From Mr. Chips to Scarface - Vince Gilligan
As we near the final episode of Breaking Bad we must revisit the season's essential opening image. Yes I'm talking about that gigantic machine gun featured above. Now I've covered the machine gun before in my opening post on the season a year ago. There I get all excited about a Hank-Heisenberg showdown, and while I'm still excited for the finale, I'm feeling more than a little nervous as well. The reason has to do with the above quote from Vince Gilligan the show runner. If the show started with Mr. Chips then it's going to end with "Scarface" and based off the image above and the set-up last week, I'd say we're going to get Walter White's Tony Montana moment soon. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.
"Scarface" is a fantastic movie that has reached cult-status for a variety of reasons including Pacino's titanic performance, hip-hop culture latching onto it with a vice grip, and a pretty tight script written by Oliver Stone. Even now rap golden Boy is still referencing the film in his latest music video. Like many others Drake seems to latch onto the violence of the film. The final iconic images of the film are Tony Montana with his gigantic machine fighting to the death versus his enemies/the world. I worry if Mr. Gilligan has latched onto that image as well. If he has we may be due for an ending that could disappoint us.
Maybe I wasn't clear enough in that last sentence. If at any point in this finale we get former teacher, cancer suffering, Walter White blasting people with that much firepower I will be disappointed. Sure I have no doubt it will be shot spectacularly, but I don't think it will resonate. The reason for that is that Heisenberg is almost purely built on the power of his mind, which is what makes him a unique anti-hero. The great Heisenberg moments have involved more careful planning and science that physical force. Sure the Gus Fring bomb was badass, but it was the set-up that was more brilliant. Dispatching all of his foes at once even while some in prison, cunning and smart, but not physically hard for Heisenberg. As a kingpin, Walt works well without having to do the dirty work himself.
Now the times when Heisenberg himself, mainly the early days of killing low-level dealers, including the ones he so memorably ran over have all been born of out circumstance and need not careful planning. If you need more evidence that Walt isn't that good of assassin just look how he almost botched killing Mike last season. For this reason Walter White is much more Michael Corleone (that's the Godfather yo) than Tony Montana. Michael does get dirty himself, but it also much more calculating and deeply sinister than Tony Montana. Gilligan has said that he cribs from the Godfather for the show all the time and that's OK with me, because the parts of the Michael character he has put in Walter White are the best.
So if he's cribbing from "The Godfather" but referencing "Scarface" what are we going to get on Sunday? My hope is that by referencing "Scarface" in that legendary quote, Gilligan was just trying to pull in all the worshippers of that movie and we will actually get a finale where Heisenberg plans his attack with the careful precision of a scientist scorned. Leave the shootouts in Miami, give us the psychological showdown. That's the true Heisenberg.