Recap: Breaking Bad 515, Granite State

 Posted by on September 23, 2013 at 8:45 am  Breaking Bad, Season 5  Add comments
Sep 232013
 

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1955 Roger: My mother always said, be careful what you wish for, because then you’ll get it, and people will get jealous and try to take it away from you.

1955 Don: I don’t think that’s how that goes.

- Mad Men, Waldorf Stories

I always say there are two different kinds of helpers in the world: people who legitimately want to help you, and people who want credit for helping you. And there are a lot more of the latter than the former, because actually helping someone involves asking them what they want, not telling them, and what you tell them you want might not be what they want credit for. In Granite State, Walt gets hit between the eyes by the revelation that all the money he schemed and lied and killed to get was never what his family wanted from him. They wanted him, that kind, sweet, and lovable guy they always knew, alive and healthy for as long as he could manage it; maybe they would have liked it better if he didn’t have to work two jobs to make bank, but that didn’t override their love for him. Did he actually believe it did? That they would have been so thrilled to have financial security that they didn’t care what he had to do and who had to die for him to get it? No, it’s what he wanted them to want from him. He never bothered to ask what they did want, because that would have conflicted with his I-am-the-man fantasy.

But now there’s no way for him not to know. Way back in episode 105, Gray Matter (one of my favorite episodes of the series), Flynn (then still known as Walter Jr.) erupted in frustration at Walt for refusing to get treatment: “Then why don’t you just [bleep]ing die already?” In other words, Dad, spare me the pain of having someone I love just suffer and wither away. But now, when Flynn spits almost those exact words at Walt over the phone (after Walt has had him pulled out of school to take his call from a New Hampshire bar, under the pretense that it’s Marie calling), they mean something entirely different: I don’t feel a damn thing for you anymore, you might as well be dead. When Walt says he wants to send him a box containing about $100,000 in cash (the amount he can fit into the only box he has on hand), Flynn is flabbergasted that Walt would think any amount of money would make up for what he’s put them through. “You killed Uncle Hank,” Flynn keeps saying, and Walt stammers something about regrets and mistakes; never, ever does he get around to saying, “I didn’t shoot him, he got shot by someone else who shot Hank because he was in the way.” Because it doesn’t matter. Would letting Flynn find out that Walt is up to his armpits with Aryan Brotherhood contract killers make this any easier to take? Flynn, as far as we know, only knows about two deaths (counting Steve) that Walt is responsible for; what would he say if he knew about all the others?

So it has come down to this for Walter White: In every sense of the word, he doesn’t exist any more. He’s changed his identity (taking on the surname “Lambert,” which also happens to be the maiden name of Skyler and Marie), fled the state, and is now alone in a cabin in rural New Hampshire, completely off the grid, with no one for company except for monthly visits from the “vacuum repair man” of Saul’s acquaintance who has helped disappear him (and also Saul, who is now bound for Nebraska). And even he won’t consent to spend time with Walt without a $10K-an-hour price tag and a one-hour limit. He does, however, bring Walt a chemotherapy drip that looks suspiciously homemade, and rather hilariously fumbles around trying to find a vein to insert it in (“Sorry about last time, it should go better, I watched a couple of YouTube videos”). Walt asks him if he would make sure that his money gets to his family after he passes away, and he replies, “If I said yes, would you believe me?”

During his weeks holed up in the cabin, his appearance alters drastically. His hair grows back in, Vacuum Repair brings him a pair of dark-framed glasses (guessing at Walt’s prescription), and even though there is plenty of food on hand, he loses so much weight that his wedding ring falls off. He ties it to a string and puts it around his neck, like a 1950s high school girl wearing her boyfriend’s class ring, and festoons the walls with clippings from the Albuquerque newspapers featuring Skyler’s picture. Which, of course, wouldn’t be in there if not for his misdeeds. Once again, he’s in love with the idea of love more than the reality; she has had to change her name also, back to her maiden name, just to be able to find another job, while he leaves her holding the bag and swearing up and down to the feds that she doesn’t know where he is, then nearly having her baby kidnapped by the Aryan Brothers right under the APD’s nose and threatened with certain death if she tells the cops about Lydia (who Skyler had probably already forgotten about). If that’s “love,” it’s pretty obvious that Skyler would rather have just been hated all along; at least then she’d have known where she stood.

