A recent conversation with a friend and fellow "Breaking Bad" fan left us stumped as to how things might play out on Sunday's series finale.
We've taken to comparing notes/kvetching after each episode this season as Walt's endgame in the meth business becomes all the more dangerous. In our laments about poor Jesse, Marie and Walt. Jr., I concluded that what makes "Breaking Bad" so great and so maddening is that it follows — then flouts — the rules of literature and poetic justice. It's a Walter White approach to storytelling, you might say: it's smart, heart-breaking and wildly unpredictable.
If we English majors had our way, Jesse would've achieved redemption by now and, perhaps, become a monk or something. Or maybe a Big Brother to kids like him and especially Brock.
But no, he's locked into vacancy at the mercy of redneck meth dealers. Probably back in his hole; probably manacled twice as thoroughly as before, and with little indication that things are going to end well for him.
Or, in a less hazy universe, baby Holly would grow up to be a DEA agent who finally takes down her bad dad. But Walt's on borrowed time now that the cancer is back; she'll be lucky is she's mastered the potty before he expires. Too bad, too; she has plenty of justification for getting her pound of flesh what with the kidnappings, thugs in her bedroom with guns, and parental knife-fights she's already witnessed.
Walt tells Saul that the game is over when he says it's over. He seems on the verge of shouting "Uncle" now that he appears to have gone AWOL from his safe-hut in New Hampshire.
But what will the chessboard look like when the desert dust settles? At this point, it's really anybody's game.
My friend and I ended up with a list possible outcomes for the series finale — peppered with several outbursts of "I don't know!" "This show's all over the place!" "WTF?" in between — and I've dreamed up a few more paths to closure since. They represent a combination of demands for literary justice; examples of hopeful naivete; and conclusions based on what I like to call "literary probability."
Share your ideas in the comments and let's figure this thing out before the smoke clears on Sunday.
1. Jesse achieves redemption via Brock. This guy! As a fabulous blog noted last week, Jesse has endured more than his share of suffering for his sins — beatings, kidnappings, drug addiction, dead girlfriend, debilitating depression, and, now, slavery. He's even taken some responsibility for his actions — a concept Walt has not mastered. And yet he's up a bit of a creek sans paddle.
I love this character — he's (technically) sweet; he's funny; he knows better; he's learned so much, so here's what I'd like for him this Sunday: he escapes the rednecks (maybe he burns the joint to the ground for some extra awesome?); he gets a-hold of newly orphaned Brock and gets the hell out of Dodge, just like Mike told him to. He carries on to the end of his days as a great father to Brock and a useful citizen.
After he avenges Andrea and kills creepy Todd.
2. Marie kills everybody — or at least Walt. Now, I started the series as a Marie-hater. She's opinionated, clingy, chatty, nosey, and what's with the purple fetish? She smelled a rat long before anyone else did, and while I found it annoying before Walt truly descended into evil mastermind-dom, now I admire her tenacity — place a kid in danger? Oh, she'll try to steal it away to safety. Got a witness in need of protection? The same one who helped injure your husband multiple times? Yeah, she'll put that witness up in her own house to keep him away from the bad guys. Then feed him lasagna.
As for the endless bullhockey supplied by Walt and Skylar? Marie's very effective Not Amused Face takes care of that. Plus, her enduring support of Hank— who endured multiple gunshot wounds and near-crippling in his hunt for Heisenberg — is beyond touching.
And now her man is dead. Because of Walt. It's on. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Marie manifesting those fantasies of effectively administering natural poisons to her brother-in-law, then heading to the desert to finish off Jack's crew.
3. Skylar kills Walt. Though she's earned her own share of culpability in Project: Meth Kingdom, Skylar, like her sister, Marie, has been on the receiving end of a sewage pipe's worth of shenanigans. She's been threatened by her husband and other dudes with guns; she's been implicated in his crimes; he tried to steal her kid; he set the table for her sister's husband's demise. Quite plainly, Walt's business dealings have scared the ever-loving bejesus out of her. It would be ever-so-dramatically fitting for her to clean up Walt's mess, starting with King Walter himself.
But Skylar's grip on sanity has become ever so sweaty; her moral compass is in the fritz. She's even advocated murder. So, literarily speaking, she might've ceded her right to safety and revenge as the mastermind of a whole new batch of misdeeds that mutated from Walt's business.
4. Skylar kills herself. See #3. She put her kids in danger and she's got a tendency toward depression. It's possible. Especially if she offs Walt first; preferably after spiriting the kids away with Marie, who, ideally, would get an assist from the DEA.
5. Walter Jr. kills Walt. This is an early prediction of mine, drawn from basic Freudian theory with a dash of poetic justice. Walter Jr., who quite prefers the name "Flynn" to his father's, has been a sweet mama's boy from the start who wouldn't harm a fly. Until the big knife-fight between Skylar and Walter, when Flynn springs to action and shields Skylar with his body — cerebral palsy be damned — before calling the cops. Flynn's taken a turn, and Walter constantly underestimates this kid who's only just hitting his stride as Angry Young Man.
6. Hank isn't dead and emerges from his desert grave to bring Walt to justice. A friend of mine who's a big "Bad" and "Walking Dead" fan put out this theory/fantastic mashup. He envisions Hank's stout paw bursting from the sand in triumph. Unfortunately, Gomez seems pretty much dead, but THAT would serve to make not-dead Hank that much more motivated to win this deadly game.
7. Ed, the Man Who Makes People Disappear, makes good on his decree to Walt that once a client leaves the reservation, Ed's out. No more help. But maybe he see Walt as a liability to his business, and maaaaaybe he needs to make Walt disappear permanently. He certainly has the means.
8. Walter blows up Gray Matter Technologies. Mr. White's vanity is his Achilles heal, and last week's news report with Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz became more sour grapes for Walt to swallow. Walt might just blame his breakup with Gray Matter as the Grand Reason Why he failed to make a bigger legitimate splash in the world.
Plus, he's always had a soft spot for Gretchen, and now as a fugitive from justice, he's even less appealing than he was as a humble high school chemistry teacher.
Gray Matter soon could become Black Smoldering Cloud.
9. Saul has a stroke of conscience and saves Jesse. This is an example of wishful thinking, but still, there's no way the series is done with Saul and his giant man-at-arms Huell. I truly believe Saul is harboring some massive guilt for the whole Heisenberg mess and predict he will surprise us with some lovely gesture of humanity toward any of Walt's remaining victims. His last name is "Goodman" for crying out loud!
10. Somebody's getting ricin-ed. Maybe Walt at his own hand, maybe by someone else — but there's still a vial of the killer powder in play and someone's going to use it. Maybe Skylar ingests it by accident in a display of Shakespearean-style tragedy?
Wild card: Lydia, the meth sales rep, is capable of champion-level backstabbing. She's also an odd duck, who's prone to nervous-ness and prefers to insert her head in the sand whenever the bullets start flying. Her obsession with the manufacture of the most pure Blue Glass will keep her in the game to the end, but it's a weak spot for her too; she lacks the sense to cut bait when she should and will likely land herself dead in pursuit of still more cash if she keeps carrying on with Uncle Jack's crew. It's possible young Todd will save her from harm — if she doesn't kill him first, thereby eliminating her own sole ally.
I'm on Twitter, @TheMDesk.