Cose da leggere (e ascoltare, e guardare) sul finale di Breaking Bad

Nei giorni scorsi ho pubblicato su Twitter link e citazioni di molte letture sul finale di una delle serie che mi hanno appassionato, provocato, sfidato ed emozionato maggiormente negli ultimi anni, Breaking Bad. Qualcuno ha apprezzato molto queste condivisioni, ma qualcosa può essersi persa per strada, così ho deciso di raggruppare qui tutto quello che ha destato il mio interesse, escludendo i post più banali e integrando ciò che avevo mancato di condividere.

Consiglio, prima di proseguire, di leggere i commenti dei lettori di Vulture all’episodio, di recuperare l’intervento del cast della serie da Conan e di ascoltare almeno le ultime puntate del podcast ufficiale.

Alcune recensioni sono entusiaste, alcuni articoli sono molto critici, ma in ogni caso le riflessioni sull’episodio, e sulla serie nel complesso, hanno stimolato una discussione articolata e stratificata, che parte da Breaking Bad per arrivare alla Televisione in generale, per approdare infine ai concetti di Bene e Male. I grassetti negli estratti sono miei.

Quale modo migliore di cominciare se non citando le parole di Vince Gilligan stesso, intervistato da Entertainment Weekly. Per esempio, Walt ha pagato per i suoi peccati o l’ha fatta franca?

It’s in the eye of the viewer. Dying is not necessarily paying for one’s sins. I certainly hope it’s not, because the nicest people that have ever lived are going to die eventually. So it could be argued instead that he did get away with it because he never got the cuffs put on him. But he’s expired before the cops show up. [...] He’s with the thing he seems to love the most in the world, which is his work and his meth lab and he just doesn’t care about being caught because he knows he’s on the way out. So it could be argued that he pays for his sins at the end or it could just as easily be argued that he gets away with it.

Proseguiamo ora con il solito Matt Zoller Seitz, che scrive su Vulture:

But that’s what it was: an illusion. For all intents and purposes, Walter White died when he said good-bye to Skyler in “Ozymandias” and entered Saul Goodman’s makeshift private version of witness protection. In this episode and last week’s, we were really watching a ghost, at times vengeful and terrifying, but mostly sad and hopeless. [...] “Felina” isn’t just a finale, but a comment on finales, and the finale’s creative and marketplace need to satisfy as many viewers as possible, whether they saw a show’s main character as a super-cool antihero, a pathetic scumbag, something in between, or none of the above. [...] It was satisfying in one sense yet weirdly anticlimactic in another. Why? Maybe because “Ozymandias” already felt like the show’s emotional and philosophical climax. [...] The key exchange in the episode, and the one that cuts the most sharply against anybody reading “Felina” as saying that somehow “Walt won,” comes during that kitchen conversation with Skyler. She thinks Walt is about to repeat that moldy canard about how he did it all for his family, but to her astonishment — and ours — he instead says, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really … I was alive.” This is not an explanation or a justification. It’s the first bluntly honest thing Walt has said to Skyler in quite some time. It’s a confession, not in the legal sense, but in the religious sense: the capital-C Catholic sense. Bless him, viewer, for he has sinned. In death, the camera rises over him, looking down. How small he seems.

Emily Nussbaum ha una teoria interessante sull’episodio, di cui ho già scritto. Non ha apprezzato particolarmente l’episodio, in quanto in un certo senso esce dal binario su cui ha viaggiato la serie. Ecco un estratto del suo pezzo:

I mean, wouldn’t this finale have made far more sense had the episode ended on a shot of Walter White dead, frozen to death, behind the wheel of a car he couldn’t start? Certainly, everything that came after that moment possessed an eerie, magical feeling—from the instant that key fell from the car’s sun visor, inside a car that was snowed in. Walt hit the window, the snow fell off, and we were off to the races. Even within this stylized series, there was a feeling of unreality—and a strikingly different tone from the episode that preceded this one.

