As you know, the series finale of "Breaking Bad" airs this Sunday night. "Breaking Bad" is a fun show to watch. (OK, yes, it's also quite emotionally agonizing as of late -- but, yes, still fun.) It's also a fun show to write about. Of course, very few of us are lucky enough to get the chance to write about "Breaking Bad" on a regular basis. (This is why we are envious of Mo Ryan. Then again, we are all envious of Mo Ryan, regardless of "Breaking Bad.")
Well, there are plenty of entertainment writers and/or journalists out there who love "Breaking Bad," yet don't have a bully pulpit to announce their predictions for this Sunday. Writers who, maybe, spend their time writing about movies instead of television. Well, we all have our (most likely wrong) theories, too. So, here are the predictions of 15 esteemed colleagues from the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, New York magazine, and other outlets around the internet to share what they think is going to happen this Sunday.
(For the record, and I realize this isn't really going out on a limb: I think Walt's a goner, yet something tells me that we won't see him die onscreen, and Jesse lives. Somebody has to take care of Brock, right? Again, this is most likely wrong. And, yes, please share your predictions in the comments, even though you will most likely be wrong, too.)
I find myself not wanting to make any predictions about what is going to "happen" to Walt and Jesse, because, all told, their fates seem rather well sealed. Walt is going to die, steadfastly and madly remaining Walt, and Jesse is never going to get any retribution for all the torture he has suffered because what retribution could there possibly be? It has all been stripped away. I find any predictions to be sort of beside the point by now: All the major dramas seem to have played out.
(Boy, is THAT a sentence that's going to sound idiotic around 10:25 pm Sunday.)
So I'm just going to guess the biggest narrative mystery: Who's the ricin for? It is safe to assume -- as safe as it is to predict anything on this show -- that the heavy weaponry is for Uncle Jack and his crew. But the ricin? The only person I can imagine Walt wanting to kill in a way that no one will think it was foul play is ... Lydia. Maybe he's protecting a financial pipeline to his family (though I doubt it), who knows, but there's no one he could kill whose death wouldn't prompt a "eh, they were a known criminal and/or an immediately family member obviously killed by Walt" left on the show except for Lydia. Anyone else he could just put a bullet in and confess. Lydia's the ricin. Definitely in her stupid tea too.
Unless you count the hundreds of dead people, no character on "Breaking Bad" has suffered more as a result of Walt's actions than Jesse (so far he's lost two girlfriends, his innocence, and a perfectly good bathtub). So the only satisfying ending for Sunday's finale is one in which Jesse kills Walt, preferably via some Rube Goldberg machine whose components include a box cutter, an ATM machine, and an exploding turtle. First, though, Walt will free Jesse by slipping the ricin capsule into Lydia's tea, melting Todd in a lab explosion, and shooting up the Nazis with his M60. The FBI will search the Schraders' house and find the DVD of Walt's bogus confession—plus boxes of evidence from the Heisenberg case that the DEA will assume Hank was trying to hide, and Marie's computer on which she'd been Googling for poison recipes—and figure that Hank was the real bad guy all along. After he's finished killing him, Jesse will dump Walt's body in the desert near the site of last week's shootout, then he'll call the cops. They'll dig up Hank and find the cell-phone picture of Jesse playing dead, which will both reinforce the case against Hank and set the stage for Jesse's escape. Brock, Mr. Margolis, and Drew Sharp's parents will each find a barrel of money on their doorsteps. Also, I hope we finally get to meet Flynn's friend, Louis.
The first act follows Walt through his painstaking efforts as he prepares to take vengeance on Todd, Uncle Jack, and their criminal clan. Throughout it all, the audience is forced to consider subjective notions of morality and justice. What would be the most fitting end for Walt? Should he succeed in his mission, despite the all the previous acts of evil we have seen him perpetrate? Should he fail, thus damning Jesse, Skyler and the White family to fates they don't deserve? Should he die of cancer, proving the senselessness and indifference of the universe?
Then numerous things happen, the details of which I won't bore you with.
The screen fades to black, then fades up again on the title card: SIX MONTHS LATER. We find Walt a changed man, now a driver's ed instructor at a public high school where no one knows of his past identity as Heisenberg. We find him on the training course with his favorite student, a spiky-haired, trash-talking pipsqueak who naturally reminds him of Jesse.
Try as he might, this new student can't seem to drive the training car correctly.
"Mr. White," he says. "Why won't this bitch accelerate?"
