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Breaking Bad Recap: Granite State; or, Of Legacies and Empires

We are now seven episodes deep into season 5B of Breaking Bad and things are coming to their natural (in some cases most unnatural) conclusions. If for some reason you have not caught up with the series, do yourself a favor and watch it in a marathon fashion on Netflix and find the episodes from this season on your on-demand, because you will not regret it. If you haven’t caught up yet and do read this recap, though, you will regret it. Keep that in mind.

If last week’s Ozymandias had me shouting at my television, this week’s Granite State left me feeling pretty awful, overall, while giving me goosebumps at other times. To quote 28 Days Later; the end is extremely fucking nigh.” So repent already, because next week is Breaking Bad’s finale, titled, “Felina.” Felina is, of course an anagram for Finale. This week’s episodes didn’t feature the same breakneck pace as last week’s episode, but felt like a perfect setup for the final episode. All of the pieces have fallen into place now, the hands have been dealt and now it is time to play the game out.

We find the red minivan pulling into an actual vacuum cleaner repair shop, because what better way to hide the fact that you are illegally relocating people than by running an unassuming business? Screw a giant car wash, this guy has his stuff figured out. It’s not Walt that gets out of the van, though, instead it is Saul Goodman, which reveals to us that things are too hot even for Saul to feel comfortable. Saul is willing to give it all up and be relocated to Nebraska just to avoid spending his life in prison for aiding in the Heisenberg empire. Damn. Oh, and Walter hasn’t been relocated yet, so Saul and Walt are bunkin’ cousins until they can be sent on their merry way.

If you guessed that Jack Welker and Creepy Todd Alquist would be paying a visit to Hank and Marie’s house to pick up the Jesse Pinkman confession tape you were absolutely correct, as we cut to Marie being driven back home by DEA agents who are promising that they’ll find Hank and Gomez and bring them back home, only to pull up and find the house completely ransacked. Apparently the DEA is hilariously bad at their jobs and didn’t think to put a detail on the house sooner?

Jesse’s tearful confession turns out to be extremely entertaining to Uncle Jack and his crew, because, you know, he’s crying! Real men don’t cry, they get swastikas tattooed all over their bodies and kill people. Todd never had a chance at being normal, did he? Jesse is still in his cell and his death is once again prevented by Todd, who begs his uncle to let him live to keep cooking. Uncle Jack doesn’t seem like the type to really have much appeal to his heart, but when he takes an educated guess at Todd’s affections for Lydia, he decides to let Todd handle the meth business and Lydia for him. All the while, Jesse is alone with a photo of Andrea and Brock that happens to have a paper clip attached to it.

We zip back to the basement of the vacuum repair shop where Walter and Saul are laying low. Walter refuses to admit that things are over and is concocting a plan to hire hitmen to take out the Welker gang for murdering Hank and stealing his “life’s work.” Saul, who is staring down the reality of leaving behind his successful career as a sleazebag lawyer to have to work his way up to manage a Cinnabon seems to no longer be in the business of appeasing Walter, though. Saul aptly lays the situation out for Walt; if you love your wife and your family, you give yourself up, otherwise Skyler’s best hope is for a mistrial after a year and a half of being put through hell. Of course this is completely unacceptable for Walt, but the cleaner comes to escort Saul to his new life. Walter also finds this unacceptable and says that Saul will be going with him instead, only to fall to a coughing fit that gives Saul a chance to retort to Walter’s “It’s not over yet” with “It’s over.”

Exeunt Saul and the Cleaner.

Now we get to see exactly what Walter has left Skyler with as she sits at a big table with a row of agents laying out the case for her, with her public defender in his cheap suit trying to keep her on task. Skyler explains that she simply has no clue where Walter is to give him up and save her family. This is inescapable for her, though, as she sits at home — smoking again — while agents are parked outside of the home on surveillance duty. Holly cries from across the home, as Skyler sulks to check on the baby, only to find Todd and his crew in ski masks standing over the crib. The whole point of this exercise? To ensure that Lydia never comes up as a topic of interest during Skyler’s investigation, or, well, it’s Todd, so you know he’d do something awful.

Todd does have a sensitive side, though, you gotta remember that. He might be a creepy, cold-blooded killer, but he has feelings, too. Feelings that he’s trying to grapple with! It seems that Lydia really likes having tea at The Grove on Central, which is unfortunate as they have really good coffee there. Todd, though, he’s drinking tea while he waits for her, which as you should have figured out already, is not very Todd-like. Lydia comes in with her Jackie O. sunglasses and sits at the table behind him, because no one is going to notice them conversing this way, right? I mean, Todd is even wearing a nice button-up shirt for her, c’mon Lydia. Todd explains that he sent a message to Skyler and that they can continue doing business together. Lydia seems to think that it isn’t enough, just like she doesn’t have enough Stevia for her chamomile tea at her table, and that things needs to be broken off for a while.

