Breaking Bad finale is a hit with TV critics

Spoiler alert: Multiple key plot details revealed below
Bryan Cranston Cranston has described his character as "a very good manipulator"

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Arguably the most talked-about television series of the past five years, the finale of Breaking Bad aired in the US on Sunday, swiftly followed by its UK premiere on Netflix.

Set in Albuquerque, the series followed the life of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of the first series.

In order to secure his family's future before he dies, he turned to a life of crime, making and selling methamphetamine.

Reviews in the UK and US have been generally favourable - but reveal several key plot points.

The Independent by Tim Walker

Walt may have ruined his own family and the lives of several others. And yet, in that climactic final half hour, he somehow won back a measure of both sympathy and respect - not least by surrendering the pretence that he'd done it all for his family.

"I did it for me," he told Skyler, at last. "I liked it. I was good at it." Of course, the thing he was good at was not carpentry, nor teaching - though I seem to recall he wasn't too shabby at that - but cooking meth and whacking folks. So in the end, he got what he deserved.

Read the full review here

New York Times by Alessandra Stanley

Perhaps the best thing about the finale of Breaking Bad is that it actually ended. So many shows, notably The Sopranos and Lost, have gone dark without anything approaching finality. Here, the writers were so determined to not leave unfinished business that the last episode was called Felina, an anagram of finale. And almost every loose end was tied. In some cases, a little too tightly, and in others, not quite as much. Breaking Bad brilliantly tracked Walt's transformation from teacher to criminal mastermind. But it's still a mystery why that talented chemist turned his back on fame and fortune and became a humble high school chemistry teacher.

Read the full review here

The Mirror by Josh Woodfin

Written and filmed at a time when Breaking Bad was already a phenomenon, this finale has been under a huge amount of pressure from a fan base that's taken ownership of the story in a way that few TV shows manage.

But fear not, they've pulled it off marvellously.

In a single episode, they've packed in all of those disparate ingredients that have made Breaking Bad such a joy.

There's action, violence and tension, but also humour, warmth and wonderfully quiet moments that carry so much weight.

Read the full review here

Time by James Poniewozik

The final episode of Breaking Bad... had a lot of business to take care of in a short time. [It] was a kind of machine gun of narrative, knocking down all of those questions with auto-fire efficiency. (Well, almost all.)

It was not flashy. It wasn't structurally ambitious, in the way other Breaking Bad episodes have been. It was not, in most respects, surprising. 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).

Read the full review here

Washington Post by Hank Stuever

Vince Gilligan

Like all big-talker shows that bring their heavy cargo in for a rough and breathlessly observed landing, Breaking Bad didn't quite leave itself enough runway to satisfactorily end some of its better story lines, especially once the chronology gap closed up between the flash-forwards from last year's episodes and Sunday night's conclusion. One could easily argue that there was just too much left to do in this one episode.

As a critic, I have to finally face the fact that my favourite series (possibly ever - I'd have to think long and hard about that) is now gone. And when trying to figure out why this show worked so well, so deeply for me, I keep coming back to one simple and not terribly profound idea: Breaking Bad was original.

Read the full review here

Mary McNamara by LA Times

Not only did Vince Gilligan's five-season, hyper-violent prose poem to midlife male frustration tie up virtually every loose end in sight, it contained the Holy Grail of all storytelling: an Actual Moment of Truth. And not just this particular story's truth, but one that extended to the beloved and bloated genre Gilligan both elevated and mocked. "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really ... I was alive."

The strongest moments of the final season came as Walt realised that great truism so often underscored in stories like his: Once you introduce evil into your life, you cannot control it. In the end, though, Walter White was triumphant. His money would go to his children, his enemies were dead, his foster son freed.

Read the full review here

The Guardian by Richard Vine

As final episodes go, this delivered everything that has been great about Breaking Bad. It had tension, pathos, brutality, emotion, humour, jaw-dropping shocks - but also resolution.

Like so much of Felina, the end was satisfying because of its simplicity. Really, we've known from the start how it would end. Walt's going to die. A show that sentences its lead character to death in the first episode is duty bound to deliver that promise by the end.

Read the full review here

Variety by Brian Lowry

In today's hyper-caffeinated age, precious little lives up to its hype. But the Breaking Bad finale - perhaps appropriately - got the chemistry just right... Sunday's finale made eminently clear, this was a show whose narrative fearlessness was only matched by its boundless creativity and unpredictability. The 75-minute finale written and directed by (Vince) Gilligan perfectly capped a final arc that was all forward momentum, with barely an ounce of fat on it, and almost nary a false note.

Read the full review here

USA Today by Robert Bianco

In a stunning 75-minute extended finale, Vince Gilligan brought Breaking Bad to a supremely fitting close, tying up all the loose ends in his modern classic AMC series and killing off his now iconic anti-hero Walter White. And he did so in a way that confirmed Bad's status as one of TV's greatest series - and star Bryan Cranston as one of America's best actors.

Tense, witty, violent, oddly tender and, in its own strange way, as close to a "happy" ending as a story this dark could hope, this last episode brought the story to a straightforward, definitive conclusion, without the spirituality of Lost or the ambiguity of Sopranos.

Read the full review here

Hollywood Reporter by Tim Goodman

There was a lot of closure in Breaking Bad. You can say that Gilligan gave most of the viewers what they wanted (and, impressively, he did that by staying true to himself and the story without selling out or becoming unrecognisably saccharine as he tied the bow). This finale certainly wrapped up things - mostly - in a bow. It had similar strains to the shots that The Wire used and was nearly as effectively tidy as Six Feet Under was in spelling out the fate of those involved.

More than anything I love a creator's ability to end the story as he or she wishes. That doesn't make every decision acceptable. The finale to Dexter was an embarrassing, ham-fisted disaster. But the finale to Breaking Bad - even if it wasn't what I'd hoped would happen - was more than enough to thrill me and make me appreciate five seasons and six years of brilliant work. What an outstanding achievement.

Read the full review here

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