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Friday, May 29, 2009

"Breaking Bad" finale: The transformation of Walter White

(Warning: this post contains minor spoilers.)

Congratulations, Walter White: You’ve officially made “Breaking Bad” viewers hate you.

One of the most complex anti-heroes TV has seen in a long time, White (played by Emmy award winner Bryan Cranston) needed the better part of Season 2 to officially join the Tony Sopranos of the world on the coldhearted (expletive) list.

Except it never used to be so cut-and-dried since by trade, Tony played a ruthless mobster and Walt … well, Walt is a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who only recently began to experience the highs of his criminal dark side.

Back in strike-shortened Season 1, viewers discovered that Walt was dying of lung cancer. In order to pay mounting hospital bills and not saddle his pregnant wife and disabled son with debt, he decided to use his scientific know-how to cook the most pristine crystal meth on the planet.

With the help of Jesse (Aaron Paul), a dim-witted former student, the two became embroiled in one dangerous mishap after another before creator Vince Gilligan broadened Season 2’s scope by delivering the kind of soul-crushing darkness that viewers will feel guilty for embracing.

Through cryptic black-and-white flashbacks, all season the groundbreaking AMC series has teased the eerie image of a mangled stuffed animal fished from the White swimming pool. Viewers have also seen a shattered windshield, guys in HAZMAT suits and two body bags in the driveway.

The payoff should finally come in Sunday night’s season finale, with Walt and Jesse also set to deal with the emotional implications of an unexpected death that both could have prevented if their heads had been screwed on straight.

Yet it all comes back to newly menacing Walt, a pushover viewers used to feel tremendous sympathy for, but has since lost his grip on reality — and even worse, become empowered by it.

So again, a round of applause for Walt — officially a member of the “Very Bad Dude” club.

Even bigger congratulations for being part of television’s most captivating drama.

The Season 2 finale of "Breaking Bad" airs at 9 p.m., Sunday on AMC.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,



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