactory conclusion for Walter White


(Ursula Coyote/AMC)

One week from now, at approximately 10:15 p.m., the internet will explode. That’s because it will be seconds after the credits roll on the final episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad, and everyone—no matter what the ending—will have something very important to say.

Will Walter White—the high school science teacher turned murderous meth kingpin—receive his moral comeuppance, or will he walk off into the New Mexico sunset? Will his scorned business partner Jesse finally see vengeance, or will he die at the hands of Walt’s new neo-Nazi buddies? Will Walter Jr. enjoy another delicious breakfast at the White household, or will he be doomed to walk the earth, Kwai Chang Caine style, forever searching for a satisfactory pancake? Whatever happens, it won’t make a difference, not really: for the millions watching at home and then immediately commenting online, there will be no entirely satisfactory conclusion.

Who can we blame for such a mess? Well, me, for starters, and the army of television recappers and commentators who make their livelihood dissecting creativity. In this era of highly scrutinized viewing—where every drama sparks a million words online, and at least twice as many GIFs—it’s become impossible for showrunners to stick the landing, to please each and every fan. Not when audiences blog, tweet, Tumbl and screen-capture episodes for posterity, each eager to be the first to slam or praise. And not when critics can expend thousands of words detailing why, exactly, an episode didn’t live up to the massive expectations they set for it, week after week, year after year.

It didn’t use to be this way. Only a decade ago, things were different—not better, necessarily, just different. Sunday nights, for instance, were far less stressful than they are now, for viewer and critic alike. When a TV drama reached its natural end—when all plots and/or contract negotiations had been explored—it received a few highly placed eulogies from the top newspapers and magazines, maybe 800 words a pop, and we all moved on. Sure, some of the more divisive finales—the fantastical St. Elsewhere bait-and-switch, the moral comeuppance of Seinfeld—sparked mild grumbling, but those who were still talking about it a week later were dismissed as water-cooler cranks. What else, everyone wondered, was on next?

Then, Television Without Pity picked up steam in the early aughts, and TV recaps—irresistible mini-essays coated in snark and layered with an oft-profound/disturbing level of attention to detail—became essential post-TV reading, a sort of syllabus for understanding, for truly experiencing, your favourite program. It became socially acceptable to obsess.

Flash forward a few years, and the landscape is now awash with TV recappers, small armies of quick typists and even quicker wits spilling words about what they—and you, yes you!—just experienced not an hour ago. On Sunday nights, after the prestige cable dramas typically air, the web can resemble a spoiler-fuelled traffic jam, with arguments rear-ending each other at a furious clip.

With this rise in quick-to-criticize TV recappers—from the hyper-detailed musings of The AV Club‘s Todd VanDerWerff to the bratty wit of Grantland‘s Andy Greenwald to the wise grandfatherly sage of them all, Alan Sepinwall—comes an inevitable sense of disappointment. The more columns you read (hell, even The New Republic is now in the game) and the more a show is dissected, the easier it is to detect flaws, to find imperfection. To be disappointed.

This isn’t to say such criticism is bad or unwanted—it’s impossible to tally how many excellent points have been made by Sepinwall and his ilk—it’s just hard to deny how the movement has changed the modern television landscape. It’s gotten to the point that no one showrunner could possibly secure each and every columnist’s wholesale seal of approval, to deliver so perfect a product that recappers will just set aside their keyboards after typing, “Yep, perfect. Nothing more to say here.” Everyone wants to be a unique voice, a contrarian.

As Breaking Bad nears its end Sept. 29, let’s all take a moment to think of series mastermind Vince Gilligan. No matter what he chooses to do—no matter which direction he throws Walt—he will never live up to our expectations, and we’ll make our disappointment known right here, online, where it will echo for weeks and years.

It will be the same problem Matthew Weiner faces in 2015, when Mad Men wraps up. Ditto Kurt Sutter for Sons of Anarchy, and Alan Ball for True Blood. Try as they might, their hour-long efforts to entertain will never satisfy, not when there are two dozen perfectly well-reasoned and expertly researched pieces arguing the exact opposite, all posted not 45 minutes after the show ends.

So here’s to you, Walter White. No matter what happens to you next Sunday, we’ll never forget you. Or stop complaining.


Why Breaking Bad’s finale will disappoint—and we’re all to blame

  1. Wow hes a real fortune teller

  2. @ wm and rt: The both of you either did not read the article or just completely missed the point.

