“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”
-Viktor E. Frankl,
Man's Search for Meaning
"Me with nothing left to lose, plotting my big revenge in the spotlight. Give me violent revenge fantasies as a coping mechanism."-Chuck Palahniuk
“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
Less Than Zero
"I'm going to kill Jack Welker and his entire crew, and take back what is mine, and give it to my children. Then and only then is this over."
Wound Walter White's pride, and his reaction will almost certainly be one of violence. He will lash out, often with wild impulsivity, if you attack the thing that he holds most sacred: his own ego. Gretchen and Elliot denouncing him on Charlie Rose hurt Walter White where he really lives, and now he's out for blood. Throughout the progression of the series, we've witnessed Walt's cerebral, scientific pragmatism become gradually supplanted by something far more primordial; as the things that he's cherished have been incrementally stripped away, so too has the edifice that previously restrained the more primal elements of his personality. Keep in mind, this really doesn't make any kind of logical sense-coming back to kill the Nazis achieves nothing, repairs nothing. It's a wholly irrational act, one that is unlikely to produce any positive outcome for Walter or anyone he cares for, but raw emotion does not yield to reason. Freedom, after all, is just another word for having nothing left to lose, and Walter White is determined to live free or die.
The specifics of what he has planned are a mystery (although I think that it's a safe bet that he's looking for retribution against Jack Welker and Co.), but what can be predicted with near certainty is that Walter White is going to do something completely crazy. And not any type of crazy that we've seen from him before. Not blowing up Tuco's lair crazy; or shooting Mike crazy; or running over drug dealer's with the Aztec crazy; not even setting off a bomb in a nursing home crazy. As wild and irrational as each of these acts were, they were committed by Walter when he still believed that he had something left to lose. Now he has nothing besides a badly wounded sense of pride. Look out, Nazis, a terminally ill nihilist with a very loose grip on reality is the one who knocks, and he is quite dangerous, indeed.
Walter may have become devoid of rationality, but thankfully, we can still allow logic to guide us toward some form of understanding about where all of this is headed. The inferences that can be drawn from the information that has already been made available to us can help provide a few pieces of the puzzle as we move toward the finale. Remember, however, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle still applies; we've gotten down to quantum physics, where matter doesn't adhere to predictable laws. Perhaps now more than ever, chaos is the rule. Here are a few things that I'll be focused on/expecting to happen in the finale, along with some relevant contextualizing information:
- Some immediate loose ends that need to be tied up from last episode:
- Walt just missed the police, does he make it back to the cabin? He may be left with just the $100,000 that he packed in that box of Ensure. Based upon the opening from "Live Free or Die," we know that the Volvo that Walt somehow acquires in New Hampshire does not contain his barrel of money (he exchanges cars with the arms dealer). This means that he either finds a place to store his money, or it's gone, seized by the police. All that they'd have to do to find the cabin is literally follow his tracks...Also, how on earth does he get a car? I hope he doesn't imitate the cousins and kill some old lady just to take her vehicle...
- If the $10 million gets taken, and I think that it's very likely that it will be, Walt is going to have an even greater sense of urgency to recover his money from Jack Welker. That
- There's no going back, he's left the reservation. The vacuum repair man will not be there to help him anymore, not that he's planning on sticking around much longer. By abandoning the lodge, he's abandoned all access to medical treatment. Just another indication that this is more than likely a suicide mission.
- Why doesn't he care about being seen? Walt appears perfectly comfortable eating in public in the flash forward sequence from "Live Free or Die." After nearly catching Walt at the bar in New Hampshire, it would stand to reason that they have a full description of his current appearance. That beard and full head of hair aren't going to be enough of a disguise for him to be walking around in public if a police sketch of the new hipster Heisenberg becomes nationally publicized. His willingness to walk around publicly (in Albequerque, of all places) is yet another indication that he just does not give a fuck....At all....
- Skyler is in terrible trouble; how does it play out for her? Her story, like Walt's, seems to have two possible endings: prison or death. If Walter had just remained in New Hampshire to die, I would be more inclined to believe that prison would be her worst possible fate, but now that hurricane Heisenberg is back in Albequerque...The floor keeps moving for Walter, his family, and the audience; everytime we think he's bottomed out, Vince Gilligan shows us that there's always something worse that can happen. Walt's inabilility to cut his own losses has consistently created new lows for both him and his family, and now that he's back in New Mexico, ready to go to war with the Aryan Brotherhood, I think that we should prepare ourselves for the strong possibility that one of his family members (or perhaps all) dies. Skyler has been fortunate enough to have received one warning from Todd, I doubt that she'll get a second.
- Assuming Walt does manage to somehow recover his money, how does he plan on getting it to his children? His entire family hates him and his wife is being surveilled by the DEA 24 hours a day. I'm not sure that he's even though that far ahead...
- Has the cancer spread to his brain? None of the major reviews that I read seemed to share my interpretation that Walt's failing vision may be a sign that his cancer has spread to his brain, so I may be wildly off base on this one. I do, however, think that Vince Gilligan coyly teased us with "Walt gets a new pair of glasses" on Talking Bad for a reason has not yet been made wholly apparent to the audience. Otherwise, it's the lamest tease in the history of television...
