‘Breaking Bad': Playing Out the End Game

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Two episodes remain, but it’s done in most ways that matter

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

“Breaking Bad” is finished.

Sure, there are two episodes left. But Vince Gilligan and his team have created television’s best drama, and almost nothing they do now can change that — any more than Walter White can change his mistakes.

The story of how a humble, humiliated teacher sold his soul for meth infamy is complete. The brother-in-law who accidentally led him into the business is dead. The wife and son he pretended to be helping now despise him. His infant daughter has nothing to say, except the one, worst word she can: Mama.

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad’ Shocker: How Vince Gilligan Warned Us It Was Coming

Where do we go from here? “Breaking Bad” is a chess game, and every move has been made. Now we’re in the flip-the-board stage. The pieces are scattered.

Walt’s alone, riding off into the New Mexico sun, presumably to New Hampshire. We know he’ll be back – his ego and anger won’t let him stay away – but whatever he does now is a footnote. It may be petty vengeance, or monstrous, God-like wrath. It won’t change the fact that he’s destroyed what was good in his life. (And a lot of other people’s lives.)

In a flash forward, we’ve already seen Walt return to Albuquerque with an M60 in his trunk and vial of ricin in his pocket, presumably to kill the neo-Nazis who killed Hank. That would be a nice tying up of loose ends, but come on. Jack, their leader, isn’t fit to shine the shoes of Walt, or Hank, or Gus Fring.

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad': The Case for Why It Isn’t Good

Jack’s a vulture, like the vultures that circled last night, feasting on Walter’s mistakes. He didn’t outwit Walt, Hank, or anyone else. He just happened to have the most guns at the right time. Will anyone be satisfied with a final faceoff between Walt and Jack? Of course not. The show wouldn’t waste our time with such an unworthy climax. Jack isn’t a chess player. He’s a flip-the-board kind of guy.

The real fight here is between Walt and Walt. And Walt’s already lost.

It looks like a few months will pass between last night’s heartbreaking, devastating, perfect episode and the final shootout at the nothing’s-O.K. corral. Will Walt come back to save Jesse from neo-Nazi enslavement? Probably not.

Even with a few months to forgive Jesse’s betrayal, seething alone in New Hampshire, it’s hard to see why he would. It’s more likely he would come back to stop him from making his Heisenberg special meth. Assuming Jesse lives that long. (I thought Todd’s last words to him Sunday were “Last cook?” but commenters, below, tell me it was “Let’s cook.” I think they’re right, but maybe it’s the last cook, too.)

No, Walt is probably out to prove he’s smarter, once again, than Jack or Lydia or anyone else. (By the way: It feels like time for Lydia to die, in a big way. Her refusal to get her hands dirty makes her, in a way, worse than Jack. I can imagine Todd killing her, following some sweaty adolescent Todd logic, if he manages to produce blue crystal and she still doesn’t want him. Then again, she’s exactly the kind of Teflon yuppie who always gets out of these things unscathed. )

Walt wants to win – not the kind of win he won at the end of the first half of this season, $80 million in storage and his loving family all around him. No, he needs the kind of win where someone realizes what he’s accomplished. That’s what made him persuade Hank, long ago, that Gale wasn’t Heisenberg, and what led him to leave “Leaves of Grass” on his toilet.

I think he also wants to die. He wants to take out Jack’s compound, and the theft of his legacy, and take himself out in the process. Maybe the ricin is for him – fitting retribution he knows he deserves for what he did to Brock. And maybe he’ll somehow secret his remaining $11 million back to his family, with help from Saul. Perhaps he even hopes to steal back some of the $69 million seized by Jack’s gang, to make a little point that doesn’t matter to anyone but him.

Somehow, in all this, I think we get a happy ending for Jesse. Something has to end well for somebody, right?

One of the little joys of “Breaking Bad” has been the way Walt uses science to get out of jams. (On a lesser network, that could be a whole show – “‘Mr. Wizard’ meets ‘MacGyver’!”)

We know Jesse has watched Walt carefully. His meth is almost as good as Mr. White’s. And last night we flashed back to their first cook.

Remember what Walt did after that cook? He mixed chemicals to kill a couple of dealers in the Winnebago. I wouldn’t be shocked if Jesse knows how to do something like that as well – one last thing he learned from Walt — and can use the wonders of science to break free from neo-Nazi hell, make a real escape, Andrea and Brock by his side.

Here’s hoping.