Breaking Bad: S5E15 “Granite State”

10 Overall Score
Acting : 10/10
Story: 10/10
Cinematography: 10/10

Jesse Plemon's work as Todd | Call back to Season 1 | Contrast emphasized between life then and now | Character parallels, especially with Walt/Todd and Walt/Jesse

Loose ends still need to be tied | What happened to Marie?

“Breaking Bad” left more questions than it answered in the 75-minute penultimate episode titled “Granite State.”

It was one of the more spectacular episodes of the series and a great follow-up to the mind-boggling “Ozymandias,” proving once more that “Breaking Bad” writers are aliens, or some sort of superior species of writers.

“Granite State” took us on a 2,200-mile journey from the deserts of New Mexico to a frozen wasteland in New Hampshire. In this 2-acre personal penitentiary Walt meets Mr. Lambert, his new identity, and he’s left with this new identity to rot away until the cancer defeats him. Walt tries to be Heisenberg, even symbolically (at least for himself) putting on his hat and scheming a plan to leave this frozen Hell. He’s so scatterbrained that he walks up to the fence after a grandiose, musical accompanied “Heisenberg-is-back” moment, to retreat in hopes of a tomorrow that never comes. He’s too weak to walk into town and he waits months to hear back from the vacuum salesman/getaway guy, who brings him his chemotherapy and the Albuquerque newspapers, which detail his case.The same taxidermy deer that hung that famous porkpie hat now hangs an IV-bag and Walt has to resort to paying $10,000 for an extra hour of company from a man he barely knows.

Solitude does not wear well on Mr. White, who’s become so emaciated that we now know the answer as to why, in the first-half Season 5 opener, Walt wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. Albeit disconnected from his family and removed from his reward yet again, Walt still has hope that the journey from high school chemistry teacher to international drug lord was not all for nothing. His family is still his driving force, even if they don’t want to be associated to him. In the middle of nowhere, it’s what keeps him alive.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 5.13.50 PM

Go back months before the leave, back to the beginning of the episode, where Walt is still in hiding under the watch of the vacuum cleaner salesman. We see he has another customer and begin to realize the weight that Walter’s wrongdoings have left behind. While Walt’s strategic phone call to Skyler set her up as a “blameless victim,” Saul reminds him that by leaving, the feds will only go after her, her house and her money.  “Money is not a problem,” Walt says, except he can’t get that money to his family without the police intercepting it. Saul on the other hand, skips town. He traded his lucrative law practice to be “some douche bag with a job and three pairs of Dockers” in Nebraska. In their short time together, Walt is so enraged at the way things turned out, he plots his revenge and commands Saul to give up the names of his best hit men. Just as he turns on the Heisenberg switch to intimidate Saul into staying with him, he erupts into a coughing fit.

“It’s over,” Saul tells him with pity and walks away.

Everything may seem over for Walt, but it’s just beginning for Skyler, who began a ruthless investigation and questioning session into the whereabouts of her husband. She can’t answer to save her own life because she doesn’t know. And Jesse, poor Jesse is reduced to slave-status, cooking meth between sessions of torture and ice cream bonding with the sociopath Todd. Jesse’s scenes were the most heartbreaking this episode. He’s locked up like the “Rabid Dog” metaphor placed on him just three episodes ago. Not so rabid, but rather docile, Jesse looks longingly at a photo of Andrea and Brock, and, like Walt, it’s what keeps him going.

Remember he broke up with Andrea because he couldn’t bring himself to tell her who he really was and wanted to protect her. Still oblivious to Jesse’s past, Andrea welcomes everyone from Walt to Todd into her home with naïveté. The latter guest goes for extra cruel and unusual punishment after Jesse’s Walt-like epiphany of using a paperclip to free him from the handcuffs to escape the Neo-Nazi prison. He’s almost there, but “Breaking Bad” has changed its tone. It’s more unforgiving and just as Walt got caught, so does Jesse, right at the moment we’re wishing he got away with it.

