Breaking Bad: Granite State

"Why are you still alive? Why don't you just die already?"

This was a bridge episode, intended to take us from the utter devastation of 'Ozymandias' to the flashforward at the beginning of the season. And it most certainly did its job.

There was a theme -- being stuck (like granite -- the title of the episode is a pun) in a specific place with no choices because of your previous decisions, and it pretty much applied to everyone in the cast. Walt's choices in life have completely isolated him from everyone and everything: his family and friends, his former jobs, and now society itself.

At first, I didn't think Walt would be able to lay low because he's too much of a control freak. But I forgot how smart he is. He stayed low, even though he was so desperately lonely that he paid the fixer 10K to play cards with him. And hey, give him do-it-yourself chemo. As Chris Hardwick said in the Talking Bad episode that followed, do-it-yourself chemo is hard core. Necessary, though, since at the beginning of the episode, Walt couldn't even threaten Saul without coughing his lungs out.

Then, when it looked like everything Walt had done was for nothing since he would never, ever be able to get all that money to his family, just when Walt was ready to take Saul's advice and give himself up, voila. With probably the worst timing ever, Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz appeared on Charlie Rose in what had to be an attempt at damage control for Gray Matter, and they chose to say that Walt had had nothing to do with the company's success, that his only contribution was half of the name "Gray", and Gretchen topped it off by referring to Walt as "sweet and kind". There was probably nothing they could have said that would have enraged Walt more.

So Heisenberg is back. Walt is returning to Albuquerque with a whole bunch 'a guns. As we already knew. Except now we know why: to take down the Aryans, and/or Elliot and Gretchen, and somehow find a way to get all that money to his family. Will he succeed? I'm starting to think he won't.

During this episode, I started thinking (probably a whole lot later than the rest of the world that watches this show) that Uncle Jack and his Aryan crime family are like a juggernaut representing all of the mindless, violent death and destruction that Walt set in motion when he started cooking meth. Even 70 million bucks wasn't enough to stop them from continuing to cook and sell drugs, from killing innocent people and laying waste to everything around them. There seems to be no way to stop them or make them go away; it's like they're not human. They were watching Jesse's video confession and laughing, including the part about Todd murdering that little boy. Todd even appeared to be proud of what he'd done. Who could possibly be proud of killing a child?

Which brings me to Todd. He just murdered poor Andrea, who has been the very personification of an innocent bystander whose life has been unfairly ruined by drugs. At least Todd wasn't ready to kill Skyler on Lydia's say so. Is Todd really into Lydia? Really? It just seems so weird. I did enjoy the little Todd/Lydia scene in the coffee shop, if only because of the contrast with the previous meetings with Mike and Walt. Todd did everything Lydia wanted, even though it made him look ridiculous. He was even drinking tea.

And… Todd gave ice cream to Jesse. Ice cream? He also told Jesse that the latest cook was 96% pure. It was like Todd was giving a little reward and some incentive to a problem employee.

Like Walt, Jesse was also trapped in a box. They're still giving us Walt and Jesse in parallel just as they have throughout the entire series, even though they're not partners or friends any more. I knew Jesse just might figure out how to get away, and he nearly did by paperclipping the shackles and American Ninja-ing himself out of his cage. (Yeah, bitch. Paperclips.) But did Jesse just forget in the frenzy of the moment what was attached to that paper clip? Poor Andrea. Poor Brock. Geez, poor Jesse! How much more grief can he take?

And poor Skyler. Walt didn't save her with his amazing phone call, after all. Also trapped by her choices, Skyler needs ammo for the feds that can be used against Walt, or she's in serious trouble. Didn't Todd just accidentally give her a line on someone important, as in Lydia? Would Skyler have even remembered the woman at the car wash if Todd and his family hadn't dropped by wearing black ski masks to threaten her in front of baby Holly?

At least Junior seems to have his priority ducks in a row. He was thrown by the phone call from Walt, and for a moment, I thought he would do what Walt wanted. But no. Walt just doesn't get why anyone would turn down all of his money, because for him, it's everything. For Junior, it was all about his Uncle Hank. Good for Junior. Okay, Flynn. He's probably never going to call himself "Walter Junior" again.

So Walt is going to kill Jack and company and get his money to his children, and that will be it. Even though I stopped rooting for Walt a long time ago, I sort of hope he succeeds. But as I said earlier, I'm starting to think he won't. I don't think that's how they're going to end this story. Walt will not succeed; the bad guy will not win. Frankly, I'd be happy if Jesse were freed, and if Walt managed to get Skyler off the hook with the feds. And couldn't he tell them where Hank and Gomez are before he dies? I hate that they're buried in the middle of nowhere and no one knows where they are. Especially Marie. That's one loose end that I hope gets tied up.


-- Walt was transported to New Hampshire in an empty propane tank.

-- Skyler has moved out of the house, has custody of the kids and a part time job, and is using her maiden name. Interestingly, Walt is also using Skyler's maiden name. It feels related to the scene where Walt's wedding ring fell off his finger, and he tied it around his neck with string. He's still attached to Skyler.

