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Finale Comparison: Did Breaking Bad Really Have a ‘Stronger’ Finale Than Lost?

Left: Lost/ABC Photo by Mario Perez Right: Breaking Bad/AMC Photo by Ursula Coyote

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Breaking Bad was one of the most critically acclaimed shows to ever air, and Lost was one of the most influential. Both shows’ finales received similar attention before they premiered but drew wildly different types of attention post-airing. Lost did not fare quite as well as Breaking Bad did.

After Breaking Bad ended in 2013, the internet was flooded with tweets about it. Many of these tweets were aimed directly at Damon Lindelof and Lost:

“Screw you @DamonLindelof for not giving us such a perfect ending for Lost like Vince Gilligan did for @BreakingBad_AMC!”

Here is the link to more examples and an article written about them: https://ew.com/article/2013/09/30/breaking-bad-lost-finale/

And here is Damon Lindelof’s take, co-writer of Lost:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/damon-lindelof-breaking-bad-finale-639484

I know it’s a small vocal minority, like most negative air on the internet, but in this case I don’t think they inaccurately portray a consensus that Breaking Bad outdid Lost with its ending.

Because Breaking Bad’s ending, unlike Lost’s, was satisfying.

And that’s what we want, right? After investing dozens of hours into a show we want to be satisfied!

But a satisfying ending doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one. It is always immensely satisfying to watch Rocky beat the Cold War out of Ivan Drago while simultaneously avenging his friend, but that doesn’t make it a good ending. Lost’s finale, “The End,” makes some mistakes and may not be as satisfying as Breaking Bad’s finale, “Felina,” but it stays truer to its show, resulting in a more appropriate finish to its series.

I’m going to break this comparison up into three parts of what I believe makes a good finale. These are not the only aspects of a series ender that impact its effectiveness, but they are some of the most important: Characters, Themes, and Reflection

I want to make clear right now that I believe Breaking Bad is a stronger series overall than Lost. I am strictly comparing the finales and how well each ending wraps up its respective show.

Spoilers for the entirety of both series ahead

CHARACTERS

Lost was adamant that it was always about its characters and not the mysteries. It was stated repeatedly by the writers that the mysteries that would be solved would be the mysteries that mattered to the characters. While characters are absolutely integral to any story, it is not true that Lost was not also about its mysteries. The mysteries were a major draw to the series and it is understandable that many viewers were left underwhelmed with some of the answers (the whispers, for example), but the history of the show proves that the mysteries were always secondary to the characters. It wasn’t that a man could suddenly walk again; it was that John Locke could walk again. Few of us had posters of the Island or the Statue of Taweret hanging on our walls; fans had pictures of Sawyer, Kate, and the large cast photos, because what made those mysteries so compelling was the characters behind them. Most of the following shows that attempted to be Lost failed because they put mysteries at the forefront. Lost and “The End” kept the focus on the characters.

Lost_TheEnd

Lost/ABC Photo by Mario Perez

In fact, one of my biggest complaints about the Lost finale is the lack of recognition the Island itself actually gets. Would it have been too much to ask for Sawyer to look back at the Island on his way to the plane and give us one last full wide shot of the location we spent six years in? Or a solid look at it when he looks out the window as they are flying away?

And yet, I’d much rather the Island get shafted than Sawyer himself. Instead, the focus is on Sawyer getting to that plane and finally leaving the Island. It’s on Kate saving Jack’s life at the last second. On Jack accepting his place in all the madness. And each action they take reflects who they have been and who they have become throughout the series. Jack, obsessed with fixing everything, is no longer a man of science and fixes the Island on faith. Kate, always running, retreats from the Island but refuses to run from the complications of her relationship with Claire and Aaron. Frank, who just wants to fly planes that don’t crash, flies his plane away.