Todd kills Andrea while her back is turned. Before he pulls the trigger, he hurriedly and gently says, “Just so you know, this isn’t personal,” while a panicked and emotionally broken Jesse can only watch from the car. Todd’s increasing role in this last half-season has been interesting to say the least. While some people may wonder where this guy came from, I can only commend the writers for turning a minor character into a major villain in the span of a handful of episodes that he appears in. “Breaking Bad” has always been a show about the domino effect of relationships, just as Gus was tied to Tio and one chance meeting sprung an empire. No one saw Todd’s affect on the show until it happened, and it makes perfect sense. From the point where he killed Drew Sharpe and kept the boy’s tarantula, we knew something was wrong, but we could never imagine that he would take Heisenberg’s influence so dramatically. Todd is one of the only characters who doesn’t know the other side to the Heisenberg/Walt coin. All he knows is the man presented to him as a highly respectable drug-lord whom you do not betray.

Even as Todd’s Uncle Jack and the Neo-Nazi’s take away Walt’s life savings, Todd’s respect for Heisenberg leaves Walter with a barrel of money. Jesse Plemons’ portrayal of Todd is spectacular. On one hand, he’s a goofy kid who’s instructed to stay quiet and does so just because. I imagine him as a child, the makings of a sociopath, by himself, cutting off and playing with locks of hair from the girls he liked in school while his classmates exhausted themselves on the playground during recess. On the other hand, Todd has really shown us how scary he could be, and his scene in the White residence terrorizing Skyler and Holly with a smooth voice is one of the scariest moments in the show that I can remember. His gentle voice, the deadpan eyes, still face and titling head under a black ski mask make him the most terrifying ring-leader in the group. You can tell Uncle Jack and his crew take delight in letting Todd have his fun. In fact, the only reason they’re still selling meth is to entertain Todd’s crush for Lydia.

Todd’s sociopathic behavior is modeled on Heisenberg, and without any though, he mirrors what he sees. In a scene that seems to be meant for direct comparison to Walt’s “billions” scene, Todd tells his uncle, “but this is millions, Uncle Jack. No Matter how much you got, how are you going to turn you’re back on more?” He says it way more endearingly than Walt’s power-hungry speech, but the menace is there, just buried beneath a simple-boy demeanor.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 5.10.24 PM

The best part of the episode, for me, was the end when Walt makes it to the bar and can’t resist the urge to contact Walter Jr. He tells his son that he plans to send about $100,00 to the still-faceless Luis (Seriously it’s been five seasons, and we haven’t seen his face.) but no one can know about it. This takes the spot as No. 2 heartbreaking scene of the episode next to Jesse’s post-Andrea reaction. Walt begins to cry on the phone, referring to Walter Jr. as “Son,” as if he were trying to solidify that bond. Walt Jr., enraged, tells his father that he doesn’t want anything from him.

“You killed Uncle Hank. You killed him,” he yells at the phone. “Why are you still alive? Why don’t you just die?”

Hearing these words from his son has an entirely different effect on Walt than hearing them from Skyler in the first half of Season 5. It’s a sort of “Catcher in the Rye”-type obsession with keeping the innocent truly innocent. Once his son told him to die, he really had nothing to live for. His family, all traces of it, we’re gone and while they were struggling with the idea, they were desperately seeking to be better without him.

Then something magnificent happens. Walt is at the bar when he stumbles across an interview with Gretchen and Elliot on TV. They once again undermine his efforts to the company he rightfully should have owned, and wrote him off as a tragedy and used him as a public relations device to donate a large amount of money to some drug abuse foundation. In the most simple, boiled down terms, Gretchen and Elliot’s betrayal is what fueled Heisenberg. It was the first instance of him being denied what was rightfully his, and even if it’s just symbolic, he’s going to get it back.

Tweet me @claudiacmarina all things “Breaking Bad,” which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on AMC. 

 

 

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

184 Comments on "Breaking Bad: S5E15 “Granite State”"

  1. grace September 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Great review of the episode! I just hope that with this next final episode they get to cover everything and tie up a solution to Walt’s life, given that he can’t really even return home showing his face without accepting blame and defeat.

Leave A Response

Login with one of the buttons below to Comment


Connect with Facebook


Or click here for manual input.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *