SPOILERS AND SUCH ABOUT BREAKING BAD
In this last run of episodes, the smart set of critics have basically competed with each other over how much they hate Walter White—and how stupid anyone who doesn't hate Walter White is. “How dare you silly people on the Internet defend Walt? He’s evil!” “He’s irredeemably evil!” “He’s super-duper monstrous!” “He’s going to kill all the characters and rape their corpses because he’s EVIL EVIL EVIL.” You get the idea.
So how did Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad’s showrunner, close it out? He trolled them all as hard as he possibly could.
He made Walter White Jesus Christ.
- Walter, while checking out the massive manse of his billionaire buddies—who the smart set all kind of thought Walt was on the path to murder—looks out the a massive window and notes that they must have a great view of the Sangre de Cristo, a mountain chain whose name translates to “The Blood of Christ”;
- Walter, while setting up the gun with which he ruins the Aryan Brotherhood’s business, hurts his hand and grasps his palm in pain;
- Walter, while saving Jesse’s life, suffers a mortal wound on his side, right under his right breast;
- Walter, while dying, collapses to the ground, arms spread to the side, in the figure of the cross.*
Walter White spent the entirety of that episode sacrificing himself to save the people he loved: his wife, his kids, his surrogate son Jesse. He rid himself of his earthly possessions and made peace with those who had wronged him and those he had wronged (one way or another) so as to prepare himself for the afterlife. His business complete, he was ready to ascend.
I wonder if Gilligan was sitting there laughing to himself, watching all the critics talk about how irredeemably awful Walter White is. I wonder if he was sitting there, laughing, because of his Catholic sensibility. I wonder if he was sitting there, laughing, because he feels everyone is redeemable.
I’m sure there will be much said tonight and tomorrow about Breaking Bad’s finale. For my part, it’s the best conclusion of a great TV show since The Shield, another show deeply concerned with original sin and the way in which it informs the behavior, and redemption (or lack thereof), of its main character. But I’ll let others handle that.
For now, all I want to leave you with is this: Walter White redeemed himself. And it's going to drive a ton of people nuts.
*I also think Vince Gilligan and company were trolling the hell out of the creators of Lost, who ended their show on a much less satisfying note by doing essentially the same thing that Breaking Bad did. The camera, resting above Walt, pulls back and up as he dies. It’s the exact same shot that Lost used to end that show, with Dr. Jack in the position of Walt.