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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???

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Episode 15 - Granite State

5 February 2014

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Saul and Walt temporarily share the same room as they wait to disappear. Skyler is left facing all the charges that Walt has avoided. Todd visits to tell her not to speak of Lydia. Walt is relocated to New Hampshire to a lonely cabin eight miles from the nearest town. Jesse escapes from his cell and Andrea is shot in response. Walt tries to send money to Walter Jr but he won’t take it.

The Good: When discussing plot points that seem a little too on the nose I’ve recently begun to refer to the “writers fingerprints” being all over it. Often in a TV show you can see the manipulations too clearly and those fingerprints obscure what might have been a beautiful photo. During this episode I felt like I could see the writers room and in the most positive way imaginable. When Jesse piled up everything in his cell to try and become tall enough to reach the bars I was impressed. Clearly the team had sat down and painstakingly considered all the possibilities of what Todd might plausibly have left him that would give him the necessary height. Anything easy to climb on would have seemed like fingerprints, instead they created tension when I was certain Jesse wouldn’t escape. Later on when Walt is reduced to nothing they have his wedding ring fall off his hand because of their attention to the details of his situation. They thought through his food supply, they thought through his loneliness, they put themselves in his shoes and worked out how they could create drama and story from reality. To cut to the chase they crafted the best episode of Breaking Bad so far by using what brought them to the dance.

I will admit to some bias up front. Many of my favourite episodes of television (“The Zeppo”, “The Other 48 Days”, “The Constant”, “The Wish”, “Walkabout”) are about watching characters go through a transformative experience. I believe it’s a story that TV shows are uniquely set up to tell because unlike a film you have time to care about the character before they reach this moment. Walt’s time in the cabin was compelling on so many levels.

He is trapped in almost every way possible. All he wants is to leave his money to his children. But if he communicates with the outside world he will be captured. Initially he walks out to the gate confident that he can bribe and bully his way to a solution. But he is terrified of all his work being for nothing so he crawls back to his hole.

Then there was that sense of isolation. The boredom. The loneliness. The impotence. The tension. With the attention paid to Walt’s small fire I couldn’t help but look at it as a potential source of danger. Instead the prison took its toll on Walt. The loss of body mass only served to put the wedding ring at the front of our minds. He was losing touch with who he was and the people who matter to him. While slowly the ticking clock of his cancer reminds him that he can’t just stay here.

When you feel sorry for Walter White you know you’re watching a great episode. But how could I not? When he has to bribe Ed just to spend some time with him it was impossible not to feel pity. And his impotence is fully revealed when Ed admits, essentially, that when Walt dies the barrel of money is his.

Despite all the horrible things he’s done I still felt sorry for Walt when Flynn, understandably, tells him to go away and die. Admirably Flynn doesn’t want to hear about the ends. He’s seen the means now and that’s enough for him. But we have seen the ends and the means and know that there is still something noble about Walt’s determination to leave the money to his children. Even if we don’t sympathise or want his blood money to pass on to anyone. We still empathise with someone who sacrificed so much and yet now weeps with the realisation that it was all for nought.

Jesse’s story was just as sad but in a more direct way. As I mentioned earlier the thought put into the structure of his cell was excellent. As for the assassination of Andrea...it’s funny how responsive we are to the music and tone of a scene. As soon as Todd began talking to her I knew she was about to suffer. And yet the tone wasn’t there and so I couldn’t feel the gut wrenching until Todd pulled his gun out. There are no more words for Jesse’s suffering. He is the tails on the coin. If you can look at the heads side and feel sorry for Walt then I guess you turn that coin over and see that none of it can be justified after what his partner has been through.

Todd has turned out to be another inspired bit of writing and casting. I fully believe in the pleasant side of him. I think he really did want to reward Jesse with ice cream. I think he believes Skyler is a nice lady and that he and Lydia would make a cute couple. But if you stand in his way then he’s not so nice. I suppose he is like a young, creepy, unrepentant Heisenberg. The scene with baby Holly was tense and threatening. With Lydia it was weird. With Andrea it was horrific.

The brief shots of Skyler did what they had to. She is alone and trapped too, Walt’s phone call was helpful and no help at all. Seeing Saul give Walt the best advice he could was a nice moment. With nothing left to gain he put his knowledge to use and it’s possible that Walt will heed it.

The Bad: Nothing was bad but some in “The Unknown.”

