Hey: spoilers. If you haven’t watched the “Breaking Bad” finale yet, do yourself a favor and close this tab.
If you’ve seen the finale, first read these thoughtful criticisms by Emily Nussbaum and Ross Douthat. Essentially, the argument is sound: “Breaking Bad” built a word of justice and moral reckoning, only seeming to let Walt win in the end by bullying Gretchen and Elliot into giving the money to his family (against their will!) and having a series of deeply implausible things go just right (having keys fall out of the sun visor inexplicably, walking around Denny’s and his old house without getting caught despite being the most wanted man in New Mexico, the Nazi’s not checking his trunk before letting him inside, etc. etc.). This has led some to suggest that the entire last episode is the fantasy of a sick, dying man in a cancer coma, freezing to death in the stolen New Hampshire Volvo. In the fantasy, he floats about like a ghost, imagines he’s basically Mike Erhmentraut in his visit to Gretchen and Elliot, finally confesses his true motivation to his wife, gets to see his children one more time, kills his enemies, dies a hero (of sorts) in a meth superlab. It’s kind of convincing.
Then, read this piece by Alan Jacobs and Alistair Roberts’ brilliant explication in the comments. Here’s a part of it:
Walt, who started off the show denying the existence of a soul, comes to believe in a moral fate. In ‘Fly’, Walt ponders what would have been the perfect moment to quit cooking meth without facing the consequences of his actions. He suggests that it was that evening, before he went into the bar.
At the end of ‘Granite State’, for the second time, Walt enters into a bar alone. By now, Walt has come to the conclusion that the universe isn’t just random chance, but that moral reckoning must be made. The ‘prayer’ that he prays in the car at the beginning of the finale is plea bargaining with his imminent fate: if fate will permit him to act as its instrument, he can go out without the sacrifice of his pride. When we consider the power that moral fate has already demonstrated in Breaking Bad’s universe and to Walt himself, I don’t think that it is a stretch to believe that Walt could think it powerful enough to make the most jerry-rigged plan work out perfectly.
Read Roberts’ whole post.