So now we know the reason for the house being in the dire condition it was in during the flash forward in Blood Money: the bank has seized the property and, since Walt is now the subject of a nationwide manhunt, it has become a little too much of a tourist attraction for their liking and they have fenced it off. And speaking of dire condition, as ill as Walt is (to the point where he can’t even utter a threat to Saul without breaking up in a coughing fit mid-sentence), Jesse probably wouldn’t mind trading places with him. Having been imprisoned by Dead-Eyed Todd and the Psycho Fucks (now there’s a band name for you!) and forced to cook (Lydia almost has an orgasm when she finds out the meth batch Todd has for her is at 92% purity), he reaches an all-time low, in a life filled with one new bottom scrape after another. When Uncle Jack and friends catch him trying to escape, rather than simply killing him for it (which Jesse tells him they can go ahead and do), they instead decide to make him watch while Todd shoots Andrea in the head, right in front of her home. They spare Brock, but only to give Jesse extra incentive to acquiesce. Eeeyikes.

Which leads me to ask: Is this group of villains perhaps a little too Snidely Whiplash for a show as sophisticated as this one? These Aryan Brotherhood guys make Tuco look like Flynn. They love no one and have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever; I keep expecting to see Uncle Jack twirling his mustache and saying, “Bwa ha ha ha haaaa.” Todd, at least, seems somewhat ambivalent about the tasks he’s asked to perform; when Lydia asks him why he didn’t kill Skyler when he had a chance, he demurs that Skyler “received the message loud and clear” from their break-in and that “she seems like a nice lady watching out for her kids.” So there are some things he will balk at doing, even for the love of his life. He even brings Jesse a bowl of ice cream as a reward for the 96% purity of his latest cook, and it’s not laced with undetectable poisons as far as we can tell. But he has no problem with Andrea’s brutal murder, or with Jesse being tied up and forced to watch it. Is he not like the others, or is it just that he’s too young to have gotten all the way there yet?

Meanwhile, in the kitty-corner of the country, Vacuum Repair Guy has warned Walt that if he ever walks off the property he’s sequestered in, that is the last Walt will ever see of him, “for my own safety.” But Walt can’t resist going down the hill eight miles to the one-horse town and making two phone calls from the bar: the ill-fated call to Flynn, followed by him calling the DEA and giving himself up, leaving the pay phone off the hook so they can trace it. Then he settles in at the bar for his last glass ever of 15-year-old scotch, only to get blindsided by the sight of Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz being interviewed on TV by Charlie Rose and claiming (in order to shield themselves from public backlash) that Walt had nothing to do with Gray Matter other than naming it.

“I can’t speak to this Heisenberg that people refer to,” Gretchen tells Charlie Rose, “but whatever he became, that sweet, kind, brilliant man that we once knew long ago, he’s gone.” Seconds later, so is Mr. Lambert, just as the sheriffs are pulling up to arrest him. We know, from the flash forwards, that he’s returning to the ABQ to buy a big-ass gun; could it really be for the Psycho Fucks, who outnumber him something like six to one? There isn’t a gun in the world big enough to take all of them out with a single shooter. Or perhaps he doesn’t even care if he dies in a shootout, as long as he goes out with guns blazing. (I really can’t buy the premise that some have speculated about, that he’s going to shoot Gretchen and/or Elliott, especially since he unsuccessfully tries to get Saul to put together a hit team to take out the Uncle Jack Show earlier in the episode.) He obviously knows Jesse hasn’t yet been slaughtered, because Charlie Rose mentions the blue meth showing up as far away as Europe, and Jesse is the only other person with the capacity to make the stuff. Does he now want to prove he’s still a good guy (by rescuing Jesse), or prove that he’s the ultimate bad guy? We have one more week to find out and then it’s all over, so…speculate away!

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  29 Responses to “Recap: Breaking Bad 515, Granite State”

  1. I got the chills watching him turn from defeated Walter White drinking his whiskey back to Heisenberg right before our eyes when watching the Schwartz interview. My prediction right now (I reserve the right to change it a million times before next Sunday) is that the gun is for the Uncle Jack crew, the ricin is for the Schwartz’s (for their public disrespect…you know how Walt is all about respect). He’ll save Jesse, who will then kill Walt.

    And by the way, where’s Huell? Did he ever leave that room?

  2. While I liked the muffled darkness of the episode, the idea of using Charlie Rose and giving Heisenberg a national audience was a bit over the top for my tastes – cheesy, no?

    Is the ricin meant for Gretchen and Elliot? Possibly, but for all the respect Walt feels he has not been given, if you watch closely you can see his eyes do a calculation when it’s mentioned that the blue meth is still being seen in the US and Europe, and the question of whether Heisenberg was still out there. I think at that moment Walt realized that Jesse was still alive, How he’ll deal with that information is anyone’s guess but I think I’ll be glad to see Breaking Bad end, with what I’m imagining.

