10 Things We Learned From "Breaking Bad" S5EP16 "Felina"

As we promised in "The Ones Who Knock" Kickstarter, I did weekly recaps here for each episode of Breaking Bad. For those of you unfamiliar with my recapping style, it's less of a straightforward plot summary and more a distillation of the most interesting elements of each week's episode. The recaps will spoil everything up through the current episode (S5E16 "Felina"), but won't spoil any future episodes or even scenes from the "Next Time" segment of the show..because that's all over now. So hold on to your pork pie hats, because here we go.

1. Blood

Is that what you wanted? Did you want to see Walter White, former school teacher, gun down a clubhouse full of Nazis? Sure, we were spared the full-Scarface treatment because Walt built himself a little robot. (Yes, Jesse, a robot.) So he blinded them with science...b*tch. Okay, but seriously, was that what you wanted? A bloodbath? I'm not sure I did. I absolutely expected one, but I'm not sure I wanted one. And it's pretty convenient that a) the Nazis didn't check the trunk and b) the Nazis have a clubhouse in the first place. Nonetheless, it was satisfying to see Uncle Jack and company get what they had coming. For some reason, the most chilling image from that scene was Kenny's lifeless body on that massage chair. Eerie, gruesome touch from director Vince Gilligan.

2. Meth

And was this a fitting final resting place for Walter Hartwell White? Oh it surely was. This I loved. That he died in the lab, surrounded by the things he finally admitted to loving the most. He died where he had felt most alive. I also want to give credit to those of you who placed so much significance on Charlie Rose's mention of the blue meth. While I thought it might have planted a small seed in the back of Walt's brain about the possibility of Jesse Pinkman being alive, but it played a much bigger role than I thought it would. Which is only fitting. Was it pure altruism that drove Walt? No, it was a little bit of pride too.

3. Tears

There are a lot of things Walt did last night to redeem himself in our eyes. And many would argue he didn't deserve that redemption. That Walt should have gone out hated. But, like Skinny Pete and Badger, I like my morality plays a little murky. And so my favorite redemptive moment was when Walt was, at long last, honest with his wife and with himself. He wasn't doing this for his family (at least not primarily) he was doing it because it made him feel alive. And if you think back to The Walking Dead version of Walt we met in the pilot (pre-diagnosis), this confession to Skyler feels true. And after five seasons of half-truths, blatant lies and continual delusions, it was nice to hear.

4. Felina

Leading up to the finale, we crackpots had a lot of fun trying to decipher the meaning behind the episode title "Felina." My personal favorite was breaking down the word into its elemental parts: Fe+Li+Na=Iron+Lithium+Sodium=Blood+Meth+Tears. And that works. Oh it works very well. But the other, more straightforward reference proved to also be true. "Felina" is a reference to a song called "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. We saw a clear shot of a Marty Robbins cassette. (You still use cassettes, New Hampshire? Adorable.) Then the song played as Walt got up the wherewithal to drive to New Mexico. "Just get me home" he said to someone (God?), "I'll do the rest." The pertinent lyrics are as follows:

I saddled up and away I did go, /Riding alone in the dark. /Maybe tomorrow /A bullet may find me. /Tonight nothing's worse than this /Pain in my heart.

The song tells the story of a man who narrowly escaped with his life only to return for the love of a woman, Felina. Walt hums it again later as he's assembling his gun-bot. I think most of us could have guessed that "Felina" would stand in for Walt's family or maybe his pride. But only a few of us hoped he was saddling up to rescue Jesse Pinkman. I think all three interpretations are true, but my heart is most glad that Pinkman was on Walt's list of amends and not revenge. And though the two of them parted, they parted on the best possible terms they possibly could. With that final look.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel /A deep burning pain in my side...One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

5. On The Outside Looking In

I don't really feel smug about any of my "predictions" coming true because it's not as if what I guessed was radical or surprising. And that's the thing. The show went for satisfaction instead of surprising. But I will admit to being surprised that my comment last week about Walt having his face pressed up against the window, looking in on his happy family played out so exactly. I meant a metaphorical window, Vince. Gosh. Walt got so many of the things he wanted (revenge, to provide for his family, to scare the bejeesus out of Gretchen and Elliott), but he was denied this. He could touch Holly and give Skyler a proper goodbye, but he couldn't see his son. What the finale managed to do so well, was give closure to all the characters we've come to know and love. Skyler and Marie are likely going to reconcile. Flynn and Holly get a little screen time. We know Hank is going to be found. And, heck, even Steve Gomez gets a mention. I can't think of any show, short of Doctor Who's grand companion tour in "End Of Time" that's paid homage to so many without a montage. True, we didn't get to see Saul, Huell and Kuby but that's okay, we'll see them again.