  3. Breaking Bad is different. Its already stuck its landing in the third to last episode.

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    • You noticed the article’s reference to critics bing contrarian just to be heard above all the noise? Well, this critic is being contrarian even before he’s seen the show. That’s how he got all of us to read his article. Very clever.

      • well said.

        also good point to note is the journalist’s obvious bias against the “unwashed plebs” whining about trivial matters on the internet, having more views than his sad little articles.

        think about it, that is the true context to this sad drivel of an article.

      • thank dident look at that way nice nice

  5. Why, if this show is such a shit hot hit, is it being cancelled. Is it because Walter White’s a loser who attracts other losers who’live vicariously’ through him..Losers who just can’t deal with reality. Losers Just like Walt. Such a big shit hot loser who’s being cancelled. Sure, let’s have more great examples of people like Walt. I’m sure that there are lots more losers like him out there that can take his place. He’s got my vote for ‘Loser of the Year Award.’

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        • Walter White is real! Why won’t anybody believe me!?

          • lol there was a Walter White convicted for manufacturing methamphetamine in the states somewhere a few years ago

          • Rob,
            Thanks for that totally righteous little factoid. I had a really good laugh at it. I wonder what the guy’s like. I mean, what if he actually looked like the TV Walter White. He could go on a tour promoting a drug rehab program once he served his time..

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    • It’s not being cancelled. The story is reaching a natural conclusion. More shows should end like that, instead of dragging on into vapidity.

      • It’s being cancelled. As in no one’s picking it up. There may be clones. But it has been cancelled. Why? Because it’s crapola. You just can’t keep making lemon aid from the same lemon.

        • it’s not been cancelled, it was a planned ending. Gilligan’s playing it safe and keeping to a tight no nonsense plot before the show becomes stale.

          • It’s stale now. It was stale a long time ago. I don’t know how much more stale it could be. Oh wait. There’s an equally stale ending in the works. Go figure.

          • Troll

          • You’re an idiot. It’s not being canceled.

          • Thanks for the trolling demonstration.

          • I totally agree with buddy not about the cancelling but about the show being nothing special. They are technically ending it it’s not cancelled they could do another season if they hadn’t written themselves into a corner during the previous two seasons and weren’t stuck having to cap it with a cop out, boring as it has ever been ending that will only leave us wondering why we kept watching after season 2. For a show claiming such seriousness all the cheesy fumbled season finales just turn it into a joke. I enjoyed the show but honestly it ended a long time ago for me they already have dragged it on

          • You’re special. The show is a tour deforce in acting, writing, story telling.

          • Rob,
            Not a good idea to disagree with this crowd. They go right medieval when you do.

          • It’s season might be the best stretch of TV ever, and some troll says it’s stale.. Ratings and critical reception proves you’re wrong

        • Why come on here if you don’t like it? I think you’re a loser because you have nothing better to do than to hate on a television show that has been top notch since the pilot, according to many people and the many awards it was posted up for. If you don’t like a show, and think it’s bad, keep it to yourself and your circle of douche bag friends, don’t bring it here where there’s fans just wanting to read articles & exchange words based on said show. Point is, you look like a big immature idiot here and if you had a good life, maybe a good job and a girlfriend, I don’t think you’d be here posting rude comments on a board where it’s full of fans from this show. You should be ashamed of yourself; you’re one of those human beings who should have been a shot of sperm in your fathers jerk off tissue and nothing more.

          To the writer: Very clever article but based on what you wrote and why you wrote it, i’ll be sure never to read an article from you again, but thanks for letting us know how people are going to react to this finale. (sarcasm detected)

        • Okay loser… you hate the show, so why put in the effort to make sure everyone in the world knows how you hate it? You don’t even have your facts straight. It’s not being cancelled…

    • Braindead as usual.,It’s called going out on top, knowing when to end on a high, like an athlete who retires before a year too long. See dexter for an example of a show that was ruined by dragging out the story too long..

      BB is a massive ratings, and critical success (See last nights emmy’s) AMC would love to continue it. Luckily this time, Creativity won over ratings.

      You could say this about every show, why did sopranos end, the wire? Deadwood? Seinfield??? All good stories come to an end.

    • It’s NOT being cancelled you loser… Everything must come to an end at some point and it’s better to go out on top.

  6. you folks missed the whole point of this article.

    • you sir, sound like a elitist douche… kinda like the author of the OP

  7. Umm… Breaking Bad is different. People don’t know WHAT to expect from it… that is precisely its appeal. The last 9 episodes have been some of the best TV I’ve seen in a LONG time. Whatever happens in the finale, I’m reasonably certain that it will not be a failure of LOST-esque proportions.