Ma non tutti ritengono che la serie abbiamo tradito se stessa nel finale. Ecco le parole di James Poniewozik:

“Felina,” the last episode ever of the magnificent series Breaking Bad, was a kind of machine gun of narrative, knocking down all of those questions with auto-fire efficiency. (Well, almost all. Sorry, Huell!) It was not flashy. It wasn’t structurally ambitious, in the way other Breaking Bad episodes have been. It was not, in most respects, surprising. (Except for Walt’s laundering scheme with Gretchen and Elliott, I think I saw nearly everything predicted, at least in general terms, by people besides me in the last week.) [...] And that’s OK. Because what “Felina” was–as effective, satisfying series finales are–was true. It was true to the five seasons that preceded it, true to Walter White’s obsessions and pride, and true to what Breaking Bad is at heart: a Western. [...] And “Felina,” in some of its most powerful moments, is also conscious of what Walt cannot engineer. He cannot get his family to love him again. Skyler lets him see his baby Holly one last time, but she does not offer her forgiveness. And he can only take what he knows is his last look at Walt Jr. from a distance, knowing that his son’s last words will be wishing for his death and that he is going off to grant that wish. You don’t have to like Walt to empathize with him here; whether he deserves love, he did once love.

Sulla fine della serie, sono particolarmente interessanti le parole di uno degli autori, Peter Gould, intervistato da Aaron Couch per The Hollywood Reporter:

When we were working on the series, we always talked about “When does he see himself the way we see him? When does he realize the ends don’t justify the means?” We eventually realized, “That’s the end of the show.” When he’s no longer lying to himself, that is truly the end for Walt. [...] What he’s given up is the recognition. He’s driven so much by the desire to have other people see him as an important, meaningful, powerful guy. Even to the point of boasting to Hank when Hank thought he had caught Heisenberg. Doing this and not getting acknowledgement for it from his family, you may say it’s a little, tiny bit of progress for him. [...] In the end, does it redeem him? How can you redeem yourself after all this death? I don’t think it is redemption. But I think it is a tiny bit of insight.

Ecco di nuovo l’ottimo James Poniewozik, qui sulla mancata redenzione di Walt:

And yet at heart the finale is doing something really difficult—or rather, asking the audience to do it: recognizing that Walt has done things, and been things, that cannot simply be erased by creatively rigging a garage-door opener. [...] “Felina” does make an effort to please everyone as much as possible—particularly to assure the audience that the Whites will be okay. Yet the finale also asks the audience to balance seeing Walt give them what they (presumably want)—vengeance, solutions—with the recognition that Walt himself cannot just break good again. [...] Breaking Bad committed to the premise that Walt could fix a lot of things in his last days on Earth, but he couldn’t fix Walt. And it trusted its viewers to know the difference.

Laurie Winer, oltre a scrivere del finale, spiega l’impatto che ha avuto sugli spettatori e sulla società in generale, e ciò che ha generato nella comunità online, in televisione, sui giornali. Ritorna inoltre su alcuni “piccoli” momenti della serie, momenti che non vanno dimenticati.

Breaking Bad sparked a national dialogue with astonishing range and depth. The show’s messages and metaphors were dissected in synagogues and churches, on op-ed pages, in universities, and on global news sites [...] Breaking Bad also fulfills our infantile need to feel terror, but so does any film by Michael Bay. What attracts devotion, though, is that the show pushes us to confront some very basic issues: What does it mean to get emotionally involved with fictional characters? What happens when we identify with them? How do we understand their moral dilemmas? How do we understand their capacity for evil? What does it do to our own moral sense to go so far down the road with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman? The show stretches our capacity to understand Byzantine intrigue while intelligently challenging our sense of morality, and it reminds us of something we try to forget: that none of us are immune from being plunged tomorrow into an abyss with no moral markers.

