You actin’ kinda shady, ain’t callin’ me baby. Spoiler after the jump.
Mike’s death scene was gorgeous — magnificently done, albeit a touch self-consciously so — but, thinking back on it, I’m not persuaded that the lead up to that set piece was constructed with as much care as the scene itself. My concern isn’t with the narrative, as Sepinwall's is:
Why does Mike, pro of pros, sage of sages, exemplar of all that is wise and patient and level-headed on this show, repeatedly shoot down offers of help from a man he likes and trusts in Jesse, then readily accepts the aid of a man he has every reason in the world to dislike and distrust?
Because the show needed him dead, that’s why — and because the script couldn’t be finessed in some way so that Walt was literally Mike’s only option, or that Walt in some way conned Jesse into letting him be the delivery man without Mike knowing until it was too late.
I didn’t have those questions, and I still don’t, really. I accept the path the show led me — and Walt and Mike — down. But I don’t think Mike needed to die. It was pointlessly fastidious storytelling.
It would have made a lot of sense for Mike to have been the one guy from the whole story who got away. He knew what he was doing. He was careful. He had his plans laid out. Even though he was rattled — more rattled than we’ve seen him on the show — he knew what to do when he got Walt’s call informing him the police were on their way. It would have made sense that this guy could have slipped away and vanished the way he intended.
But the show has fallen into a pattern, I suspect, of mandating that all narrative loose ends be tied up. Which means characters can’t slip away — they have to have their story ended, on screen — and usually with great violence.
That’s usually a good thing. Real life can have tales that ramble for eternity; fiction is for definite endings. But, just like serial shows in which the hero can never die, and so his increasingly improbably escapes end up feeling like cheating, a show that insists its world is totalizing, that characters can only leave in a bodybag, is similarly cheapened.
Mike could have got away. What the show wants to do, I suspect, is deal with the aftermath of his death. To do that it had to actually kill him. But just because the writers of Breaking Bad want to proceed from some point, it doesn’t mean it necessarily makes sense for them to lead up to that point. The dance was beautiful, but, for once, you could see them counting their steps.