  3. Uncle jack wants to kill Jesse and Todd says no he can still cook meth. Uncle Jack says “who gives a shit about meth we won the lottery” We’ve got all the money in the world. Todd says “but this is millions. “No matter how much you got. How do you turn your back on more”. That statement is the essence of the show..greed and there’s never enough. They have 70 million and its not enough. It was never enough for Walt. The bad in breaking bad is insatiable greed

    • Remember the scene early on when Walt’s goal to take care of his family is 700K? And how unattainable it was at 2 pounds a week? He’s (literally) sitting next to 11MM and all he thinks about is how to get back “what’s mine.” Greed–power–control–those are Walt’s Holy Trinity.

      I hear “How do you turn your back on more?” and Skylar’s “How much is enough?” (as close as I can remember it) echoes back to me.

      And Todd, Meowser? Todd is Heisenberg distilled. He’s Walt without the excuses and self-rationalizations.

  4. Wasn’t much of a fan of this episode. Great Todd episode. I enjoy the over-the-top as much as anyone, but it also feels kind of cheap at this point. Almost felt like a wasted, unnecessary episode. Also felt like that extra 15 minutes really was more like an extra 2-3 minutes of program. I didn’t sit with a stopwatch, so I’m probably wrong. Was anything at the bar necessary? We’ll see. Just felt like filler at the time. I didn’t need another conversation with Flynn to know that was a burnt bridge. It was already established that Walt was broken, so the DEA call? The Charlie Rose interview to snap him out of it? Felt like treading water. Maybe the execution was weaker than the ideas and writing. And I think a lot of it felt unnecessary because we already know he went back to New Mexico with a vengeance. The in-between didn’t reveal anything important or new. Well, it was another anti-Sopranos step to tie every little detail into a perfect bow and spoon-feed the audience satisfaction. “But where did The Cleaner do with Walt?” Now we know every detail and don’t have to imagine that part of it for ourselves.

    • I don’t think there were any additional minutes of program, it was all just ads. It really seemed to me like there were more ads than show this week.

  5. It might have been better to just end it last week with Walt getting into the van and leave the rest to our imagination.

  6. Between now and the finale on Sunday, I hope there’s a BOK post that gives Breaking Bad fans a chance to make a prediction (or guess) as to what happens on the last show.

    • Nothing personal, Smiler, but comments on every recap site have predicted the end repetitively and ad infinitum.

    • A speculation thread will go up later in the week, but in the meantime, feel free to use this thread to speculate if you want.

    • Speculation everywhere…

      My speculation…

      1. Ricin I reckon is for Gretchen/Elliot – I can imagine WW just watching then die (as per Jane) whilst he ‘dresses’ them down about the lack of respect, etc. HE is truly evil…
      2. Gun is for Uncle Jack/Nazi’s to get his money back. Which he does, only for Jesse and him to go ‘tete a tete’ one last time. We know WW cant kill Jesse. It continues and Jesse watches as WW dies in a coughing fit, a feeble weak man again, leaving Jesse with the all the money.

      FADE OUT

  7. One speculation I’ve had:

    Machine gun is for the Neo Nazi’s and Jesse, whom Walt believes has joined them – the blue meth is still being produced, as Charlie Rose mentioned. Walt wants his money and his revenge.

    The ricin is for Lydia, who has had Skyler murdered by the Nazi’s, finally convincing Todd this must be done ….though we’re not yet sure what has provoked Lydia again. Or Walt finds out Lydia wanted Skyler murdered and sees her as a threat to his family,

    As for Elliot and Gretchen, they may have just been catalysts for Walt’s actions, instead of becoming victims of them. I’m not sure.

    Where does Walt end up? Who knows? – Flynn has rejected him and the kids go to Marie who, under police protection, survives. Walt may be left with all the money, or maybe it goes up in smoke somehow, but even more alone.

    Or maybe there’s some final father-son confrontation which ends up with Walt shot in self-defense. Or what looks to be self-defense, as told by Flynn. I thought that Flynn actually was not completely honest when he called 911 and told them his father threatened his mother with a knife – it was Skyler who did that first. So Flynn is not totally honest, though he’s the most honest, “pure” person on the show.

  8. I don’t think Walter is concerned about rescuing Jesse. He’s written him off as a betrayer. And since he doesn’t know anything about him being held prisoner in Uncle Jack’s meth dungeon, he may well think he’s still one, getting rich off Walt’s recipe. If he attacks the Aryan Brotherhood, he could just as easily take out Jesse without a second thought.

    It’s a more interesting question whether he’s going after Gretchen and Elliot. The Charlie Rose interview made it sound like their company is in dire straits, the stock going bust because of the association with Walter. He may think that’s punishment enough, but that Look on his face in the bar makes me think he’s gone into full Heisenberg mode concerning them.

