‘Breaking Bad’ Review: ‘Granite State’
Walt is a wanted man in this week’s penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad.”
It’s a tough task to top last week’s episode, which is still standing tall with an unprecedented 10 out of 10 rating on IMDb, but with “Granite State,” Vince Gilligan and company still manage to deliver a quality episode, even if it’s not quite as panic-attack inducing as “Ozymandias.”
This episode’s teaser started off with Saul Goodman arriving at the vacuum repair shop of the mysterious person disappear-er (perfectly brought to life by Robert Forster), which as it turns out, is an actual vacuum repair shop (like Saul, I always assumed that was a “term of art”). Thanks to Walt, it looks like Saul is ready to make a new life for himself in Nebraska, and he doesn’t seem thrilled about it. It’s too bad that the announced spin-off is a prequel, because I would be equally interested in watching a show about Saul Goodman: Cinnabon manager.
The disappearer informs Saul that he will have to stay at the shop, in a secret room downstairs, for a few days before he can move him into his new digs. He also gives Saul a heads up about his new roomie, Walter White. When Saul asks how Walt is holding up, the man turns on a surveillance monitor to let Saul see for himself. On the TV, Walt is pacing back and forth. It seems that he’s going stir-crazy cooped up in this little room, smacking the overhead lamp in his frustration.
After the first of what seem like 300 commercial breaks, we pick up with a shattered Marie as a few DEA agents escort her home. The agents do their best to convince her that they will find Hank. As they pull up to the Schrader house, they notice the front door is ajar and papers have blown out onto the driveway. Two of the agents jump out of the car, while the third speeds away, getting Marie out of there. The agents, guns drawn, enter the house, only to find it in disarray, with a camera case lying open on the floor.
We jump over to the secret headquarters of the White Power Rangers (which I’m still calling them), where they are watching Jesse’s confession tape. They hear Jesse talk a little bit about killing Gale (I miss that guy), and make fun of him for crying through the whole tape (Nazis are jerks). Kenny fast-forwards the tape to the incriminating bits about how child-murderer Todd murdered the child Drew Sharp.
While Todd smirks at Jesse’s testimonial, Uncle Jack is angry. He hops up and heads outside, gun in hand, to take care of Jesse. Once again, Todd talks his uncle down, telling him that he would like to keep him around so that they can perfect their meth cooks. After recently acquiring $70 million of Walt’s money, Jack isn’t too interested in the meth trade, but when Todd keeps persisting, Jack figures out why: it’s because Todd is in love with Lydia. After this stunning revelation (for Jack, not anyone with a pair of eyes), Jack lets up, and they go back inside to watch Jesse cry some more.
In his pit, Jesse–still in rough shape from the beating he took from Todd–is staring at the creepy surveillance picture of Andrea and Brock that he found posted in the meth lab. He pulls off the paperclip and begins to pick his handcuffs.
Back at the vacuum repair shop, Walt tries to enlist Saul in his vendetta against Jack and his men. Walt, wanting to kill them for killing Hank and taking his money, tells Saul to get busy writing down the names of any hit men that he might know. Instead, Saul offers him some free advice (that has to be a first for Saul). Saul tells him that if he is so worried about his family, then he shouldn’t be leaving them high and dry. He explains that even after his phone call meant to exonerate Skyler, without Walt there and no information to bargain with, she has nothing to keep her out of legal trouble.
Saul tells him that the wife and kids will be kicked out the house with nowhere to stay and no money, and there is no safe way for Walt to get any money to them. Saul tries to convince him to stay and turn himself in, but Walt isn’t having it. He tells Saul that he isn’t through until he kills Jack and his men, and takes back what is rightfully (or maybe wrongfully) his. Again, he says that he is doing it for his family, but is he really? If he can’t get $11 million to them, how does he plan on getting $80 million to them?