Richard decides to live. Hurley decides to rule. Ben willingly accepts a place as a VP and stays behind to meddle out his sins. The Man in Black dies fighting to escape his prison. The survivors find each other in the afterlife because they found a way to live together on the Island, so now they don’t have to die alone.

Each character gets attention in “The End,” and despite having such a large breadth of characters to juggle, they all get an active role in the finale.

BreakingBad_Felina

Breaking Bad/AMC Photo by Ursula Coyote

“Felina” doesn’t balance its much smaller cast nearly as well. The focus is heavily on Walt, as one would expect the focus to be, but what about the rest of the cast? Nearly every other character in the episode stays still and waits for Walt to do something to them, including Jesse.

Jesse has such a minimal, passive role in the finale that, frankly, he could have been killed off in “Ozymandias” and the ending, plot-wise, would have been exactly the same.

Walt was the clear protagonist of Breaking Bad, but Jesse was the heart. We felt for Jesse, rooted for Jesse, and cried for Jesse. It’s a much bigger mystery to me why Jesse wasn’t more prominent in “Felina” than why there was a magic cork plugging up magic on a magic island. It may have been satisfying to watch Jesse drive away screaming, free from the hell Mr. White dragged him into, but he had zero agency and didn’t relate to the final plotline at all.

I found it more satisfying watching Jesse team up with Hank to bring Walt to his knees a few episodes prior. Jesse took an active role by making a decision to turn on Walt. It felt as though he was growing and learning as a person, finally taking action against Walt and pushing his character to a new place. If Jesse could have freed himself from Walt’s world through his own actions, instead of Walt deciding, “Now you can go,” it would have fit better with Jesse’s arc over the course of the series and brought his character to an even more thrilling conclusion.

Is it in character for Jesse to be excited to escape? Obviously. Were the circumstances of his release as powerful as they could have been? No.

“The End” took its protagonist, as well as all the other main characters, and allowed them each to make decisions based on all they had learned to accomplish or fail their goals. Each major character had an active role in the final outcome of the story. “Felina” pushed its protagonist to the forefront and made the beating heart of the show a side player.

THEMES

Lost and Breaking Bad were both shows with themes and ideas they explored. Each was consistent in the exploration of their themes, maintaining thematic consistency all the way through their respective series. From the beginning of Lost, even before it was outright stated, we saw that these people were going to need to work together, to live together, or die alone. Breaking Bad explored the idea of chain reactions and consequences from its first episode forward.

One of the most important aspects a finale has to nail is a reinforcement of the themes of the show. This is what this show is about, and it’s time to make a final statement, or, at least, raise a final relevant question to the themes that have been prominent throughout the show.

Most often these themes will be displayed or questioned through the characters and their actions. All of the actions by the characters in “The End” aren’t just true to the characters themselves but to the themes of redemption, loss, and faith running throughout the entire series. They reinforce an ethos – “Live together, die alone.”

Say what you will about the flash-sideways afterlife concept (I didn’t like it), but it is a true reflection of the idea that because the survivors learned to live together they didn’t die alone. It may be a bit too spiritual for some and lack the weight of the on-island story, but it provides an adequate vehicle to reinforce the idea that the survivors needed each other and that they became a family. They helped each other grow and move on in life, and therefore they move on together in the afterlife.

Lost_TheEnd

Lost/ABC Photo by Mario Perez

The finale also circles back to other prescient themes, such as Man of Science VS Man of Faith. Jack puts his faith in the Island, Jacob, and John Locke. No, we never learn for certain what would have happened if the Man in Black left the Island, but neither does Jack. If we did know, then Jack wouldn’t be acting on faith. In the flash-sideways, Jack gets his memories back from his father – appropriate considering how heavily fathers figured into the series.

“Felina” gives Walt the perfect conclusion to his saga. It’s riveting to watch him enact revenge on everyone who screwed him over, and even more satisfying to watch him admit to Skylar that he did it all for himself.

But this particular brand of satisfaction comes at a cost. His actions did not reinforce the themes the series presented us with. Was taking revenge in character for Walt? Absolutely. He was always a petty, egotistical man. But allowing this type of revenge goes against the ethos of Breaking Bad as a series. Breaking Bad never allowed for easy decisions and always forced major consequences against its characters with each decision they made. There was always a follow through, a reckoning. “Ozymandias” is a perfect example of everything the show was about coming together – the consequences to one man’s actions for illicit power created a chain reaction that finally caught up with him, destroying everything in his life. Being a badass drug dealer has its price. It isn’t glorious and it isn’t fist-pumping awesome.

If the show would have ended right there, that would have been a stronger conclusion to the saga because what follows goes against all this. “Felina” gives Walt the happiest ending he could have. He gets to “redeem” himself, in a sense, by getting the money to his son, explaining himself to his wife, and saving Jesse. Then, due to his death, he doesn’t need to live with or experience any of the consequences of these actions.

Perhaps some would argue that Walt himself is the reckoning and that all these people are getting what is coming to them based on their actions. But giving Walt this level of control and power goes against the themes of power from the previous five seasons. It also allows him to go out with pride, something that by all intents of the rest of the series was his downfall.

BreakingBad_Felina

Breaking Bad/AMC Photo by Ursula Coyote

Even if we overlook the circumstances above, Walt’s means of revenge goes against the themes of the show as well. Breaking Bad’s pilot has a scene where Walt teaches his class about chemistry. He says that everything has a reaction, providing the first basis of chemistry themes in the series. Through the journey, we witness Walt use his chemical knowledge to outsmart drug dealers, create poisons, and (obviously) cook meth. And yet in “Felina” Walt takes down Jack’s drug crew through an impressive feat of mechanical engineering. Why not have him enact revenge on the group with an impressive feat of chemical engineering? This would reinforce the idea that all actions have a reaction, and give us a final look at one of the major themes presented in the show.

“The End” reinforces the major themes of Lost through the actions of its characters and the environment they find themselves in (even if that environment is a bit weak). “Felina” trades its thematic relevance for a revenge plot that, while satisfying, does little to further the themes of the series.

REFLECTION

Reflection is important at the end of any story. It is always of benefit to remind viewers just how far the characters have come and remind them of how much has changed and how much has remained the same. This gives an ending a feeling of completeness and allows viewers an opportunity to say “good-bye.”

“The End” has several callbacks and lines to earlier moments in the series. The shot of Jack and Locke looking down the hatch is recreated. Famous lines such as “I’ll see ya in another life, brother” are spoken (and also another great relation to the thematic resonance of “live together die alone”).

The most obvious callbacks are the “reawakening” memories of so many of the characters. While they advance the story in regards to the survivors “waking up” in the sideways universe, I don’t feel they are quite as effective as the rest of the homages paid to the series in real time. They have a scent of clip reel, which is a cheap way to drum up nostalgia. I find it much more effective when Jack dies in the same place he woke up on the Island.

Lost_TheEnd

Lost/ABC

“The End” also misses an opportunity to allow us to reflect on the Island itself. We don’t have a chance to take in the full scope of the Island one last time, and it doesn’t use its environment as well as it could to reflect.

“Felina,” on the other hand, excels at these callbacks, even if I don’t feel the plot itself is up to the task. Skinny Pete and Badger have a fantastic cameo in the finale, allowing us one last look at the goofy duo. We finally get to see where the ricin ends up, which ties up a seasons long thread. Walt gets to say his goodbyes, allowing the audience to say goodbye with him.

BreakingBad_Felina

Breaking Bad/AMC Photo by Ursula Coyote

A flashback memory plays within the episode in a similar fashion to how “The End” uses memories. Again, it feels a bit cheap, but Walt standing in his abandoned, vandalized home is an amazing visual representation of how far he has fallen.

