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‘Breaking Bad': Can Walter White Be Saved?

'Breaking Bad': Can Walter White Be Saved?

And could Saul Goodman pull a Han Solo?

(Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you aren't caught up on “Breaking Bad”)

Last night's penultimate “Breaking Bad” did something I never thought would be possible again: It made Walter White sympathetic again.

Holed up in New Hampshire, isolated, dying of cancer, he felt like a character in one of the grimmer Stephen King novels: haunted by his own failings, cold, guilty, hopeless. He was James Caan in “Misery,” and the Kathy Bates holding him hostage was his past.

Also read: Emmys Make ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Modern Family’ Sweat Before Delivering Gold

How did he get here? Generally, because crime doesn't pay, unless you keep it under the table. More specifically, because of a vacuum cleaner specialist (an excellent Robert Forster) who doubles as a disappearer. The vacuum he has built this time was in Walt White's — nevermind. You get it. Was there ever a sadder moment in “Breaking Bad” than Walt paying him $10,000 to play cards for an hour?

Don't answer that yet.

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan – who Sunday night accepted the show's richly deserved first Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series – has said before that Walter White can probably never be redeemed.

“After someone has murdered people and lied to his family and his good friends and ruined people's lives, that's an awful tough road to come back from,” he told TheWrap before the final episodes began airing. “I don't know that he could. And I can't even promise that he'll try.”

Also read: Emmys: ‘Breaking Bad’ Stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul Suffer Upsets, Bitch!

On Sunday's episode, entitled “Granite State,” Walt came close to trying. He nearly turned himself in with an elegantly simple payphone call. And then we got a nice return cameo from his former Gray Matter Partners, and Charlie Rose – and Walt's ego kicked in again.

That final scene of the sheriff closing in on the saloon, to find only Walt's whiskey glass? Set as it was in the Deep North, that was a classic Western scene. Walt's heading for a shootout at the Nothing's OK Corral. And now – because Walt had it so bad – we're rooting once again for the man in the black hat.

Because his enemies are even worse. They're wearing black masks.

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad': Playing Out the End Game

I wrote last week that “Breaking Bad” can't possibly end with a faceoff (not that kind of faceoff) between Walt and Jack's gang because Jack is simply too lame a villain.

Well. It turns out the most evil person on the show has been hiding in plain sight.

Todd – ah yes, that fresh-faced sociopath who killed a child – has become the person on the show we hate the most. He sealed it with his brutal, cruel, and wholly unnecessary murder of Andrea. When I asked if there was ever a sadder “Breaking Bad” scene than Walt's $10,000 card game, the answer was no. Andrea's death was the saddest thing ever to happen on the show. She was killed merely for being a good, pure person who Jesse cares about. Todd also threatened Walter's wife Sunday. And his daughter.

What makes Todd so evil? The fact that he's so good at doing what Walt does best, which is compartmentalization. Walt agonizes a bit every time he commits some new wrong. As he told Flynn, things happened that he never intended.

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad’ Spinoff ‘Better Call Saul’ Is a Go

But Todd just makes a quick calculation, usually a sadistic one, and kills someone. Walt at least commits his murders in messy ways – bike locks, exploding wheelchairs. He has to disintegrate the occasional body. But Todd just points his little gun and shoots. No fuss. No regrets.

We most dislike people when they remind us of some bad part of ourselves. Todd is the most purely synthesized form of Walter White, and Walt has to know it.

We can root for Walt again because as bad as he is, there's someone worse out there. We want Jesse to be free. And for Brock to have some kind of life. We want Flynn and Holly to have decent lives, too.

But Walt has had a role in killing so, so many other people's children. Not just letting Jane choke to death, but manufacturing meth. He has to know that the deaths of his own kids would be the most perfect retribution for all he's done.

He may need to die for them to live.

One last note: This episode was written and directed by Peter Gould, who created Saul Goodman (the wonderful Bob Odenkirk) and will likely run the “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.”

