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Recap: Table Is Set For The Finale In 'Breaking Bad' Season 5, Episode 15 'Granite State'

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by Kevin Jagernauth
September 23, 2013 10:32 AM
17 Comments
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Breaking Bad

What happens to a king when he no longer has a kingdom to rule? That's the central question in "Granite State," the penultimate episode to "Breaking Bad" that after some truly heart racing episodes from the rest of the season, is intriguingly subdued. It puts in the center a dying Walter White (Bryan Cranston), literally isolated, lonely and seemingly without options, left with a barrel of money and his destiny, which is presumably death from cancer, incarceration or if he somehow survives his disease and lays low, a chance to start over. But without Skyler (Anna Gunn), Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and Holly, everything he's done is worthless, and as we know, Walter is not a man known to travel down the easy road or give up without a fight. Though he comes very close it to it this time around.

But first, the episode opens with one of two really well played cameo appearances, this one by Robert Forster as Saul Goodman's (Bob Odenkirk) until now invisible fixer. This time his client is the lawyer himself, who is ferried to a vacuum cleaner repair store which serves as the front for the fixer's business. Saul is packing it in and getting out while he can, but until his details are sorted out, he'll be bunking in a basement with another man on the run: Walter White. Stewing and fuming, Walt doesn't waste any time in trying to get Saul to help him hire some mercenaries—at least five men—to take down Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) and his crew for killing Hank (Dean Norris) and stealing his "life's work." He even tries to rope Saul into coming with him on the run, pulling out his Heisenberg persona for one last attempt at threatening the lawyer into helping him. But it ends in a fit of coughing, with Saul wisely taking his bags and getting out, moving on to life in Nebraska, where he quips, that if he's lucky, he'll be managing a Cinnabon (and now you know why the spinoff show will have to be a prequel).

Breaking Bad

But before he left, Saul advised Walt to simply face the music rather than go on the run, because even with last episode's blistering phone call, the feds aren't going to let Skyler off the hook, especially with two missing and presumed dead DEA agents. And his prediction is correct. With a team of prosecutors facing off against her meek public defender, they want Walt or any information that will lead to him. Declaring that she has no idea where he could be, Skyler is sternly advised to "rack her brain" for anything she can tell them. But even at home, she's not spared a moment's rest. Going to see why Holly is crying, Skyler is greeted with three masked men, led by Todd (Jesse Plemons). And the message is clear: don't say a word about Lydia (Laura Fraser) to anyone or else they'll be back. Pushed in on both sides, it's the last we see of Skyler for the episode, though one wonders if she has any moves left that will keep her out of jail.

Curiously, it's actually Todd who becomes a bit of central figure in this penultimate episode, and in many ways this could've been called "Breaking Todd." Over the course of the season, he's become as much of a monster as his uncles, albeit in a much younger, more youthful and unassuming guise. So why the visit to Skyler? Well, the uncles retrieved Jesse's (Aaron Paul) video confession after ransacking Hank and Marie's house (more on that later) and watched it, learning of Todd's slaying of Drew Sharp during the train heist. But that's not all. While Jack is eager to kill Jesse, and just enjoy the tens of millions they've stolen from Walt, Todd continues to plead to keep him alive to help with the cook, and keep the money flowing. "This is millions, Jack. No matter how much you got, how do you turn your back on more?" he asks rhetorically. But Jack isn't dumb. He realizes that Todd has a thing for Lydia, and while he doesn't understand it, he agrees to keep Jesse alive for now (though that strains credulity a bit; even if Jack likes Todd, his streak of ruthlessness would seem more predisposed to eliminating a potential threat, than keeping it around for sentimentality's sake).

Breaking Bad

Either way, with Jesse cooking, the quality of the meth is now over 90% pure, spurring the interest of Lydia (who sent Todd to kill Skyler, though the crafty young man rightfully figured that scaring a mother looking to protect her kids was enough) who was ready to put their business relationship on hold. But now with product to supply her Eastern European clients, she's intrigued. But things almost go awry when Jesse manages a rather brazen escape attempt, one that ends in front of a fence topped with razor wire, and the uncles at his back. He begs for death but gets a worse fate. He's driven to Andrea's (Emily Rios) house where he watches in horror as Todd punishes Jesse by shooting his former girlfriend in the back of the head on her front porch. Jesse, who had been cradling that photo in his makeshift dungeon, is understandably inconsolable. He's caught in a purgatory of his own making, where his only salvation may be Walter White, a man who has already tried to kill him. 