I don’t feel there is any more effective callback than Walt’s emotional look at the meth lab. All that we need to understand about his view of himself is written on his face, and we get a long look at the environment Walt’s journey took place in. As I stated earlier, “The End” doesn’t afford us a chance to say goodbye to the Island properly, but “Felina” nails this aspect.

And then Walt dies, and the series uses its last shot to pay homage to another finale.

Lost_TheEnd/BreakingBad_Felina

Left: Lost/ABC
Right: Breaking Bad/AMC

Neither finale is perfect. Your mileage will vary based on what is most important to you, and there are more aspects that go into an effective finale than the three that I highlighted above.

“Felina” is a fine finale. Damon Lindelof thought it was great. I think it is fair to say most viewers found it satisfying. “Felina” learned from “The End,” understood that viewers felt mislead, cheated, and like there were too many loose ends floating around, and adapted. Breaking Bad left no stone unturned and finally gave in to the power fantasy it had been avoiding before, leaving many viewers with a feeling of triumph that Walt proved you don’t mess with Heisenberg.

That wasn’t what Breaking Bad was about, though. It wasn’t a tale about learning not to mess with Heisenberg, and that’s why I don’t feel its finale truly lives up to what preceded it. One of its lead characters is rendered ineffective and the themes of the show don’t shine very brightly (if at all). There are some great callbacks and scenes of reflection providing us a good opportunity to say goodbye, but ideally that would be within a plot that reinforces those first two areas (character and themes). I don’t believe that “Felina” does this.

As a single piece of media and as a singular episode, I would probably agree that “Felina” is a stronger piece of work. It’s exciting, clean, and effective in its simplicity. But as the end to a series it doesn’t reflect the show it represents.

“The End” on the other hand, pushes its characters and themes to the forefront. “Felina” may be more satisfying than mystifying, but “The End” effectively wraps up its story in a way that is true to the characters and themes of the series. On that level, satisfaction be damned, it makes for a better cap to its respective show, wrapping itself in everything that made Lost Lost, which is why I believe “The End” > “Felina.”

Lost_TheEnd

Lost/ABC

Even though the flash-sideways was kinda lame.

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Chicago Med

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave ‘Chicago Med’ Already?

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Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

Chicago Med introduced a new third-year resident to the fold in season 9—Zola Ahmad played by The Wilds’ Sophia Ali.

Ahmad’s character was initially described as “impulsive” and a troublemaker who tends to cause “headaches” for her Gaffney Medical fellows, which we saw play out in real-time when her unconventional approaches rubbed Crockett Marcel (Dominic Rains) the wrong way.

Marcel tried to give Ahmad the benefit of the doubt on numerous occasions, and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) even acknowledged that she was taking a big chance by hiring her on a prohibitionary basis given her track record with previous hospitals—but ultimately, Ahmad’s behavior and decisions to overstep and not follow protocol got the best of her.

When Ahmad decided to declare a patient—letting the fact that he wasn’t a good man dictate her reasoning—dead prematurely (and then attempted to justify it), nearly killing him, Dr. Archer (Steven Weber) chose to suspend her. It was very obviously a fireable offense, so it’s a good thing that the series writers held her accountable. Plus, it seemed like the perfect chance for a teachable moment and a redemption arc, not to mention, there was definitely some chemistry with Ahmad and Crockett that could’ve been explored down the line. She had potential as a character at Med, if she just reeled it in a little bit—and that would’ve been interesting to explore on a more granular level.

However, by Chicago PD Season 9 Episode 9, it was over for Ahmad. 

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

CHICAGO MED — “A Penny for your Thoughts, Dollar for your Dreams” Episode 9008 — Pictured: (l-r) Sophia Ali as Dr. Zola Ahmad, Dominic Rains as Dr. Crockett Marcel — (Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC)

The series seemingly listened to the Chi-Hards fanbase as Ahmad paid the ultimate price for her reckless decision; Goodwin very briefly (and in passing) informed Crockett that Ahmad was let go, something he called a “shame.”

