As "Breaking Bad" took home the Award for Outstanding Dramatic Series at the Emmys last night, over on AMC in the special super-sized penultimate episode, Vince Gilligan and crew showed exactly why they already deserve to win that same award again next year (yea I’ve already decided. Looking at you to prove me wrong, Mad Men). While last week was bursting at the seams with adrenaline this weeks episode was certainly more subdued. I said multiple times throughout the week that aside from a few hanging threads “Ozymandias” could have served as a great series finale. It certainly packed punch. This week was just as much of an emotional ride though.
One thing I love is that while I’m typically quite good at reading where shows are going, I’m almost always wrong when it comes to predicting "Breaking Bad", and yet each turn feels authentic and intricately thought out. “Granite State” gave us hope and then yanked the rug out from under us… more than once. As the network promised fans in its promotions for the final season “all bad things must come to an end” and that has never felt more true than last night. Lets get into it.
Don't Call Him Landry
Okay, if you’re not a fan of Friday Night Lights, bear with me for a second here. When Todd showed up in the first half of this season there was no way to tell he’d be so integral to the shows final stretch. I really thought he’d bite the dust not long after offing the kid on the tracks after the train heist. Back then I referred to Todd as Landry, Jesse Plemons’ awkward, well-intentioned football player from Dillon, Texas. As Todd began reemerging, though, any connection to the world of Coach Taylor and the Lions was erased outright. From last weeks so-shocking-it's-hilarious delivery of “I’m sorry for your loss” to Walt after his Uncle Jack killed Hank in the desert, to last nights break-and-entry into the White house to protect - of all people - Lydia, this dude doesn’t deserve to be called Landry. Landry I like. Todd terrifies me. Plemons is outstanding though and I’m so glad he’s getting starting to get the recognition he deserves. Early on last night we discovered that the Aryan crew broke into Hank and Marie’s home in order to recover Jesse’s confession tape. When Jack discovers that Jesse gave up Todd on the tape (he recounts the shooting at the train tracks) he resolves to kill Pinkman, but Todd stops it. Apparently he’s got a crush on Lydia, and he wants to keep the business going, especially now that they’ve got the meth up to a Heisenberg-level 92%, which I’m sure he knows will please the lady.
Jesse is exactly where we left him last week, being held by Uncle Jack and the nazis and being forced to cook meth for them. Still bloodied and bruised from the beatings he’s taken at their hands, Jesse begins to attempt an escape. Using the paperclip that Todd had suspending a photo of Andrea and Brock he breaks free from his cuffs, though while trying to reach the top of his cage, Jesse hears Todd approaching. He cuffs himself again and appears back to normal when Todd opens the hatch, lowering down some ice cream for the prisoner. Todd tells Jesse that he deserves a treat - the meth he cooked today was 96%. Jesse asks if Todd would mind leaving the tarp off the cage for the night, so he could “see the stars” and that little bit of my Landry that’s left in him agrees (but not for long. brace yourself). So the escape is back on. The scene, though not that long, felt painfully drawn out in the best way possible. The suspense was almost nauseating, not only because I wanted so badly for Jesse to escape but because a big part of me knew that he wouldn’t. After getting free from the cage, Jesse makes a run for it, but we see a camera watching the grounds and immediately know it’s all over. As he attempts to hop over a fence Jesse finds himself surrounded by the Aryan crew and begins begging for them to just kill him. But they’ve got something much worse in mind…
Walt and Saul are on track to getting brand new lives. We finally get to meet Ed the disappearer - played by the awesome Robert Forster of Jackie Brown - while the guys are hanging out at the vacuum shop, and while he readies their new identities Saul tries to convince Walt to turn himself in and take the inevitable pressure off of Skyler and the family. Walt seems to think his call (which he clearly knew the police were on the other end of) should have done the trick. Walt wants Uncle Jack and the nazis killed and to insure that the rest of his money will go to his family. It’s always been for his family, he insists. Saul shuts the notion down, though, telling Walt that Skyler is being monitored so heavily that there’s no way to get money to them. He refuses to work as Walt’s lawyer any longer, and it seems this is the last we’ll see of Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad” as he heads off to a new life in Nebraska.
Next time we see Walt some major time has passed. He not only has a full head of hair but also a beard - he’s looking a lot like our flash-forward Walt who showed up in the premiere. Walt is informed by a visiting Ed that Skyler still has the kids and she has yet to be tried in court. Skyler is working as a Taxi dispatcher now, going by her maiden name, and the house is up for sale as it has understandably become a media hotspot and has likely attracted crowds of gawkers. Remember how shocked Walt’s neighbour was to see him exiting the trashed and abandoned house in the flash-forward after he recovered the ricin? After getting a new pair of glasses with an updated prescription, we see Ed set up Walt’s chemo and then prepare to leave. Walt asks him to stay, and when he refuses offers another $10,000 for some company. It’s incredibly sad, despite everything, seeing Walt like this. When he asks Ed if he’ll get the barrel of money to his family after Walt is gone, his response is utterly crushing. “Even if I said yes, would you believe me?”
After last week I would have sworn I’d never feel sympathy for this guy again, but the second Walt entered the cabin I immediately felt his boredom, depression, regret… Bryan Cranston was truly awesome last night, as if that’s news to anyone. Later we got a glimpse of Walt in bed, his wall covered in newspaper clippings of Skyler, so gaunt that his wedding ring no longer properly fits. Walt pours out a box of Ensure shakes and fills it with stacks of money from the barrel. He sets out into town, marching through the snow.
While sitting back at the bar Walt asks the bartender to stop on a channel when he notices Elliot and Gretchen on TV. They’re doing an interview about Gray Matter and discussing the fact that they recently gave a wildly generous grant to a drug treatment center. The interviewer wonders if they did this to distract from the fact that they’ve recently been linked to the Walter White story in the news - he was, after all, one of company's founders. Gretchen counters by saying that Walt had essentially nothing to do with the company's inception, going on to lie that he really only contributed to the name. Walt is visibly furious. Gretchen continues by stating that “the sweet, kind man that we used to know is gone” when asked whether or not her former partner is still around. The “Breaking Bad” theme music begins as we watch Walters face transform from broken to determined. Careless to enraged. We see cops surround & then enter the bar, but when they approach, nothing is left where Walt sat except for his near-empty drink. Fade to black.
So there it is, the second-to-last episode of “Breaking Bad” is done. One to go, kids. It’s hard to believe we’re at the end but I truly can’t wait to see what the writers have in store. Last nights episode was a fantastic slow-burner with all signs pointing to the end, but there’s still several questions we have yet to get answered. First of all, who are the ricin and gun for? We know Walt ends up back in Albuquerque but is he going after Elliot and Gretchen? The Nazis? Lydia? Does he care enough to try to save Jesse? Is it even possible for anyone to get a happy ending in this universe? And, seriously, is Huell still sitting in that damn house waiting for Hank and Gomez?
Comment below with your thoughts & questions. What did you think of "Granite State" and what are you hoping to see in the final episode? My odds are on Jesse blowing himself & the Nazis away with a meth lab explosion, though as I said, I’m almost ALWAYS pleasantly surprised with how “Breaking Bad” twists and turns. I’m totally trusting Vince and the writers have something epic, unique and satisfying in store. I’ll certainly be back next week to discuss, and feel free to follow / drop me a line on twitter.