The Unknown: As many have commented already, because we don’t know Uncle Jack his behaviour can seem implausible. Todd’s “who can say no to more money” line was apparently all it took to convince Jack to keep cooking meth. In that moment is none of the detail which the rest of the show benefits from. What are the aims of Jack’s gang? Aren’t they afraid of the police catching them considering how Gus and Walt were both taken down? The lengths they go to to get precisely what they want have an air of convenience to them. Threatening Skyler but not killing her was an extreme courtesy to Walter White. While shooting Andrea to keep Jesse from escaping seems far riskier than just filming Jesse cook and hoping that’s enough to keep the blue coming. The romantic interest that Todd has for Lydia feels a bit thin as the linking explanation for all these risks. It doesn’t bother me unduly in the overall narrative but it does take the sheen off the detail work that was lavished on Walt’s side of the story.

We now have to go back to those fingerprints. It’s impossible not to see them when Gretchen and Elliott appear on TV moments after Walt loses all hope and prepares to go to prison. Perhaps it could have been tweaked to not seem quite so on the nose. However I’m willing to forgive it, I certainly don’t think it belonged in “The Bad.” In part because it links so strongly to the core of the Walt character. In part because I’m intrigued as to which part he was responding more to; them giving him no credit, them saying he disappeared a long time ago or the news that blue meth is back on the market. And in part just because the Breaking Bad theme music wound up strong giving a killer go-home note as we head into the most eagerly awaited finale since Lost.

Best Moment: I’m tempted to say just the performance from Bryan Cranston when he walks up to the gate for the first time and considers all that he might lose if he makes a mistake. Once more the acting spoke of a thousand thoughts in a way that was so impressive. But really I’d probably go for the conversation with Ed about whether he’d deliver the barrel. That hit me slightly more than half a dozen moments throughout.

The Bottom Line: This took us on Walt’s journey to a place where he can make no move that won’t lead either to his death or prison. But what about his money? What about his children? What about his reputation? What about Skyler? What about Jesse? A machine gun for the Nazis. Ricin for himself. Then perhaps a taped confession where he sets the record straight about Gray Matter and Heisenberg before being found dead in his sleep? It sounds like a Walter White plan. I can’t wait to see it.

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  • Like a lot of folks, I have a heavy emotional investment in "Breaking Bad." The characters and their stories are very real to me, and things have gotten so tense in these last episodes I sleep poorly before and after each new one. It's been worth it up till now, but "Granite State" has taken away my sadness that the show is ending, and replaced it with eagerness to get back to my version of normal life.

    Though the episode had the usual high level of writing, acting, and production, it left me feeling sad and disappointed. Things have just gotten too grim, especially for Jesse, my favorite character. Aaron Paul, the wonderful young actor who plays the role, has said that maybe Jesse doesn't deserve a happy ending. In my heart, I feel he does, but it not only doesn't look like he's going to get it, endless pain is heaped upon him in every new episode. It's too much -- this kid had suffered enough by the end of the first eight episodes of this season. He's being tortured more than any other character, and he's one of the least responsible for the evil! The moral point that everybody pays swings too much his way, and, I'm beginning to feel, is being overemphasized.

    I was excited to see Jesse get out of his underground cell, disappointed at his recapture, and angry at the killing of Andrea. Andrea didn't have to be killed for Todd and his gang to make their point. Her death was gratuitous and way too quick. Why does everyone Jesse loves have to die? Also, just in general, the Uncles of Anarchy, as the Baldmovers call them, are looking way too powerful -- almost superhuman.

    I'm afraid there isn't time now for everything -- or much of anything that I wanted to see happen. It's all just too grim and gray.

    I hope the last episode proves me wrong.

    Posted by Maggie S, 24/09/2013 9:26am (6 years ago)

  • It has been said that the greatest need of a man is…

    Not greatness, not love, not achievement or fame…

    But simply adequacy…

    If a man feels adequate, he can carry the burdens of almost any incredulity.

    Walter White never felt adequate post-Grey Matter until he became Heisenberg.

    The money being left behind to his family was validation of more than just his criminal enterprise – but truly of his entire life – give a deeper meaning to “it can’t all have been for nothing”…

    So much has been made of *who* the machine gun is for and *who* the ricin is for – and I find myself far more interested in the *why*…

    It seems Elliot and Gretchen inspired Walt to go down in the “blaze of glory” by having dared said that he mattered nil. He was less than nothing, just a name. Half a name, really. An inconvenient footnote on their legacy.