-- One of the two ice creams that Todd gave Jesse was "Americone Dream". No, not subtle with the symbolism at all.

And pieces:

-- We finally met the fixer who operates out of the vacuum cleaner place, played by veteran actor Robert Forster. He was practically channeling Mike Ehrmantraut. I miss Mike.

-- Is Saul really off for Nebraska? I wonder if we'll see him at all in the series finale next week. Actually, I hope not. I don't want to see him mowed down by a hail of bullets.

-- There was yet another faction staked out outside the White's house. Everybody has done it by now.

-- There was only a brief scene with Marie. That was probably done so that the phone call from "Aunt Marie" wouldn't seem like it was out of the blue.

-- I liked that the fixer didn't promise Walt to give Walt's money to his family. What sort of mercenary would do that? That might have been part of what made Walt finally summon the strength to go on.

-- Congratulations to Anna Gunn and to Breaking Bad, who won well-deserved Emmys last night.


Jack: "The heart wants what the heart wants. Right?"

Fixer: "Everything good?"
Saul: "Define 'good'."

Saul: "I'm not your lawyer any more! I'm nobody's lawyer. The fun's over. From here on out, I'm Mister Low Profile, just another douchebag with a job and three pairs of Dockers. If I'm lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha."
How wonderfully descriptive. I do love Saul. I'm not sure he can carry a series, though. We shall see.

Next week: as the ad says, all bad things must come to an end. It just might be epic. This season certainly has been.

Four out of four empty propane tanks,

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


Josie Kafka said...

Excellent review of a difficult episode, Billie. Thank you (and curse you!) for getting me into this horribly depressing show.

[Todd] also told Jesse that the cook was 96% pure, when he told Lydia it was only 92%.

I think that those were two separate cooks: the first was 92%, which got Lydia and her European connections back in the game, and then the next cook (or many cooks later) was 96%. On Talking Bad they emphasized that quite a few months pass in this episode. Enough for Walter to re-grow his hair, at least.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Josie. It was a tough review to write, and that thing about the percentages makes sense.

Josie Kafka said...

Yeah, I thought about how one would write a review of this episode as I was watching it, and I was not jealous of the task. :-)

Although this episode was 75 minutes long, and although I can't think of a wasted scene, I wonder if this would have worked a bit better in terms of pacing if this had been the first hour of a two or two-and-a-half hour series finale.

That might just be my impatience talking, though.

Jess Lynde said...

This has been such a great, unrelenting, and unflinching story. But it has become increasingly difficult to watch (which I think is absolutely the right thing for this story). As we wind down to the painful end and I feel ever more hollowed out, I'm starting to wonder if this is a show that I'll ever want to re-watch. I've been following sunbunny's comments as she watches for the first time, and finding it hard to revisit that past knowing where it all leads.

Half way through this episode I finally realized I'm really, really glad this show is coming to an end. Because I don't think I can take any more than just one more episode. I've actually reached a point where I just want Jesse to die, so that his suffering can end. The whole series, I've wanted Jesse to get out from under and somehow make a decent life for himself. To reform and blossom once he's out from under Walt's control. But, at this point, I find it hard to believe that Jesse could ever recover from all he's experienced over the course of this series. When he was howling in agony as Todd killed Andrea ... too much, too much, too much.

When Flynn told off Walt, part of me cheered that Walt was getting some measure of comeuppance --- It's all about the family, huh, Walt? It was all for nothing if they don't get the money? Well, suck it! --- and part of me sobbed that Flynn has been so badly damaged by Walt's efforts to "help" his family. "You killed Uncle Hank! You killed him! [...] Why don't you just die already?!" I saw a note elsewhere that Flynn was wearing orange during that final call. Hank's color.

I don't know what I want for the end of this show anymore. I just know I want it to end. And I'm glad it finally will next week.

Josie Kafka said...

Jess, that's an interesting point about Jesse. Part of me agrees--how could he ever find happiness after everything that has happened to him in the past two years? And another part of me wishes he could at least get a shot at happiness.

Your comment reminded me of Jere Burns' character, Jesse's sponsor. Jesse kept asking him he could be okay with what he had done. Jesse isn't the letting-go type. Could he ever move past Andrea's death?

Now I'm even more depressed. :-(

Jess Lynde said...

Well, ultimately, it is all about wanting Jesse's suffering to end. I just want him to stop suffering so horribly. Whether that comes as death or as a shot at some measure or happiness, I guess we'll see.

I doubt I'll complain if Jesse survives, because I've got a huge soft spot for the guy. But I'm not sure if the show can convince me that he can ever emotionally move past these horrible things he's done and experienced. Having to live with it almost seems like a worse fate for him than dying. But maybe that's justice in the Breaking Bad 'verse.

Josie Kafka said...

They would have to do a huge flash forward to 10 years or 20 years from now to convince me that Jesse could be okay, that's for sure.

And we all know that the dolphins will have taken over by then, so no one will be happy.

