Episode Review: Breaking Bad Series Finale

  • Publish Date: September 29, 2013
  • Comments: ↓ 16 user comments

Updated Monday 9/30 at 10:41am.

Breaking Bad, Episode 516: "Felina"
Original airdate: September 29, 2013 on AMC

Rate this episode:

Breaking Bad's final episodes:
509. Blood Money
510. Buried
511. Confessions
512. Rabid Dog
513. To'hajiilee
514. Ozymandias
515. Granite State
> 516. Felina

Spoiler warning: This page contains spoilers of the series finale. Of course, you've probably watched it already.

Sunday night's concluding episode of Breaking Bad—and it certainly did conclude many open storylines, in a way that stayed true to the characters and prior events—was written and directed by series creator Vince Gilligan. What did critics think? Their responses are below.

Note that if a publication provides a grade or score for the individual episode, it is noted below (converted to our 0-100 scale).

Great Extremely positive reviews

100 "I don't know if we'll remember Walt's fate with as much resonance as we remember the last shot of Vic Mackey in The Shield, still the gold standard for an antihero's dramatic catharsis. And 'Felina' won't be controversial the way the ambiguous last moments of Tony Soprano were. But Jesse survives."

— Donna Bowman / A.V. Club

"[Felina] didn't provide that conversation-starting powder keg of other shows like The Sopranos or The Shield offered: immediately controversial or featuring a showstopper of a final statement. I expect that 'Ozymandias' will go down as one of the best episodes of the season and one of the best of the series, reveling in an obsessive need to link all of Walt's past decisions with what led to an irrevocable violent break. But I feel that does a disservice to the comparatively modest goals of 'Felina' and how well it ties the remaining threads together."

— Kevin McFarland / Boing Boing

"Equal parts suspenseful and satisfying, 'Felina' delivered heart-breaking flashbacks and closure. It brought the series full circle."

— Lori Rackl / Chicago Sun-Times

"A deeply satisfying and surprisingly emotional finale."

— Katey Rich / Cinema Blend

100 "That was damned perfect."

— Allison Keene / Collider

"A riveting, brilliantly conceived 75-minute series finale ... that had Walter (Bryan Cranston) more or less ending things on his own terms and the show cementing its legacy as one of the greatest TV dramas ever."

— Chuck Barney / Contra Costa Times

"Sunday's series finale was such a perfect, A-1 piece of televisual filmmaking—and such an unparalleled valedictory achievement, especially when you compare it to the endings of other Great Cable Dramas."

— Andrew Romano / The Daily Beast

100 "With its final episode, Breaking Bad cemented itself as essential viewing for fans of all forms of storytelling, presenting a character arc for its protagonist that challenged and rewarded the audience for taking the whole captivating journey with him."

— Nick Harley / Den of Geek (U.S.)

"I believe it's among the very best [TV finales] ... Where 'The Sopranos' opted for the most ambiguous ending and lost points, 'Breaking Bad' stayed true to itself, finding some justice, letting Walt make a character-defining true confession and even managing a bit of redemption. The fact is, the final eight episodes expertly built to this moment. Take a bow, Vince Gilligan."

— Joanne Ostrow / Denver Post

"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 unrecognizably saccharine as he tied the bow). ... If I have one complaint about the finale, it's that Walt never paid the ultimate price."

— Tim Goodman / The Hollywood Reporter

"Breaking Bad's final fifteen minutes are, make no mistake about it, enormously satisfying television."

— Jason Bailey / Flavorwire

"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."

— Richard Vine / The Guardian

98 "Aside from all of the ads, which were abrasive and interrupted a good portion of the episode, Felina resolved just as well as we were promised. ... We saw it all coming and that didn't even take away one bit of the ending. ... We weren't left questioning, we weren't left wondering why they ended it like that and we weren't left unsatisfied."

— Seth Amitin / IGN

"The show toyed with audience sympathies and played into many fan predictions while expertly working around them. ... Walt got the end he deserved, but more importantly, so did we."

