And beyond the obvious question of what will become of Walter White (gunned down by his brother-in-law? Dead of cancer? Rotting away in a tiny cell? Floating away in a boat full of cash?), and exactly how much wreckage he’s created, there is the matter of Jesse Pinkman. We’ve become so obsessed with Walter’s fate that we may not have properly considered his young protégé, who has still not recovered from the events of the previous season; we’ve seen Jesse burned out, a shell of himself, but it’s no longer the exception to his personality. He and Walter share a scene in the next episode that is one of their grimmest, full of lies and deception and accusations and things left unsaid. And, eventually, Mr. White just loses his patience. “You need to stop focusing on the darkness behind you,” he tells Jesse. “The past is the past.”
That line may well hold the key to exactly what these final episodes of Breaking Bad will be. This is a thoroughly moralistic show, and much of its genius lies in how stubbornly it insists on considering consequences. Throughout its run, Gilligan and his writers follow through not just on the logical domino effects of split-second decisions and rotten luck, but on the hefty psychological repercussions of its characters’ actions. The darkness behind these two men is considerable, more than any of us could imagine having to bear. Jesse can’t stop focusing on it, can’t let it go. Walter White is more than willing to; it comes easily to him. The question is whether his horrifying past is, in fact, just “the past” — and whether it is through with him.
With Breaking Bad, television’s finest drama, winding up for the beginning of its final season this Sunday, Flavorwire is taking a look back at five years of America’s favorite meth-cooking cancer survivor, and preparing for the last eight episodes of his story. Click here to follow our coverage.