- Carol sees him; does she call the fuzz on Walt? Please don't kill Carol, Walter...
- Gray Matter Technologies...Do we get more exposition about what happened? Gilligan and Bryan Cranston hinted strongly on last Monday's Breaking Bad Insider podcast that we would. We already have some pertinent information on Walt and Gretchen's past relationship from their contentious lunch in "Cancer Man," in which we learn that Walter left Gretchen while the two were visiting her family in New Hampshire for the fourth of July. Walt also specifically references her family's wealth as a means of disparagement during their argument. Jessica Hecht, the actress who plays Gretchen, previously explained in an interview with the AMC website that her family's money was a problem for Walter:
A: Oh man, he’s a good actor. But it was easy because Vince Gilligan told us exactly what went down between the characters off screen: We were very much in love and we were to get married. And he came home and met my family, and I come from this really successful, wealthy family, and that knocks him on his side. He couldn’t deal with this inferiority he felt — this lack of connection to privilege. It made him terrified, and he literally just left me, and I was devastated. Walt is fighting his way out of going back to that emotional place, so he says, “F— you.”
- Regarding Walter's past, I noticed something interesting upon rewatching the cold opener from "Full Measure" today. The episode began with a flashback from (roughly) 17 years before, when Skyler was pregnant with Junior and the couple was still house hunting. The realtor makes reference to Walt's place of employment, Sandia Laboratories, which is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. Sandia is one of two major national laboratories of the US Department of Energy, devoted primarily to the research and development of nuclear technology. Besides the obvious allusion to Walt's criminal monicker (the real life Heisenberg was a nuclear scientist for the Nazis during World War II; Nazi speed, Nazi scientists, Nazi nukes, Nazi prison gangs-Vince Gilligan sure does love Nazis), the scene fills us in on another important piece of Walt's biography. He went from Gray Matter to Sandia, which is a perfectly logical career transition, but nuclear engineer to high school chemistry teacher? There's a lot about his history that is a total mystery to me, and as his behavior has become increasingly erratic, my desire to see it more thoroughly dissected has grown immensely. I'd hate to see the series end with its main character as a kind of Iago-like enigma.
- The most obvious remaining question is where the ricin capsule is headed. Poisons tend to be administered surreptitiously when employed as a tool for murder, so how he plans on using it is bound to be brilliant. How the ricin capsule ultimately ends up being used/ingested, however, is likely to differ from Walt's plan. An out of the box scenario that wouldn't surprise me would be the ricin causing some unintended death after Walter has already died, demonstrating the way in which the consequences of his decisions will continue to reverberate through time.
- Additionally, we think, but don't know, that the M60 is going to be used on the Nazis. How is he going to take those guys on by himself? He knows where Jack Welker's compound is located (they met there to discuss hitting Jesse in "Rabid Dog"), but it is still heavily fortified. Walt is having a hard time walking, never mind firing an almost 30 pound machine gun. I'd love to see the weapon used in an unexpected manner (use that science, Heisenberg!).
- Do Walt and Jesse see each other again? I think that it's extremely likely that they do. How this confrontation plays out will be central to the episode. Remember, Walt thinks that Jesse is dead...I don't see Jesse being too forgiving if they wind up meeting one another again. I've already predicted that Jesse is going to die, so I'm going to continue to own my early prognostication, but I wouldn't be surprised if, before he goes, he takes out the great Heisenberg.
- Who is Walter White? "He became an emotional person, and in some ways, he embraced that."-Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad Insider Podcast (1:32)
- Who/what gets to Walter first-the police, cancer, or the Nazis? After seeing him wither away in the last episode, it's become clear that his death is not just a foregone conclusion, but imminent. Be on the lookout for a wild card killing Walter. Two potential unexpected causes of death could be Jesse murdering him, or suicide.
- So much for the Godfather II style ending that I previously predicted. Walt is determined to go out loudly. Gilligan previously stated in an interview with EW that he believes the ending represents a kind of victory for Walter; what might he mean? All that Walt can really hope for is to go out in a blaze of glory and greet death on his own terms. This may be the only achievable goal that remains; his end is likely to come with a bang rather than a whimper as Heisenberg appears poised to make a grandiose exit.
- Where does the Heisenberg fortune ultimately end up? I had previously written that I could see it remaining buried in the desert of To'hajiilee-while that hasn't turned out to be the case, the underlying sentiment of that prediction may still prove to be true. What could be worse than Walt's 'legacy' of $80 million meaningless dollars ending up hidden away somewhere, lost forever? If everyone dies, no one gets the money...
- Regarding firm, clear, final predictions, I'm going to post them on Sunday before the last episode. I need more time to study for the big exam. Right now, however, I think that it makes sense to try to look at what we do know, as a means of better understanding the psychology and motivations of the story's central characters. They are the ones who will ultimately write the ending; the better we understand their past and how it informs their respective identities, the more accurately we might be able to forecast where they are ultimately headed.