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No, the “Breaking Bad” finale was not a dream sequence


(Enormous spoilers below.)

Something weird happened after Breaking Bad ended. The finale (which I reviewed here) started to garner some interesting reactions that went beyond normal criticism or analysis. Specifically, people started to spitball that maybe the final episode hadn’t actually happened — meaning, that the events we saw did not actually take place in the same narrative world as the rest of the series — and that, instead, most of the show’s final hour was a hallucination in the decaying mind of Walter White, who froze to death in his car before ever leaving New Hampshire. This theory was floated in at least two locations shortly after the episode aired: on The New Yorker’s TV blog, by critic Emily Nussbaum, and on Twitter, by comedian Norm MacDonald. Nussbaum’s contention is that everything that came after the scene of Walter in his car “possessed an eerie, magical feeling,” that things came too easily for Walter in the final episode, and that the episode would’ve made “far more sense” if the whole thing had just been a fever dream. MacDonald said the same things, basically: Walter, “the most wanted man there is,” shouldn’t have been able to do the things he did in the final episode, like quietly sneak into the cafe, elude police long enough to see his wife, and so on. (This despite the presence of narrative beats like Marie’s worried call to Skyler about how many tips the DEA had been getting about Walter’s appearance in Albuquerque, which had stretched them thin, a machination on Walter’s part that let him move through town the way he did.) This is all kind of cute, and even enjoyably creative on a certain level, but it’s also totally wrong.

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