If there’s one criticism I have with the major criticism of the Breaking Bad finale, it’s that it’s a silly, nitpicking criticism that doesn’t deserve the amount of copy that it has inspired. It’s “too perfect.” It was “too satisfying” It’s “too pat.” It’s “too neat.” These are actual criticisms that have inspired millions of words around the Internet since late Sunday night. Oh, boo hoo. People are complaining because Vince Gilligan gave too many people too much of what they wanted.
Too predictable? That I understand, to a point. You can almost draw a straight line from the flash-forwards at the beginnings of season 5A and 5B to the finale. It was the Occam’s Razor of series finales: Keep it simple. Give them what they want. But that’s kind of the overriding principle in Chekhov’s gun: Every element in a narrative should be necessary and irreplaceable, and that’s exactly what the final season of Breaking Bad was: Every plot point in the final eight episodes was designed to get us to the finale we got. There were no red herrings. A surprise, twist ending likely would have had to disregard some of those elements. If Lydia had dropped references to Stevia all season long, and Walter had slipped the ricin into Uncle Jack’s flask, well, that would’ve been dumb, and people would be complaining about all the unnecessary and replaceable references to Stevia.
No, Vince Gilligan did not outsmart the Internet, and yes, many of the events in the finale had been predicted by a wide variety of people on the Interent. You want a trick, unpredictable ending? Watch the series finale of Dexter. You know why it’s so unpredictable? Because no one could’ve predicted something that dumb. A LUMBERJACK, FOR GOD’S SAKE.
Granted, I am one of the many people who tried to overthink the ending, who predicted a bleak, unsatisfying, divisive finale, and if I had been right, the ending would’ve probably felt forced, and the criticisms the morning after would’ve been a lot more critical than, “Oh, it was too perfect,” which really is the television critic equivalent of a first-world problem. Vince Gilligan drew a map, he set a path, and he stayed the course. Instead of surprising us and crashing his car into a ditch in the finale, he flawlessly parallel parked in front of his destination. Now people have the audacity to complain because the car fit too perfectly into the space.
Not to get too far afield here, but despite the ridiculously ill-time criticism lobbed against Damon Lindelof after the Breaking Bad finale because Lost did not — in the opinion of some — stick the landing as well as Breaking Bad did. Lost kind of did the same thing. Lindelof gave us the ending that we had been predicting, and you know why so many people predicted it? Because it was the ending that made the most sense, and yet, when it arrived, viewers went ballistic (the problem with Lost was not the ending, so much as the fact that they mislead us into thinking it wasn’t the ending we knew it would be). Gilligan also gave us the ending that made the most sense, but instead of going ballistic, we complained that it was “too neat” because critics have to complain about something, I guess (see, e.g., this post). It’s the Internet age, after all – it’s the same place where people complain because Kate Upton is fat. That’s how the complaints against Breaking Bad feel.
You want to complain about something? Complain about the series finale of Dexter. Complain that procedural template is killing so many otherwise interesting new pilots this television season. Complain that there are too many Modern Family knock-offs on the fall schedule. Complain because Congress is a mess. But complaining about something being “too perfect,” or that Kate Upton is too fat, or that an entire episode devoted to Dirty Randy and Raffi is too much of a good thing? That’s just complaining for the sake of complaining.