I feel/hope like Gould was setting Saul up for something good. His exit last night reminded me of nothing more than Han Solo's goodbye in “Star Wars,” when he decided to take his money and stay a step ahead of the bounty hunters on his trail. And then he returned at the last second to take out Darth Vader's Tie Fighter, just when Luke needed him most.

Walter White is no Luke Skywalker. But I could see Saul pulling a Han Solo. It would make me happy, especially if it saves some kids.

  • zigwithbag

    This is a tragedy, Greek or otherwise. Deal with it.

    • tim.molloy

      Haha, oh, I know. I'm saying his best case scenario is dying in a way that keeps his kids alive.

  • Sean Murdock

    The “Nothing's OK Corral” — I love that! I can't fully sympathize with Walt at this point, however; not after all he's done, and not when his actions continue to reverberate in tragic ways. Andrea, for example, would still be alive if Walt hadn't callously used her as a pawn, as a prop in one of his wonderful schemes. So he almost kills Brock, and then he ends up getting his mother killed. Should we presume that Brock is now kidnapped by the Nazis, as their final “chip” against Jesse?

    So no, I can't “root for the guy in the black hat” — not after he was SO CLOSE to doing the “right” thing (surrendering with the phone call to the DEA), only to almost IMMEDIATELY revert back to ego-driven vengeance.

    • tim.molloy

      Ha, I hear you, as usual. I love your comments and feel like we should co-byline these recaps. I guess I should clarify that I'm only rooting for Walt to take out Jack and a couple of his guys before dying himself, hopefully in a way that helps his family and keeps Brock and Jesse alive. I feel like Todd is unkillable, because he's pure perfect evil. (If we can define evil as the absence of conscience or empathy.)

      • Sean Murdock

        LOL — You don't need my help, Tim, but I'll take the job if you're offering it! :-) BTW, I like your theory about Saul — maybe it was just a loose end to tie up (What happens to Saul?), but maybe they made a point of showing him LEAVING so that it would be unexpected when he RETURNS. Personally, I don't expect to see him again, any more than I expect to see Badger and Skinny Pete, but you never know.

        Giving Saul a “final moment” on the show can serve two purposes — it could either (a) be the final closure for the character, if his spin-off really IS a prequel; or (b) it could signal that his spin-off will actually continue from there, and it will take place in Nebraska. Personally, I hope it's (a), because moving Saul out of ABQ (and setting it post-Walt) would mean no chance for guest (or regular) spots by Badger, Skinny Pete, Gus, Mike, Huell — and now Robert Forster as the Vacuum Cleaner Guy! (How cool would THAT be?)

        • tim.molloy

          Man, I hope it's really a prequel and that they eventually do some post-BB flash forwards to Saul coming out of retirement, loop it all together that way. At some point they can actually skip ahead to the present day.

          I do wonder if it's an inside joke to move him to Nebraska, given this casting news: http://collider.com/nebraska-bob-odenkirk-stacy-keach/

          • Sean Murdock

            I suppose my dream scenario for “Better Call Saul” would be that (a) it's successful, of course, warranting multiple seasons, and (b) the final season overlaps with the first season-plus of BB, with cameos by Badger and Jesse, and ending with a nerdy-looking bald guy with glasses walking through his door…

        • doodfus

          the spin off is set before any of this breaking bad happens, there is no Walt, there is no Heisenberg, none of this has happened yet.

          • Sean Murdock

            Yes, I know that. It's been announced as a prequel series, but nothing's been written yet, and no one has been cast. They could be saying it's a prequel to protect anything that might happen in the BB finale, or they could change their mind just because they feel like it. So really, at this point, we have no idea what form “Better Call Saul” (working title) will take.

  • Rmarcus8

    The first thing I want to say is that I take no credit for
    this brilliant, never gonna happen, laugh so hard milk comes out of your nose
    way to end Breaking Bad.

    Walt pays The Vacuum Cleaner Man every cent he has to relocate him to someplace, any place, where there are people. Any people.