— Eric Kohn / Indiewire

"Perfect... 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."

— Mary McNamara / Los Angeles Times

"One of the most satisfying [finales] ever."

— Hal Boedeker / Orlando Sentinel

"This is Gilligan's show and this is Gilligan's ending. He didn't leave it up to you or me to decide how it all ended: He took responsibility for his story, and as far as I'm concerned, he stuck the landing."

— Ellen Gray / Philadelphia Daily News

"Yes, this was a satisfying finale. It was as brilliant as the best episode of 'Breaking Bad.'"

— David Wiegand / San Francisco Chronicle

"An amazing 75 minutes of television, brilliantly acted, written, designed and directed as the series has been from the start."

— Mitch Salem / ShowBuzzDaily

"This was certainly a fitting end to 'Breaking Bad.' Taut, aggressive, mesmerizing. A bit loose in the plotting and logistics (why didn't the Nazi's check the trunk?) but true and fair to its characters to the bitter end."

— Brian Stitt / Star-Ledger

"That's how you end a series."

— Eric Deggans / Tampa Bay Times

"The series really couldn't have ended in a more appropriate manner."

— Luke Gelineau / TV Equals

"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."

— Robert Bianco / USA Today

"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."

— Brian Lowry / Variety

"The first reaction is that the series finale, like the show that preceded it, will go down as one of the greats."

— Rick Porter / Zap2it

Positive Positive reviews

"Will it stand as one of the greatest series finales of all time? Perhaps not quite that riveting or sublime, but it certainly was a fitting and satisfying conclusion to one of the greatest dramas of all time."

— Mark Dawidziak / Cleveland Plain Dealer

"For a show that is so frequently like watching a brilliant escape artist, with episodes locking the characters into seemingly impossible binds only to find creative and surprising ways to free them, the finale felt less than wondrous."

— Ross Scarano / Complex

"'Felina' brought Breaking Bad to a close in the most perfect way imaginable. ... In the end, there was no art. Only science. And this was sort of the problem, wasn't it? After five-plus years of watching everything break bad, the finale gave us 75 minutes of watching everything break just right. ... Everything, even the promised M60, fizzed and popped so perfectly it felt almost sterile."

— Andy Greenwald / Grantland

"I admire Gilligan's desire to dot every i and cross every t, and I adored many individual moments of the finale. ... But was it ultimately too neat? ... 'Felina' doesn't feel like a cheat, or a massive misstep, or an overreach. This is one of the greatest shows of my lifetime, and nothing in this concluding chapter changes that. But it also felt so neat, and so orderly, in such an un-'Breaking Bad' sort of way, that I don't think I can give the show bonus points for its last episode in the same way that 'The Shield' or 'Six Feet Under' get extra credit for their finales."

— Alan Sepinwall / HitFix

"From a structural standpoint, it's hard to be too hard on the 'Breaking Bad' finale as a discrete unit. ... Yet in the future, I can't imagine many people will think of this as a classic hour of 'Breaking Bad.' Gilligan himself called 'Ozymandias' the finest hour the show ever produced, and it's hard to argue with that assessment. ... The last two episodes, for all their good moments and sturdy attributes, feel like mopping-up exercises, to some extent."

— Maureen Ryan / Huffington Post

"It's powerful television. It's a stunning ending. But is it a fitting conclusion to 'Breaking Bad'?"

— Todd VanDerWerff / Los Angeles Times

"It was a fitting ending, and predictable in only some ways. "

— Alessandra Stanley / The New York Times

"It was just a little too ... tidy, for me. Not because plot threads were wrapped up, but because Walt was suddenly such an uncomplicatedly good man. ... None of this changes the brilliance with which the show is directed and especially acted; Bryan Cranston was absolutely phenomenal in that finale. The execution was spectacular. It's just that I wish they'd made different choices."