They need to “take a break.” Look, any guy out there who has ever been told by a chick that they need to “take a break” knows what that means. That phrase is one of the most dreaded phrases ever; it is intended to soften the blow but instead comes off as weak and just as bad as saying “we’re through.” So any chicks reading this; please, be honest, some dudes hear that and — foolishly — think that they still have a chance. Todd, well, he’s one of those guys. He thinks that Skyler is just a nice lady trying to look after her kids, plus, he has 50lbs vacuum-packed of 92% pure blue meth ready for shipment. The pure elation on Todd’s face as she begins to gush at the percentage is probably the happiest that we’ll ever see Todd outside of killing a kid, so there is always that, right? Looks like Todd has a date to the meth prom after all!

My god, the way that he’s turned around in his chair and says, “I just think that we work together… good” is just beyond creepy, just like that moment before the camera cuts away that he reaches over and pulls a hair off of her jacket. Dear god, save us all from Todd Alquist, for he is sent to destroy us all.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lambert has arrived in the Granite State, New Hampshire. He apparently was hiding inside of a tanker the entire time, which seems like an awful way to deal with a 38+ hour drive. I’m not going to lie, I think that New Hampshire is probably the most beautiful state in the US, so being shown to a little cabin in the middle of the woods with everything taken care of doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me at all, but to Walter, it is the end of the world. How can he conduct his business from there with no phone, no internet and no car? As you can guess, it is, you know, unacceptable. The sheer absurdity of his barrel of $11 million in a tiny cabin in the middle of the woods should not be lost upon you.

Since this is all unacceptable, Walter seems immediately ready to escape from there and break his deal with the cleaner until he gets to the gate and sees that his eight-mile walk to the nearest town is going to be through a lot of snow that even his Heisenberg hat can’t protect him from.

Jesse has freed himself with the paperclip and is standing on his rolled up bedroll and latrine bucket trying to escape when he has to scramble to re apply his handcuffs and pretend that he is sleeping soundly at the sound of Todd coming to bring him some Ben & Jerry’s for doing good work. Todd lowers it down in a bucket in a scene that should have you saying, “it rubs the lotion on its skin” out loud, or at least thinking about Buffalo Bill.  Granted, I don’t want to imagine Todd in drag with his penis tucked between his legs and I’m sure you don’t, either. One of the crew tells Todd that he’s gonna “spoil him,” like he’s giving his dog too many treats. After Todd drops the mix of peanut butter cup and Americone Dream down, he lights a cigarette before Jesse asks him to leave the tarp off of the drain so that he can see the stars. Todd seems hesitant, but what the hell? He helped him keep Lydia happy, right? He even wishes Jesse a good night.

Jesse immediately springs into action, freeing himself yet again from the cuffs and stacking up his meager belongings before hopping up to grip onto the bars of the grate above him. He hangs on for dear life while he works the latch free before we see Jesse making a break for it. The security camera that he rushes past and the barbed wire fences are telling us that Jesse has no chance, but he still is willing to shred himself up and risk it all to escape the crazy compound. Just before he reaches the top of the fence it’s footsteps and flashlights as the gang descends upon him, only for Jesse to scream at them that there is no way that he does one more cook for them.

What follows next is just, well, it is downright chilling. There are a lot of difficult moments to watch throughout the span of the series, but this one is absolutely up there for just kicking you in the gut and spitting on you while you are down. The cut is to Todd ringing the doorbell at Andrea’s house. Todd has that regular serial killer charm where he is able to act normal enough around people that he can appeal to their senses before he becomes a creep. He explains to Andrea that he’s a friend of Jesse’s and that he brought Jesse with him. Todd points off at a tinted-window SUV across the street as to where Jesse is, while Andrea steps out to take a look, Jesse is inside of the car, bound and gagged, slamming his head up against the window shouting “no.” Andrea never hears Todd pull the silenced pistol out from his jacket, all that she hears is him saying, “Just so you know, this isn’t personal” before he pulls the trigger and she drops over, dead.

Uncle Jack imparts some wisdom to the absolutely delirious Jesse, “hey, remember? There’s still the kid.”