    Next thing we see: Walt in front of an utterly drab tract home in an all but anonymous neighborhood. He knocks on the door. Waits. Hears an unholy commotion from inside. Knocks again.The door is yanked open. Standing there is his entire Malcolm In The Middle family. waiting for him to enter into his eternal video loop of hell. He falls to his knees.

  • the_sclands

    I personally could care less if Walt lives or dies. The saddest part about this whole thing is that Jesse won't be saved, because there is nothing left of him to save. There wasn't much to begin with, and what little hope he had left was slowly obliterated throughout the events in the series. My guess is that Jesse will blow the meth lab with himself in it, just to relieve himself of his suffering. I only hope Todd is standing next to him when he does it.

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  • bigtomcat

    You sympathize with Walt because he has a pure motive, but he does things to commit a very wrong action that puts him at odds with morality, but then again, he wants to ensure a decent outcome for his family, so we keep in our mind that he basically has a good heart, so we desire for him to somehow succeed, but life rarely works that way. Usually, even doing the right thing for the right reasons can get you in trouble, but remember, Walt is “the stupidest smart guy” you know, so this compounds every mistake he makes. Those who root for Walt either see the end game and motives as pure, or they are like an audience version of Todd, who is the scarier pure evil that Walt wants to be, but never can quite get there…unless his ego rears it head. His ego can get him into trouble in so many ways, but he can only seem to redeem his self worth because of it. This is why I love this show. There are no characters in this story that are ever one sided or one dimensional. Even Walt Jr./Flynn has turned to his own dark side in hating his once idolized father…I can sort of relate to this! If you are a closet amateur psychoanalyst, this show is fodder for YOUR own self-destructive ego. Best television ever…now it ends. Too bad. I'm really not too enthused with the “Better Call Saul” idea for a show. Spin-offs rarely do well following a great show. The characters in these spin-offs usually turn out decidedly one dimensional, and we end up with a “Joanie loves Chachie” short run. We'll see. Once Walt jumps this shark, with an M60A1, we'll never be able to go back!

  • diasirea

    In the classic Greek tragedy model, Walt can't be killed, he must die from the cancer that is him. The cancer is a metaphor for the malignancies Walt allowed in his life.
    He may see Lydia get Todd to kill Skylar, with Todd eventually killing Lydia when she spurns him.Despondent Marie may commit suicide, with Elliott & Gretchen succumbing to stealthly delivered ricin. Jack & company must die, if for no other reason than that white trash doesn't deserve the elevation all that money brings.Jesse may be rescued to live his life with mental images of Andrea, the bike kid, the girl Walt let die, the guy he shot, etc. replaying in his mind until he goes insane.

    Walt will end up with lots of unspendable money, no family or anyone else that cares about him, with final consumption by the cancer.CU of Walt's eyes, as final bit of life leaves, with a slow zoom out,showing a chemically induced fire as planned by Walt, incinerating all the money and symbolically burning Walt's body as prelude to his journey to Hell.

  • Gloria

    Todd means death in German.

  • Joshua Caccamis

    Personally, I like Walt the most when he takes charge and is committed to his life of crime. It is annoying watching Walt feel sorry for himself. He needs to cut his family loose, stop trying to be the good guy, and take care of business.

  • Monica

    The character of Saul on Breaking Bad is that of a low life scumbag lawyer. Saul was the small portion of Breaking Bad which served as comic relief for a show that is extremely dark. He got out, while he still could do so, with his physical life intact. Any reference to Saul being even remotely like Han Solo (even when Solo is at his worst) is ridiculous. I find the comparison between Breaking Bad and Star Wars to be completely absurd. I am a huge fan of both the Breaking Bad television show and the Star Wars films. Other than that, I enjoyed this article, thanks.

    • doodfus

      I , we, as a whole, the breaking bad community hell even the casual fan or observer, think that was one of the most absurd and ridiculous comments that makes no sense whatsoever! his physical life intact?? girl, cut class a wee bit much eh? LOL