The Breaking Bad Finale: 7 Reasons Why It Worked

There’s no good way to end a highly acclaimed television series.   The viewer’s expectations are insurmountable, and most likely contradictory.  We want the characters to live forever and get what they want, but if a writer does this, we’ll complain that the end was cliche and boring.  It’s the great human contradiction: we want to live forever, but if we did, life would have no meaning.

All of us brought this trepidation to “Felina,” last night’s Breaking Bad series finale.  We were ready to be fulfilled by getting the end of the story, but also to be let down.  Nothing against Vince Gilligan and his writing staff, there’s just no way to give the viewers what they want.  (Unless, of course, you go the Six Feet Under route–but that show’s on a different plane of existence.)

With that said, the finale was successful in eschewing our expectations and taking the easy out, and was an overall satisfying experience.

(If you haven’t seen the episode yet, be warned, what follows will spoil everything.)

Here’s what went right.

1. Walt finally admits that he didn’t do it all for his family.  He became a crystal meth kingpin because he liked it.  It made him feel alive.  Thanks for finally being honest, Walt.

2. The big showdown with the neo-Nazis was thrilling and surprising.  Most people thought Walt was building a bomb in the desert.  Nope.  Heisenberg was constructing an automated oozi death trap.  Because it was unexpected and a new twist on the gangster gun fight, it wins.

3. Jesse strangles that little sociopath, pile of human shit Todd with the shackles Todd burdened him with.  Thank God Todd didn’t get shot in Walt’s trap.  This allows Jesse and the audience the sweet satisfaction of him dying at Jesse’s hands.  Ever since Todd shot that kid on the dirt bike, we’ve all wanted Jesse to get his revenge.  Now, the deed is done.

4.  Jesse doesn’t shoot Walt.  That would have been the obvious move.  It would have brought narrative satisfaction, but thankfully, Jesse is allowed to decide to not kill his former chemistry teacher/meth lab associate.

5. Jesse lives.  I’m not sure why he was made to suffer so much in the final episodes by being tortured and shackled by Todd (rot in hell, bitch!), but when he crashes through those gates, leaving the Nazi compound, I was elated.

6. Walter dies.  He had to.  This story is so indebted to Macbeth.  If Walt had lived, it would have smacked of twenty-first century political correctness.  The best part?  He shot himself.  Everything bad in this show is because of Walter White’s narcissistic, sociopathic desire to be on top of an empire.  He’s been metaphorically shooting himself and his family for five seasons, in the end, the last shot is the kill shot.

7. The last scene, Walt caressing a meth tank, was beautiful.  It’s Macbeth pining over the throne that built him up and killed him in the end.  Or Ahab marveling at the whale before it destroys him.  Walt sees the police lights in the reflection of the meth tank and falls, leaving a smear of blood.  So satisfying.

All empire’s fall, and Breaking Bad gave us a new twist on that old story of ambition, greed, and delusions of grandeur.  A valiant effort in the often futile task of writing a series finale.


Understanding the Conundrum of Religion in America

On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower set sail for the new world.  102 Pilgrims left the civilized Western world for the unknown trials of the New World.  Were they leaving for adventure?  For the romantic notion of living in a world untouched by civilization?  To help push forward Western ideals?

Hell no.  They were leaving because Europeans found them to be a major buzz kill.

The 102 passengers weren’t really Pilgrims in the truest sense of the word, they were Puritans. The intellectual outcasts of the budding Enlightenment.

Shakespeare rails against their myopic radicalism in a number of his plays.  The Puritans preached against Elizabethan theater.  Consequently, in a Shakespearean play, being referred to as a Puritan is a deep insult.  It’s worse than being called French!

The Puritans were so insufferable, even loosy-goosy Amsterdam wanted them out.

So they set sail for a world that would accept their fanaticism.  That, of course, had to be a world without people who spoke their language.

The anniversary of the Puritan’s voyage across the Atlantic a few weeks ago got me thinking about the America I’ve lived in my entire life.  I’ve always been miffed by the fact that our First Amendment deals with our religious freedoms, while religions have been treading on my First Amendment right since I was a wee babe.

Whether it be New England Catholicism, Jehovah Witnesses knocking on my door, televangalists, or the addition of “In God We Trust” to our currency, it’s always seemed to me that America is a place where we don’t have much freedom from religion.

But then, on the anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail for what would become America, it struck me that this paradoxical state of religion in America makes perfect sense.

