The White King is down to his last moves (Credit: AMC)
“The fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”Part of the appeal of Breaking Bad is that it's a fantasy about control and power that many of the viewers can sympathize with. I've mentioned this before, but Walter White's turn to Heisenberg is the alpha male fantasy of everyone who thinks if circumstances had been "fairer" to them they could have achieved greatness. Everyone who's ever been talked down to by some asshole with a clipboard or sat through an idiot boss lecturing them can understand the feeling of wanting to rebel against a structure that leaves them unhappy and feeling small. Breaking Bad is centered around a man who feels like life has never played straight with him and decides to take control of his own destiny by embracing a power fantasy.
-Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
But the reason fantasies are fantasies and not reality is because they usually leave out the consequences. "Granite State" is about the destruction left in the wake of Walt's fall. All of the characters are now living in a hell created out of Walt's good intentions.
From Donna Bowman at the A.V. Club:
Last week, Walter White’s illusions of salvaging his family life were violently stripped away. This week, the target of Breaking Bad’s relentless assault on its main character is even more personal: the last vestige of his power. Actually, it’s even worse that that. Stranding him in a cabin deep in the New Hampshire woods with a barrel full of money he can’t get to the people who need it, the people for whom he supposedly accumulated it, the show mocks his vain confidence that he can always get things done, with his wits or with his cash.
The new manager of a Cinabon in Omaha, Nebraska (Credit: AMC)
"They will RICO your wife and kids out of the house." -Saul
- Even Saul Needs The Vacuum Cleaner Repair Guy: Things have gotten so bad that even Saul needs to escape via the vacuum cleaner repair guy (played by Robert Forster). The situation is such that the best Saul can hope for is a boring life in Nebraska. However, Walt is still waiting for his trip to New Hampshire and has different plans. Walt is furiously thinking through scenarios and still believes he can avenge Hank and get all of the money to Skyler and the kids. Saul attempts to reason with him by arguing he should give up and explaining the suffering Skyler and his family will experience, even if they're innocent of any of his crimes. The entire scene is an expression of how delusional Walt is about the situation. He's hiding in the basement of a vacuum repair shop and still thinks he's in a position to wield power. In a contrast to the scene from the beginning of season five, Walt again attempts to threaten Saul into doing his bidding. But the cancer has other ideas, and Walt is too weak to follow through.
"We turn around and there is this kid on a dirt-bike looking at us. Drew Sharp. That kid that went missing up in White Horse. It's him. And then out of nowhere, Todd... that Opie, dead eyed piece of shit, pulls out a gun and shoots the kid." -Jesse
- Does This Pussy Cry Through The Whole Thing?: Uncle Jack's collection of white power assholes ransack Hank and Marie's home, and retrieve Jesse's confession. When Todd got up and started inching away as the video played, I thought for a moment that even among the Aryan Brotherhood they might look down on someone who would kill a child. But who are we kidding? If you tattoo a Swastika on your neck, you've already passed the moral event horizon. Uncle Jack only cares about putting a bullet in Jesse's skull to remove the risk of him talking. But Todd argues to keep Jesse alive to cook. Uncle Jack and Kenny ask why? They have $70 million, why do they need to cook crank? They also see through Todd's desire to cook as being about him wanting to bang Lydia.
"Yes, I understand. I understand that I am in terrible trouble. I understand that you will use everything in your power against me and my children unless I give you Walt. But the truth is that I can't give you what you want. I don't know where he is." -Skyler
- Left Behind: Little by little, the situation with Skyler and the kids is revealed as the episode progresses. And each time it seems like the situation gets worse. Her first appearance in the hour is in a meeting between government officials and her public defender. The one bit of information that she might be able to trade for consideration (i.e. Lydia) is taken away after Todd and the White Power crew show up at the White home in ski masks. As he stands over Holly's crib, Todd threatens to murder the family if Skyler ever speaks about Lydia. It's then revealed that Lydia sent Todd to kill Skyler. There's an argument to be made that Lydia is the worst human being in the entire show, since unlike others she can't even own her malice and greed. She's the personification of corporate decision making. Lydia can order a hit, but she can't even bear to look at it.
"I just think we work together good. We make a good team. I think it's kind of mutually good." (Credit: AMC)
- 92 Percent: And speaking of greed, Lydia just can't resist walking away when Todd dangles Heisenberg levels of quality. Todd and Lydia are a bizarro, anti-version of Walt and Jesse. Lydia, like Walt, is someone with skills to excel in legitimate business that has "broken bad," but unlike Walt there was no hardship which propelled her choice. She does it just for greed. And Todd is seeking a relationship from Lydia, just as Jesse stayed with Walt because of their dysfunctional father-son-like relationship. But the sexual aspect, mixed with Todd's psychopathic behavior, makes it even more twisted between Todd and Lydia.