    So here he goes again, off to prove he is *enough*, adequate…off to settle a score on two fronts, perhaps more. And yet, we know that his intentions always bring a wealth of unintended consequences in his wake.

    Hold on tight, here…we…go.

    Viewer score: 83 / 100

    Posted by Brent, 24/09/2013 7:20am (6 years ago)

  • Robin, great point about the sound (or lack thereof) during Andrea's murder. One aspect of Breaking Bad that is overlooked is how the series expertly uses sound to build and ease tension in a specific setting. Some of the show's best scenes like the cousins attack on Hank in "One Minute" and the opening sequence of "Rabid Dog" are all about the soundtrack. This scene proves the show can be just as jarring - maybe even more so - with no sound at all.
    It now seems clear to me that Walt goes back to fight it out with the Nazis and unintentionally provides Jesse his freedom. And speaking of sound, I absolutely loved the use of the Breaking Bad signature theme music as the camera pans to the empty barstool. Can't wait till next week.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Brick Rob, 24/09/2013 7:17am (6 years ago)

  • This was a breath of dreary but compelling calm after the frenzied horrors of Ozymandias. Superbly done on all counts, especially Bryan Cranston and Robert Forster. Also, the use of snow as a contrast to all the sand we've been seeing was quite effective.

    My one worry thematically in parts of this episode was that they are trying to hard to make Walt sympathetic again. I genuinely pitied him, and I felt uncomfortable doing so, because he is morally repugnant to me; perhaps also because he strives so hard to excuse his own actions. (Maybe that's why Mike is more likable? He seemed to have fewer illusions about who he was and what he did.) I am always wary of starting down that rationalizing path, which I think begins with accepting Walt's big lie to himself: that he's doing all this for his family. That's part of his motivation, not all of it. A huge part of it is still his pride, as evidenced by the return of Gretchen and Elliot---a surprising and rather blunt twist, but I liked what it revealed about Walt's mixed motives. Saul is right: If Walt really cared about his family above all else, he would have turned himself in, as he almost did. But then the other, deeper, darker motive was brought back into the picture. Perfect. It is to the writers' (and Cranston's) credit that both these motives are equally convincing, and that they are co-mingled so as to be almost inseparable in Walt's mind ('til now?).

    Best moment: Walt trying to repeat his old threat to Saul and descending into a coughing fit. Perfectly encapsulated where the show has gone---a twisted, powerless echo of the Heisenberg fantasies of season 5's first half.

    PS. Poor Jesse.

    Viewer score: 82 / 100

    Posted by dfault, 24/09/2013 4:25am (6 years ago)

  • I agree completely that this was the best episode of Breaking Bad so far.

    The shallowness and showmanship of Walt's "Heisenberg" became obvious, and it seemed like such an honest moment when he said "tomorrow" after limping down his road with his old cap into something he, finally, can't control. Something that him, and his "Heisenberg", for all it's cleverness and bravado , spun him into. It was a wonderfully honest moment of television, and came out of almost inevitable logic that has been a part of making Breaking Bad a good tv show.

    With Skyler's situation, at first I was a little disappointed they used the same technique of spaced out white noise to show her shock and disconnection from her present moment as they did with Walter. But simple things like her smoking out a window wordlessly conveyed that horror and isolation perfectly.

    And again the show has decided not to take the easy way out, with Jesse escaping from his cell only to be caught. A wonderful episode of Breaking Bad and of TV in general.

    Viewer score: 93 / 100

    Posted by Devon, 24/09/2013 2:45am (6 years ago)

  • Besides the final scene which I thought was brilliant way to bring things full circle I was not a big fan of this episode. It was a good episode I just was not at all engaged. This was the first time watching the episode that I feel the flash forward has really damaged an episode.

    It was sad to see Walt isolated in a cabin for months even if he did kind of deserve it but the teasing of him leaving had no real weight. We know Walt is eventually going to leave isolation and know the approximate time that it is going to happen, so while I thought Walt paying money for company and the slipping of his wedding ring off his finger will two really touching moments, a lot of this fell flat.

    I don't know if I don't think Todd is a good actor or the performance just bothers me on a personal level. Essentially the actor is playing the same "good guy" character he played in Friday Night Lights except he occasionally murders people. The first time that Todd felt genuinely creepy to me in this episode is when he smirks listening to Jesse's confession, otherwise he is just weird. Weird in a way that I don't understand him at all and I think that's a problem.

