Breaking Bad theory: the secret of Walt’s last scene

Yeah, science! AMC’s Breaking Bad ended quite some time ago, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. After rewatching all 5 seasons for the third time, we noticed something interesting about the very last scene… Let’s take a look at Breaking Bad in general and this scene in particular. If you haven’t watched this show yet: why are you still reading this? Go watch it! SPOILER ALERT

Main character Walter White, also know as the legendary meth chef Heisenberg, stole our hearts in the very first episode. A downtrodden chemistry teacher with a second job in a car wash who discovers he has lung cancer and decides to cook meth to make extra money. His bitchy wife Skyler is pregnant with an oops-baby and their son Walter Jr. has cerebral palsy. A little extra cash is not a bad idea in this situation. Bad is the key word here, though.

The Danger

As Walt teams up with a former student of his, Jesse Pinkman, things start to unravel very quickly. People die left, right and center, Walt builds an empire and gradually turns from the good guy into a very bad guy. He is not in danger, he IS the danger, remember? Although his cancer goes into remission and the White’s financial situation is stable, Walt doesn’t want to recind his meth empire. It’s the only thing in his life he built for himself, the only time in his life he ever felt powerful and in control. We don’t really know where we stopped rooting for this crazy sociopath.

Ending such an amazing show is a difficult task. It’s not possible to satisfy every fan. After 5 seasons Walt’s story ends with… complete closure. We knew from episode one that he would some day succomb to his cancer, but what would be the outcome for all the other characters? Jesse, Skyler, her sister Marie, their brother in law DEA officer Hank and the multiple Angry Latino Baddies. It appears to end pretty well rounded. Walt ends up apologising to Skyler, revealing where Hank and his collegue Gomez’ bodies are buried, ensuring that the kids get the remainder of his money, murdering the remaining bad guys and saving Jesse’s life. He dies from a wound in his stomach (and probably the results of his returned cancer) amidst the meth equipment he came to know so well, kind of smiling.

The end scene

The problem a lot of folks had with this ending is that Walter dies basically getting everything. He wins without having to atone for his crimes and without getting punished for them. He does a lot of awful things during the runtime of the show, of which making harmful drugs is not even in the top 5. You can say: “Yeah, but he dies.” He did. But he died on his terms. Or did he…

How are we sure that Walt is actually dead?

“Come on, we see him die, Wordy.” But do we really? Okay, we see him lying on the floor for about twenty seconds. But let’s look at soms facts. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that the three most important factors for determining someone’s chances of surviving a gunshot wound are as follows.

1 The location of the wound.
2 The amount of blood loss.
3 How quickly the person gets medical attention

What happened?

1 In the final showdown, Walt comes to the neo-nazi hide out with an automated remote controlled turret that he built in a car. After tackling Jesse, he pushes the button to make the gun mow down everyone left standing in the building. Near the end of the attack, Walt gets hit by something, but we don’t actually see what it is. The bullets and the ar 15 accessories from the gun in his trunk are pretty heavy duty, as they are able to go through the metal of the car and the concrete of the building. It’s not likely that Walt is hit by one of those bullets because he’s too low to the ground, covering Jesse. You can see from the holes in the wall that the bullets come in higher. Of course it can be a ricochet. But! According to research, higher power bullets like the ones Walt used tend not to ricochet. They either break apart or crush into the object they hit. It’s more probable that a piece of shrapnel hit Walt’s side.

2 The blood loss seems to be pretty minimal if we look at his clothes. The fact that he walks around for about ten minutes, determines that it’s probably not a vital organ. But what about his cancer, Wordy? Surely that would have been cause of death?

Time and timing

Believe it or not, Walt’s lung cancer might actually have increased his chances of survival. Research suggests that suffering from lung cancer makes it more likely to form blood clots. Cancer skews the natural balance towards clotting and actually lessens internal bleeding. This means there is a good chance that Walt’s blood clots, buying him precious time.

3 If Walt had been hit by shrapnel in the middle of the desert, he would have been done for, but we see the cops arrive right after he collapses. The Albequerque Police Department regulations state that arrested persons or intoxicated persons should be provided with medical care. Not only are they obligated to help Walt, but the Heisenberg case is a big story nationwide. They would have wanted Walt to see trial, so trying to save his life will be a priority. How do we know how much time there is between seeing Walt’s bloody hand on the vat and the cops entering the building? Well, if you look closely in the scene, you can already see the cop cars rushing towards the site, right before Walt falls down. A good question is: how did the cops know where to go? Remember that there was some time between the bullets and the moment Walt enters the lab. Also the neo-nazi compound wasn’t in soms deserted area. Someone could have heard the bullets and called the cops. There is a high probability that a hospital wouldn’t be far away either.


So, to summarise: Walt wasn’t vitally injured, his clotting slowed down the bleeding and help was there within 15 minutes after being hit. The chances of Walt having fainted but surviving the last scene are pretty large by now. The very last thing we see is a cop kneeling next to Walt and checking for a pulse. Of course we didn’t get to see the outcome. This was a purposefully done move by an amazing creative team who thought through every last detail of every shot in Breaking Bad. What looks like a closed ending is actually open to interpretation. We could easily imagine an end credit scene in which Walt is alive and handcuffed to a hospital bed. But that would have ruined the show’s ending more than the original ending.