"That," Walt answers, "is because you're braking. Bad." He looks directly into the camera, smiles and gives two thumbs up.
Executive Producer Vince Gilligan. Roll credits.
Most people realize that Jesse Pinkman is the moral center of "Breaking Bad." I think it goes further than that-- he is the only possibility we have for redemption after this entire bloody series is over. It seems obvious now that Walt is back in Albuquerque and armed with a shotgun to kill Todd and his Nazi brethren, and just as obvious that Walt does not care in the least about Jesse. But it seems impossible that Jesse's story, which has been a endless amount suffering that has only gotten worse, can end with his death or imprisonment. Walt will free Jesse whether he intends to or not, or at the very least give him the opportunity to escape. Jesse's redemption may include his death, and could very likely include Walt's, but I doubt it. Jesse has suffered constantly on this show, and "Breaking Bad"'s universe is one in which the punishment fits the crime. It's not possible for anyone to have a happy ending, but I believe Jesse's will be the closest we get.
The great thing about "Breaking Bad" is that creator Vince Gilligan and his team of subversive, demented scribes have always managed to give fans exactly what they want, while also surprising them. (I knew, for example, that Gus Fring's number was up, but I did not see THAT particular moment coming.) So in trying to predict what the final episode will bring, it's hard to divorce it from what I hope it will bring. There's a big machine-gun in play. Someone is going to get mowed down while saying hello to Walter White's "little friend," and the most likely victims will be Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a.k.a. the neo-Nazis who executed Hank, enslaved Jesse, and slaughtered his would-be girlfriend Andrea. But their reign of terror is not over yet. Before Walt gets to them, they will exact a little more agony on his existence.
Finally, we have the specter of Gray Matter, raised in the last episode after lying dormant for many seasons. Will Walt finally right the injustice of his lack of credit for the creation of this tech giant? Who cares! Nobody — except Walt, and that's all that counts in his world. I could see his old partners going down in a hail of gunfire as he starts his final kamikaze mission.
Last week, we saw jittery Lydia (seriously, does she drink only decaf tea?) urging Todd to tidy up the Skyler situation with extreme prejudice. This is a big, big "Breaking Bad" no-no. When you slaughter innocents, that's awful enough (and one could argue about whether Skyler is really a bystander anymore). But the even bigger sin is hypocrisy. Remember when Walt ran down the drug dealers who were targeting kids? It was one of his bravest, most self-sacrificial moments. But then the very next season, Walt was slipping poison to little Brock as a means of manipulating Jesse. This is when he crossed over into straight-up evil-doer territory, and that — truly — is when he began earning all the horror that has fallen down around him. Lydia once begged Mike (now enjoying his retirement in Belize) to spare her life while her daughter played in a nearby room. He spared her, and now she is pointing Todd's gun at another woman, another mother, and telling him to pull the trigger. I expect her to die horribly, but not by the ricin capsule. That would be too fast, and too easy. I wouldn't be surprised to see her karmic payback come at the end of Walt's smoking M60, probably while she begs for her life. Gilligan emphasizes violence in the abstract. Count on seeing one very bloody pair of Louboutins.
Todd will go down trying to protect her. This psycho's puppydog crush gives him a kind of misguided honor he lacks in almost every other circumstance. After casually offing the innocent (there's that word again) dirtbiking kid Drew Sharp, and blowing Andrea's brains out last episode, we — I — need to see this guy suffer. He's too shallow a human being to suffer as mightily as a Walt or Jesse, so I think his comeuppance will come in the form of futility. He'll do some grand, selfless gesture of gallantry to protect Lydia and will be unceremoniously wiped from the Earth. Or, she might sell him out, push him in front of a bullet meant for her. Whatever the case, his death will bring a moment of comic relief to the finale. At least, I hope so.
Skyler … Skyler, Skyler. She, Walt Jr. (now going exclusively by Flynn, I'm guessing) are not going to have an A-1 day. I think Gilligan will spare the toddler Holly. This is a ruthless show, but he has broken the audience's heart so often, especially in this last run of shows, I have to believe he will cut us some slack on the baby. Flynn, however … He took a bold stand against his narcissistic old man. He's one of the few, unadulterated good-guys on this show. That makes him ripe for death. The death of their eldest, honest, and somewhat naïve son will be the ultimate punishment for the Whites. I'm guessing he will die sacrificing himself to save his mom and sister — a noble death, one that means something. The opposite of Todd, in another words. He will face it boldly and unafraid (the exact opposite of his old man.)
If Skyler survives, she will go forward in pieces. Walt …? Death isn't a punishment for Walt, it's a release. I'm not sure there is a punishment great enough for him. It's far too late for him to be redeemed, but I do think Gilligan and Co. will find a way to at least make him penitent. We have not seen Walt be truly sorry. I'm not even sure what that would look like in a mind as twisted as his. He thinks of himself as a king, and kings liked to be buried with all their belongings. Walt's belongings, apart from the money he lost to the neo-Nazis, are his family. He has always considered himself above them, their keeper, and it would not surprise me to see him engineer a reunion with them (if, say, Walt Jr. survives). That ricin tablet? I can envision a scenario where he seeks to bury himself alongside his family, taking all of them with him. Don't drink or eat anything he "cooks" for you, White family!
There is a chance Jesse will be spared this reckoning and escape with his life – such as it is. But probably not. One thing we haven't seen in this show is a large meth explosion. Since he is being forced to cook for the Nazis, engineering that kind of blast – even if it kills him, too – might be one way of cleansing the earth of these motherf*ckers.
Cancer is the prevailing metaphor in "Breaking Bad": The longer Walt survives and his toxic impulses continue to metastasize, the more people will suffer and die because of it. So the question going into Sunday's episode is how much more damage the cancer will do before it finally, at long last, consumes the host. I promised myself I wouldn't try to predict anything that happens on this show, partly because I'm always wrong and partly because I want to go along for the ride without imposing my expectations or wishes upon it. But since you ask, I think we're headed toward two clear confrontations: Walt (and likely Jesse) versus the Nazis, and Walt versus Jesse. My guess is that Walt prevails in the former, and concedes bloodlessly in the latter. But I can't even guess what kind of conversations he can have with his family members, if any, other than the highly unlikely scenario that finds him giving himself over to the authorities and relieving Skyler of persecution. At this point in the show, with Walt having broken so bad and ruined so many lives through his vanity and lust for power, any measure of redemption would seem like letting him off the hook. Vince Gilligan and company have created a complex character, one who has shown, as recently as his concession of the baby and the "phone call" to Skyler, that his humanity has not been entirely extinguished. But Breaking Bad is a grand-scale tragedy, and I expect the reckoning to continue to the bitter end.
To complete Vince Gilligan's transformation of Walter White from Mr. Chips to Scarface, Walter White has to die. I'm less interested in how, and more interested in whether White gets a redemptive moment. I don't think he does. He doesn't deserve one. Jesse Pinkman, as sympathetic as he may be at this point, also deserves to die, for the people whose deaths he's had a hand in, for the lives he's endangered, and because there's no life for Pinkman after this. But he does at least deserve revenge. My guess is that Jesse, using a trick he learned from White in the "Breaking Bad" pilot, mixes some chemicals to create a deadly poison in the meth lab to kill Uncle Jack, the Aryans, and himself. Walter goes to get revenge on Uncle Jack for stealing his money and killing Hank, only Jesse has already taken revenge -- Walt's one reason for living -- away from him. It's Jesse's final f*** you to Walter. As White scampers back to his family to have one last moment with them and to apologize for what he has wrought, police surround him. Walter shoots himself, as he nearly did in the pilot, dying alone, with no money, no family, and no legacy, with the unused ricin still in his pocket. In a montage with echoes of "The Wire" finale, Lydia and Todd survive to continue the business, to completely erase the legacy of Heisenberg, and to repeat the cycle again. The players come and go, but the meth game continues. Heisenberg is but an insignificant footnote.
Here’s the thing: I have no real predictions for what I think is going to happen in "Breaking Bad"’s final episode. I haven’t even watched the preview. Mostly, I’m just excited to see how it all turns out. That said, I know what I hope will happen (but I also know that hope and "Breaking Bad" are not two things that go together at all). Here are some hopes and dreams:
I hope that Walt comes back to get his money back from Jack, Todd, and co., and ends up freeing Jesse and, you know, not murdering him. Sadly, at this point, I just can’t see a happy ending for Jesse.
I hope that Jack, Todd, and the rest of the Nazis aren’t killed, but go to jail instead. I don’t know why this feels more like justice to me than seeing them die—maybe because a bad guy (even one as compelling as Walt) killing bad guys is much less satisfying than if Hank were still around to dispatch them. But I know that this outcome is unlikely because hello, it’s "Breaking Bad." They kill kids and moms! No way the Nazis are just going to jail. That said, I hope Jesse doesn’t kill them. Or anyone else, ever again.
