By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The journey of anti-hero Walter White came to a dark end on Sunday when fans of "Breaking Bad" finally learned the fate of the chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, as AMC's cult drug drama concluded after a five-season run.
Emmy-winning "Breaking Bad" has captured audiences with its gritty plot about Walter, played by Bryan Cranston, a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who turns to cooking methamphetamine with ex-student Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, in order to make money for his family. Walt's chemistry skills allow him to create the purest meth available, which becomes known as "blue sky." Its popularity in the market leads Walt to eventually becoming a drug kingpin known as Heisenberg.
Sunday's 75-minute finale, entitled "Felina," saw Walt return to his deserted family home, retrieve a vial of ricin he hid in the wall, and embark on his final mission to tie up the loose ends left by his crumbled drug empire.
Walt visits the gang of white supremacists he had once contracted to kill Jesse, but who instead stole his drug money earnings and kidnapped Jesse to cook the 'blue sky' meth. Walt sets up an automatic rifle in his car that discharges when he goes into the white supremacist compound, killing the gang and freeing Jesse from captivity.
Walt takes a bullet but stays alive long enough to call meth dealer Lydia, the last remaining link to his drug empire, to tell her he poisoned her with ricin. Walt watches Jesse drive away a free man, and draws his last breaths in the meth lab at the compound as the police finally catch up with him.
Walt's death was one of the probable endings that audiences predicted ahead of the finale, especially as his cancer had returned in the fifth season and his path into darkness saw him lose the support of the people closest to him.
In one poignant scene where Walt sees his wife Skyler for the last time, he finally reveals his reasons for taking the dark path into the meth empire.
"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really, I was alive," Walt tells Skyler, after he gives her coordinates to the site where his police officer brother-in-law Hank was buried in the desert after being shot in the head by Walt's contracted neo-Nazi gang in an earlier episode.
"Breaking Bad" become the hot topic on Twitter on Sunday, with the hashtag #GoodbyeBreakingBad trending throughout the day. As Walt's journey came in an end, the majority of fan reactions were positive, with many calling the ending "perfect."
"We needed to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts ... we needed a resolution," Vince Gilligan, creator of "Breaking Bad," said in AMC's post-finale show "Talking Bad."
Paul added: "What I thought was great was that Walt died protecting Jesse."
'EVERYONE IS CAPABLE OF GOOD AND BAD'
Walt's journey from a mild-mannered school teacher into a manipulative drug lord saw him descend the circles of hell as he loses his family and identity to become the cold, calculating Heisenberg.
"In looking into this character and what happens to him and the transformation, I really believe that everybody is capable of good or bad," Cranston, who won three best actor Emmys for his portrayal of Walt, said at last month's Television Critics Association panels in Beverly Hills.
"I think, if given the right set of circumstances, dire situations, any one of us can become dangerous," he added.
AMC, owned by AMC Networks Inc., split the final season of "Breaking Bad" in two, the first half airing in 2012 and the second in 2013. The second half of the final season, which began in August, saw an average of 5.2 million viewers tuning in to see the conclusion of Walt's saga, more than double last year's audience for the show, according to AMC.
Online streaming site Netflix is credited with helping boost viewership for "Breaking Bad," giving audiences a chance to binge-watch earlier seasons to quickly catch up.
On Sunday, Paul hosted a viewing party of the final episode at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles. Paul joined cast members including RJ Mitte, who plays Walt Jr., driving onto the stage in the rusty RV that Walt and Jesse first cooked meth in, and emerged wearing yellow Hazmat suits, welcomed by hundreds of excited fans.
The event raised more than $2 million for charity, and Paul surprised fans by posing for pictures ahead of the screening. Many of the show's celebrity fans, including actor Ewan McGregor and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, attended the event.
"It's the final night of 'Breaking Bad.' It's devastating, I know. I can't thank you enough for coming out," Paul said, before enthusiastically kicking off the screening of the finale with Jesse's trademark phrase "Yeah, bitch!"
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Stacey Joyce)