And that was that. There was no further mention of it, nor is there any indication that she’ll return anytime in the future. Her final episode of the season was listed as Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 8—and it seems like she’ll just be a blip on the radar of the show’s long-running tenure. 

It’s a drastic decision for the series, especially after hyping up Ali’s character at the beginning of the season. Why wouldn’t they give her arc a proper conclusion? Many of the complaints from the fan base were that her character was written inconsistently—her intentions were good most of the time, it was the execution that suffered—and crammed into an already shortened season due to COVID, so they weren’t able to build her character up in a way that would’ve given her the necessary nuance; her portrayal was overly negative and it was hard to defend her actions or keep her around when each week, she was pushing buttons and creating unnecessary issues without having the tenure to excuse them or back her up, like her predecessors Will Will (Nick Gehlfuss) and Natalie (Torrey Devitto). When those two acted irrationally back in the day, they had a history with Med and Goodwin that allowed them to stir the pot. 

It seems that the writing was on the wall for Ahmad from the get-go—the lack of good character development in the writing sealed her fate prematurely and gave fans whiplash with her quick arrival and departure. 

Would you like to see her return to the series?

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Editorials

Walker Season 4 Premiere Review – The Quiet

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Walker Season 4 Premiere Review - The Quiet

Walker returned to The CW for its 4th, and, likely final, season. 

Despite a 5-month time jump, the focus remained on serial killer Jackal, whom Walker and Trey were pursuing at the end of season 3, and the suspect that previously drove Cap. Larry James into a tailspin, effectively ending his marriage to Kelly before fate gave them another shot. 

Only this time around, Larry’s wife, Kelly, asks Cordell not to drag her husband down this road again—a promise he intends to upkeep, though, knowing Larry, he’ll figure out that his rangers are up to something and have no other choice but to get involved, especially since Trey’s tip for a detective reveals that Jackal, whose trail previously went cold for several months, is gearing up for “something big.”

This will be the overarching mystery of the season, while other weekly cases will also see our rangers getting into plenty of shenanigans, as they did with their pursuit of the Delmonico brothers. Also, props to all of them for taking part in a steak-eating competition and then jumping into a raid. It was bold of them, but it’s how Cordell wanted to spend his birthday, so I’m glad that despite the best-laid plans being uprooted, he was still able to feel the love from those around him.

A lot seems to have changed in the past five months, as evidenced by Walker and Geri’s steamy hook-up. Even when everything is going wrong, we can have faith in their love being a constant, which is what fans have been hoping for since season 1. 

There’s also Cassie, who blows back into town after taking a lengthy leave to go work for the FBI. She’s back with a newfound confidence about her abilities on the job, but she’s also struggling with a personal decision as she’s been offered a spot at Quantico, which means further uprooting her life and leaving behind her loved ones, er, Trey. 

Yeah, Trey and Cassie kind of addressed the elephant in the room—their feelings for each other—but neither of them was honest about it, so we’ll likely get something more truthful and heartfelt in the near future. 

Another lingering storyline is the break-in at Geri’s place that rattled Stella to her core. She hasn’t been the same since shooting and killing Witt, and it’s likely because she also lied to the police about having met him before. The officer who called her and Liam in over a “breakthrough in the case” said that the case was closed due to lack of resources, but the way he watched Stella sign the paperwork (and questioned if that’s “all she knew”) makes me uneasy—there’s definitely more to this storyline. What does he know that he’s not letting on?

As for change, I think that in the midst of all the “I’m Walker, Texas Ranger, you’re under arrest” in case you needed the reminder, we’re also continuing to see Cordell as a flawed human and a father coming to terms with the fact that he’s about to be an empty nester. It’s the next phase of his life—and one that brings about plenty of concern over the “quiet” that will allow his dark thoughts to flourish. Hopefully, Geri will be the light to cut through all of that. 

