Season finales have become Breaking Bad’s specialty, starting with the dawn of the blue meth in season one. Season two’s finale brought the plane crash, season three Gale’s death, and season four was the face-destroying-est of all season finales. But will this weekend’s episode “count” as a finale-finale? Technically, the show’s fifth and final season is split in two: eight now and eight next summer. But in practice, it feels like two complete seasons, plus it’s hard to imagine BB leaving with anything other than a bang.
LOOSE ENDS: Last week’s “Say My Name” gave this chapter of the show its Big Dramatic Death, but Mike’s murder doesn’t tie anything up. It’s just one more dangerous loose end for Walt and Jesse, in a season that has more of those than usual. What of Ted Beneke? When we last saw him, he was in a halo-traction neck brace, swearing himself to secrecy in front of a horrified Skyler. Ted’s not a particularly noble, upstanding guy in the first place, and it wouldn’t take much investigating to connect him to Saul Goodman — or to Skyler White, money laundress. Once there’s even a whiff of suspicion around Skyler, the carefully crafted hidden-in-plain-sight strategy totally falls apart.
But we could never see Ted again, and that would make sense in the context of the show. Lydia, however, can’t just disappear from the series, and Walt’s briefly humbling realization that he’d completely forgotten about her and her knowledge of Mike and Gus’s networks reveals just how far she’s been from his thoughts. Walt has no idea what she’s been up to, and if there’s anything BB has shown us about Lydia, it’s that she’s probably been up to no good. (And being jittery.)
IS TODD REALLY JUST “SOME GUY”? This isn’t just a Landry Clarke love-fest question. Todd has been just a little too capable a criminal to just be one of Mike’s underlings. He’s the one who spotted the nanny cam inside one of the impromptu meth labs; he killed a child with what seemed like reflexive speed; he lapped up Walt’s meth-cooking lessons like a peckish puppy. No one’s that good without a really scary reason.
SO, ABOUT THAT FLASH-FORWARD Recall that this season started with what looked like Walt celebrating his 52nd birthday by himself at a Denny’s; “Fifty One,” the season’s fourth episode, found Walt celebrating his 51st birthday, technically with his family but honestly just as alone as the shifty guy at the diner. A yearlong time-jump seems out-of-sync with how most of BB’s storytelling has worked over the last five seasons, but we’d also be surprised if this midway break contained zero nods to that season-opening scene.
WILL WALT CAUSE ANOTHER DEATH? In the past four seasons, every finale has included a surprising death — like most episodes — but each season, the deaths become more specifically Walt’s fault. In season one’s “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal,” Walt’s standing right there as drug boss Tuco kills his underling No-Doze for speaking to Walt out of turn. You can’t really blame Walt for that one, but he was there. In season two, Walt’s inaction during Jane’s OD in the penultimate episode leads to her father’s overwhelming grief in “ABQ,” which itself leads to a mental lapse that causes two planes to crash into each other, killing 167 people. It’s … sort of Walt’s fault, but there are a lot of dominoes that have to fall just so between a choking junkie and half-destroyed pink teddy bear for this to be the specific chain of events. In season three, things are much more direct: Walt’s hands get a little dirtier, but he still dispatches Jesse to actually pull the trigger on Gale. Even in season four’s “Face Off,” where Walt orchestrates an elaborate bombing plot, he’s still not the guy who actually activates the detonator. We’ve seen Walt kill plenty of people, so the psychological and physical distance between him and the major deaths on finales is striking — and it highlights how completely detached he is from his actions. BB is at a point now where it’s not clear if Walt still has emotions, so maybe the only way to show us that he definitively does (or doesn’t) is to have someone a bit closer to home be the next victim. Skyler still has too much story at stake, but Holly and Walt Jr. better be sleeping with one eye open.