    • So you don’t think it will turn out that Walt’s been in purgatory all this time : )

  8. Not only bloggers, now they have shows on immediately after the episode breaking it down. It started with “talking dead” and I see SOA has one now as well. I will continue to approach television as I approach everything else, without a care as to anyone else’s opinion.

  9. Wow, the fanboys are in full swing already. Maybe they should reread the article without wearing their BB spectacles and try making an attempt to understand what the author is saying this time around.

    • Just some more Walter White groupies. Not too bright. Kinda dumb.. Just like their hero.

      • Just some desperate BB troll who is in the monirity.

  10. No moron, it wont. You’re dealing with a show on a whole other level and a showrunner far and away more creative , innovative, and pure genius than anyone else, ever. His episodes NEVER disappoint, if you’re intuitive enough to appreciate the beautiful drawn out subtleties of it, among other things. To even mention it with SOA, and even worse True Blood lol is truly insulting…….of course, yes there will be some idiotic fans who don’t truly appreciate the show for the gift that it is and how privileged they are to be witnessing it and treat it like any other tv show, they will probably have things to say, but those people should be ignored and blocked out like they don’t exist, that’s what I do with them.

    • You mean ignore reality, block it out completely, the same way that Walt, you’re cult hero, does? There’s lots of TV shows like that. Just not as meaningless and nihilistic as this one.

      • If Walt hadn’t ignored reality he would have got out the business as soon as he killed that guy in season one. Most of the best characters on TV in any genre ignore reality. The whole shows really about a science teacher trying to rationalize greed. Besides he hasn’t been Walter White since the end of season four, he’s been Heisenberg acting the part. Of course he’s not as smart as people make him out to be. He could have avoided the whole situation of the last three episodes if he just quizzed Jessie on where he found the barrels of money. Just because the show doesn’t adhere to religious, philosophical, or morally sound principles that’d usually be typified by the stoic square jawed Stereotype (Jack Shepard from lost easily springs to mind. Even though he was a jackass with control issues, there was no question that he was the good guy which is just so…boring.), doesn’t make the show Nihilistic. Walter Aim was always to beat the cancer, not survive it (well it’d probably be a good bonus.), he’s just warped that aim out of all proportion to encompass his empire and growing hideous nature.
        That being said, you’re entitled to your opinion even if it was just formulated for trolling purposes. Besides you’re right, the show isn’t exactly perfect. At least not to the extent that Tim Isola claims. Hell even in this last batch of episodes the one before the money barrel scam was crap, all it was was Jesse, Hank and Walt reiterating the same points until it lost it’s tension and just became a headache of a watch All made up by the following episode of course.)

        • I’m in the process of deconstructing a myth. Why this one in particular? Because its premised on nothing more than glorifying desperate, dysfunctional, and degenerate individuals who are so depraved, that they’re literally beyond redemption. And they don’t care how many people they hurt as a result. Hollywood’s done a really good job doing that already. We really don’t need any more good examples of very bad ones.
          Pointing out the shows glaring faults is something that you’ve done. Not me. So good for you for at least manning up on that point. The rest of the fanboys should take note of your comment.
          As for the troll thingy. You’re dead wrong. But like you say, no one’s perfect.
          Nihilism. Sorry, but I’m dead right on that score.

        • This is not a troll thingy. I’m deconstructing a dangerous myth. It’s a little like pulling someone’s wisdom teeth without an anesthetic. A rather painful process for everyone who thinks they have a stake in perpetuating a misplaced loyalty to, what has accurately been portrayed as, some of the worst dregs of society.
          Pointing out the shows glaring errors. You managed to do a good job of that yourself. The rest of the fanboys here should take note of your comment.
          Look up the definition for nihilism.

          • You realize the show depicts a man who has lost everthing, including family, because of his actiosn right? I don’t think you ever watched an episode, you are on this sad, desperate crusade.

            There is nothing to deconstruct, the show covers this in great detail, he suffers and is a bad guy, that’s the point…

        • Dude I’m here to chirp the show and even I can tell that you have no idea what this show is about

  11. You know what else is disappointing? This article. Anyone reading this who is older than 25 and watches television knows that no television series; comedy, drama, or otherwise has ever ended satisfactorily for ALL viewers. All shows that have come and gone over the years have one thing in common. The ending always pisses someone off. I realize that now everyone has a channel in which to vent their frustration but boohoo. Get used to it or get a new job.

  12. what is at the heart on walt’s cancer ? a sore that has not healed ? what is the sore ?

    what is at the heart on walt’s cancer ? a sore that has not healed ? what is the sore ?

