Mike Breaking Bad

Mike (Jonathan Banks) in "Say My Name." (Ursula Coyote/AMC / August 27, 2012)

All season, Mike and Walt have been rushing toward a showdown, constantly puffing out their chests in attempts to establish the operation’s alpha-male. At the conclusion of “Say My Name,” one finally surpassed the other for good.

(Spoilers ahead.)

The penultimate episode of this year’s half-season saw Mike’s life end at the hands of Walt, after a final showdown by the river. The two were supposed to go their separate ways, with Mike flying off the grid and Walt continuing to cook. Instead, we were treated to one of the show’s most beautiful scenes while having to say goodbye to the grumpy grandfather many of us had grown incredibly fond of.

Before going any further, I want to point out that no one should be surprised by Mike’s death. He is a trained hitman with hands permanently stained from years of work. When you’re in his line of business, you accept (and in many cases, anticipate) going out on someone else’s terms. And given the constant power struggle between megalomaniac Walt and even-keel Mike, it’s fitting — at least narratively — Walt murders Mike. Still, it’s natural mourn and miss such a great character like Mike, who was played brilliantly by Jonathan Banks.

The final scene of “Say My Name” finds Walt actually doing a favor for Mike. He drops off a bag of money to Mike right before the latter attempts to leave and never look back. Mike was a step away from going off the grid with a big bag of money. He wouldn’t make it, as Walt, who felt so unappreciated by Mike in this episode and their entire relationship, shot him with Mike’s own gun as he got in his car to leave. There’s a look of what-did-I-just-do panic all over Walt’s face, but he and Mike quickly accept that the damage is done.

“Shut the f--- up and let me die in peace,” are Mike’s last words to a bumbling Walt. In typical “Breaking Bad” fashion, the cinematography beautifully captures the setting like a tranquil painting. On this show, the viewer is often shown significant scenes not with close-ups but with wide shots often full of the sky. They’re striking images that also remind us just how small these characters are in the grand scheme of the world.

(Mike’s goodbye also reminded me of Michael’s murder of Snoop — a signature scene from "The Wire's" fifth season — which ends with Snoop earnestly asking Michael, “How my hair look, Mike?” before he shoots her. Both are examples of characters accepting their fates because it’s simply apart of the game. If you make it alive, it’s a success within itself.)

Now, we’re left to wonder how Jesse will react to Mike’s death (assuming he finds out). Before Mike’s death, Jesse reiterated to Walt that he was no longer cooking. If Jesse ever finds out about how Mike died (or who poisoned Brock ... or really any lie Walt has ever fed to him), it would certainly rupture their relationship beyond repair. But Walt has become so good at lying (remember him crying to Hank about Skyler earlier in the episode?) in order to remain Heisenberg, that I can’t picture anything stopping him. Except an increasingly inevitable bullet, which I’m expecting to arrive sometime in 2013.