Breaking Bad to conclude, leave lasting legacy

“I am not in danger, Skyler – I am the danger,” chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White famously quipped in the AMC original series “Breaking Bad.” The line rang ominously with the show’s overarching theme – the slow descent into villainy.

This Sunday at 9 p.m., the series finale will air. The show, developed by former “X-Files” writer Vince Gilligan, premiered in January 2008. Bryan Cranston, who was best known as the dad from “Malcolm in the Middle,” showed TV viewers a different facet of his acting ability as what Gilligan notably described as Mr. Chips becoming Scarface.

The final episode is titled “Felina,” the Latin word for “feline,” and it is also an anagram of “finale.” Some fans pointed out that the word could be created from the periodic table abbreviations “Fe” for iron, “Li” for lithium and “Na” for sodium. All three elements can be used in fireworks and could alternately be shorthand for “Blood, meth and tears.”

If past episodes, such as the cleverly-named “Face Off,” are any indication, the episode’s title will likely be an indicator of a major event. “Breaking Bad” is infamous for its unexpected plot twists, including deaths of major characters, and with only an hour and 15 minutes of the show remaining, it’s unlikely that the series will end without one – if not multiple – casualties.

EMU student Mariya Gefter weighed in on the unpredictable nature of the series.

“I’m new to ‘Breaking Bad,’ but I do enjoy watching it because it pushes boundaries and there’s always a twist you weren’t expecting,” Gefter said.

The drama tells the story of Walter White, an average suburban chemistry teacher living in New Mexico with his pregnant wife, Skyler, and son, Walt. Jr. When he receives a life-altering terminal cancer diagnosis, he decides to apply his knowledge of science in the underground meth industry, hoping to accumulate a large fortune to leave behind for his family. But as the series progresses, it becomes unclear what Walter White’s true motives are. Does he truly seek wealth for the good of his family, or has his newfound power and pride unleashed a different, darker side of the once-peaceful man?

The brutal series is not for the faint of heart. Drugs are dealt, deaths are constant and the tension remains high throughout the five seasons. But in the shadow of the almost-legendary badassery of Walter White, later known by his pseudonym, Heisenberg, is an unsettling plot that, to modern American culture, is a foreign concept. In a society all-too-familiar with the redemption story, the show tells the story of a good guy gone bad.

“It is one of those shows that you can watch, even if you would never do drugs yourself, because you understand why Walter is doing what he is doing, and you root for him (at least at first),” Gefter said.

The series also introduced a cast of loveable (or love-to-hate-able) characters in addition to the protagonist. Jesse Pinkman, a meth dealer and White’s apprentice, begins as a bumbling loser with little direction in life. He later reveals himself to be one of the most likeable characters in the “Breaking Bad” universe, kind toward children, fiercely protective of loved ones and, in the final season of the series, one of the few characters remaining with anything resembling a moral compass.

Hank Schrader, White’s brother-in-law and a DEA agent, functions as a foil for the series protagonist and a symbolic Abel to White’s metaphorical Cain. Saul Goodman, whose appearance in the show as somewhat of a comic relief, became popular enough to warrant a spinoff prequel, tentatively titled “Better Call Saul.”

While various aspects of “Breaking Bad” have become memes and Tumblr fodder – think Walt Jr.’s love affair with breakfast or Hank’s love affair with minerals – the influence of the show has not gone unnoticed by critics. Cranston won three consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series for his work as Walter White. In 2013, it won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.

“‘Breaking Bad’ is one of the most important shows, if not the most important, to come about in the last decade, in terms of breaking new ground (no pun intended) and telling a riveting story about an unconventional topic in the television format,” James Duford, a sophomore computer science major at EMU, said. “In an era of dry, stagnant and generally uncreative television shows, ‘Breaking Bad’ showed that it is still possible to be original and get viewers.”

How do you think the series will end? Let us know in the comments section.

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