So where's Walt this episode? In a remote rural cabin in New Hampshire in winter, eight miles from the nearest town, with an unusual deal for Saul's fixer to arrive once a month to provide supplies (he usually provides his clients with a new identity and never sees them again). There's no telephone, no Internet, no reception for the TV and in the show's lone moment of humor, two copies of "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" on DVD. And while Walt initially seems like he'll go against the advice of his fixer, and stroll into town with an armload of money and continue his mission of vengeance, he ultimately backs down, defeated, knowing that he'll spotted given the headlines that he's made nationally.

Breaking Bad

What emerges over the course of the episode is Walter tasting the bitter fruits of his labors as Heisenberg. He's lonely, and in one wrenching scene, pays the fixer $10,000 to stay with him for just an hour longer. But more crucially, the family he fought for no longer wants him. Another phone call is crucial to this week's episode, this time to Walt Jr. Using a waitress posing as Marie to call him out of class, Walt tells his son of his plan to send $100,000 to Walt Jr.'s best friend Louis for the family, after learning that Skyler is now working at a taxi dispatch. But Walt's son isn't having it. "You killed Uncle Hank!" he yells, before asking his Dad, "Why are you even still alive? Why don't you just die already?" It's only then that Walt gives in, hangs up the phone and places his next call to the DEA, turning himself in and leaving the phone off the hook so they know where to find him.

Enjoying one last drink at the bar before awaiting the inevitable, he tells the channel switching bartender to stop on "Charlie Rose" when he sees two very old colleagues: Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz (Adam Godley, Jessica Hecht) of Gray Matter Technologies. It's a huge whiplash back to season one, a pretty damn surprising late game element to toss into the mix of the show. The duo are speaking to the talk show host about their new effort to open drug rehab centers across the southwest, with Rose wondering aloud if it's only to deflect from the criticism they've received that a wanted drug kingpin founded the company. But the duo downplay Walt's involvement, claiming he only helped come up with the name. But as fans of the show know, Walter long ago accused the pair of stealing his research and getting rich off it, refusing to take their money to help pay for his cancer treatment. As the cops roll in to arrest Walt, he's nowhere to be found ...

So, of course, with exactly one episode left, there is still a lot of ground to cover. Who's going to get the wrong end of an M60? Who's going to get the ricin? Does Walt want to kill Elliott and Gretchen or does his yet undisclosed research he did for them have an application that he can use to help bring down Jack Welker and co.? Is there a way he can frame them as Heisenberg and clear his own name? Is the late game reintroduction of these two ancient characters a logical or reasonable motivation for Walt to keep moving? How on Earth is this going to wrap up in about one hour? 

Other things to remember and consider: we can presume the authorities are tracking down whoever broke into Schrader residence (though we wonder why Jack and co. were so clumsy and obvious doing that job, when they were so cautious in visiting Skyler—seems a bit odd considering both moves would bring equal heat). And we suppose that we'll no longer be seeing Saul, but if anything, "Breaking Bad" has taught us that the obvious answers aren't always the right ones.

Breaking Bad

There is no doubt "Granite State" was thoroughly gripping, but ultimately, it served as a table setting effort for the last show. And in that regard, the structure is certainly open to questioning. The equal focus on Todd as much as Walter, particularly as things are ramping toward the end is interesting, especially given how much story there is to get to. But through five seasons—and particularly over these final episodes—the team of writers on the show have continually not just subverted expectations, but delivered drama and thrills by taking the storylines in bold, sometimes dazzling directions that are both surprising and satisfying. 

We're not going to bother with predictions for how this will end because we've been wrong every step of the way. But here's hoping Vince Gilligan and co. deliver the sendoff we've been waiting for, one that answers all the questions, closes the door and wraps up the saga of Walter White. [B]

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17 Comments

  • johannus | September 25, 2013 4:18 PMReply

    did anyone think of the cut scene with skyler floating?