At this, the disappearer enters and tells Saul that it’s time to go, but Walt says that Saul is going with him because he can still use him. Saul tells Walt that he isn’t his lawyer anymore. Walt tells him that he is still involved whether he likes it or not. He adds, “It’s not over,” before falling onto the bed coughing. Saul looks down at him and says, “It’s over,” and he grabs his things and makes his exit, leaving for his new life. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Saul before the series ends, because as excited as I am to see the prequel series, I still want to see where this guy ends up.
Next, we pick up with Skyler, as the DEA drill her for information on Walt. I liked that this scene was a nod to the pilot, where Walt first found out that he had cancer, as Skyler sits, not hearing anything the agents are saying. They manage to snap her out of it, and she tells them that she understands that she is in trouble if she doesn’t give up Walt, but she doesn’t know where he is. They tell her to think hard about this, and let them know if she thinks of anything that might be useful to their investigation.
Later that night at the White residence, Skyler sits on the couch smoking. She peeks out the window at the feds watching her house. She goes to check on Holly and is surprised to find three men in all black and wearing ski masks in the baby’s room. One of them is Todd, which makes the others some of Jack’s men. Todd tells her that she should keep the lady she met at the car wash (aka his main squeeze Lydia) out of her discussions with the DEA. He then tells her that she doesn’t want them coming back, and they leave out the window.
We then pick up with Todd, all dressed up and sipping on tea, as he waits for Lydia at a public café. When she comes in, she sits down back to back with Todd, at the table behind him. They discuss his visit to the White house and he tells her that his message was received loud and clear. She tells him that she things they should take a break from their meth dealings, but when Todd says that he has 50 pounds of meth that is 92% and blue, just like she likes it, she looks like she is about to fall out of her chair. She asks if Heisenberg is working with him, and he tells her that he’s working with Pinkman. He tells her how they “work together good,” and how they “make a good team” (Todd has a limited vocabulary). She repeats “92%,” and it seems now that she is not quite as done working with Todd as she thought.
When we next catch up with Walt, or should I say Mr. Lambert, he is inside the tank of a propane truck, having been smuggled across the U.S. to his new home in the snow-covered mountains of New Hampshire. He looks up at the tiny little shack in the middle of nowhere. What a crappy place for the fearsome Heisenberg to live out his days.
As Walt settles in, the disappearer gives him the rundown on the place. There’s a little bit of food, and a wood stove to cook on. No phone. No internet. No cable. But at least he gets to watch “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (and there’s even a backup copy, in case he wears out the first disc. This guy thought of everything). He tells Walt that if he needs anything to put in on a list, and he will make a supply run the next time he stops by, in a month. He tells Walt that he is the hottest client he has ever had, by far, and that he is being paid to make sure Walt doesn’t end up in jail.
Already, Walt seems to be a bit claustrophobic. He asks the man what’s to stop him from just walking out the front gate. The disappearer tells him that nothing is stopping him, and tells him about a little town eight miles down the hill. He then warns Walt that if he leaves, he will be arrested, and if he finds out that he has left the property, he will not be coming back. He then gets into his truck, Walt thanks him, and the man drives away.
Back inside the shack, Walt unpacks his things, including his famous Heisenberg porkpie hat. He places the hat on his head. A few moments later, he walks out of the shack wearing his hat and a thick coat, and heads for the gate, but when he reaches it, he is already coughing. He opens the gate a few inches, and then changes his mind, saying “Tomorrow,” and he heads back inside, where he makes himself a fire in the wood stove.
In his pit, Jesse has freed himself from his hand cuffs, and has stacked up the few items he has down there—a bucket, and some bedding supplies—and climbed on top of them, reaching for the bars at the top of the pit. He hears Todd coming, and by the time the creepy bastard pulls the tarp off, Jesse is back in his cuffs. Todd tells him that they got some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and he brought some for him. Todd puts the ice cream in the basket… er bucket, and lowers it down to him. He then tells him that the latest batch Jesse cooked was 96% (I’m not sure, but I don’t think even Walt ever hit 96%), so he thought he deserved a treat. When Todd starts to walk away, Jesse asks if he will leave the tarp off the pit so he can do a bit of star gazing, and Todd complies.