I REALLY hope Lydia goes to jail. Jail would be worse than death for Lydia. Doesn’t the thought of her in an orange outfit, freaking out at every little thing, make you so happy?
I hope that we don’t see Walt go back to deal with his old partners at Gray Matter. I hope they were just the kick in the butt he needed he go do whatever he needs that rifle in his trunk for. Sending him to make them eat ricin or whatever would be such a waste of time.
I hope that Walt’s cancer doesn’t get the best of him before he gets to use that gun. That’s the only way I think I would be unhappy with the ending.
And here’s a thing that I think might actually happen: Everybody dies but Walt Jr., baby Holly, and Marie. Here’s to the last 75 minutes of "Breaking Bad" ever!
It seems foolish to predict the show's finale. The "Breaking Bad" writers have consistently gone in directions that were smarter and more surprising than we viewers could have ever guessed, so why assume we can read the tea leaves any better now that it's all about to end? I want Walt to get some sort of comeuppance, and I also want the pure evil of Uncle Jack and his cronies to be struck down. But one of the reasons why I've loved "Breaking Bad" is that the show hasn't worried so much about what I want: The writers have instead said, "Trust us, we've got this," repeatedly throwing twists at me that I didn't know I had wanted until they happened. These folks haven't let me down yet, so my only prediction is that I think I'm going to be satisfied.
Betting on "Breaking Bad"'s upcoming plot turns is an excellent way to lose your shirt: I had an entire theory of the show's final season built around the news that Charlie Rose would make an appearance on the seventh episode, but sadly Hank never got to pen his "Helter Skelter." But I'll say this: much as he'd like his own Scarface ending, I don't see how any gun is big enough to let Walt take out the entirety of Uncle Jack's neo-Nazi gang without getting killed himself, nor do I think the show will give him the satisfaction of going out in a blaze of glory. If the ricin's for anyone -- and I'm leaning towards' Margaret Lyons' theory that he may not use it at all -- it's for Uncle Jack, or perhaps Todd. (This is a man who, according to Vince Gilligan, managed to slip poison into a small child's juice box, so he can be stealthy when he needs to.) Since retiring from the meth business, Walt has made little if any use of the chemistry he's so good at, so it would be fitting for him to draw once more on the exceptional talent that laid the path for his downfall.
Walter White has to die. Well, if we’re getting deep with it, Walter White is dead and Heisenberg is dead and whoever “Walt” happens to be in the spiritual sense is the only thing left, but he needs to die too. Everything has gone too far now, it’s all gone on too long and there needs to be some sort of final word on the matter, and there’s nothing more final than death. A season ago, I would have called for Walter White’s head on a platter and gleefully celebrated the demise of a man who has fully transitioned from lovable everyman to stunning villain without a second thought, but now the finality of death seems necessary for Walt, too, not just for audience catharsis. Last week’s episode, just one episode, so completely illustrated what sort of “life” awaits Walt post-Heisenberg and pre-cancer death that it seems insane to want to send him back there. Even Walt doesn’t deserve that kind of emptiness.
Everyone else? Most of them can be cut down, too. Todd and the skinheads – they need to be taken out. Lydia – she’s proven herself so ill-equipped for most things in life that she’ll eventually fade away by her own hand. Skyler – perhaps she deserves the resting element of death. Jesse – well, he certainly shouldn’t be trapped in that prison any longer but, like Walt, I don’t know what sort of fulfilling life he could find for himself after everything that’s happened. And yet, I’m convinced Jesse will live. Marie, baby Holly, Flynn – if anyone stands a chance of rebuilding their lives, it’s these three, and they should do it together.
How will "Breaking Bad" end? With a lot of blood and a lot of tears and probably plenty of meth, just for old times sake. Few people will make it out alive, fewer will make it out even wanting to live. The only safe person? Baby Holly. Give that baby a break. She's the only who who actually deserves it.
My prediction for Sunday's "Breaking Bad" finale is that there won't be a happy ending. But it also depends on what your definition of a "happy ending" actually is. If Jesse lives to blast rock music and shack up with a new damaged girlfriend, will that make you happy? If Walt goes out in a hail of police gunfire, will that satisfy you? One of the greatest things about this show is that it really messes with your expectations and what you think you want to happen. For me personally, it all boils down to something Samuel L. Jackson once said about the show and its main character, Walter White. A satisfying conclusion to this show would be one in which Walt gets to die on his own terms. Of course I also want Jesse to find the fight that's left in him, but if Walt gets to go out the way he wants to go out, then I'm fulfilled. I may not like the guy or respect him much anymore, but I wish him an end that he owns and no one else.
