This is a show which has always trafficked in coincidences and more than a little suspension of disbelief: the fact Walt met a man at a bar who was the father of the girl he just passively killed, and that man later crashed planes right above Walt’s house, etc. But the machine gun tops them all, and not in a good way.
Here’s how I saw Felina ending, about 20 minutes in. And bear with me, because I’m going to make the egregious and annoying claim that this ending not only works better than the finale we got, but is more true to the show and to everyone’s character - especially Walt’s - we’ve seen for five whole seasons.
You can have most of the first finale half operate as it did, other than I’d tighten up the Gretchen/Elliot stuff. I get they wanted a slow burn, but it ate up a huge chunk of time for a storyline which had been as much as forgotten (Gray Matter was only really a factor in the first season, and mentioned offhand the rest of the time).
Walt goes to Lydia and Todd and presents them with his plan to teach them a new way of cooking. They agree. He shows up at the compound, and it’s here everything changes.
There is NO REASON both Lydia and Uncle Jack decide to off Walt before he shows them this new method of cooking. Walt’s on their compound, in their control. They let him cook, then they execute him. Even if Lydia is feeling jumpy and wants to off Walt, Jack would take matters into his own hands and let Walt cook before he’s tortured and/or killed. Remember, Jack doesn’t know about the ways Walt has killed or fooled people with chemicals before.
Rather than deal with a machine gun, Walt sticks with what he knows. Walt’s never been a technician, IE with the gun. He’s good with chemistry. Not building things; though he worked on his house, it was mostly a symbol of his need for control and perfection, he was never shown successfully constructing something. That the plan and the gun worked so well, down to the trunk not getting searched and Walt defying parking instructions was ridiculous. No way Walt the Realist, who spent so much time poking holes in Jesse’s and Skylar’s plans, thinks this plan will work well enough.
So, Walt drives up to the compound with a bunch of chemicals. He starts this ‘new’ cook. And he kills them with science, the thing he used in Seasons 1 and 2 and even just a couple scenes ago to dispose of his enemies. And this time, he doesn’t care if he dies, too.
The only wrinkle in this plan is, the show wanted us to get Jesse’s happy ending. Riding off into the night (albeit a tortured, demented Jesse who I’ll argue doesn’t actually live long). So how to do that if Walt kills everyone with poison? Does Walt’s last act become crawling out to Jesse’s prison (which he was shown on march to the lab, or saw via prior scouting, etc) and sliding back the lock? Does Walt bring his own special masks, and compromise everyone’s mask but Jesse’s? (In a real act of self-sacrifice, does Walt only have one non-compromised mask he intends to use for himself, but gives to Jesse?) Do we get the same birdseye view of Walt in the lab and the cops coming into the compound and swarming, only now they’re opening Jesse’s prison too?
In the end, I think the show compromised too far with the machine gun, and they did it for two reasons. To quasi-redeem Walt, and to give Jesse a happy ending. To each point, then:
Walt’s quasi-redemption was absolutely out of character. They feel too much in love with their creation, and possibly with the idea of him as a new sort of American outlaw, and it hurt them.
I can’t help but be glad Jesse did get a not-gruesome ending, and I was ecstatic Jesse didn’t let himself be used for the last time, but it all felt a bit hollow. I also can’t shake the feeling he’s really not going to end happily, or long from now. Nobody on this show ends happy, and assuming Jesse doesn’t get into a wreck or kill himself, he will go find Badger and Skinny Pete and then … what? Be broke and mentally wrecked and on the run from the law.
Of course, even after all this arguing I’m not going to try and convince you that the whole thing was a dream or hallucination after Walt gets into the car, because I don’t think that theory works. But if there’s anything to support it, it’s how out-of-character not just the characters, but the whole finale, was.
It was still a great episode of television. It just wasn’t the greatest or most consistent-with-its-own-ethos episode of Breaking Bad.