  • @ Spoiler Alert | September 24, 2013 10:49 PMReply

    Charlie Rose comes gunning to Walt. Gail shows up with Oprah to take the meth, they go to a tv studio and gives it all away: "Look under you seats. It's blue for everyone! You get blitzed, and you get blitzed, and you get blitzed." A bunch of mid-western housewives applaud.

  • Spoiler Alert | September 24, 2013 10:43 PMReply

    Doh! Before Walt goes to the nazi camp, he'll call the DEA and say, "Come and get me." No matter what happens in his show down with the nazis, the DEA will come and take them all out. My only fear is that Walt will stop by PBS studios to take out Charlie Rose. He didn't like that show.

  • lue | September 24, 2013 8:34 PMReply

    First this show has been amazing and the ending will never be what anyone expects. I have ideas on what I'd love to see but now I'm going to comment on the one prediction that keeps rearing its head. Everyone says that Walt gets the M60 to kill the gang and save Jesse. But this is now the future and may be months have passed so for all we know the gang no longer has Jesse or Jesse is already dead. I love Jesse for me I'd love to see him geT in suss final BITCH and geT some revenge on Todd or Walt or both. But this won't happen. Walt is polarizing now and I don't know if he truely is goingto try save the day for anyone other than his ego. When Walt Jr told him to die, Walt gave up and was reading to give himself in not go fight for his family. But when he saw his ex partners dissing him and saw that Heisenberg was still considered alive because his meth was back on the scene that's what set him off. In that moment I think he became Heisenberg I think it finally took over. His ego and need to prove himself over powered his family. So I don't have a clue what will happen but I predict no happy ending. I think fans won't geT what they hope will happen but I think it will end how it should end and as bitter sweet as that is we will all remember the day we got to see the best tv show come to an end.

  • berk | September 24, 2013 6:58 PMReply

    Grey Matter will not be Walter's target, it's Jack, Todd, etc. Grey Matter is only there to show the parallel in Walter having a hand in something potentially huge (GM & blue meth) that he let slip away. He called the meth his life's work, not GM, and that is what he is going back to reclaim.

  • Scott M | September 24, 2013 11:03 AMReply

    Think the significance of watching the gret matter clip was actually because Gretchen claimed the kind man that was Walter White is now dead. Having lost everything Walt is now fully Heisenberg.

    My money is on Walt somehow doing 'one last cook' with Jesse and using the Ricin against the crew (maybe saving Jesse and he, by being in their lab suits?)

    This series has been mind blowing. I can't see any ending subduing my sadness that it finished.

  • the regular guy | September 24, 2013 3:07 AMReply

    Whatever that last episode is, it's going to be better than that bull**** "Sopranos" finale.

    And that bull**** "Lost" finale.

  • TylerDurden | September 23, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    Walt goes after Jacks crew with M60 in hand rescueing Jesse. Walt uses the ricin killing Jesse. However, I'm inclined to think of Jacks crew and Todd somehow get pinned as Heisenberg and responsible for everything, remember the only evidence against Walt is Skylers word and the DVD confession by Walt throwing Hank under the bus forcing him to cook meth. Besides that, there is no evidence or anything connecting him as Heisenberg, in which case there is no case against Skyler. Lydia gets busted and goes to jail. Eventually Walt dies from cancer and his family is left with the money, but I wouldn't be suprised if he uses the money to buy out a bunch of Grey Matter stock leaving it to his kids.

  • Chaws | September 23, 2013 2:50 PMReply

    Since the last episode is titled 'Felina" I think the lyrics to Marty Robbins "El Paso" might hold some keys as to what's in store.

    Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
    I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
    Night-time would find me in Rosa's cantina;
    Music would play and Felina would whirl.

    Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
    Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
    My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
    I was in love but in vain, I could tell.

    One night a wild young cowboy came in,
    Wild as the West Texas wind.
    Dashing and daring,
    A drink he was sharing
    With wicked Felina,
    The girl that I loved.