— Linda Holmes / NPR

"Certainly I wasn't un-happy to see any of those things happen, or with the particulars of how they happened. ... But I can't shake the sense that 'Felina' as a finale, and Breaking Bad as a whole, would have been more satisfying if it had been less satisfying."

— Sean T. Collins / Rolling Stone

"Satisfying ... But it also allowed Walter White to go out on his own tidy terms, which, depending on your perspective, was either entirely appropriate or entirely unfair."

— Jen Chaney / Salon

"'Felina' offers an abundance of riches despite its flaws."

— Chuck Bowen / Slant

"This is where the finale is not quite so satisfying: After everything, after five seasons in which the writers were clocking Walt's every misdeed, at the very end, they turned out to be Team Walt. Despite everything he did, Walt was rewarded—not with life, too much had gone down for that—but with a death on his own terms."

— Willa Paskin / Slate

80 "The finale of this great American series turned out to be one of its lesser episodes."

— Chris Harvey / The Telegraph

"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. ... I wouldn't call it a great episode, in the way that 'Ozymandias' instantly was. But it closed out a great series in style, with visual flair, action, and a thorough lack of phony redemption."

— James Poniewozik / Time

"'Felina' was an entirely satisfying finale of Breaking Bad that answered many of the questions viewers had going in and put a period at the end of the series rather than an ellipsis. ... But 'Felina' wasn't the mind-melter that so many other episodes of Breaking Bad have been. It was actually rather straightforward for one of the most-anticipated episodes in television history, nearly as business-like in its plotting as the way Walter approached his laundry list of tasks to complete before he flamed out. This is largely in contrast to what we know Breaking Bad to be: daring, unexpected, visionary. There were no big tricks, no attempt to do something more than it should. It was almost non-Breaking Bad."

— Tim Surette / TV.com

82 "This wasn't a jaw-dropping finale, but that's largely because it was a jaw-dropped television show. Gilligan didn't save any rounds for the concluding episode. He emptied them as he went along."

— Matt Richenthal / TV Fanatic

"This ending is perhaps not as conventional as it looks, and I suspect it would be a huge mistake to describe it as a finale in which Walter redeems himself or goes out on his own terms, etc., because the evidence really isn't there."

— Matt Zoller Seitz / Vulture

"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."

— Hank Stuever / Washington Post

"After so many crimes, 'Felina' was surprisingly easy on Walt, and I suspect the show's ultimate moral message will be a source of debate and controversy as critics and fan continue to hash out Breaking Bad's legacy in the years to come."

— Scott Meslow / The Week

Mixed Mixed/so-so reviews

"What was problematic about 'Felina' is that the show was primed to keep Walter White in a vice grip of moral punishment…and let him off the hook in the final hour."

— Ryan McGee / Boob Tube Dude

"I think Vince Gilligan made a mistake by focusing so completely on Walt."

— Alex Berenson / Esquire

"I'm quite certain that many, many people adored Vince Gilligan's kickass ending to 'Breaking Bad' ... In my own way, I also enjoyed aspects of the finale, particularly the scene with Skyler. And yet, I did not like the episode."

— Emily Nussbaum / The New Yorker

58 "The result is an effort that feels compromised to some degree, leaning a bit too hard toward fan service and winds up feeling thematically empty by time the credits roll."

— Kevin Jagernauth / The Playlist

Poor Negative reviews

(none)

What do you think?

What did you think of last night's finale of Breaking Bad? Are you satisfied with the way the series ended? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (16)

  • LamontRaymond  

    Simply an outstanding finish. It's tough to do. Consider two recent mega-popular series Lost and the Sopranos. Many would consider the final episode of each a betrayal. This finale tied up all the loose ends, factually and emotionally. Actually, every time a major character left the show (Gus, Mike, Hank), it felt like a mini-finale. Huge compliments to Vince Gilligan, George Mastras, and the rest of the writers' room who took their jobs so seriously and just poured their hearts and souls into this piece of art. It makes going to this fall season to find a substitute truly depressing. The cupboard is currently pretty bare but this show gives future TV people something to shoot for.

