There are many TV finales that disappoint. “Lost,” “Battlestar Galactica” and most recently “Dexter” all come to mind. But the reaction to last Sunday’s finale of “Breaking Bad” was quite the opposite. Rather, it seemed overwhelmingly positive. The five-year journey of cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his transformation into the dangerous drug lord Heisenberg finally reached its end. And boy, was it an ending.
Every loose end was tied up, with Walt finally getting his money to his family and exacting his revenge on all those who double-crossed him. But the real power of the finale was how Walt, in the end, became Heisenberg not to support his family, but because he enjoyed it. The finale was a great send-off to a spectacular series, which has been hailed as one of the best dramas of modern television.
It’s very rare to find a TV show that enchants its audience the way “Breaking Bad” did. The characters were all expertly developed, from Walter to his family to his student Jesse (Aaron Paul). Villains like Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) became standouts, as did Walt’s brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and Walt’s lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).
Bryan Cranston himself sheds his “Malcom in the Middle” days to brilliantly show Walt’s fall from grace. Three Emmy wins for Best Dramatic Actor can attest to that. But moreso, Cranston plays a character who slowly becomes completely unlikeable, yet is still captivating to watch.
Over the course of its run, “Breaking Bad” has blossomed into a full-blown phenomenon, becoming one of the highest viewed cable shows on TV with ratings that doubled in its final season. Many critics these days contend that television has replaced the film industry as the main source of great drama, and “Breaking Bad” is the perfect example. Every episode is cinematic, bursting with action, suspense and simply fascinating characters. It is an immense pleasure to watch these people being put into dangerous situations and seeing how they come out of it.
There are many great shows currently playing on TV. “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “The Walking Dead” all spring to mind. And yet we still have a need for compelling serialized storytelling, which “Breaking Bad” supplied in droves. Shows like “Breaking Bad” only come around once in a lifetime, and the success it found is not likely to be repeated anytime soon.
For the longtime fans who have been with the show from the beginning, it was a great loss. For those just starting out or who have never watched the show, hopefully the buzz surrounding the finale will urge you to give it a try. Either way, “Breaking Bad” got the finale it deserved, and the strength of its ending just goes to show how such a strong TV series can capture the hearts of millions. A bittersweet so long, Walt.