In my estimation, Vince Gilligan spoiled the ending of "Breaking Bad" the second he described it as "Mr. Chips to Scarface." We've already seen the "Mr. Chips," but in the first episode of the final season (which in reality was the first scene of the finale) Walter bought a M60 Machine Gun. We saw that again when he stopped at his house to get the ricin, another scene from the finale. Now with all the other pieces of the puzzle, I think Walter will fulfill Gilligan's prophecy. I think he's going to mimic a scene from Scarface, load up that M60 machine gun and mow down Todd, Todd's uncle and the rest of his Nazi followers in a badass blaze of glory. He'll get shot and killed in the process, but in his dying moments he'll realize by killing all those men, he saved Jesse. Walt will die with his Heisenberg reputation intact and having saved the one person that truly knew him. It's the only kind of redemption that's possible and maybe the only kind that matters.
Before the last season of "Breaking Bad" began, I decided not to read anything about the show until it was over — no recaps, no analysis, no hairbrained theories on how it would end. Yeah, that didn't last. Once Hank punched Walt in the face, I realized my self-imposed "BB" Internet exile was, well, kinda stupid.
So, for the past eight weeks, I have shut myself off in a crystal-blue cocoon, devouring as much information about the new season as I can. And what do I have to show for it? Two things: 1. None of us really know what is going to happen; that's what makes the show so good. And 2. My own theory on the finale. Here it is:
The feds receive a tip about Lydia's involvement in the business. When they ask Skyler if she knows Lydia, she cracks and tells them about Lydia's carwash episode with Walt. Eventually, Todd and his merry band of neo-Nazis get word of this. As punishment, they kidnap Walt Jr. and throw him into the basement jail cell with Jesse. At this point, Walt Sr. is on his way to deal with Hank's killers. When he shows up, he frees Jesse and Walt Jr. and then proceeds to wipe out the entire Nazi clan (except for Todd; Jesse gets to kill him). Unfortunately, during the shootout, poor Walt Jr. gets caught in the crossfire and dies. That leaves only Jesse and Mr. White. After a heated back-and-forth, Jesse shoots and kills Walt. Then Jesse, feeling guilty for Andrea's death (and all of the other terrible things he's done), takes the ricin tablet and kills himself. Fade to black.
(Oh… man, that was pretty morbid. Okay, let's change one thing: Jesse still kills Walter, but he doesn't take the ricin. Instead, he puts one more bullet in Mr. White for good measure, then hightails it to Tahiti for a new spinoff about his adventures in fabric making. It will be called "It's Pink, Man!" Yeah, that works. The End.)
"Breaking Bad" has never shied away from bloodshed, making the theory that either Jesse or Walt will meet a grisly demise easy to digest. Maybe a little too easy for this show. As much as "Once Upon a Time in America"'s blood runs through "Breaking Bad"'s veins, I wonder if callbacks and foreshadowing are all an elaborate red herring to picture a final a shootout. That last stand might be like the stashed away ricin, which Vince Gillgan continues to be dangle in front of us for dramatic blue balls effect. Time has always been an essential part of "Breaking Bad"'s texture, how months can pass between seasons while a single day can last a lifetime (That's my love of "4 Days Out" showing). I think it's easy to kill Walt, but it's daring to have himself taken in by the DEA, locked away, and know that out there beyond the walls of prison is his blossoming family. People he loves, appreciating the fact that they'll never see him again. And he sits there, a cancer patient who should have died a 1,000 times before, rotting away and wallowing with regret. I can almost picture it: the show's signature time-lapse photography of Albuquerque clouds moving across buildings like the hour hand on a clock. Jesse could live knowing life finally the best of Walt — as long as someone DEA agent shot Todd in the back the head before the credits roll. For all the wrongs he's committed, Jesse deserves to be happy. I think fate will finally pay him back for that.
Then again, Flynn might walk in and shoot Walt in the head for being a terrible dad. I'm ready for anything.
Share your "Breaking Bad" finale predictions in the comments.
The series finale of "Breaking Bad" airs Sunday, September 29 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.