Back in July, I counted down the top 10 MacGyver moments in "Breaking Bad" -- moments when Walter White uses his seemingly innate mastery of chemistry to get himself out of a predicament. Whether you loved or hated the conclusion, the series finale gave us a few more MacGyver moments to remember it by. This season contained flash forwards that showed Walter with two weapons – ricin and a machine gun – leaving viewers to speculate just how they would be used. In “Ozymandias,” the episode that gutted every viewer, Walt declared he still had “things to do,” and the series finale was the conclusion of his life’s work as a crystal meth kingpin. Below, his most MacGyver-ish acts from that episode:
Scaring his rich enemies into giving his family drug money
After Walt drives from New Hampshire to Albuquerque, N.M., in a white Volvo, the first thing he does is make sure the trunkful of money remaining from his meth empire business gets to his family. That’s problematic when his family hates him and the federal government wouldn’t allow hard-earned drug money to go anywhere near them.
Pretending to be a reporter, he calls a publication about an article on the wildly successful and philanthropic Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz – his nemeses ever since he myopically gave up his share of Grey Matter, the multibillion-dollar company they all founded together – and casually asks when they’ll be home and verifies their address. Walter then waits in the shadows of their estate and quietly follows them inside before they set their alarm. While they make small talk, he lurks in the shadows and surveys the house – and the life – he could have had had he chosen otherwise with Grey Matter.
Walter forces the couple to bring in the $9,720,000 from the trunk of his car, emphasizing that it’s “MY money.” He instructs them to bequeath it to Walter Jr. on his 18thbirthday in the form of an irrevocable trust for his college education and “the betterment of his family.” They doubt the plan’s feasibility but Walt notes that two rich benefactors known for their charitable endeavors, including a recent $28 million donation to aid victims of meth abuse, would be a perfect front for the trust. He cites Gretchen’s stinging words from her appearance on Charlie Rose – “my children are blameless victims of their monstrous father.”
Walt also insists that they are not to spend a cent of their own money and that all taxes and lawyers’ fees are to come from the stash of cash sitting in front of them. And just to make sure that they actually do it, he signals outside for two red laser beams to shine through the huge windows and onto Gretchen and Elliot. Walter explains that he hired the “two best hit men west of the Mississippi” and if Walter Jr. doesn’t get his money, a “countdown will begin.”
The MacGyver moment here is that the two “hit men” turn out to be Badger and Skinny Pete holding high-tech laser pointers, hardly expert snipers. Skinny Pete admits that “the whole thing felt kinda shady, like morality wise,” but Walt’s sizable payment eases his conscience.
Masking ricin with sweetener
Ricin, that poisonous weapon weaving its way throughout the series since Season 2, Episode 1, has been nothing more than a threat – until now. In the opening flash-forward scene of Season 5, Episode 9, Walt returned to his abandoned and vandalized home to retrieve the ricin cigarette he hid behind the wall socket.
Lydia and Walt had once held weekly meetings every Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the same diner at the same table. Upon Walt’s departure, Lydia continued having the scheduled meetings with Todd, the sociopath with an aw-shucks Beaver Cleaver demeanor. During their last meeting, Walter approaches them under the ruse of a new method to cook that doesn’t require methylamine. It’s here that Walter arranges a meeting that evening with the Uncle Jack and the Nazis (leading to MacGyver moment No. 3).
Now, Lydia always had to request Stevia from the waiter but this time there’s already a packet in the sugar bowl. An overhead closeup of Lydia emptying the sugar substitute into her chamomile tea is all we need to know that the ricin has finally found its victim. Great job on the writers for using one of Lydia’s signature character traits as her undoing.
Loading a trunk full of M60
We first see the M60 machine gun in the trunk of his white Volvo (also in the Season 6 premiere). Meanwhile, in the desert, Walter hooks up the M60 to his car alarm key chain and an unidentified rotating mechanism (I kept picturing a sprinkler).
When Walt sneaks into Skyler’s new apartment, she informs him that the Nazis (the drug gang consisting of Todd, Uncle Jack and the rest of the facial-haired thugs) have threatened their family. Walter assures her that “they’re not coming back, not after tonight.”
After arranging a meeting through Todd and Lydia, Walt drives to the Nazis’ compound. He ignores directions on where to park his car and leaves it parallel to the house. Under orders from Lydia, the Nazis allow him inside to kill him but before they can do so, Walt evokes Uncle Jack’s debt to kill Jesse. Walt accuses Uncle Jack of partnering with Jesse to cook meth, insulting him in the process. To uphold his pride, Uncle Jack orders Todd to drag in Jesse by his chains.
Walt then grabs his keys, tackles Jesse to the ground, and clicks the key chain, making the Volvo’s trunk fly open with the firing machine gun. A lethal hailstorm of bullets kills everyone but Todd and Uncle Jack, and we realize that Walt is saving Jesse. With the very chains that bind him, Jesse then strangles Todd, his torturer, the killer of his girlfriend.
While puffing on a final cigarette and gurgling blood, Uncle Jack mumbles that only he knows where the stolen empire money is located. As he says “You pull that trigger, you’ll never –” Walter puts a bullet in his brain. This was never about money, it was about avenging Hank’s death and ensuring his remaining family members’ safety.
A lot of expectation is placed on series finales and maybe things worked out a little too well for our antihero in this episode – Walt moseying into Skyler’s apartment in plain daylight despite every cop in the state looking for him, no other customer happening to sit at the table with the ricin sweetener, the keys on the pool table and not inside a pocket, and of course all of the Nazis conveniently assembled in Uncle Jack’s house (don’t they ever take a night off from thuggery?). But the show had to tie up plenty of loose ends for the sake of storytelling. And maybe much of it is absurd but, hey, at least there’s no deus ex machina – it’s all characters, props and weapons coming together for Walt's final plan.