It’s absolutely American to desire religious tolerance for your own religious creed while secretly, or not so secretly, having no religious tolerance for others’ beliefs.

In the words of Mellencamp, “Ain’t that America.”  Or, at least, ain’t that Puritan America.  Here were 102 people who were loudly damning everyone’s religious beliefs, while seeking acceptance from the rest of the world.

Some of you more enlightened Americans may have already come to terms with this conundrum, but it’s all making sense to me now.

Listening to Glenn Beck or other far right loons rage on the radio — or far left Atheist anti-evangelists for that matter — I always thought, “This hate-mongering, fear-inducing religious rhetoric is so un-American!  What’s wrong with these people?”

Now I get it.  These guys are just evoking the paradoxical religious attitudes of our first Anglo ancestors.  It is American to desire acceptance of your credo while tolerating 0.0% of the rest of the country’s beliefs or lack of beliefs.

It’s estimated that 35 million Americans are direct descendants of the Mayflower passengers.  So the next time I hear Glenn Beck screaming about Godless Americans, as Glenn Beck is wont to do, I’ll just think, “Well, isn’t that neat, he must be one of the 35 million.”

When Life Hands You Citra Hops, Make Zombie Dust

In my pursuit of the perfect IPA there have been a small handful of recurring beers people tell me I have to try.  120 Minute IPA.  Check.  Maine Beer Company’s Lunch.  Check.  Hop Stoopid.  Sierra Nevada Hoptimum.  Hop Wallop.  Green Flash.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.

I’ve even found myself holding the elusive and mysterious Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder.

But there’s one damned beer I haven’t been able to throw down my grocery hole.

Zombie Dust.

That’s right.  The name of Three Floyd’s Brewing Co.’s APA invokes the image of Zombies prancing around, spreading their warped version of fairy dust.  Something out of A Midsummer’s Night-Mare.

By all accounts, this is the holy grail of citra hop beer.  And the citra hop, my friends, is a beautiful hop.  Think grapefruit and oranges and pineapple and mango.  It makes beer crisp, refreshing, and enchanted.

Thus began my search for Zombie Dust.

I have been laughed out of a few beer stores in town for thinking that I’d be able to acquire a bottle of this Indiana-born brew.  Apparently, I had the foolish audacity to think a bottle of Zombie Dust could make it to New England without being thrown down someone else’s grocery hole.

It was with in this light that I sheepishly asked if my local homebrew supply store had a bottle of the citra hop powerhouse.

The young attendant laughed.  “No, man.  Not a chance.”

Crestfallen, I replied, “Didn’t think so.”

“But,” he began, “I did come across a solid recipe to make your own batch of Zombie Dust.”

I was so filled with emotion, I almost cried.  “Yes,” I managed, composing myself.

ZombieDustCloneHe printed out the recipe and handed it over.  The recipe called for 8 oz. of citra hops.  8!  Did you hear me?  8!

5 oz. in the boil and 3 oz. for dry hopping.

Here’s where fate decided it was going to allow me to make an extract clone of Zombie Dust.  The homebrew store had exactly 8 oz. of citra hops left.

So I steeped my grains, boiled the wort, and added my 5 oz. of citra hops according to the hop schedule.  My house smelled like citrusy bread.

Within hours of pitching my yeast, the fermentation began, emitting a citrusy aroma in the process.

After a week, I racked my beer into the secondary fermenter and added the 3 oz. of whole-cone citrus hops for dry hopping.

A week later, I bottled the beer.

Turns out Tom Petty was right, the waiting is the hardest part.

But then, the time was upon me.  After the month of brewing and racking and waiting, the beer was ready.

And holy shit!

It’s the best homebrew I’ve ever made.  Of course, when you throw 8 oz. of citra hops into anything, it will most likely turn out great.

Here’s the flavor breakdown of my Zombie Dust clone:

Zombie Dust CloneThe aroma of the beer hits as soon as you pop the top.  A citrusy panoply washes over your nose.  When it finally touches your tongue, it’s love at first tropical taste.  The front side of the flavor experience is clean, filled with pineapple and grapefruit.  The malt is not overpowering, but it gives just the right amount of sweet and caramel to balance out the flavor.  Finally, you’re left with the citrus burst at the back of the tongue, making you want more and more and more, ad infinitum.

There it is.  The closest I’ve come to drinking Three Floyd’s Brewing Co.’s Zombie Dust is by making a batch in my kitchen.  And damn, if the real thing is better than my facsimile, my tongue might explode in citrusy adoration.