    I’m beginning to agree with those who think the ricin cigarette is for Walter himself. The most poignant moment in the episode is when Walter says to Robert Forster “one of these months you’ll come up here and I’ll be dead.” Death is very close to Walt now. Once he’s finished what he has to do, he may just go to It.

  9. I remain in a small camp expecting a miraculous cure for Walt’s cancer. I found this information about ricin in the Merck Index (a pharmacist’s reference readily accessible to VG): “Ricin has been reported to be more toxic to malignant than to normal cells . . . chemical warfare agent . .. most effecive . . .inhaled as fine particles.”

    So Walt will go on a killing spree, smoke the ricin cigarette, luckily receive a non-toxic dose, lose consciousness, and wake up cured!

    Remember Walt retrieved the cigarette in a flash-forward and may not decide how to use it until he returns to Albuquerque.

    • Excuse me, but I see so many blog commenters talking about “smoking the ricin cigarette” :

      What Walt has is small plastic or glass vial containing ricin.

      It’s not a “ricin cigarette” — the cigarette was used to disguise the vial of ricin for safety and ease of transportation.

  10. I want to see some closure for Marie and Skyler. I would like to see Walt be the only survivor of the confrontation with the Aryan Brotherhood and Jesse. He is, therefore, the only one left alive who knows where Hank and Gomie are buried. In exchange for revealing the location of their grave to the DEA (and to Marie), all charges against Skyler are dropped.

  11. The state motto for New Hampshire, “the Granite State” is “Live Free or Die”

  12. Well, speculate away….the link below goes to an interesting article that analyzed the script of Granite State and found that when Walt calls Flynn from the bar there is a hockey game playing in the background. It is a classic college hockey game in 1998 between the University of Denver and Wisconsin where there is an amazing comeback by the underdog team to win. The author asks whether this provides a clue to perhaps Walt making a comeback. This would also fit with something I read recently about whether the audience could muster any empathy for Walt when we see him as such a broken and ill man in this episode.

    http://extramustard.si.com/2013/09/23/last-nights-breaking-bad-featured-a-classic-college-hockey-game-from-1998/

    What do you think?

    • ….and the home team’s official name is the Badgers….will our Badger – and Skinny Pete – join Walt in rescuing Jesse? Or will they rescue Jesse without Walt? (actually the writers of BB don’t seem very hopeful about Jesse’s future).

      Another odd thing I’ve read – alot of interpretations of next week’s episode because of the title, “Felina” which turns out to be a Mexican dancer in a song written titled ‘El Paso.’

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Paso_(song)

      …but the whole story of the song mentions a young cowboy in love with a dancer named Felina who works in a bar in El Paso. He kills someone who has made advances on her, flees to New Mexico, then returns to El Paso, heartsick with longing for her, where he is gunned down by a posse or the victim’s friends, and dies in Felina’s arms. Felina’s eyes are described as ‘evil and wicked.’

      Now, El Paso is where? – Texas.

      And who is in Texas? Lydia, in Madrigal’s US office, which is in Houston.

      Is this a reference to Todd’s fate?

      Or is the ricin meant to be given by Walter to Lydia (signified by Texas) – her picky way with tea, which the creators have shown use twice now, makes me wonder.

      And…while I’m overdoing it….another time.

      • Weve always known that Lydia is the weak link in this whole ‘operation’…

        Lydia will lead (set up) Todd, Uncle Jack et al for WW

    • Strange how they’d use a game that old. Maybe it was the only one they could get the rights to for free or something. But yeah, “big comeback” would seem to portend him at least going out with a bang, right?

      • Among College Hockey experts, this was a comeback game for the ages, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that in rural areas, like New Hampshire, where college hockey rules, that a game that old would be played over, and over, and over as at least one way to get through the winter.

  13. Walt gets two copies of the DVD “Mr Magoriums. wonder Emporium’ which is supposed to be an awful movie but does contain a poignant scene where the main character discusses Shakespeare ‘s King Lear and the death of king Lear I think it could be a clue connecting King Lear
    To Walter white and what might happen in the finale

    Mr. Magorium: [to Molly, about dying] When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? [Molly shakes her head] He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” But because of the life we saw prior to the words. [pause, walks over to Molly] I’ve lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I’m only asking that you turn the page, continue reading… and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest “He died.”
    Molly Mahoney: [starting to sob] I love you.
    Mr. Magorium: I love you, too. [picks Molly up, sighs heavily] Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.

    Sent from my iPhone

  14. I found the scene from Mrs. Magorium on youtube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdUqHe2Wlhc

  15. Random pre-morning-coffee-yet-I’m-still-obsessing-over-BB thought: did Walt bolt straight from the bar and leave behind his barrel o’ cash, or did he go back to the cabin? How would he have transported it?

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