Laura Hudson di Wired condivide il pensiero di altri critici, e ritiene che l’episodio sembri scritto da Walter White stesso. Mi piace la sua idea che i finali di Breaking Bad siano in qualche modo tre, e trovo convincente la sua posizione sulla corruzione morale di Walter White:

It’s almost like the show has had three finales: “Ozymandias,” the devastating, dramatic ending; “Granite State,” the tragic but honest ending; and now “Felina,” which is essentially the feel-good ending, insofar as Breaking Bad is capable of having one. Yes, it checks off a lot of boxes — killing all the people we hate, and none of the ones we like — but that’s actually the problem. It reads like wish-fulfillment, like someone asked Walt how he wanted it to end and then wrote it down. [...] All of this started because Walter White wanted to take control over his life, and to go out on his own terms. [...] In exchange, all he had to do was murder, manipulate, blackmail and either ruin or sacrifice everyone and everything in his life. And rather than concluding that this was a terrible, selfish mistake, Walt seems… mostly content with how it works out in the end, like it was really a pretty fair trade after all. I can’t imagine a more tragic sentiment, or a more brutal indictment of Walt’s character. [...] I can’t quite shake the empty feeling, as though something meaningful has been traded for something pleasurable. Walter White didn’t just get off easy; he got what he wanted, the way he always has, and convinced us all to let him get away with it. In short, he won.

Margaret Lyons ricorda uno dei momenti più toccanti dell’episodio, la fantasia di Jesse che riporta ad un episodio della sua vita. Questo momento, seguito dalla fuga, costituisce dunque un happy ending per il personaggio:

We got to see him build that imaginary box, though, which means there’s still a piece of a Good-and-True Jesse in there somewhere — the part of him that Walt and Gus and Tuco and Hector and Mike and Gale and Hank didn’t reach. That’s the part that makes Jesse’s escape a happy ending and not just the next chapter in his book of misery. “The romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature,” Vince Gilligan tells EW. Jesse can’t go back in time, but at least there’s reason to think he could move forward and not just drown in his own guilt. He’s got plenty of time now to apply himself.

Il buon Alan Sepinwall ha apprezzato la chiusura netta dello show, ma d’altro canto l’ha ritenuta fin troppo “pulita”:

Breaking Bad itself has been very orderly and precise, Walter White has not been. Walt is reckless. He doesn’t think things through, and even when he does, his plans rarely go off without a hitch. [...] So for the finale to feature Walt largely operating solo (with the occasional small bit of help from Skinny Pete or Jim Beaver) and having everything work out as planned — with the sort of precision one might have expected from the watch Walt left behind at the gas station pay phone — didn’t feel exactly like the kind of ending I might have expected from this show. [...] This last stretch of episodes has been so incredible that nothing short of epic failure at the very end would have knocked Breaking Bad off its perch. [...] This is one of the greatest shows of my lifetime, and nothing in this concluding chapter changes that. But it also felt so neat, and so orderly, in such an un-Breaking Bad sort of way, that I don’t think I can give the show bonus points for its last episode in the same way that “The Shield” or “Six Feet Under” get extra credit for their finales. [...] So for the finale to feature Walt largely operating solo (with the occasional small bit of help from Skinny Pete or Jim Beaver) and having everything work out as planned — with the sort of precision one might have expected from the watch Walt left behind at the gas station pay phone — didn’t feel exactly like the kind of ending I might have expected from this show.

Andy Greenwald, su Grantland:

Breaking Bad, though shocking, never completely surprised: rather, it announced itself at nearly every turn. “Chemistry is the study of change,” Mr. White told his students at the start, and everything that followed did so accordingly. There was nothing in the final exam that hadn’t been covered in class. This was television as a science experiment: Every action had a purpose and, more important, it had an equal and opposite reaction. [...] After successive weeks spent watching terrible things happen to non-terrible people, it was a little strange watching Walt tiptoe through the minefield he himself had laid. [...] I don’t know if “Felina” let Walt off too easy — I mean, he did die — but maybe it was too easy on us. [...] Breaking Bad was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and it’s something I doubt we’ll experience again. Aligning all the elements that made it great, from actors, to writers, to that impossibly blue New Mexico sky, is unlikely to be repeated. [...] Breaking Bad wasn’t a procedural and it wasn’t (exactly) a period piece. It was a mystery box filled with working gears and expertly soldered wires.