Once he’s gone, Jesse stacks up his things again and jumps for the bars above him. Hanging from the bars, he tries to open the cage door to make his escape. The next thing you know, Jesse is making a run for it. He makes it as far as the barbed-wire fence surrounding Jack’s compound, but as he starts to climb, the White Power Rangers show up. He hops down and tells them to go ahead and kill him because there is no way he is doing another cook for them (this was another rare use of the f-word. I guess since it’s the last season, AMC is letting them go nuts).
Cut to Andrea’s house as Todd shows up in the middle of the night. Apparently, she doesn’t have a creep detector, because after he simply states that he is a friend of Jesse, she unchains the door and opens it all the way. She asks about Jesse, and he tells her that he is right outside, in the truck parked on the street. She steps out onto the porch, and we see Jesse inside the truck, bound and gagged and banging his head against the window so hard that it is now covered in blood.
After checking the house for any witnesses, Todd tells Andrea that “It’s nothing personal,” and drops her with a single silenced gunshot to the head. Obviously, Jesse—having seen yet another one of his girlfriends die—doesn’t take it very well. As Todd gets back in the truck, Jack tells Jesse to calm down and to remember that, “There’s still the kid” (and Todd will not hesitate to murder a child. I’ve seen him do it).
Later at his shack in the mountains, Walt makes another attempt to leave the property, but as he opens the gate, the disappearer drives up the road. Inside the shack, the man gives Walt some supplies, some Albuquerque newspapers, some cases of Ensure to put some meat on him, and an assortment of eye glasses for him to try out. He fills Walt in on what his family has been up to, and that a fence has been put up around his old house.
A few moments later, the man gives Walt a homemade chemotherapy treatment, hanging it from the antlers of a deer mounted on the wall. The man starts to leave, but Walt asks him to stay a little longer. He offers him $10,000 to stay for just another two hours. The man agrees to stay for the price, but for only one hour. More than anything else in this episode, this moment made me really pity Walt. Yeah, I know he’s just the worst guy ever, but to see him so lonely that he is reduced to begging and even bribing someone just to spend time with him… that’s about as sad as it gets.
As the man sits down to play some cards with him, Walt tells him that one day he will show up and he will find Walt dead. Walt tells him that when that happens, he wants the man to give his money to his family. The man asks Walt, “If I said yes, would you believe me?” Walt’s silence is answer enough.
Later that night, Walt lies in bed, newspaper cutouts of his family taped to the wall. He has lost so much weight that his wedding ring slips off of his finger and falls to the floor. As he puts his ring on a string and ties it around his neck, he looks over to the cases of Ensure that the disappearer brought for him. He dumps out the box’s contents and begins stuffing stacks of cash into it. The next day, with the box of money wrapped in brown paper, Walt finally manages to walk out the gate and head for town.
At the high school, Walt Jr.—who is now officially going by “Flynn” for obvious reasons—gets called into the principal’s office. There the assistant principal Carmen (who was introduced as Walt’s co-worker way back in the Pilot) tells Flynn he has an urgent-sounding phone call from his Aunt Marie. She leaves the room, and when he picks up the phone, we jump over to the other end, where we see a woman in a dive bar hand a pay phone receiver over to Walt.
Walt begins nearly ten different sentences about the things he has done, and the things that everyone is saying he’s done, and he never intended to blah, blah, blah (we’ve heard this whole spiel a million times by now). He then switches into business mode, and verifies Flynn’s friend Louis’ address. He tells his son that he is sending a package for him to his friend’s house, which contains $10,000 in cash for the family. Flynn makes it very clear that he doesn’t want the money after everything he’s done to them, including killing Hank. As his yelling causes Carmen and other faculty members to run into the room, Flynn asks his father, “Why are you still alive?” and “Why don’t you just die already?” before slamming the phone down.