  13. Episode 6 could have been the finale, and it would have been a great one.

  14. The guy Metropika is a massive BB troll in every BB article. BB is the highest rated show in IMDB’s, and metacritics history, it’s acting and writing are amongst the best ever seen on screen. He is in the minority, don’t respond to him , he is just looking for attention. BB is already a foothold in TV history as one of, maybe even the best TV drama ever made. Nothing that mental midget will say changes that.

    • That’s the normal reaction from a tiresome little fanboy like you. Breaking Bad’s a sad, self serving, piece of mediocre performance art. The very fact that you, and others like you, are touting it, is a testament to just how bad Breaking Bad really is. The reason you like it is because it’s easy to dumb yourself down to Walter White’s level. Jesus. It doesn’t take any talent to portray a pathetic loser like him.

      • Highest rated in IMDB and metacritic history. Wide spread industry acclaim and awards. You are in the minority clown , stop crying.Chances are, if most everyone disagrees with you , you are wrong, unless you are saying you are the worlds smartest guy? Typical internet elitest troll.

        • The producers were at least smart enough to spend a whole lot of money on PR in order to’hype’ the show. A whole lot of money will buy you a whole lot of PR buzz. The price tag to hype up a typical Hollywood production makes up at least 30% of the total cost. That’s what you bought into. A whole lot of high priced hype and nothing more.

  15. Yawn I fell asleep twice reading this article. Thank god Barry never wrote an episode of breaking bad.

  16. One week from now, at approximately 10:15 p.m., the internet will explode.

    No need to read further. People are already live blogging tweeting….the writer has no clue.

  17. 2 terrible articles on BB this week from macleans………are they trying to shatter their already bad reputation?

    • This one’s decent actually. If you read it, you’ll find it has a point to make, and not one against Breaking Bad, but against reviewers.

      • They only see what they want to see and nothing more. A sad bunch of butt kissing Walter White wannabe’s. Their big counter culture folk hero.
        A depraved drug dealer.

  18. “The reason you like it is because it’s easy to dumb yourself down to Walter White’s level.”

    Ad hominem attacks always strengthen a weak argument!

    • Non compos mentis

  19. I love the internet feedback. They are quick to delve into all the subtle nuances that Vince and his writers stick into the show. Did you know that last week when Walter was rolling his barrel through the desert he passes an old worn out pair of khakis – a subtle throwback to him losing his pants in Season 1. Also I’ve heard great theories about how Badger’s recap of the “perfect Star Trek episode” (Kirk, Spock, Chekov in a pie eating contest) that closely match with the story arc of these final episodes.

    Also when walt was sitting at the bar, even the hockey game they had on the TV connects in. These guys are pros! The last episode is going to kick ass!

  20. er, no, most who watch the show, love it, for the work of genuis, it clearly is, i think like most, i know VG will do a fine job of closing it with an ending that satisfies most

    you talk about in the article like it’s like Lost or something

    it’s much classsier in it’s writing and excecution

  21. I’m going to ruin the ending for you. Walt becomes a lumberjack, and Jesse gets shot and though its initially thought to not be serious, it ends up causing a blood clot that causes a stroke, and he ends up a vegetable. Fans everywhere wail about how depressing the end is, and wonder on message boards everywhere why their favorite situational comedy got so dark, all of a sudden.

  22. I look at things a little differently than most. The more the media raves about anything, the less inclined I am to care abut it. I’ve never seen a single episode of the show, and I’m glad it’s finally over. Maybe now I won’t have to hear about it any more, and people might start talking about things that actually matter* for a change.

    * Nobody’s going to start talking about things that actually matter. They’ll just latch onto “whatever the media tells them is important next”…as always.

    This world is an entirely entertainment-based joke, these days. Sad, what we were on the road towards a century or two ago, and how incredibly perfectly we’ve fouled up everything. All in the name of corporate profits and immediate entertainment.

    Let’s hope the cockroaches do better when their turn comes around…

  23. Remember Kevin Spacey’s dialogue at the end of Seven? That’s what’s going to happen tomorrow night.

  24. whatever…..this is why I hardly listen to critics…everybody has different experiences from movies, food, programs, music, etc….what use is a critic anyhow? Either way, if the last episode of Breaking Bad is a disappointment, the five seasons it existed was great.

  25. you pomoss ass cuting this ohsoo rea too life series go too hell

  26. Has this writer ever watched the show or just read the snippets at AMC? This dude is way off base.

  27. So Barry, clueless again eh?