The fifth and final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad aired in July 2021 and finished in September the following year. It was divided into two parts: the first eight episodes end with Hank realizing Walt is Heisenberg and the other eight bring the story to its tragic finish. Walter White was finally the man in charge, which made him a megalomaniac with no regard for other people whatsoever. He even went as far as to replace Jesse with Todd. Jesse was steering clear from Walt as he started to understand just how morally corrupt Walt was.
With episodes, such as “Ozymandias” and “Felina”, Breaking Bad‘s final season was absolutely perfect. On the other hand, it got sloppy in its storytelling and character development. Luckily, the cast delivered some of the best performances of their careers, which cemented the show’s reputation as one of the best shows in television history.
Letdown: The Quality Of Writing Dropped
Breaking Bad is considered one of the greatest shows because of its stellar cast and flawless narration. Season 5 surpassed the previous seasons in certain episodes, but generally, it was subpar compared to the first four seasons when it comes to writing. It relied too much on coincidences: there is no way that careful Walt would leave proof of his involvement with Gale in his bathroom when having Hank over.
Skyler went from acting like Walt’s prisoner who wanted him to die to protecting him. Many major events happened without any logistics explained – how exactly did Uncle Jack organize the prison murders and why did Lydia decide to collaborate with someone as unprofessional as Jack Welker’s gang?
Perfect: Hank Finally Realized Who Was Heisenberg
Hank almost caught Walt on several occasions before finally picking up that fateful copy of Leaves of Grass and thus getting the final piece of the puzzle.
Dean Norris delivered one of the best performances in the history of television in the final season of Breaking Bad, so much so that one could argue Hank Schrader is the main character of the show rather than Walt. Cranston and Norris’s nuanced performances were definitely among the highlights of the season.
Letdown: Walt’s Transformation Was Suddenly Complete
As soon as season 5 started, Walt’s transformation was suddenly done. He has become a shameless, self-gratifying drug lord who wouldn’t quit the business even though he had a chance to exit in the best way possible. He stayed the same for the remainder of the story and he was so annoying that Breaking Bad got really hard to watch at times.
A great indicator of this over-the-top characterization is the scene in which Walt says “We’re done when I say we’re done” and “Say my name.” It is one of the most memorable Walt scenes, but it just doesn’t carry the same authenticity as season 4’s “I am the one who knocks.” And let’s not forget the cheesy scene in which Walt and Junior show off their shiny new cars in the driveway.
“Ozymandias” is such a masterpiece that it deserves a special entry. After all, it enjoys a rating of 10.0 on IMDb and is often referred to as one of the best works of art in the history of television.
It seemed as if all the events in the show finally culminated in a single episode: Jesse found out the truth about Jane, Hank finished his pursuit of Heisenberg, and Skyler finally stops acting like an absent-minded ghost. Pure perfection.
Letdown: Jesse Didn’t Get As Much Screentime
Aside from “Granite State” and “Felina”, Aaron Paul’s character didn’t really get a chance to shine in the final season of Breaking Bad, which is a real shame since the show spent so much time building the father-and-son relationship forming between Jesse and Mr. White.
Jesse didn’t want anything to do with Walt after seeing him collaborate with Todd who was perfectly okay with murdering children. Even though he avoided him, he could have gotten more screen time. After all, he is just as important to the plot as Walt.
Perfect: Recurring Themes
Breaking Bad is a show that is great at foreshadowing, planting easter eggs, and revisiting recurring themes. It’s as if season 5 was giving a nod to all the previous seasons when it featured iconic shots, such as Walt sitting by the pool or Walt confronting the stainless steel paper towel dispenser.
In the final episode, Walt stared into a drum made of stainless steel. Instead of punching it as he did in the hospital, he just lightly touched it. It’s as if Walt realized that the story was now finally over.
Letdown: The Neo-Nazis Were The Worst Villains
There’s no doubt that Jack Welker and Todd were the most unsettling villains, possibly even more so than Gus Fring. They were also disappointing, though. They matched neither Walt nor Jesse’s intelligence, organization skills, or cunning, yet it was them who (almost) won in the end.
The neo-Nazis were portrayed as killing machines with no remorse, one-dimensional and predictable. It was Walt who wanted to do business with them, but in the end, Jesse paid the horrific price instead of Walt.
Perfect: The Stakes Have Never Been Higher
Breaking Bad is amazing at building suspense. The audience sat at the edge of their seats in season 3’s “Full Measure” when Jesse was on his way to kill Gale and in season 4’s “Salud” when Gus murdered the entire cartel with a single bottle of tequila. But the stakes were never as high as they were in season 5.
From Walt ordering murders of nine inmates and a lawyer in “Gliding Over All” to the entire plot of “Ozymandias,” season 5 was fast-paced, intense, and heartwrenching to watch.
Letdown: The First Half Was Too Slow
“Gliding All Over” was the last episode of the first part of season 5 and it seemed that it was only then that the writers woke up from a deep slumber. The first half of the season was dedicated to Walt, Jesse, and Mike trying to set up their own shop, which was clearly a failure from the get-go. Some scenes were tragicomical, such as the scene in “Buyout” where Jesse ate dinner with Walt and Skyler.
It didn’t seem like Mike to agree to work with Walt since he never trusted him in the first place. In that regard, Mike’s death was truly anticlimactic.
Perfect: The Ending Was Brilliant
While some great shows managed to disappoint their fan bases with their finales, Breaking Bad was consistently good from the beginning until the end. Walt wasn’t killed by his enemies or cancer, but rather by his own bullet, dying with his empire while in charge of his own fate. He tied up all the loose ends which brought fans a sense of closure.
He did right by Jesse, Skyler, and the psychopathic white supremacists, redeeming himself after a season of being an insufferable character.