Damon Lindelof scrive del finale di Lost, e di come non sia facile scriverne essendo lui quello che ha “rovinato Lost”. Un post a tratti toccante (“Alcoholics are smart enough to not walk into a bar. My bar is Twitter. It’s Comic-Con. It’s anytime someone asks me to write an article even casually relating to Lost.”) che vale assolutamente la pena di leggere:

All story is reflective, designed to illuminate its own characters and the themes surrounding them. When a show is as brilliant as Breaking Bad, it’s not just about the people we’re watching, it’s about those watching them. About us. In other words, the better the show, the deeper it forces you to look at yourself.

Breaking Bad cambierà il cinema? Se lo chiede Zachary Wigon, e nel farlo riflette sulle differenze tra narrazione cinematografica e narrazione seriale.

[Breaking Bad,] in its ruthlessly effective displays of narrative economy – never a plot element introduced that didn’t come to “pay off” in some fashion – and breathtakingly complicated plotlines (like Walt’s ongoing attempts to assassinate boss/nemesis Gus Fring), the show was able to build an almost unbearably heightened narrative tension – wound so tightly it made you feel like you were about to snap! – that no Hollywood film has ever achieved. [...] No, the reason Breaking Bad was able to build a kind of tension that Hollywood thrillers and action films aren’t able to match is simple: Breaking Bad had more time. One of the distinct advantages of being able to helm a 62-episode TV series is that you’re given the narrative real estate to build out heretofore unimaginably complex plotlines…

Maureen Ryan, che seguo da un po’ anche ascoltando il suo podcast Talking TV With Ryan and Ryan (qui la puntata sul finale di BB) è delusa da questa conclusione, ma non è particolarmente sorpresa: spesso non sono i finali nei moderni drama televisivi a contare davvero, al contrario delle puntata che li precedono (avevo già letto o sentito una teoria simile ma purtroppo non ricordo la fonte). Un punto in particolare sul quale mi sento di concordare riguarda Jesse. Ecco un estratto del suo articolo:

In the future, I can’t imagine many people will think of this as a classic hour of “Breaking Bad.” Gilligan himself called “Ozymandias” the finest hour the show ever produced [...] It’s fairly common for cable shows to kick out the jams in their penultimate episodes, but Breaking Bad went out in a slightly different way. “Ozymandias,” the third-from-last installment, had an almost unbearable impact. In many ways, that hour felt like the show’s final destination; the story and the people went furthest they could go in a dozen ways. [...] “Felina” was not that. The last two episodes, for all their good moments and sturdy attributes, feel like mopping-up exercises, to some extent. Perhaps the choices made at the start of Season 5 ultimately constricted and constrained what the last hours could do. I wasn’t expecting another “Ozymandias,” but a finale that was often concerned with logistical details and a plot to get rid of minor characters wasn’t quite what I was expecting either. [...] Jesse’s absence was especially pronounced in the finale, and that may partly account for why the last hour felt kind of lopsided and off. [...] Jesse was the catalyst that greatly enhanced and sped up the chemical reaction that had already begun in Mr. White. But he was also the tortured soul who gave us a vital prism through which we could view Walt’s actions, his mixture of self-pity and regret, self-loathing and arrogance. Jesse’s humanity was a key part of the Breaking Bad cooking process. Why, then, did Jesse get around the same amount of screen time as Lydia, Todd or Jack? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he got out of his Nazi hell and his exulting screams as he drove away were terrific. But he was missed in the end. Walt may have been the great brain behind “Breaking Bad,” but Jesse was its heart.

Sonny, oltre a tornare sulla questione “morale” di Breaking Bad, traccia una interessante parallelo su due capolavori della televisione seriale, The Sopranos e The Wire, che consiglio vivamente (vi sto puntando una pistola alla tempia) di guardare.

