It just doesn’t feel like we’re only one away from the end, does it? How can it all possibly be wrapped up in one episode? Sure in three or four maybe, but one?
“Granite State” was a strange episode–oscillating from the frozen and lonely isolation of Walter’s new life to the violent and tumultuous one he left behind for his loved ones. These two separate areas of Breaking Bad were bridged only by yet another phone call between Walt and a family member that left me breathless.
I’ve focused so much of my writing on this season on Jesse, even though his speaking role is smaller than ever before. He’s a dog on a leash, a dog in a cage–fed and beaten and living like an animal. The “rabid dog” analogy has become quite literal, and even Aaron Paul’s has become more animalistic. His screaming as Todd shot Andrea was guttural and almost inhuman.
For the first time ever, I found myself wishing for Jesse’s death–just a little bit. It almost came twice this episode: once when Jack heard Jesse rat on Todd on tape and once when Jesse almost made his escape over the barbed fence of the Nazi prison. My heart, for two seasons now, has been entirely with Jesse, and I’ve been hoping that he would get free of this. That he would escape, move on, and be OK. But is that even possible any more? Unlike Walt, Jesse has always faced the consequences of his actions. He’s like a child that never gets away with anything–constantly getting into trouble and being punished. If you didn’t have enough imagery linking Jesse to children, how about the way he had to swing from bar to bar of the top of his cage. Grown up monkey bars for the man who is still a child at heart.
At this point, could Jesse ever be OK? Or is he truly the completion of Saul’s Old Yeller euphemism–someone who should be put down for his own sake?
His keeper is Todd (Jesse Plemmons), the hardest character for me to wrap my head around by far. His crush on Lydia, his friendly small talk and ice cream provisions for Jesse, his desire to put Skyler at ease and then his insistence that she shouldn’t be killed all add up to someone sweet, shy, and awkward. TV conventions dictate that he wins me over. But he can kill without feeling, shooting Andrea in the back of the head without an issue the way he did 14-year-old Drew Sharp. He is the very definition of a psychopath, and thus a very confusing yet rewarding character to watch.
In an episode that sometimes felt a little heavy handed with its shots (Walt putting on his Heisenberg hat?), what I most enjoyed was the image of Walt’s unfinished glass of scotch at the bar as the police came in. Gretchen had just finished saying, “The sweet, caring man we knew is now gone.” And he is. He disappeared long before he left his family “high and dry” to sit alone in a cabin in New Hampshire. His own son wants nothing of his legacy, rightfully so, and it is at this point that we realize that Walter White’s own life has become a cancer. It destroyed Hank’s, Marie’s, Skyler’s, Junior’s, Jesse’s, Gale’s, Andrea’s, Jane’s, Saul’s, and so many others.
I love that “White” has disappeared from the show almost entirely. Elliott and Gretchen say that the only contribution Walt made to Gray Matter was his last name, and Walt has been obsessed with his legacy for the duration of Breaking Bad. “Say my name,” he snarled at Declan. But he has a new identity now, Skyler is going by her maiden name, and even the company he founded so long ago is abandoning the “White” name. The only person still accepting that last name is “Flynn White,” who gets called into the principal’s office to take his father’s call, but he shed “Walter” long ago for the identity of Flynn.
This show does not forgive. I can’t wait for next week.