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Breaking Bad review “Granite State”

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Breaking Bad – “Granite State” (season 5, episode 15)

Back when the first half of season five began, we were treated to a flash-forward of Walt hanging out in a Denny’s. Going by the name of Mr. Lambert, he fiddled his bacon strips into a “52,” letting us know that that day was, in fact, his birthday. He bought a big ol’ machine gun and then closed his trunk.

The next time we saw Mr. Lambert, he was pulling up to his old, extremely familiar house in Albuquerque to revisit the good ol’ days. Unfortunately for him, the entire place was absolutely trashed and barely recognizable as a home. He grabbed a hidden ricin vial, scared the friendly neighbor, and then left.

We pick up in “Granite State” a few days (maybe a week?) after the events of “Ozymandias.” We’re shown Saul going through the process of getting a new identity, just like Walt had before him. Then we’re shown Marie being driven home by the police, only to see that her house has been ransacked by the Nazis. Then we’re shown the Nazis laughing at Jesse’s confession tape while drinking beers. Then we’re shown Todd having the hots for Lydia, Jesse still be tortured, and then Skyler having little-to-no options left legally.

The hour (and fifteen minutes extra!) feels a lot like catch-up time for the show. Table setting, chess playing, setup pushing, whatever you want to call it, “Granite State” is filled with a lot of scenes to remind the audience just where every character is and what their specific motivation is. Though this isn’t necessarily a dig at the episode, it just feels hollow and empty when we’ve been shown a flash-forward that basically tells us what we really need to know. The flash-forwards from earlier in the season sort of hinder “Granite State” from becoming a great installment of Breaking Bad due to the story’s obligation to show us just who the ricin and the gun is for. Where “Ozymandias” left us, we could have instantly picked up right back at that Denny’s and no questions would have been asked about the time missing as it’s literally been a question we’ve been asking since both season premieres.

At its core, “Granite State” is a story about a lonely Walter White, stripped from any sort of communication. The man who risked it all, who had his inner demons speak to him much too often, and all for the delusional cause “for his family;” people he can’t even see or talk to anymore. A family who cannot even receive the money he risked everything for, money that led him to where he is now. Walter lives in a cabin that just spills out a broken life, with shades of dread taking over the small space. He’s just waiting to die out there.
That’s why, in a sad effort, he makes the decision to call Walt Jr. at his high school. Paying off some woman to pose as Aunt Marie, Walt Jr. picks up the phone and hears the pleas of his pathetic, validation-seeking father. Towards the end of the conversation right before Jr. makes the decision to hang up, he tells him that he wants him to just die alright. Leave them alone.

And it’s then that Walter’s last legitimate feeling was shattered: pride. He calls the Albuquerque police, practically turns himself in, and leaves the phone off the hook knowing that they’ll surely trace the call eventually. And as he sits there at the bar, waiting to be caught any minute now, his old partners from Grey Matter hit the television screen and are being interviewed by Charlie Rose. The two are asked about the recent Heisenberg meth-related stirrings all around the nation and in some parts of Europe in which they deny that Walter White had anything to do with the company beyond its name. Just in case Walter’s pride wasn’t already shattered, it’s just been thrown out the trash. This convenient point sets up just what makes Walter say fuck it and go back to Albuquerque after a year has passed. “Granite State” might not be an incredibly solid hour of Breaking Bad, but it definitely gets the job done in preparing us for a finale.

Loose Ends:

  • Jesse’s story is undoubtedly the most involved story of the night. How he fits into the flashforwards and the overall end game of the series is very intriguing simply because we have no clue. Is he still making meth for Todd, as we’re told that the blue meth is making its way across the world? Or is he about to be dead? After everything, I bet he wishes he was dead.
  • I’m really not sure this episode needed the extra minutes. There are a few scenes that could have been cut here and there. Then again, maybe the finale will payoff some of those scenes (Marie’s whereabouts, Saul’s departure, etc.)
  • Again, fantastic baby acting by the little actress who plays Holly.
  • RIP Andrea, a character I never really cared about but I knew Jesse deeply did.
  • When the episode went to commercial, I flipped back to the Emmy’s and saw that Anna Gunn had won for her performance in “Fifty-One.” Congratulations to her, she definitely deserved it.
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