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Farewell

My husband bought me a pin that says “I get too attached to fictional characters” and it couldn’t be more perfect for someone like me.  Too often, I get immersed in a television series and develop almost a bond with characters that touch my heart, engage my mind, or who are so easy to relate to that I wish they were my friends in the real world.  I cried when 24 ended and Jack Bauer vanished for what seemed to be forever (lucky for me, he and the series will be back for a 12 episode run).  I even got a tattoo on my arm to pay homage to the series and to Kiefer Sutherland.  Prison Break was another hard one for me to say farewell too, and that one was also honored with ink on my skin.  I bawled when House reached the end, but that is understandable considering how emotional the final episode was.  I love a great series finale.

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Right now, two big shows for me are quickly coming to a close; Dexter and Breaking Bad.  I had a late start on both, catching up via Netflix and DVD to get to the point where my husband and I are watching the episodes the minute they air.  [SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THESE SHOWS AND OTHERS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED]  I’m hopeful that both of these series can wrap up in such a way that honors the characters but also appeases the audience.  Right now, Dexter has one episode left and we’ve already seen his character falter.  Rather than have Dexter (Michael C. Hall) murder his current adversary, he left Oliver Saxon/Daniel Vogel (Darri Ingolfsson) in the hands of his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), so she could arrest him and he could have a fair trial.  This goes against everything we know about Dexter; he has lost his need to kill and he has become irresponsible; his decision resulted in Saxon/Vogel escaping and his sister getting shot.  Dexter’s dark passenger seems to be gone, but unfortunately that isn’t a good thing for the few people in his life that he truly cares for.

My big worry with Dexter is that the series finale will have him abandon a huge part of himself in order to be with the woman he loves, Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski).  Yes, having a sweet and romantic ending is always nice, but that isn’t Dexter.  With Hannah, Dexter does not have to hide who he is, as Hannah has done her fair share of killing herself and accepts Dexter for everything he has to offer.  With his late wife Rita (Julie Benz), Dexter had to keep his dark passenger a secret to protect her.  This is unnecessary with Hannah so it doesn’t make sense to me for Dexter to abandon his code and suddenly decide that what he does is no longer important.  Not to advocate murder, but Dexter has done a great service to many people by ridding the world of serial killers who have evaded the law.  Saxon/Vogel has shown that he is a master at evasion, yet Dexter let him go in a totally irresponsible way because he didn’t need to kill him.  He’s losing what makes him Dexter.

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The whole fleeing to Argentina plan to start anew with Hannah and his son, Harrison, seems so ridiculous.  I was genuinely surprised when this plan came to light and even moreso when Dexter put in his notice at work, emptied out his apartment, and agreed to have the flights booked.  For such a logical person to jump on this plan felt unrealistic and silly.  Dexter always has a solid plan and always protects his family.  This plan doesn’t fit.  With one episode left, Dexter has a big choice to make.  He can stay in Miami and take care of Saxon/Vogel, but possibly sacrifice his relationship with Hannah in the process, as she is inches away from capture.  Or he can flee to Argentina with his love and son, but leave his sister and friends vulnerable to attack by Saxon/Vogel who surely now will not stop until everyone Dexter loves is dead.  I hope we see an ending we deserve, but I’m very worried that we won’t be given a proper ending to this epic story.

Moving on to Breaking Bad.  I was initially not excited about watching this show because it was hard for me to picture the dad from Malcolm in the Middle being anything but silly.  I have to say, I was so glad to be wrong.  Bryan Cranston is brilliant as Walter White and brings so much to this complex character.  With two episodes remaining, the audience is definitely on the edge of their seats and totally clueless as to what will happen next.  Last Sunday’s episode, Oxymandias, was one of the greatest hours of television that I have ever watched.  Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walter’s brother-in-law is dead.  Most of Walt’s drug fortune has been taken from him.  Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) know the full truth about Walt.  The police know that Walt is a criminal. Walt kidnaps his infant daughter briefly, breaking the hearts of his family even more.  Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) has been beaten, broken, and is now a slave to the new meth empire.  And we are left with Walt using one of his lawyer’s contacts to gain a new identity and leave his family behind.

