So far, only one thing is certain: More people will die. Actor Bryan Cranston teased the last episode at the Emmy red carpet Sunday night, saying, "We have to see if anyone survives the holocaust"; in the penultimate episode, Walter White seems to have completed his transformation into Heisenberg and we see Todd kill Andrea without a moment's hesitation.
But there are still so many unknowns introduced earlier in the season: Who will White poison with the vial of ricin? What will happen to Jesse, who is in the hands of his Nazi captors thanks to his former mentor? Will Walt Jr., the one pure, untainted character, manage to stay innocent and safe? What will come of Todd's one-sided feelings for Lydia?
Here are some of critics' best predictions for how the series will end:
The Telegraph's Benjamin Secher predicts that Walt Jr. will die:
Only a fool – or a savant – would claim to know how Breaking Bad will end. But if there is one thing about which I feel horribly certain, it’s that Walter’s son – the sole central character who remains sweet and good and utterly unblemished; the one true innocent in a community steeped in criminality – will end up dead. Despite its comic flourishes, Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is a full-blown tragedy, and the loss of his son is the only comeuppance that would befit Walter’s crimes (which, let’s not forget, already include poisoning one child; and disposing of another’s body).
Besides, there are only two reasons to give a character the exact same name as his father: one is to suggest that the boy will inevitably follow in his dad's footsteps (and if the series had a softer centre, it would end with Junior taking the helm of Walter’s crystal meth empire); the other is to set-up a scene of mistaken identity. So when an assassin sent by Lydia, or a sniper working for Hank, arrives on the scene, I predict he will end up offing the wrong Walter White. Oh, and Junior will be wearing his father’s Heisenberg hat when it happens.
Rolling Stone's Melissa Olund predicts that Jesse will be Walter's undoing while Lydia Rodarte-Quayle will live:
The first is that Lydia Rodarte-Quayle gets away with it. Unless by some chance she's there when Walt attacks Uncle Jack's compound, I would not be surprised to see her scurry away, roach-like, back into the safety of global corporate capitalism. She seems like a character for whom a lack of comeuppance is her very reason for being there.
The second is that Jesse will try to kill Walter. If Walt succeeds in defeating Todd, Jack, and company, Jesse will be the unintended beneficiary, but whatever gratitude he might feel toward his liberator will surely be overwhelmed by absolute hatred for the man who handed him over to be tortured, who condemned him to a life of slavery, who set in motion the events that led to the murder of an innocent mother on her front porch—who turned Jesse from a loser whose urinalysis would have been dirty but whose hands and soul were clean into a broken-down husk of a person. The next time he and Walt see each other, only one of them is walking away – and between the ricin and the guns and the lack of anything else to live for, I don't even see the survivor walking very far.
Among other theories, Wired predicts that Walt, accepting that he's lost his family, will kill himself with the ricin:
One of the going theories is that Walt will actually use the ricin to poison himself. His cancer may be back (or so he says) and he seems fairly ready to go out in a blaze of glory, but perhaps his ego is too big to allow him to die by anyone's hand but his own. Ricin poisoning can take hours, if not days, to kill a person (remember Brock was alive for a while during the time the doctors thought his Lily of the Valley poisoning was actually ricin) so Walt could ingest it at any point he felt the walls closing in. It's also possible he could still use it on someone else. One of the most famous ricin poisoning death cases, which Walt mentioned in Season 1, involved Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov being attacked with an umbrella rigged to inject a ricin pellet under his skin. It's doubtful Walt would pull the same umbrella trick, but rigging some other clandestine poisoning maneuver? That's right up his alley.
Slate's Andrew Romano suggests that Walter White, now fully transformed into Heisenberg, will reunite with Jesse to kill the only remaining threat to his empire, Todd and his gang of Nazis:
And so Heisenberg leaves his dram of Dimple Pinch on the bar and heads back to Albuquerque—where, as we know from the flash-forward that started the final season, he will purchase an M60 machine gun at Denny’s and remove a ricin capsule from his abandoned home.
The official motto of the Granite State is “Live Free or Die.” Heisenberg knows he’s on the verge of dying. So he decides to live free in the meantime.
Presumably the poison and the bullets are intended for Uncle Jack and his merry band of Nazis—the ones who “stole” Heisenberg’s “life’s work.” Perhaps once he’s back in New Mexico, Heisenberg will again team up again with Jesse, who tried and failed Sunday night to escape from his torturer Todd. Honestly, who knows—trying to predict the next plot point on Breaking Bad is a mug’s game.
Buzzfeed's Kate Aurthur notes that "no show has ever exponentially grown its audience in its fifth and/or final season" the way "Breaking Bad" has. From gathering 1.2 million viewers during its first season, the number watching has grown to 8.5 million.
The series finale airs Sept. 29 on AMC.