It's been a great ride but there's only one episode left of what is perhaps the greatest TV series ever invented. We here at Collegetimes are not ready to accept that however and so in the build-up to the Season 5 finale ("Felina"), we are bathing in the glory that has been the show up until this point. This article will examine how the series' main character has developed; from his transformative appearance to his jaw-dropping changes of heart. Just how did the humble, bespectacled chemistry teacher without any prospects for the future become the harsh, merciless, bespectacled devil he is now?
1) The Fatal Decision
In the pilot episode, Walt makes the decision to cook meth with ex-student Jesse Pinkman. While still the stuffy, timid chemistry teacher, he has taken a decisive step that he knows will change his life- he just doesn't anticipate how much. Financial prospects are dim and the onset of his lung cancer has injected an element into his mind, once foreign to him: spontaneity. He has accelerated his life and he must learn to direct the course as best as he can.
2) The Next Big Bang
Walt has made a daring decision which will require secrecy as he leads his normal life. He has not changed completely though. He is quite content with getting about his business as he sees it; another job. Fate intervenes however and a dumb deal with Tuco Salamanca soon throws him back into the deep. Having beaten up Jesse, Tuco holds onto the meth Walt cooked and keeps the cash. Walt now must make another decision; to step up or to step down. He chooses the former in spectacular fashion, arriving at Tuco's with a shaved head and a new attitude, blowing up half the floor with a substance Tuco believes to be meth. Having established himself as a figure not to be messed with, he walks away with a new order ready to go (in greater size) and the money Jesse was screwed out of. Heisenberg is born.
3) Long-Term Plans
Season 2 sees Walt and Jesse trying to find a new way to distribute their meth. Walt remains the sour cook throughout but is soon forced to consider what will happen in the long-term when partner Jesse, becomes increasingly unreliable following the murder of friend and dealer Combo by another drug-gang. He falls in deep with the wrong kind and starts taking heroin (as you do) with a no-good girlfriend called Jane. Walt naturally despises her, especially when she threatens to blackmail him should he not give up Jesse's half of the money earned. When she begins to vomit in her sleep, after an overdose, Walt (who has come to gather meth for a deal), makes his most crucial decision yet. He decides to let her die because in the long-term, he needs Jesse and nobody to threaten him. His will to secure his future and dispose of any potential dangers reaches a new wrath of coldness here and there is no going back. Bryan Cranston has described this as the one of the most significant moments in the character's transformation.
4) Reckless In Pride
Gale's murder was a necessary precaution but in Season 4, we begin to see Walt's desperation leading him to new levels. Despite the fact that Gus meant to have him killed and he has greater things to worry about, he still manages to become reckless in his pride however. When Hank says that he believes Gale was a "genius" and the Heisenberg he's been hunting, a tipsy Walt disagrees and suggests that perhaps the real man Hank's been chasing is still out there. This has been called one of Walt's most stupid moments by many a fan but it serves as a clear indication that he has become arrogant in his ways. After all, suggesting this "theory" to Hank has no benefit for him at all! Likewise, we can see this arrogance carry over to leaving the "W.W." inscribed book in his bathroom which Hank later discovers.
5) The One Who Knocked Brock
Is poisoning a child ever right? This is a difficult question to answer considering Walt's predicament. When he takes this step in order to convince Jesse that Gus cannot be trusted however, he takes what is perhaps considered his cruellest move ever. Jane was trouble. It was Gale or him. Brock though...Brock is an innocent kid. In his delirious quest to save his own life and kill Gus' (as a pre-emptive strike), he nevertheless sees this as the essential next step. His earlier assetion to Skyler (in the episode "Cornered") that he is the "danger" ("the one who knocks") becomes manifested in his character from this point on. Walt can no longer be traced back to the man we first met in 2008.
6) Say My Name
Towards the end of Season 5A, Walt is moving all the pieces. He has become the Scarface like figure once promised by Vince Gilligan and Skyler can no longer stand the toxic environment he created. She tries to kill herself and Walt doesn't even seem to care. The greatest moments of Season 5 may have waited for this year but in 2012, we saw the man become the king the posters advertised. In the episode"Say My Name," where he utters these words to drug dealers, we can see how far he has come. Even they tremble at the mention of "Heisenberg" and nobody, not even Mike, can persuade Walt to follow any path other than his own. Saul too is bound on this rollercoaster against his will and the final supposed threats are eliminated in Mike and the men he promised wouldn't say anything in prison. The only problem for Walt is however Hank now...
The last seven episodes have seen an acceleration of action and Walt too must act to survive in this new environment. There are probably a great deal of moments one could cite as highlights of his transformed character but I think the next great progression can be seen in the aftermath of Hank's death. Walt already ordered a hit on Jesse and used Andrea and Brock as bait but the look on his face when he recovers from the shock of his brother-in-law's death is testimony to how great an actor Bryan Cranston is. He is beyond grief and beyond anger; a merciless judge who gives Jesse up and goes on with what business he can. His empire has crumbled, his money is gone and his family will no longer abide him, but he won't give up.
8) The Last Ride
At the beginning of Season 5, we saw Walt sitting at a diner on his 52nd birthday, with a beard, hair and new glasses. His time spent in New Hampshire has made him beyond recognisable and while he is still filled with rage (as evidence of the conclusion of this week's episode), there is a sense of forlorn regret and sadness about him. He leaves the waitress a handsome tip, purchases a large gun and retrieves the ricin from his house. We know his cancer is back and it is likely that he is not long for this world but the grave expression he exhibits may indicate that the man we once knew, as Gretchen Schwartz said, is long "gone." Will there be a chance for redemption or will this be Walt's last ride?
What do you think? Are there any moments you would consider transformative and particularly significant? What do you think will happen in the finale? Next Monday, all will be revealed!