What did you think of the episode?

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Wild Cards

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

I meant to write this post when Wild Cards first premiered on The CW, but time got away from me, and before I knew it, the season finale of the series was upon us! 

I’m not a huge fan of The CW’s decision to axe some of our favorite shows in its rebrand, but what does ease the pain of losing the likes of Nancy Drew is the addition of promising shows like Wild Cards

To be quite frank, Riverdale never did Vanessa Morgan much justice. She amassed a huge number of fans, who were mostly hoping to see her character Toni reunite with on-screen love interest Cheryl (played by Madeleine Petsch) in the later seasons, and while she was seemingly considered one of the “core” characters, she rarely got the storylines she deserved.

We knew she could act—but Wild Cards shows us the depth of Morgan’s talents. It lets her shine, dominate, lead,  and even carry the series, opposite her on-screen partner and potential future love interest, Giacomo Gianniotti’s Ellis. 

Morgan delivers with the role of Max, a whip-smart and very charismatic con artist who utilizes her special skillset to help a “down in the dumps” maritime officer get his mojo back—and, spoiler alert if you’ve watched the season finale, his badge and desk back. 

Despite his initial hesitation with the idea of her joining the force as a consultant, even Ellis comes around, amazed by her abilities and the way she’s able to navigate every crime scene and follow the leads to produce results.&nbsp

The two grow very close over the course of the season’s 10 episodes, largely due to Morgan’s delightful on-screen persona and presence. Even when it’s not clear whose side she’s really on (is she fully on board with helping the cops or does she have a larger-than-life plan up her sleeve to pull off her greatest con yet and help her dad George—90210‘s Jason Priestley—snag a “get out of jail free” card), you find yourself drawn to her and rooting for her because of her likable personality. 

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

Credit: The CW

The series not only gets us invested in Max’s character—learning about her past—and what it entails for her future, but we also find ourselves rooting for Max and Ellis to finally get together… or even test the boundaries of that electric chemistry that they share (a moment that is, sadly, ruined when her husband Olivier (Dewshane Williams) blows into town). 

And it’s the mystery of Max that has all of us begging The CW to renew the series for a second season. We need more Max. We need more Ellis. We need more Morgan and Gianniotti. And we need answers. The good news is that Morgan told TVLine that season 2 of the quirky crime procedural is “very likely,” and trust that we put all our faith in her. 

As for the answers I mentioned we need, well, we need to know who killed Ellis’ brother, a murder that was the catalyst for him to get knocked down from his detective responsibilities in the first place. When he met Max, he was in a hard place, still trying to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death. And though he’s come a long way, surely, the fact that he can crack this specific mystery is one that he won’t be able to pass up. 

At the end of the finale—spoiler alert, again—Max convinced the authorities to help her pull off a heist that was two years in the works, hoping to frame her estranged husband Olivier after he steals a $33 million egg (he’s the one who betrayed her dad and landed him in prison), lessen her father’s sentence, and restore Ellis’ badge. However, there was a piece of the plan she didn’t share with Ellis—she swapped the real egg for a fake egg, and hatched a plan to disappear forever alongside Ricky and her millions. 

She didn’t expect Ellis to figure it out, though, this was one of the weaker points in the episode because she should’ve known him better than that by now, but she figured she’d be halfway across the country and it wouldn’t matter. What she didn’t anticipate in her plan is that Ricky, who was transcribing incriminating recordings from the mob as part of their safety-net policy, would find something on the drive about Ellis’ brother, namely, who murdered him. 

It’s at this moment that we see the biggest change in Max. She’s not the same person she was when the series first started. Her skills have become more valuable to helping than stealing, and she’s grown to care about someone other than herself and her father. She can’t, in good faith, leave with this knowledge and leave Ellis hanging. 

And that’s where we leave off—a promising cliffhanger on a promising series with two very promising leads. 

Your move, The CW.

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