"Stay a little longer ... please." (Credit: AMC)
- Mr. Lambert, Welcome To New Hampshire: The idea of escape is revealed to be a "fantasy" for Walt. The best he can hope for is to die of cancer in a cabin, secluded from the rest of the world and any human contact. Walt has a barrel with $10 million sitting in front of him, and it is worthless. He can't give it to the people he wants to have it. and he can't spend it to live in comfort. All he can do is sit in that cabin and hear news of how horrible things have become with everything and everyone he cares about. Walt finds the Heisenberg pork pie hat in his things. Instead of it being a source of power, the hat is a reminder of how pathetic his situation has become. Through the supply runs of the vacuum repair guy, we learn that Skyler has lost everything, possibly looking at a grand jury indictment, and working as dispatcher for a taxi company. Walt has become so lonely in this cold, snowy hell, that he pays $10,000 just for some companionship for one hour. During that hour, he asks the vacuum repair man if he could promise to get the barrel of money to Skyler after he dies. But Walt can't even get the comfort of the man lying to him to make him feel a little better. The vacuum repair guy tells him the truth, that there's no way Walt would (or should) trust any of his promises.
- Fuck You Todd!: A lot of people didn't take the character of Todd seriously when he first appeared, but he's probably the most monstrous villain in the show's history. And that's in a show with Tuco, the Cousins, and Gus. I think it's the "empty" feeling you get from his violence. There is no struggle or desire or want involved. Rolling Stone's interview with Jesse Plemons about Todd is interesting, specifically what Plemons imagines to be Todd's backstory. Just like last week, Todd is still treating Jesse like an animal. He rewards Jesse's cooking by bringing him mixed together ice-cream, the way you would mush up all of your table scraps for a dog. So when Jesse escapes using the paperclip that held Andrea and Brock's picture in the lab, in the back of your head, you knew that it wasn't going to end well. And as soon as the surveillance camera came into view, we knew it for sure. But it was still shocking to watch Andrea have her brains blown out. Aaron Paul is just amazing in the scene at conveying the utter helplessness that Jesse is experiencing.
"It's so good to hear your voice. I ... I ... Son, the things that they're saying about me ... I did wrong. I made some terrible mistakes. But the reasons were always ... Things happened that I never intended. I never intended!" -Walt
- The Call Home: Walt finally decides he can't take it any longer. He wants to send $100,000 to his family, and ventures past the gate of his property. He ends up a bar in the middle of Bumfuck, New Hampshire, and pays off a patron to pose as Marie and call Walter Jr./Flynn's school. After he gets Walt Jr. on the phone he tries to convince him to go along with the plan to get the family the money. But Jr. will here none of it. Flynn blames Walt for killing Hank, and the destruction of everything in his life. He asks Walt why won't he just die. This is Walt's final failure, and convinces him to finally give up. I actually believe Walt when he says he did everything with the best of intentions. I think the power he got from being Heisenberg was part of it, but I truly believe he loves his family. But intentions aren't everything. His actions have made a mess, and the people he did it for don't care about his intentions, only the consequences of his actions.
"Is Walter White Still Out There?" (Credit: AMC)
- Live Free Or Die: As Walt is waiting for the cops to arrive, drinking his Dimple Pinch, he catches Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz on Charlie Rose. During the interview, Rose implies that Walter is a nationally known fugitive of considerable notoriety, so much so that it might be affecting the stock price of Gray Matter Technologies. Breaking Bad has always left this part of Walt's backstory vague. All the audience has been told is that Walt co-founded the company, which is worth billions, with Gretchen and Elliot, and for some personal reason he divested just before the company took off. (It's hinted, but never confirmed, to be a love triangle between the three.) It is the source of Walt's wounded pride and ego that helped create Heisenberg in the first place. Both Elliot and Gretchen diminish Walter's importance to the company's beginnings to Charlie Rose, saying that he's only responsible for the company's name and nothing else. In a previous episode, Walt had told Gretchen that both she and Elliot made millions off of his hard work and research. So someone is lying. I loved the variation of the series theme that builds as Walt watches them diminish his existence, as his damaged ego and pride give him a reason to not lay down just yet. Heisenberg reawakens. Could the ricin be for Elliot and Gretchen?
That final rebirth of Heisenberg, accompanied by the show's theme song no less, is very much a double-edged sword. Look, I'd be as happy as anyone if Walt opened fire with sufficient force to literally cut Todd in half with bullets, closing-sequence-of-the-fourth-Rambo-movie-style ... But the same moment of "woo-hoo, go get 'em, Heisenberg" carries with it the knowledge that this is precisely the side of Walt that caused every other terrible thing in this episode to happen.