Your Headcanon Is Bad: Why Walter White Is Alive Until He's Not
April 14, 2016
People on the internet love to come up with headcanons. I love headcanons. Of course Gravity Falls takes place in the same universe as Night Vale. Of course Harry Potter is Pakistani. Of course Krysten Ritter's character in Jessica Jones is a future Chloe from Don't Trust The B In Apartment 23 who has survived trauma and discovered super powers. (And Chloe in turn is Lucy from Gilmore Girls after she graduated Yale and moved to New York.)
TV shows only give us 22 or 43 minute glimpses into a world. Headcanons can open up that world. They can show us people who aren't normally represented in mainstream entertainment. Or they can circumscribe and hobble their universe.
One fan theory about Breaking Bad states that Walter White actually died at the beginning of Felina. He froze to death in that car in New Hampshire - his final words, "Just get me home and I'll do the rest." This theory postulates that the final episode is an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge-style hallucination as he bleeds out where he can imagine doing the rest. This theory can be comprehended. Everything that happens after that plea has a bit of the deus ex machina about it. But that theory destroys a finale that actually managed to be a rare thing in serialized television: satisfying.
By the last season of Breaking Bad, Walter is done breaking. He is broken. Walter White is irredeemable. Reasonable people may disagree about when Walt reached the point of no return. For some it's killing Gale. Others think that final step is poisoning a child. I personally think that Walter breaks when he lets Jane die. (That may be my undying love for Krystan Ritter showing.) But we can all agree that Walt does not deserve a happy ending. He does not deserve his family or his money or his empire. By the final episode, all Walt can hope for is to rest.
Walt spends the last episode trying to undo - or at least mitigate - all of the damage he has done. He provides for the welfare of his family, and he does so mostly in secret. He confronts his old Gray Matter partners. He gave gives them nearly $9 million to put in a trust for Flynn. This is mostly a practical matter. Flynn won't take anything from Walt at this point, and even if he did, the Feds would certainly seize it before you could say Heisenburg. He tells Elliott and Gretchen "This is where you get to make it right." At first that line - all of his posturing in that scene - seems like more one who knocks, always blaming someone else for his problems bullshit. But in actuality, in this moment, Walt gives up ever taking credit for providing for his family. How it must have wounded his famous pride to know that Flynn could never know where the largess he is to receive on his 18th birthday really came from.
Then Walt stops worrying about himself for long enough to realize that Jesse is still being held prisoners by the Nazis Walt sold him out to. He makes a plan to take down Uncle Jack's crew. He will free Jesse and keep his family safe.
Then he meets with Skyler. And he confesses to her. Not all of his various crimes, those are only too well known at this point, but rather the fact that he did it not because he was sick or worried about money or providing for his family, but because he liked it. He tells her, "I did it for me." Walt confesses his hubris, a thing that even the most casual viewers have long known tone his fatal flaw.
Having confessed, Walt is redeemed and he is allowed not a happy ending, but instead finally to rest. He is finally allowed to die.
I suppose you could argue that Walt was already dead. Finding the keys in the visor is a pretty convenient coincidence. It makes sense that a dying man would fantasize about putting his affairs in order. But we have an opportunity here to choose between a universe where there is redemption and a universe where there is none. Given that choice, why would you choose the option that makes a lesser story.
About the author:
Tina blogs about She-Hulk at jenniferwaltersesq.tumblr. She hopes this article helps you get laid.
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