  • MarcDoyle  

    I'm highly satisfied with the way Vince and his team ended the series. Congrats to everyone involved. Now whenever a friend or loved one needs that money recommendation for something to delve into, our first answer will be, "You've seen Breaking Bad, right?" If not, you give them a slightly bewildered look, then a reassuring smile: "You're going on one hell of a ride in store for the next month or so and I'm jealous that you get to experience it for the first time." Even the almighty Twin Peaks flagged significantly toward the end of it's second & final season, making that binge a little tough to swallow. Breaking Bad delivers consistently from beginning to end. No filler episodes. Nothing wasted.

  • AmbivalentLife  

    The thing I loved was that, even though I saw several people on the internet and IRL correctly guess the framework of the finale (save jesse, kill aryans with m60, kill himself), no one got it exactly right. The writers (or at least Vince, in this case) really went out of their way to make it conclusive and satisfying all at the same time. This for me will be the epitome of storytelling. This was the episode that made me root for Walter for the first time since “Face Off.”

    “Cheer up, beautiful people.”

  • staubin  

    The TV Fanatic website gave the Dexter series finale, which was godawful and full of lumberjack "an extremely positive review" while giving the Breaking Bad series finale, which was amazing, just a positive review. How could anyone rate the Dexter finale over Breaking Bad? What kind of blue meth are they smoking over at TV Fanatic?

  • BobbyPeru  

    An entertaining and satisfying finale. It was a bit too schematic and filled with coincidence for my taste and I wanted a touch more between Walt and Jesse, but I was happy to suspend my disbelief for such a consistently good show. As with the rest of the series, the finale was beautifully shot. Bravo to all involved.

  • shcakup  

    This was good a send off as a true fan could hope for. It is so easy to trip at the last hurdle but breaking bad didn't. Though not mind blowing it was satisfying and some moments got you heart racing. Queue the lasers.

  • mbu  

    Although it's slick and well-made, Breaking Bad benefited a lot from the generally awful state of television programming these days. It's a well-made melodrama. But it should not have pretended to more. This series was not profound. It wasn't ground-breaking. What it did more than other similar projects was continually indulge an appetite for ever harsher viciousness. It's a certain GTA kind of fantasy cloaked in earnest "moral concerns." Please.

    The final episode is full of inconsistencies well summarized in Emily Nussbaum's New Yorker review. It panders to fans, allowing "sympathetic" Jesse to escape, killing off the eviller-than-Walt neo-Nazis, sparing Walt's family because that aww, would have upset everyone, and most annoyingly waiting until the very last cancer-moment to finally kill off Walt, but only after he'd--whoa!--admitted his real motive! OMG OMG! And looked at his children! OMG! And took a bullet for Jesse! I'm sorry, this is just corny.

    I know most people taking the time to post about it will disagree, but MAN, this show annoyed the hell out of me. I watched it because it was better than most of what's currently available, but I'm glad it's over.

    I really don't hate the show. What I hate is how mindlessly it's held up as much more than it is.

  • BKM  

    Felina turned out to be a well written and well acted finale full of the white knuckle suspense we've come to expect from Breaking Bad. Yet I can't help but feel that Gilligan and his creative team played it a little bit safe so as to not tarnish the show's legacy or alienate fans. For me, Ozymandias was the true finale with the final two episodes serving as more of an epilogue. Still, it's nice to see a truly great series go out on top.

  • CheckGamesList  

    I don't think this was one of the better episodes of Breaking Bad, but obviously, that's a very high standard. If I were to grade this episode, I'd still probably give this an 8/10. For me, that isn't an excellent score, but surely a good one. It was quite satisfying, to say the least.

  • lky2k23  

    One of my favourite shows, but can someone explain how the police and everyone know about Welt being Heisenberg?
    The way I saw it, everyone who know about him and his empire were either dead, Jessie or the Nazi family.

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