THE DIVINE CURTAIN CALL
In many ways “Felina” shares its almost surreal quality with the pilot. There’s no rush, no racing against time, Walt strikes us as an outside force, rather the overseer. There is a definitive yet vague timeframe (Walt’s 52nd birthday) but the scenes come across more as vivid visions that could even be perceived out out-of-context segments and Walt is strangely at peace, drifting in and out of the scenery like a ghost. The same stillness was present during Walt’s early morning routine in 1.01, his diagnosis, the reflective poolside moment, etc. giving the pilot a soothing, yet gloomy heavenly vibe. So fittingly, this life-or-death mission starts with Walt praying to a mysterious entity: “Just get me home, I’ll do the rest.” – Is it God, the Devil, Heisenberg, his own will or the all-seeing teddy bear eyeball that’s watched over his actions ever since the collision? Of course we’ve seen this scenario play out when the good old Crystal ship broke down, slightly in 1.02 (“The RV is going to start right now!”) and then when it turned into Walt and Jesse’s tomb/liberating ark in the desert (2.09). That same force empowered him to stand against all odds, as it does in “Felina”.
- “The universe is random, it’s not inevitable, it’s simple chaos. It’s subatomic particles in endless aimless collision. That’s what science teaches us, but what is this saying?” (3.10) – From that point onward, Walt is unstoppable, everything works according to plan; he’s godlike. His fearsome, elaborate schemes remind us of the Heisenberg persona, but what we’re watching is something entirely different. This is Walt at his most (technically!) vulnerable yet most fearless and confident. He’s no longer struggling with the dread of losing it all, that’s already happened. He’s deluded himself into thinking he’d somehow make it all right, and yet he’s honest with himself in the sense of accepting who he’s become, a monster. And so at Schwartz’s’ place, he symbolically closes the curtains for his final act before the real show begins as the glorious operatic piece is playing in the background (strangely enough, the new house happens to be near an opera house…). It’s Walt’s last stand, his grand finale, the epic battle against destiny. He’s turned into the almighty creator, a delusional yet chillingly sincere prophet of his own, with more than a few miracles up his sleeve.
- Notice this amazing shot right after the magical shootout takes place: it captures the (un)holy props that work together to set Jesse’s soul free, the car keys, the opened cuffs lying on the ground and the handgun which is there to offer him the final “choice”.
- After all, Marty Robbins‘ song, “El Paso” (featuring the episode’s title, Felina – also an anagram for ‘finale’), foreshadows the events that are bound to happen, as Walt dies after saving Jesse: “Felina is strong and I rise where I’ve fallen, though I am weary I can’t stop to rest. I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle, I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.” – Is divine intervention in order, or does it all just happen by accident? Has Walt morphed into the omnipresent god of his self-made wonderland in the final transformation/molting phase or is it just about the inevitable effects of the ripples caused by his choices? Notice how once again in a visually similar sequence, Walt magically finds the key to his salvation which in thematically relevant cases of 1.03 and 5.07 led to his damnation:
- Adding to the mystical elements of the episode there’s a recurring number: In a karma-ridden turn of events, a bullet bounces off the number 10, Walt finds Lydia and Todd at 10:00 AM and gives Badger and Skinny Pete 10 grand each so they would ‘feel better’ about the operation (then again he paid $10 thousand for the one hour company of Ed the disappearer in 5.15). Junior’s 18th birthday is in 10 months and 2 days and Walt leaves nearly $10 million or so for his family. If we we were to find some other significant ’10s’, there’s Dr. Hall’s $10 savings bond fitting Walt’s buyout, in 5.08 as a figure of speech Skyler tells Walt that they’ve got more money than they could spend in 10 lifetimes and in the same episode Walt hits 10 inmates within 2-minutes.
- And if we stepped even further into the ridiculously far-fetched territory, the 10th episodes of each season features Walt at his weakest and yet most honest. In “Over” his grudge against Hank truly shows, he regrets his decisions and almost confesses to letting Jane die in “Fly”, breaks down in tears in front of Junior in “Salud” and in “Buried” begs Skyler to give his money to their children. In all four occasions we find Walt in a symbolic comatose state, either drunk, drowsy or light-headed.
- “A kind of countdown will begin…” – No longer bound by fate or the concept of time, Walt marks his demise by leaving the Steve McQueen gift watch on the phonebooth; he’s gliding over all, through all, through time and space. However, as stated by Vince Gilligan in the 5.16 Talking Bad episode they had to have him remove the watch since he wasn’t wearing it in the 5.01 flash-forward, with the ‘artsy-fartsy’ reason being to have him sever ties with Jesse who’d given it to him on his 51st birthday. Then again, this is the same watch he placed on “Leaves of grass” before his downfall would come through Hank’s fateful discovery, as the ticks of doom echoed in the final shot of 5.04. Also notice the shots of Walt closing metaphorical doors to his life:
- Free from (meta)physical constraints, Almighty-Lambert walks among shadows, hides in plain sight and appears out of nowhere, like the ghost of Walter White that he’s turned into, at least in Gretchen’s words. We see this happen more than once throughout the episode:
- Also, he’s inherited dissolve-camouflage tactics from yet another one of his victims, Mike:
- Naturally, being the ‘overseer’, Walt’s once again one step ahead of us as in “Face-Off” (also written and directed by Gilligan), as the universe of the show folds in on itself. We know what he’s planning to achieve, but are not sure how he’s going to pull it off. In both scenarios Walt builds a device to hit a particular target, poisons someone, hides in plain sight, rescues Jesse and in the end reconciles with him, well, sort of. This also fits the concept of perfection discussed in the last section, evolved from illusive deception to illusive sincerity: after losing everything in 5.14/4.11 and facing powerlessness in 5.15/4.12, suddenly everything works to his advantage in 5.16/4.13 as Walt miraculously gains the upper hand and wins the game.
- Even visual parallels could be drawn between the two finales: Walt’s apparel, features his signature green shirt in both scenarios while the beige jacket+trousers from 5.16 contrasts the openly-Heisenberg-worthy dark ones from 4.13. Also notice shots featuring deserted shacks/cabins:
- From another angle, Walt’s ultimate miraculous act is reminiscent of Gus’ elaborate plan in eliminating his cartel nemesis in 4.10. Walt drives the Trojan car into the compound same way Gus managed to brilliantly and inconspicuously smuggle the poisoned tequila as a gift, all the while appearing to be ‘working for them’. Also Jesse and Mike strangle some nasty fellow in both scenarios.
- On the other hand, the machine gun mechanism squeaking and eerie movements of Kenny’s massage chair bring a similar sequence from 2.02 to mind, with Jesse’s bullet-ridden lowrider bouncing and the remaining bottles rattling following the Hank/Tuco shootout:
- Speaking of Walt once again inheriting traits from his victims and employers, he lets Lydia know that he’s indeed won the game and that she’s a goner, same way Gus indirectly affirmed his victory while talking for the last time with Juan Bolsa over the phone in 3.08. In both scenarios, Walt and Gus get rid of their cell-phone afterwards:
Next: That Homie’s Dead…