(Except the dolphins.)

Your Modest Guru said...

Really liked Robert Forster as the super professional criminal relocater. "Your business is your business. My business is keeping you out of custody... If you walk out that door, you will be caught."
Walter's wintery exile was quite an existential experience for our brilliant kingpin. Goes from the sunbaked desert to the snowy mountains; he's surrounded by white, alone with himself. It really showed how pathetic his badass image of himself is when he can't properly threaten Saul Goodman or march into town with his hat without coughing up a lung. Those were my favorite moments of the episode, especially Bryan Cranston topping the heartbreaking phone call from last week. Much as I loathe Walter, I still wanted to hug him in that moment. Total low point. Me, I'd probably be happy spending isolation on a little reservation like that. I would need better movies, though.
You could at least respect Gus and Mike and even the cartels, but our current batch of villains is utterly despicable. Jack and the Nazis are pretty bad, but Todd and Lydia are special cases. I want them all dead. They all also made the mistake of not killing Walter when they had the chance.
I wouldn't be surprised if Walter would be angry or deranged enough to try to murder Elliot and Gretchen as well as the Nazis. Maybe the machine gun is for Jack and his gang and the ricin is for them? He probably sees it as opportunism, trying to steal the only thing he really has to be proud of, never thinking that they are just trying to save face due, once again, to the crimes he committed.
It looked like Gretchen was troubled lying about Walter's part in Gray Matter (whatever it really was). I'm sure that last conversation they had makes a lot more sense to her now that his Heisenberg status is public knowledge.
I'm still hoping Jesse survives. He's scarred for life, definitely, but he's been that way for awhile. They can't be making him suffer as harshly as he does only to just be killed off. Can they? Since season four, I've pretty much been convinced that Jesse would kill Walter at the end of the series. A lot of time passes between Andrea getting shot and Walt coming back home; who knows what state Jesse is in now.
But the show does indeed need to draw to a close. That's why I thought it was a good decision to end it with five seasons; there's no way Walter could keep getting away with it. This ain't Dexter. And besides, when it started the show was all about time running out.
Given the nature of this season, I'm not sure if it will go out on as big a bang as we think it might. We shall see.

Henrik Bennetter said...

What if, just what if, Walt gave the nazis up to the cops? What if he called them and said there's a meth lab there and that they're holding Jesse Pinkman? Wouldn't the DEA raid the crap out of them?
With this I'm saying I can only hope that's what Walt will do, but I'm pretty sure it's not.
I think were getting to the point where Walt feels like a kamikaze-pilot, and Jesse too probably. If Jesse has the opportunity - he'll probably blow up the whole farm with everyone on it, including himself. That could be a way for him to go.
Andrea. Poor, poor, Andrea. Could be the death that shook me the most. Jane was such a destructive force but Andrea was so purely innocent. Poor, poor, Brock. I hope they give him a happy ending.
This episode left me emotionally drained and gave me nightmares. I expect nothing less for the finale. And yes, I too want it to end. Badly. Pun intended.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Forgot to mention Todd. Such superb writing to let him first spare Skyler, out of respect for Walt. Then give Jesse ice-cream for being a good boy and then blowing Andreas brains out without any remorse.
Todd is maybe the creepiest character yet on BB.
A bold move, also, from the writers to actually KILL Andrea. Jesse would have got the point if Todd had merely pointed the gun at her, or marked her somehow, but no - boom. Ugh.

Anne said...

Todd was super creepy when he met Lydia in the café. (He was all spruced up, to boot.) Especially when he removed the hair from the back of her jacket. (Billie, yes, Todd is really into Lydia.)

Jesse trying to get out of his underground bunker mimicked the scene in Fly when he teetered on the top of the ladder trying to swat Walt's fly. Here we had Aaron Paul teetering on top of his waste pail and then lunging for the grill. And, again, as in Fly, it sure did seem like Aaron Paul did his own stunts in both these scenes. Amazing actor.

TJ said...

You go Flynn! I was cheering, but I also felt very sad for him. Poor kid.

And poor Jesse. I don't think I have ever seen a character suffer so much on a TV show before. I desperately want a good ending for Jesse, but I doubt it will happen.

It's funny when you think that Aaron Paul was only supposed to be in season one, but they kept him because his chemistry with Bryan Cranston was so good. If Jesse hadn't been in all five seasons, I wonder if I cold have stand it, not having him there to root for. As much as Breaking Bad might have been about the soul of Walter White, it has also been about the heart of Jesse Pinkman.

Steve S. said...

I agree with you all -- I'm ready for this to end. Last episode, I wrote a comment that I didn't want the show to end. But I'm just so drained, and everything has been pushed to such extremes that the show can't hold together anymore. The people are so evil, but what bugs me is there really are people like this in the world. And that stinks. Time for everyone to reap what they sow -- I don't know how they're going to wrap this up in one show but I'm expecting a lot of tension and intensity. I'd be okay with a dark ending where everyone dies, but that's far too simplistic for this show. Let's see how it wraps up.