Staff pick: [spoiler alert] Breaking Bad season finale

From the August 30, 2012 edition

Well, that was just sad. “Breaking Bad” often operates in very dark territory, and it’s not like I didn’t feel it coming, but [spoiler alert] losing Mike (Jonathan Banks) in such a fashion was utterly heartbreaking. Walt (Bryan Cranston) shooting Mike — not to mention saying he could get the names of Mike’s guys from Lydia (Laura Fraser) — represents his megalomaniacal worst.

Mike wasn’t a saint, but the structure of the penultimate episode made us sympathetic to the man. The look on Mike’s face when he had to leave his granddaughter was purely redemptive. We were reminded why Mike does what he does — for his family. Walt has long forgotten that was the same reason he started cooking meth. Now Walt is in the empire business. Wait, I take that back. There is no more Walt, only Heisenberg.

This is the darkest, most vicious season of “Breaking Bad” yet, and we have only Walt to thank for that. Ever since the episode with Walt’s 51st birthday, I no longer look at “Breaking Bad” as a crime drama. It’s a terrifying horror show and Walt is the absolute monster at its center. He callously manipulated and alienated those closest to him, Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Skyler (Anna Gunn), and shows no remorse.

I don’t know what’s in store for Sunday’s finale, but it’s sure to be a gut-wrenching culmination to a season built around tragedy and evil. Walt may have broke bad long ago, but how much worse can he get?