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I am stunned.  Even knowing that Hank was going to die (thanks, Twitter spoilers), I was enthralled by this last episode and shocked with every passing minute and new development.  This series has done wonders with its characters and plot lines and created something that is close to perfect.  Walt’s transformation from a timid teacher into the feared and respected Heisenberg has been fascinating to watch.  Jesse’s descent from a common druggie into the broken shell of a man he currently is has been nothing short of heartbreaking.  Skyler is the woman we love to hate, but now it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her and hard not to recognize what a strong woman she truly is (although I still can’t stand her).  Hank went from being sort of a comic relief to being one of the strongest people on the show and a worthy adversary to Walt.  Characters like Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), and even small roles like Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) are so perfectly cast and written that you almost forget you are watching a work of fiction.

The death of Gus is by far my favorite.  His relationship with Walt was complicated and consisted of many layers.  Honestly, Walt had it made in Gus’s lab; it was perfectly hidden and completely state of the art.  The money was fantastic and most of the risk was out of Walt’s hands.  Gus was powerful, calm, rational, and very business minded.  Using his restaurants, Los Pollos Hermanos, as a cover to transport the drugs was brilliant.  But Walt’s life is far from easy and when fearing for the safety of his family due to his tumultuous relationship with Gus, he had to become (in his words) “the one who knocks.”  Ridding himself of Gus was the only way to guarantee his safety and he did so via a bomb strapped to Hector’s wheelchair.  Seeing the bomb go off and then watching Gus leave Hector’s room, straighten his tie, and then turn to reveal half a blown off face was such an outstanding way for the man to go.  It honored the character while also showing Walt’s ruthlessness and power.

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With Breaking Bad, I have no doubt that all the characters will be honored in the series finale due to the way they have treated their characters thus far.  Gus received an honorable discharge, Oxymandias allowed Hank and his partner to die in the line of fire and with their heads held high while Jesse’s beating was mercifully kept off camera.  Hank’s wife Marie has grown as a person and become much more than a supporting character.  Mike’s death was untimely but his character was such a strong loyal person and great family man, so his request to die in peace came off as one of strength and not as him giving up.  Skyler, as I said, has become more than just a person we love to hate.  And Walt has evolved so much and come so far that it’s ridiculous to think that anything could happen that would shake him or not do honor to the person he is when we say goodbye.

Writing the finale to a series has got to be incredibly challenging.  How to decide where to go and still hold true to the characters without ticking off your viewers is a task I would not want to take on.  It doesn’t always go well, like when Prison Break decided to kill off Michael Scofield rather than give him the ending he deserved with Sarah and their child.  But too often, we see various TV series end without any resolution at all due to cancellations.  I’ll never really know where the Breakout Kings have gone, what happens to The Borgias, what the next step for No Ordinary Family would have been, or where the team from Chase is now.  These days, being able to pen a series finale is a huge deal.  I hope my favorites can do it right.  I’ll be finding out soon enough.

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About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on September 19, 2013, in TV/Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I could only read your post up to the spoiler alert. However, I wanted to mention that I feel the same way you do about relating to characters in television shows, especially when the series has been a long running one. Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Alias, and Thirtysomething immediately come to mind. It helps a lot to get over a show’s demise if the producers and writers are able to wrap a series up in a satisfying manner, not leaving any loose ends. Unfortunately, ofttimes those involved in a show’s production get bored and stale and just want to move on, so they throw together a perfunctory piece, indifferent to the feelings of those who supported the show for a long time (Thirtysomething’s final show has to be the worse example of this). I try not to stress over the matter too much, as I figure that the characters in shows live on forever in the alternate universe of TV Land.

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  5. 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. As in the song “El Paso,” the protagonist (I’m not going to say hero) rode back to town, faced his enemies, said his goodbyes, and died. A Western is meant to go out with a bang, and Breaking Bad went out with about 40 of them per second (plus a dose of ricin).

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