All good things must come to an end. So too all bad things. That’s certainly true for the much-loved cable crime series “Breaking Bad,” which begins airing the final eight episodes of its climactic fifth season this weekend.
The show has been as good a guest as Albuquerque could have asked for. Originally conceived as a generic Southern California series, the pilot was rewritten to take advantage of New Mexico tax breaks and has found itself a happy (and inspiring) home ever since. This year’s legislative update of film industry incentive laws became known as the “Breaking Bad” bill. Billboards have been popping up around town paying tribute to the “chemistry” the show and Albuquerque have shared. Star Bryan Cranston is kind enough to thank Albuquerque on just about every talk show and award show he attends. And in a recent interview I conducted with cast and crew, Cranston and costar Aaron Paul both mentioned buying houses in Albuquerque that they have “no intention” of selling. It’s been a great five years. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye. Especially since the show is going out on some of its most intense, hard-hitting drama to date.
The last half of the final season starts off with a haunting scene. A gang of skate rats carves up an empty pool in the backyard of an abandoned Albuquerque home. The home looks familiar. In fact it’s the home of our high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White. The worm has turned for Walter. His alter ego, Heisenberg, has been exposed, and his empire has crumbled. Now he’s little more than an urban myth—a modern day boogeyman to scare the suburban neighbors. How our antihero came to this low point seems to be the narrative thrust of the final eight.
Flashing back to the point at which we left things at the end of the first half of season five, Walter (Cranston) has sold out his interest in the drug dealing business and is trying to go straight. Sort of. He now owns the car wash he was working part time at in the series’ very first episode and is using it to launder the millions of dollars he made. Partner Jesse (Paul), meanwhile, is drowning in guilt and trying to figure out a way to unload his ill-gotten gains. Worst of all Walter’s hard-nosed DEA agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) has finally figured out that mild-mannered Walter is secretly the murderous Heisenberg. Oh, and Walt’s cancer—the economic catalyst that drove him into the drug business and the elegant metaphor for that indefinable darkness growing inside of him—is back with a vengeance. What happens because of all this, and where things ultimately end up, viewers will just have to spend the next couple of months discovering. No matter what, it’s been a hell of a ride, “Breaking Bad.” Thanks for taking that left turn at Albuquerque.