When the screen went to black, behind the haunting play-out of antihero extraordinaire Walter White against Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” the crowd at the screening of Sunday’s series finale of “Breaking Bad” at Hollywood Forever Cemetery wrestled out from their lawn chairs and blankets en masse.
They clapped, they whistled, they hooted, they hollered, they cried, they took deep breaths. And they stood. A standing ovation for their show.
“It was perfect,” said Stefanie Turner, from Phoenix, with teary eyes. “Jesse got out! It lived up to my expectations -- and I had no doubt that it would. I can’t really be intelligible about it. It’s still surreal.”
It took hours to reach such muddledness. The line to get into the sold-out event began forming shortly before 1 p.m. (doors would open at 6 p.m.) Fans wore their devotion: outfitted in Heisenberg hats and various “Breaking Bad” shirts. Some came dressed in yellow hazmat suits. One, Rebecca Krakow, came dressed as a show staple and theory-inciter -- the pink teddy bear.
“I bawled my eyes out,” Krakow, 23, said after the finale. “I wish they showed a throwback to the pink bear. [But] the best part for me was the nod Jesse and Walt exchange before Jesse takes off in the car.” (Krakow’s costume, which was essentially pink fur glued to a Halloween pig costume -- paid off; she met stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston and creator Vince Gilligan by the end of the night.)
Of course, some had their critiques of the 75-minute finale. Bridget McGraw, of Hollywood, said Walter White was redeemed “a little too much.”
“Not that I didn’t want that,” the 35-year-old added. “But it was a little too perfect. I’d still rank it among the top series finales, though. Definitely. And I couldn’t have experienced it in a better way.”
Hundreds paid $45 for tickets to attend the big sendoff, boosted by Aaron Paul as a fundraising campaign for his wife Lauren’s anti-bullying nonprofit, the Kind Campaign. Tickets sold out quickly -- with some then asking as much as $700 on Craigslist and $1,000 on eBay for extra tickets. Also, donors to Paul’s Omaze.com contest had the chance to win a trip to be his personal guest at the event. In the end, an estimated $2 million was raised.
On a grassy knoll inside the cemetery, a celebration unfolded shortly after 6 p.m. on finale day. A DJ played tunes such as “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays and “Car Wash” by Rose Royce.
On one side of the mostly sedentary party, the show’s iconic RV (a.k.a. the Crystal Ship) sat parked, with fans lining up alongside to get their photos taken. Others hounded Lavell Crawford, who appeared on the show in the recurring role of Huell Babineaux, for autographs, many asking the all-important question: “Is Huell still waiting in that motel room?” A few managed to take photos with Matt Jones, who played “Star Trek” expert Badger, in the RV.
A screening of the pilot set the mood shortly after 8 p.m., before the long-awaited series finale rolled out around 9:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session capped off the night, led by Jimmy Kimmel and featuring Paul, Cranston, Gilligan, RJ Mitte (Walt Jr.), Bob Odenkirk (Saul), Jonathan Banks (Mike), Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) and some other cast and crew members.
“How could I not be here?” said Debra Trevino, 30, who lucked into the screening by waiting standby. “This is a communal experience. And ‘Breaking Bad’ is a communal show. Only, today, forget Twitter and social media. We all get to say goodbye together, side by side -- with our phones off.”
With that, we kept track of how the crowd responded to the final episode. Here are the top seven moments that had people amped up.
7. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was alive.": Walter’s quote when, his fate upon him, he is finally honest with wife Skyler.
6. Walter lurking in Elliot’s and Gretchen’s swanky home, and all that ensued in that home thereafter. (“Break all the glass in that house, Walt!” one fan screamed.)
5. Lydia meeting her fate via ricin-tainted stevia. Cranston joked during a question-and-answer session with Jimmy Kimmel following the screening that folks should “sell their stock in stevia.”
4. The guitar twang of the “Breaking Bad” theme song.
3. When the audience saw Badger and Skinny Pete in the car; fist pumping and screaming was the only logical response.
2. The “Scarface"-style shootout at the clubhouse. Pressing the garage door button will never be the same.
1. Jesse Pinkman choking Todd to death