Che l’America facendo questa televisione non faccia altro che descrivere se stessa non è in discussione. Nei Soprano, in The Wire e Breaking Bad ci sono forma e stile, differenti gradi di metafora, analogia e allegoria ma nessuno dei tre manca il punto, cioè di descrivere il nichilismo dei moderni Stati Uniti d’America, la vitalità vandalica, l’erotismo “maligno”, la vertigine del godimento senza freni. [...] The Sopranos estroflette quel nulla nevrotico che caratterizza l’anonimità della vita mostrando che dentro a Tony, una delle incarnazioni del male, non c’è nulla di diverso da ciò che c’è anche in noi [...] Il male non è diverso da noi, solo un’occasione mancata o perduta. [...] The Wire descrive il male nelle sue declinazioni istituzionali, mostrando un mondo che rivolge la pulsione di morte contro se stesso e così si consuma. [...] Per quanto Ozymandias sia un episodio stratosferico, è Granite State l’episodo chiave per comprendere la trasformazione finale di Mr. White. E’ durante il periodo di riflessione forzata nel casotto in New Hampshire che finalmente Mr. White diventa Heisenberg. Lo fa in realtà lasciando proprio Heisenberg, abbandonando quell’essere reattivo, impaurito e paranoico che è stato il suo alter ego, un mito costruito, come ben sappiamo, a dispetto della cialtroneria (per quanto geniale cialtroneria) di Walt. E’ nel momento in cui non ha più bisogno di una maschera che può fare quello che ha sempre desiderato, salvare la famiglia, vendicarsi di Gretchen e Elliot Schwarz e, a latere, salvare pure Jesse. Tuttavia non c’è nulla di nobile in questo, non perché il processo di congruenza fra la personalità di Walt e il mito di Heisenberg sia, di nuovo, un processo sanguinoso, ma perché è soltanto un’altra messa in scena: è il male che vuole farsi bene, cioè quello che ha sempre preteso di essere.

Ancora dall’accostamento di Breaking Bad e The Wire scaturiscono le riflessioni di Quit the Doner per Vice. Post estremamente interessante sulla “verità” di Breaking Bad, con alcune comprensibili riserve sul finale:

The Wire era la narrazione a più livelli del fallimento del capitalismo americano come sistema in cui anche se tutti si propongono di fare la cosa giusta, l’assurdità intrinseca alle istituzioni, alle leggi, alle gerarchie e alle pratiche di potere finisce inevitabilmente per portare al risultato opposto: la vittoria del “male”. [...] Breaking Bad, invece, è una serie che stringe il proprio sguardo dal malfunzionamento della macchina sociale alla tragedia esistenziale di un singolo uomo. Riconosce come dato di fatto alcuni elementi contraddittori della società e partendo da un sistema che ha imbrigliato il talento e la volontà di potenza di un uomo, mette il protagonista di fronte ad un’“esperienza di morte”. [...] Anche se Walter White doveva morire o finire in carcere questo non ci impedisce di capire le sue ragioni, la sua tragedia, ed empatizzare con lui. È in questa contraddizione in termini che va in frantumi un altro archetipo, quello della giustizia. Walter è cattivo, ma una parte di noi lo capisce. E vuole comprarsi un capello buffo. [...] Serie come Breaking Bad piacciono per la loro perfezione drammaturgica, per l’abilità eccezionale degli attori ma anche perché grazie all’accuratezza del risultato finale rappresentano piccole riserve indiane di verità all’interno dell’incessante fluire mediatico di menzogne aziendali e politiche. Le narrazioni seriali di qualità interrompono la liturgia del falso e con le loro storie predicano ai telespettatori sincerità su se stessi e sul fatto di essere umani. Lo spettatore sa che c’è più verità nel ritratto di Walter White che non nelle promesse di un politico o nello slogan di uno shampoo o di un cellulare.

Tra quelli che hanno apprezzato il finale, cito Zachary Zahos:

After all that change, all that bloodshed, all those montages and minerals, Vince Gilligan ends it all on a note of startling, almost uplifting finality. I want to give him either a standing ovation or a punch in the face. The latter more as a coping mechanism because, come on, does he expect Homeland to fill the gap he’s left us?

Infine, per concludere su note più leggere, ecco Stephen Colbert che incontra Vince Gilligan (guardate il video circa dal minuto 11:00). Interessanti soprattutto alcuni punti, come quando Colbert chiede a Gilligan quando quest’ultimo ha “perso Walter White”, ovvero non è più riuscito a empatizzare con il personaggio. Il momento, per Gilligan, è la tristemente famosa battuta “I watched Jane die”.

Scritto da il 3/10/2013 in Best of Feelmaking, Television.