It’s back to Walt rushing over to the gate, but this time it has nothing to do with escaping, oh no. The Cleaner has returned to him. By now Walter has a beard and a full head of hair, which tells us that he’s been out there for a while now. This isn’t the Cleaner’s first trip up the mountain to see Walt. The news that he is bearing is that Skyler is “still” in a place off of Eubank, working as a Taxi dispatcher and using her maiden name. The house has been boarded up and fenced off, waiting to be auctioned off. The Cleaner comes bearing Ensure to try to help Walter put on some weight, some new reading glasses for Walter and some chemotherapy drugs. The Cleaner explains that he is “sorry about last time” and that he has done some research on finding a vein to start an IV, which tells us that Walter has been there for quite some time now.

Living in the woods has gotten to Walter, though, as he craves human contact, asking the Cleaner to stay for another hour or two for an additional $10,000. Walter tries to find out if the Cleaner will distribute his money to his family when he dies, as one of these times when the Cleaner comes to find him, Walter will be deceased. The Cleaner promises him, but with the caveat of if Walter really believes that he’d do that. While trying to sleep his wedding band falls off in the middle of the night, as it is too big for his fingers, implying that he is simply wasting away from his cancer and the chemo. Walter attaches the ring to some twine and ties it around his neck before he pulls himself up, empties out a case of Ensure and fills it up with money.

The next morning he is back at the gate, only this time he’s carrying a wrapped box with him. Once again it is up to Walter White to walk a long distance carrying money in an attempt to get it back to his family.

Flynn White gets a page while in school, hilariously enough in what looks to be a science lab. I wonder if he was in a chemistry class? That hot principal from the school tells Walt Jr. that his Aunt Marie is on the phone and that it sounds urgent, only for us to see that on the other end it is an older, much larger woman in a bar who passes the phone off to Walter. Walter tries to talk to his son who seems fine to listen to him at first, but it quickly takes a turn for the worse as Walter explains that he’s going to send a package that contains about $100,000 to Walt Jr. through his friend Louis.

Walt Jr.’s reaction is, well, understandable. His mother and father are all over the news, his mother might be going to prison and Walt Jr. still believes that Walter killed Uncle Hank. Walt Jr. asks Walt why he’s still alive and tells him to just “die already, die” before he hangs up. Walter at this point is a defeated man, who finally seems willing to do the right thing. He calls the Albuquerque DEA and asks for the agent in charge of the Walter White investigation, saying that it is Walter White calling before he drops the receiver, leaving it off the hook. He orders a drink and takes a sip while the barkeep flips through the stations on the television.

One program in particular gave him pause, though, which happened to be Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz from Gray Matter appearing on Charlie Rose, who wants to know what Walter White’s contribution was to Gray Matter. According to Elliot, it begins and ends at the name Gray Matter, which was a combination of his last name, Schwartz (which apparently means ‘black’) and Walter’s last name of White, which makes gray. You can see Walter’s facial expression change, a metamorphosis of sorts, as Gretchen talks about the “sweet, king brilliant man” that they once knew being gone, that you can see Heisenberg return.

The last few episodes have featured the emotional, impulsive Walter White, just struggling with himself to try to do the right thing, if that is even possible. The cold, calculating Heisenberg was forgotten while things were falling apart. Sure, Walter had moments of pure evil, but those moments were so frightening because everyone is capable of having those fleeting moments. This is different, though, when he is Heisenberg everything changes. The final scene is the police raiding the bar, only to find a half-drank glass of whiskey and a tip in his place.

This is it, we’ve finally reached a spot in the timeline where it will perfectly connect with the beginning of season five (5A) and continued at the beginning of the second half of the season (5B). Everything is in place for the final showdown, although we still don’t know who this final showdown will be between. Everything has been building towards Walter having a showdown with Jack and Todd, but it almost seems too neat and tidy at this point. The x-factor, at least for me at this point, is Jesse Pinkman.

Jesse has absolutely nothing left to lose. There is just nothing left for Jesse at this point, it has all been stolen from him. It is all gone. The final piece of the puzzle is Brock, but what is left for Brock at this point with his mother dead? Does Brock even survive that night? At this point Jesse has lost his aunt, his parents and brother to his own drug problems, the first woman that he really loved in Jane, he almost lost Brock to being poisoned, gave up Andrea and Brock to protect them and now Andrea is dead. Once you take away everything that someone values they can become so incredibly dangerous, as there is nothing left for them to fear.

A final showdown seems almost cliche at this point, but if there is indeed going to be one, it shouldn’t be with Uncle Jack and Todd, but with Jesse.

I can’t say that I really listen to a lot of prog metal anymore at this point in my life, but this song really spells out what is going on with Jesse to me. It’s by the Swedish band Pain of Salvation and is called “The Perfect Element.”

 

Stealing meaning from this child

We took away his reason

His soul put under lock and key

His heart blackened from treason

But if you take from those you fear

Everything they value

You have bred the perfect beast

Drained enough to kill you

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