6. You'll Need A Bigger Knife

Speaking of fitting farewells, I love how everything tied up with the Schwartz's. I know a lot of you wanted to see some gray matter spattered, but I think this worked out much better. (Also, hi Badger and Skinny Pete!) Walt got the upper hand on these two after feeling so put down for years. Not that Gretchen and Elliott are to blame for Walt's feelings of inadequacy, but it's hard to sympathize too much with the beautiful rich people in their well-appointed home. P.S. Where does Walt get those wonderful toys? I've never seen a laser pointer work so well.

7.  Is Jesse Pinkman Going To Have To Choke A Bitch?

I'm so very glad Jesse didn't have to pull the trigger on Walt. That he got to preserve that little bit of his soul. It was a lovely call-back to "Full-Measure" where Jesse lost so much of himself by being forced to kill Gale. Here Jesse got to say no to Walt, he's no longer Mr. White's b*tch. That being said, he had to kill Todd. He had to. For Andrea.

8. It Was Already In The Glass

And speaking of true love, Todd's lady, Lydia, also met her end exactly the way she should have. Death by Stevia. I know, it wasn't in the glass, it was in the Stevia Packet, but I never could resist a Mags Bennett reference. What about you, were you satisfied with Lydia's end? While we're on the subject of causes of death, the amazing John LaRue updated his Breaking Bad death toll infographic to reflect last night's carnage. Give it a look.

9. That's The Cup Of A Carpenter

Alright, I know that Pinkman wood working scene was a call back to the episode "Kafkaesque" where Jesse tells the story of a teacher who encouraged him to do better. Jesse recalls,

Maybe it was the way he said it, but... it was like he wasn't exactly saying it sucked. He was just asking me honestly, "Is that all you got?" And for some reason, I thought to myself: "Yeah, man, I can do better." So I started from scratch. I made another, then another. And by the end of the semester, by like box number five, I had built this thing. You should have seen it. It was insane. I mean, I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood. It was fitted with pegas, no screws. I sanded it for days, until it was smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. You know, you put nose in it and breathed in, it was... it was perfect.

So is that mostly what we're going for here? Jesse's notion of perfect? Is this the best depiction of a "happy place" Vince Gilligan could conjure? Probably. We're probably also meant to contemplate whether or not Jesse can do better. If he made it out clean (and wasn't, as I suspect, pulled over for speeding/reckless driving a little way down the road) then what will his life look like? Finally, you can't tease me with images of carpentry and expect me not to make a Jesus connection. So, once again, here's my Jesus/Jesse Pinkman theory. He cried for Walt's sins.

10. Are You Not Entertained?

I don't know, folks, I don't understand the unnecessary backlash about this finale. I don't understand the cries of "fanservice" or "unsurprising." Sure, I wasn't surprised, but was I not entertained? Did I not get a thrill out of that final shot? A call back to "Crawlspace," to Walt and his scans, to Jesse Pinkman on the roundabout? Oh I did. Oh I loved it. Walt needed to die, and I can't think of any better way.

Technically, chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change...Electrons, they change their energy levels. Molecules change their bonds. Elements, they combine and change into compounds. Well, that's all of life, right?...It's the constant, it's the cycle. It's solution, dissolution, just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation. It is fascinating, really.

Crackpot Theory Of The Week: Oh aren't we out of theories yet? We are! We are! Except to say this. I loved the scene between Lydia and Todd when he draws attention to the "cornflower blue" of her blouse. We've always thought pink was the color of death in this show, but in the finale, it was all about the blue, baby. So we had Lydia and Todd (in his paler shade).

Uncle Jack, in a slinky blue v-neck.

And, of course, Walt. Lit up in this scene by mostly the blue glare of the patrol car.

So what does it all mean? IT MEANS I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT HUELL IN THAT SAFE HOUSE. That's what it means.

Musical Moment Of The Week: Perfection from Gilligan and company. We expect nothing less.

So goodbye. Thanks for everything, y'all. You made this final season so much fun.