Plot: Fallout is upon us. After he is ousted as meth kingpin Heisenberg, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) completely separates himself from his former life and begins anew in the state of New Hampshire. Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) are living through their own nightmares as well as they try to get their damaged lives back on track. As for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), he is now cooking for Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) and will do everything he can to escape.
It’s hard to believe that the penultimate episode has officially come and gone. This is it folks, one more episode of Breaking Bad left to go. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. Last week’s “Ozymandias” was one of the most emotionally draining but spectacular episodes in this show’s history. Trying to follow up to an episode that intense is a monumental task in itself, but add that to the fact that this is the second to last going for this show and you have a nearly impossible feat. Was “Granite State” able to continue this recent trend of sheer masterful quality? Oh you can bet your ass this episode was amazing, but it wasn’t quite up to the level as the previous two.
Obviously the big focus last night was the fallout from both Hank’s (Dean Norris) death and Walt completely severing ties with the rest if his family. As you can imagine, things are not going well for anyone. Even Saul (Bob Odenkirk) is suffering in his own way as he too has gone to the Vacuum Cleaner Repairman (Robert Forster) to get a new life of his own. Turns out, that guy actually repairs vacuum cleaners! That was a very nice touch. It was fascinating watching Walt still plotting to save his family and get his money back despite everything that has really JUST happened. He even asks Saul if he knows any mercenaries or hitmen who can get his hard earned money back so his family can have it all. That “family comes first” quality in Walt is probably his only really redeeming trait at this point.
Saul ends up leaving Walt for Nebraska as the fallen meth king makes a new home for himself in New Hampshire. This is where the name of the episode comes from as New Hampshire is known as the Granite State. The change in living quarters from his nice home in Albuquerque to this small shack in the snowy North East mountains is absolutely profound. No Internet, phone, cable, or even satellite. He needs a wood burning stove to keep him warm. Not exactly ideal conditions for an ailing cancer patient but Walt really can’t do anything at this point. The Repairman advises that Walt never leaves the premises either or else he risks getting captured by the police since he’s the most wanted man in the country. Obviously Walt doesn’t initially want to be there, but it was a mix of tragedy and acceptance to see him realize his fate and begin this life as a mountain hermit. He didn’t forget the Heisenberg hat though!
When we jump ahead several months, Walt is now bearded with a full head of hair. The Repairman is helping him with chemo and Walt is receiving news about the outside world through newspapers. He is also starved of attention and begs the Repairman to stay for a few more hours. Walt hates feeling like there’s more he needs to do and decides to send a nice little care package to Walter Jr.’s friend Louis. A car package of $100,000 in fact. However, once Walt contacts Walter Jr. about the idea thereby exposing him completely, Jr. literally tells his father to die. He means it too! Yep, the love is gone forever. As if that’s not enough, Walt witnesses shortly thereafter that old friends Elliott (Adam Godley) and Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht) are trying to distance their company Gray Matter Technologies from the White name. Remember them? The Schwartz’s and their multi-billion dollar company haven’t been around for over three seasons and them coming back really brings this whole story full circle. Walt takes this news extremely poorly and we last seem him with a look of pure rage on his face.
Things aren’t exactly great for Jesse either. He’s now chained up and cooking meth for White Supremacists. They keep the poor guy in a below ground cage like an animal. Proving his resourcefulness, Jesse is able to pick the locks of his handcuffs with a paperclip and escape. The entire grand exit was incredibly exciting to watch despite the fact that it failed in the end. It’s until Jesse is once again bound do we see the consequences of his actions. Seeing as they have a picture of Andrea (Emily Rios) and Brock Cantillo (Ian Posada) hanging up to motivate Jesse, they clearly know where these two important people are. You know what Todd does to punish Jesse? He straight up murders Andrea without any hesitation. Now Brock is an orphan and Jesse can no nothing for him. Todd is shaping up to be the real ultimate evil, doing things that Walt or Jesse couldn’t even fathom, and now Jesse truly is in Hell.
I’d also be remiss to not talk about Todd breaking into the White residence and simultaneously scaring the shit out of both the viewers and Skyler. That scene was absolutely insane. You could feel the tension in the room and the complete fear coursing throughout Skyler. It was well-acted, emotionally powerful, and I was saying, “Please don’t kill her” the entire time. I honestly expected her to get shot, but thankfully Todd didn’t orphan TWO children this week. Around this time Anna Gunn won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama. It’s rare to see someone receive the ultimate validation of their work at the same time as they give even more reasons why they absolutely deserve it.
What really held back this episode though was the fact that it was a recovery episode. The events in “Ozymandias” were a hurricane of horrible and this is all about those after effects before the final storm rolls through. The first quarter or so of the episode, while great to watch, didn’t contain the same emotional hits that have made the past two episodes so amazing. I liked the Saul/Walt conversation, the white supremacists watching the confession tape Jesse made, and Skyler meeting with her lawyers, but those scenes were really more necessary to the story than anything else. They had to happen to bridge the gaps. Thankfully we had a nice little time jump in the episode too once Jesse entered the 7th layer of Hell to cut out what I can imagine would have just been pointless fluff. I also really don’t think it’s necessary to shoehorn in romantic tension between Todd and Lydia (Laura Fraser) this late in the game. Once all this was said and done (the Skyler vs. Todd scene was thrown in a little earlier than this, to give us a taste of the tension to come), the rest of “Granite State” was as emotional and tense as what we got before.
Next week is the Series Finale, titled “Felina,” and the set up really couldn’t be better. Walt/Heisenberg/Mr. Lambert is now making his way back to the ABQ after a long absence. While a lot of people theorized he is going back to get his money from the white supremacists, and he probably still is, the show throws us a complete curveball by bringing the Schwartz’s back to deliver the ultimate blow to Walt’s ego. Walt is a man who craves power and recognition, and to get his name stripped from the company he co-founded and brought to major success is the straw that broke the camels back. “Felina” can very easily be about him taking his revenge out on his former friends. We’ll have to wait until next week though, and that wait will be the truest form of torture.