The title, from the beginning, was the obvious guide to the inevitable: "Breaking Bad" is about a good guy gone bad.
Just how bad he's gone has been a bit of shock, and the ending to this past Sunday's show took things to an even more heinous level.
As critical TV show darlings go, "Breaking Bad" has been one crazy ride over its five seasons, never lacking in jarring, jaw-dropping, oh-no-they-didn't! moments.
Indeed, the show has found me turning my head from this or that sight from its outset. So much so that I've missed a few episodes over the years, unable to muster the energy to watch ("the twins" creeped me out big time, I have to admit).
But this past episode's final scene was the most difficult to date.
Yes, the literal face-off with Gus Fring to end season four was shocking in its visual. And we've seen plenty of characters killed off in a variety of chilling ways. But the casual killing of a child who innocently witnessed Walt's crazy-tense train heist took this already dark series to an entirely black place.
Yes, Walt mild-mannered chemistry teacher-turned-meth-kingpin has lost his humanity, we know that. And the writers, audacious to go there at all, did put the child killing in the sole hands of an otherwise throwaway character.
But it's still a dangerously alienating place for a TV series to go.
From the outset, "Breaking Bad" shattered the protagonist-as-hero mold. Walt started as a guy you felt sorry for a guy you could somehow root for even though he decided that using his chemistry background to make meth was the only way to dig his family out of its financial pit and to pay for his own cancer treatment.
Root for a flagrant law-breaker? Sure, viewers already did that in rooting for Tony Soprano. We all knew Tony did very bad things. But pretty much everyone in "The Sopranos" did the same.
Most of the people in "Breaking Bad" do very bad things, too. But they didn't start that way. And, frankly, they could stop which is where I expected this final season of the show to go. (The 16-episode split-up fifth season began in July with the current eight episodes and will mark the show's finale next summer with eight more.)
I fully expected that Walt would spend this season trying to extricate himself from the mess he's gotten himself into and trying to rebuild the family he's alienated and whose lives he's put at risk. It would be, however, the predictable place to go and "Breaking Bad" is so not predictable.
Thus, instead of trying to get out, Walt's snuggled in deeper.
Creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan gets credit for taking the show there for making the lead character more and more unlikable as the story moves along. It's bold business for television.
Gilligan has put together some interesting characters. The most sympathetic in a series of decidedly unsympathetic people is Jesse, a former student of Walt's who helped the teacher get into the meth business and then got sucked into the abyss along with him. He was a punk at the beginning, but Jesse is the one guy whose humanity not only remains, but has seemingly grown over the tortuous seasons.
Jesse is not going to be OK with what went down at the end of Sunday's episode. But how about Walt? That's going to be the real deal. If Walt simply moves on, status quo, with his new nefarious business, there can be no redemption.
The killing to end this past episode either will jolt Walt toward fixing his life or be the thing that finally sends him down either to jail or to his own brutal end. It can't be for nothing.
The show's writers purposely thumb their noses at TV convention. And, sadly, in real life, innocent people even children are killed when caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Walt can't be saved by this horror, nothing can save him.
As a viewer, I'm not sure Walt can do anything at this point to regain any sympathies. Instead, it's time to start rooting for Hank, Walt's brother-in-law lawman, who's been blindly on Walt's drug-dealing heels throughout the series.
Hank's already become surrogate father to Walt's children. He just might end up being the hero, the guy viewers root for in the end to take Walt down.
Because, right now, Walt deserves whatever very bad things he gets.
Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at email@example.com.