    So in anger I

    Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
    Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
    My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
    The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.

    Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
    Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
    Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
    I had but one chance and that was to run.

    Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran,
    Out where the horses were tied.
    I caught a good one.
    It looked like it could run.
    Up on its back
    And away I did ride,

    Just as fast as I

    Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
    Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.

    Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
    Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
    It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
    My love is stronger than my fear of death.

    I saddled up and away I did go,
    Riding alone in the dark.
    Maybe tomorrow
    A bullet may find me.
    Tonight nothing's worse than this
    Pain in my heart.

    And at last here I

    Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
    I can see Rosa's cantina below.
    My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
    Down off the hill to Felina I go.

    Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
    Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
    Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me.
    I have to make it to Rosa's back door.

    Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
    A deep burning pain in my side.
    Though I am trying
    To stay in the saddle,
    I'm getting weary,
    Unable to ride.

    But my love for

    Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
    Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
    I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
    I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

    From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
    Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
    Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
    One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

  • Craigo | September 23, 2013 8:13 PM

    Another reference I picked up in Sunday's episode was Walt's "Tomorrow... Tomorrow", as he changed his mind at the gate leading into town from his cabin. It's from Macbeth's "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." soliliquoy on the futility of life, which comes just after he's lost his wife, and just before he storms into the final show-down with Macduff. The result - his head comes off.

  • LPD | September 23, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    OK, got it:

    Walt kills Jack's gang, not necessarily including Todd

    He liberates Jesse, but they spike the meth with ricin, ensuring that Lydia gets hers when discovered by her Euro connections; this could also get Todd

    Agree that Jesse is set free to care for Walt's family, and who will adopt the now-orphaned steely Chicano kid, who may kill Jesse in retaliation for his mother's death and become the new Heisenberg

    Either that or he kills both Jesse and Walt just in time for the last BOIIIIIING

  • LPD | September 23, 2013 2:51 PM

    Almost forgot, the Grey Matter couple are Lydia's Euro connections or at least meth heads who ingest ricin-tainted meth....BOIIIING

  • Ricin in the Back Pocket | September 23, 2013 11:55 AMReply

    - Walt takes the ricin himself.
    - Knowing death is immiment, he visits Jack&co. with Mr. M60 and exudes punishment.
    - Saves Jesse's life.
    - Gives the $$$ to Jesse to give to his family.
    - Walter either dies in custody or somewhere vacant. Leaning towards the latter.
    - My $0.02.

  • Alex | September 23, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    Pretty sure the White's house is destroyed. The fixer said something about it becoming a tourist attraction for local kids during one of his visits to the point they had to put up a fence around it.

  • daz | September 23, 2013 12:03 PM

    Well that is something we have known for a long time. The house was showed in a flashforward at the beginning of the season.

  • Nate | September 23, 2013 10:47 AMReply

    Re: Grey Matters

    Motivation. Heisenberg/Walt had essentially been neutered; he was completely ready to give up (the phone call). But his pride and hubris got in the way again.

    Quiet, but riveting. Emmys for all next season. The M60 is for Jack and Co. Walt is going to save Jesse and use the ricin on himself. Or Lydia. Walt dies. The money goes to his family.

    Oh yeah... The house was trashed by teens, right?

  • jonty | September 23, 2013 5:50 PM

    Grey Matters has always been a (perhaps expertly) dangled thread in the story. At first one imagines it as a crutch of sorts; Walter White, high school chemistry teacher, is actually a genius chemist, hence his meth's unprecedented purity (indeed, Gayle is no slouch and can't get close). But there are always hints of the what might have beens that have festered in Walt since he missed that payday.

    If Heisenberg were a comicbook villain, I wonder if we'd find his origins in the Grey Matters affair. Given how underdeveloped, but clearly significant (in light of this latest episode) it is, my gut instinct is that there's one more reveal to come from that thread that will shape our perception of Walt/Heisenberg -- thinking back, why did Walt leave Gretchen all those years ago?

    One can only speculate, but I wonder if Gilligan has his sights trained on loftier targets. I'm certainly hoping this is going to be the best finale since the Sopranos.

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