Distraught, Walt picks up the phone and dials another number. Someone from the DEA picks up, and Walt asks to speak with the agent in charge of the Walter White investigation. The man on the phone asks who is calling, and he says, “Walter White.” He then lets the phone drop and hang from its cord as he walks away to sit at the bar. The bartender pours him a drink, and Walt waits for them to come get him.
The bartender begins flipping through the channels on the TV mounted above the bar. The bartender flips past “The Charlie Rose Show,” where Walt spots his old friends Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz—with whom he helped co-found their multi-billion dollar company, Gray Matter Technologies, back in the day—being interviewed. They are talking about their donating millions of dollars to drug centers in the southwest. Rose suggests that they have done this to distance themselves from Walter White.
Feet held to the fire, Elliot insists that while Walt was there in the early days of their company, he was not responsible for building it into what it is today. When asked what Walt’s contribution to the company was, Elliot admits that he helped come up with the name, and nothing more. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Walt, who clenches his fists as he watches. Rose then asks if Walter White is still out there, and Gretchen tells him that he is not. She cannot speak to whether Heisenberg is still out there, but the sweet and brilliant man they once knew is gone.
Fire burns in Walt’s eyes as the camera slowly pans in on his face, and the “Breaking Bad” theme begins playing over the final moments of the episode, as we cut to the local Sheriff’s department moving in on the bar. They enter, weapons drawn, but Walt is long gone. The only sign that he was ever there is his half-empty glass sitting on the bar.
I thought this was the perfect way to end this, the penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad.” I absolutely loved the music cue. After seeing Walt try to put the past behind him, living in the mountains for the last few months, Heisenberg is finally back in the driver’s seat, thanks to the Schwartzes’ words. Gretchen’s words especially could not have been more true. I thought that this interview was a brilliant way of getting under Walt’s skin, being the spark that ignites the powder keg that will hopefully be the final episode. What happened between Walt and the Schwartzes, and how Gray Matter went on to make billions without him, was a constant reminder to Walt of his failure. Now, he is not going to let his latest failure of getting his money to his family go unpunished.
While not as much of a non-stop thrill ride as last week’s perfect episode, “Granite State” still had a lot going for it. It also didn’t have as many Holy Cow! moments as others (aside from Todd killing Andrea), but that’s mainly because there aren’t that many revelations left to surprise us with. This episode’s sole purpose was to get us from point A, last week’s episode, to point B, next week’s finale, and fill us in on the several months in between. In that regard, the episode did its job, and then some. The pacing was perfect, as just about every scene jumped us forward in time a little bit.
Again, everyone brought their A-game, as far as the acting goes. Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse watched Todd kill Andrea was devastating. Bob Odenkirk really delivered in the intense scene Saul shared with a crazed, bloodthirsty Walt. R.J. Mitte did an excellent job with the phone call from Walt scene, as he yelled and screamed at his bastard of a father for all of the evil things he’s done. Last, but not least, Bryan Cranston delivered yet another brilliant performance. Personally, I think Walter White is a terrible human being, but the fact that Cranston can still occasionally get you to take pity on him, no matter how much he deserves whatever he gets, is astounding.
The writing and directing were both solid work from Co-Executive Producer Peter Gould, aka the man who birthed Saul Goodman. If this was Saul’s final appearance in the show (which I hope it isn’t, but fear it might be), it was cool that the guy who created him got to be responsible for his send-off. Gould handled this episode well, and I look forward to seeing what he does with Saul in the spin-off, which from what it sounds like will be ran by Gould, with Vince Gilligan serving only as an Executive Producer.
The greatest show on television comes to an end next Sunday, September 29 at 9pm on AMC, and there’s no way in hell I’m missing this one. What about you?
My predictions for next week:
- The gun is for Jack and his men, and maybe the ricin, which I always assumed was for Walt, is actually for Elliot and Gretchen. Or maybe I have it backwards, and the ricin is for Jack and his boys and the gun is for Elliot and Gretchen. Who knows?
- Everybody dies. I’m calling it now.