Norm Macdonald recently proposed a theory on his Twitter feed that the last episode of Breaking Bad is a dream that Walter’s brain concocts in its last dying moments. According to Norm, Walter White dies in his car at the beginning of the episode when the police are approaching him. As he “dies,” suddenly the police disappear, a key falls from the sun visor – all too perfect to be true. Music starts playing that represents he’s no longer alive and now in a semi-conscious delusional state of mind. The rest of the episode goes off without a hitch, Walt successfully evades police in Mike-like fashion despite being made by his neighbor who would have given a full description to the police/FBI/DEA. He manages to build an auto-turret and parks his car just right so that it would kill everyone inside, an extremely lucky and improbable scenario when you really think about it. Norm thinks that it’s all too good to be true, therefore, it must be a dream bouncing around the mind of a dying man as his last synapses are firing.
While I can appreciate Norm’s interpretation of this show, I do not subscribe to his ending. All forms of art, including Breaking Bad, will always have more than one correct interpretation. Over the years, I have read some of the greatest fan theories, some of them making sense and others just being hilarious (Gilligan was actually the devil in Gillian’s Island, R2D2 and Chewbacca were actually the real heroes in Star Wars, the Rugrats didn’t exist and were a figment of Angelica’s imagination, etc.) Whether the original writers intended for these other interpretations or if they are purely coincidental is for the fans to decide, but in the case with Breaking Bad, I do not think Vince Gilligan intended for the ending to be a dream. All being said, I think it is more likely that they had way too much to accomplish in such a short time that they couldn’t fit a longer ending. I’m sure if they had 2 or 3 more episodes, they could have thrown a few wrenches into the storyline to make it more believable.
There is also the problem of the flash forward in Season 5 Episode 1. In the flash forward, Walt looks disheveled and is missing his watch. After Season 5 episode 8, the show goes on a year long hiatus because the writers wanted to get the ending right. The suspense wasn’t just to screw with the audience; Vince wanted it to be perfect. Having already done a flash forward in the first episode, they couldn’t completely abandon their original ending, but I personally believe that the ending we are presented with is much different than where they thought they were going when they filmed the flash forward. (Hopefully one day that original storyline leaks as I would love to read it.) In other words, the closer that Vince and the writers got to the end, the more he had to accomplish without breaking continuity. During “Talking Bad,” when asked about why Walt took off his watch in the final episode, Gilligan simply explains that it was for continuity reasons because Walt didn’t have the watch in the Season 5 Episode 1 flash forward. But one has to wonder, what was the original storyline that lead to Walt not having a watch? Or was it a genuine mistake? Finally, the ending with the auto-turret built from an M60 seems a bit forced… they had already purchased the gun in the flash forward and now had to use it. Had that gun not been purchased, I believe Walt would have built a bomb as he had multiple times before in the series. Either way, you can see how difficult it must have been as writers of the show to rewrite the ending while still utilizing the material from the flash forward.
This, to me, is the real explanation why everything went perfectly in the final episode. Gilligan wanted to give closure to his fans and the only way to do it was to wrap up all of these loose storylines. Had things gone wrong, there wouldn’t have been time to reconcile every storyline. There is also the fact that Walt is not a psychic, there’s no way he would have known the details to many of the things he witnessed during the last episode. To name a couple, even if he somehow figured out that Jesse was actually a prisoner, he would not have known the exact means by which he was being held prisoner (chains on wrists and ankles.) He wouldn’t have known the exact markings of Jesse’s tortured face. He wouldn’t have known about the awkward “relationship” between Todd and Lydia.
If we start to believe that just since this last episode was a bit unbelievable and all too perfect, what is stopping us from concluding that during the pilot episode when Walter falls at the car wash, he goes into a coma and actually dreams the entire series? When he dies in Season 5 Episode 16, the hospital finally pulled his plug. I mean think about it, a teacher turned meth kingpin who successfully defeated every other drug lord in the Southwest and amasses 80 million dollars? And it’s only the ending that you’re having trouble believing?
To end this on a happy note, I just want to thank Vince Gilligan, the writers and the cast for making such an amazing show. As a fan, I truly appreciate the series ending and am so glad that it didn’t end like The Sopranos.
Update: Someone sent me this link from BuzzFeed with an archive of Norm Macdonald’s theory for those who don’t want to sort through his Twitter feed.
Update 2: If you want to badger Norm Macdonald about his theory, I made a link for you: