Monday Morning Critic – Breaking Bad Series Finale (Review, Thoughts, Spoilers) – Pumping Iron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil Heath and Mr. Olympia
by Scott "Kubryk" Sawitz on September 30, 2013

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One of the greatest shows to ever grace the airwaves has officially ended its run. Breaking Bad, which grew from cult show to ratings juggernaut, has just concluded its final season with a finale that might be the most satisfying of all time. In what might be the greatest final season in television history, we got to feel good about Walter White one more time.

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“Elliott, if we’re going to go that route you’ll need a bigger knife.”

The show starts with Walt going after the Schwartzes, the people with whom he founded Gray Matter. Last week Walt heard them destroy his legacy, dismissing his contributions to their success (which he never shared in) on national television. It was the moment that spurred him to leave New Hampshire.

His purpose is simple: he wants them to give the $10 million or so he has left to his kids. He can’t do it directly, of course, and coming from them it’d seem charitable. They’re billionaires, of course, and they just gave money to fight drug abuse. So charity towards blameless victims makes sense; Walt uses their guilt to make things right. Considering they sold out his legacy not too much earlier … it’s only proper in a way.

His use of Skinny Pete and Badger is pretty ingenious. His story of professional hitmen sounded good, good enough to fool the Schwartzes, but that’s not Heisenberg. He’s always being clever and using those two is a clever move. They also would know where the new meth is coming from, thus their involvement makes an insane amount of sense. And then we catch up with the flash forward from earlier this season as Walt meets up with Todd and Lydia during their usual meet up at the café.

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“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really…I was alive.”

Walt’s game is an interesting one. He wants to show Todd and Lydia his new technique for making meth, as one of their base ingredients is drying up, and is offering it for $1 million. She isn’t game for it but Todd is because Todd is a little gullible like that.

Walt stops in at Skylar’s, for a final goodbye. He’s been spotted in town and everyone is looking for him. He’s on a quest to make things right, it seems, and give her the location of Hank & Gomie’s bodies in the desert. He sees his kids one last time, as well, though Flynn from afar.

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“Good bye Lydia”


Walt has crafted that M-60 from earlier into some sort of killing device he’s crafted with his car lock. Jack wants to kill him and brings in Jesse, who Walt had accused him of partnering up with. One death machine later and the Neo-Nazis are all dead, Jesse saved by Walt’s craziness. Todd’s still alive … until Jesse gets some rightful vengeance. Uncle Jack gets it, too, by Walt’s hand. Walt asks for Jesse to kill him, since he’s wounded, but Jesse can’t.

Walt also slipped Lydia some Ricin, as she was the one who ordered Todd and the gang to finish them.

We finish with the cops coming to get Walt after everything is all said and done. He’s down on the floor, probably dead, as SWAT comes in to clean up the mess. PLUS YOU HAVE THE SHEER AWESOMENESS OF AN M-60 OUT OF A TRUNK KILLING NEO-NAZIs … for all the goofy things that Breaking Bad did over the years, that was the best. You kept waiting for that aspect to come true … and then it does in amazing fashion.

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One of the things about this season, for me at least, has been a number. 10%. Almost every episode ended with about 10% more than what it had to do. The first episode could’ve ended with just the garage confrontation, for example, but we got the extra 10% of story to really push it.

We didn’t just get the finale. We got Walt admitting that deep down inside he loved being a drug pusher. That for all this talk of family he wanted to do it for himself; he broke bad … and he loved it. And while he certainly is going to hell, if hell exists, he went out of this world on his terms.

He managed to set up his family with the little money that remained, gave Jesse one final kindness and lead poisoning to all those who deserved it. Todd was strangled to death and the look of delight on Jesse’s face was amazing. Credit Aaron Paul for a nuanced performance. All season long it was him having everything ripped away from him. Now … now he gets a measure of revenge and freedom from it all.

We didn’t just get a conclusion tonight … we got it plus another 10%. Breaking Bad, a couple of weeks after Dexter shat the bad, performed the first television mic drop in some time.

Where does this leave the show, historically? I don’t know. I hate trying to figure out where something as subjective as a television show can rate moments after it’s concluded. Right now I have an inclination … but that inclination also has to go to The Wire. I like to think you need at least three years of being off the year, to let it really settle, before you can place a show in its proper place in the pantheon.

Look at Lost, for example. I didn’t watch it but a lot of people I know did. It started out pretty brilliant, apparently, and then the conclusion was a simple “oh they’re dead, this is purgatory” deus ex machina finale. And Dexter had a finale that made you curse out the screen. I watched the first ten minutes of it and couldn’t finish it, it was so bad. I went back and piecemealed it, stopping to do something else and remind myself that I had to finish the tale of the serial killer who hunts criminals.

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It wasn’t that way for Bad, which is why it was so anticipated to start with. Each season built on the last and it was building to something. What it was, we didn’t know for a long time, but it had to with the final two years or so of Walter White’s life. The teacher turned accidental drug kingpin turned slight tale of redemption.

His final act is one where he goes out on his terms. In the end the money didn’t matter; he finally figured out how far down the rabbit hole he’d gone and wanted to make things right-ish in the end. He put things as right as he could. His final act isn’t enough to redeem his soul … but it’s enough to make us like Walt again, if only for a brief moment. That guy that we liked in the first episode, who we started to dislike more and more as the seasons went by, came out briefly for a moment one more time.

It’ll be some time before we can declare anything official about Breaking Bad in terms of its legacy. I will say that it delivered everything it was supposed to, wrapped up the show in remarkable fashion and left us wanting more.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This Week’s DVD – Pumping Iron

Finding a “star is born” moment for many actors and actresses is really tough. It’s mainly because it happens in a series of moments, as opposed to one big moment, over a particular stretch of time as opposed to one singular point that we can point to as being “that moment.” Bruce Willis being on Moonlighting made him famous … but Die Hard was that moment when he ascended that mountain of being a star and made it his bitch, permanently. For Arnold Schwarzenegger his moment really was Conan the Barbarian … but the buzz was there during his days as the greatest bodybuilder of his time. Pumping Iron made him famous … but not a star.

The film follows Arnold’s quest to win his sixth straight Mr. Olympia. He’s the greatest bodybuilder in the world at that point but the competition is fierce. The film is a look into the world of bodybuilding and its wacky cast of characters, focusing on Arnold’s unprecedented quest opposite the young stallion that was Lou Ferrigno. Throw in some wacky antics, as well, and no mention of the overwhelming culture of steroids that surrounds the sport and you have one of the great sports documentaries of all time.

But it’s really the Arnold show … there’s a star power to him you can tell, even then, that is almost hypnotic. Now, nearly 40 years after the film hit theatres, Arnold is a success story like no other. Bill Burr has a great bit on Arnold, actually, that’s incredibly filthy but profound on the guy.

Pumping Iron is a really unique look into the world of a niche sport that hadn’t quite found the mainstream yet. Coming off a weekend where the Mr. Olympia contest was exceptionally popular, and Phil Heath looks to become the next Schwarzenegger in terms of dominance, this is a look back at how far the whole world of fitness has come.

It even has a spiritual sequel, Generation Iron. which is about the elite of today’s sport.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Gravity - Sandra Bullock is trapped in a space shuttle with George Clooney when shenanigans ensue. He doesn’t get rapey, either.

See it – So far this has the buzz of being one of the year’s best and I wouldn’t doubt it.

Runner Runner – Justin Timberlake winds up in the employ of Ben Affleck, who’s kind of an evil dude.

Skip it – It looks laughable and a poor choice from the ‘fleck, who’s been pretty stellar as of late in that department.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .



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