    The scene that really bothered me more than any other was Andrea's death. Jesse's escape like Walt thinking about leaving (or not even going) early in the episode fell completely flat to me because obviously he wasn't going to escape or be killed before the next episode. Whatever Walt's plan is next episode the Nazi's are definitely involved and Jesse has to be there for that, so it was natural for me to assume that Andrea would die but it was handled incredibly poorly. The fact that Andrea not only unlocks the door for Todd, a stranger with dead eyes, in the middle of the night but somehow believes his story that Jesse is in the car. That just reeked of bad horror movie cliche that the victim just inherently trusts creepy stranger and ultimately causes their own death. I'm angry that I can't really be upset about Andrea's death because the way she was killed was so mind-numbingly stupid to me.

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 24/09/2013 1:40am (6 years ago)

  • This episode was a great setup for the finale and very satisfying for those who are decidedly not in Camp Walter. Walter is still clinging to the belief that everything he has done, he did for his family. While that has been his mantra and may have been his initial motivation, I think that over the last two seasons especially, it has become more about Walter doing this for Walter. He likes the feeling of power and superiority over those who he has felt like he was somehow less than – Hank, the Schwartzes and even Skylar to an extent. He revels in his Heisenberg persona and the notoriety for near-perfect meth and the fear he inspires for his ruthless actions against those who cross him (“I AM the danger!”). He has proved to be the ultimate puppet master manipulating people and circumstances to his will without any thought as to how it would affect those around him. Even when confronted with the results of his actions, he has repeatedly refused to take responsibility and always had an excuse to blame someone else.

    The scene with Saul in the makeshift accommodations in the vacuum cleaner shop was like the writers shinning a bright spotlight on what has transpired with Walt. Walt has lost complete control of everything and Walt is trying to force Saul to assist him get his money back. Sure, he claims it is for his family and that may be part of the reason, but no one steals from Heisenberg . Saul offers a solution – if he really wants to protect Skylar and his kids and stop the madness, stay in Albuquerque turn himself in. When presented with a real option for helping his family, he rejects it because of what he would have to give up and it would mean surrendering complete control and truly taking responsibility for his actions. Although it was a tad cheesy, it was telling when Walt was trying to intimidate Saul, backing him up against the wall and he started coughing and crumbled allowing Saul to not only walk away, but to shed any fear he still had of Walt. The bully has been exposed.

    The most heartbreaking scene I think I have seen in Breaking Bad was when Todd, Uncle Jack and Co. took Jesse to Andrea’s house. Because Walt had used Andrea to try to flush Jesse out so they could kill him, they knew they could use Andrea and Brock as leverage to keep Jesse in line. Luring Andrea out of her house in order to execute her in front of Jesse was horrific. First Walt poisoned her son to manipulate Jesse into turning against Gus and now Andrea was executed because Walt tried to use her to manipulate Jesse into coming out of hiding. Walt has mercilessly abused Jesse without remorse. I reiterate my belief that he does not love Jesse and probably never has. He has only ever needed Jesse to further his own agenda and has done whatever he had to do to maintain control over him. In that respect, I don’t think he is any better than Uncle Jack and his gang – they are just more obvious about it.

    Finally, I don’t think I ever loved Walter Jr. more than when he was yelling at his father on the phone. Of all the people in the world, he probably is the only one who can truly hurt Walt. And he did that by calling out his father on everything and not buying any more of the shit Walt was shoveling.

    All in all, I can barely wait for next week to see how it all ends. After watching the series finale of Dexter, there is no way Breaking Bad could be a disappointment unless the writers have Walt wake up next to a woman other than Skylar and it was all just a bad dream.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by BlueLisa, 24/09/2013 12:57am (6 years ago)

  • - Don't care about the neo nazis and Todd. There hasn't been enough to the characters so whenever the show focuses on them I find myself wanting to tune out. A good third of this episode did not interest me.

    - Conversely, Walt's character journey was enthralling. It hurt to see him in pain and isolated from his life, unable to do anything about it. In a way, this was the feeble Walt from season one. But that Walt still had his integrity in tact. This Walt is just broken.

    - Really liked the Walt/Flynn conversation. The joy Walt showed in being able to speak to his son again only to have his misdeeds thrown back in his face. I think this has to be the best moment of the episode. You could see how important it was to him that he got Flynn that money. That he did right by his son. But Flynn shattered that in an instant.

    - Say what you will, but I loved the serendipity of Walt seeing the Grey Matter interview just as he was about to turn himself in. The music cue was brilliant, too. I'm really excited to see how it all ends.

    I gave this a 73 but if the first third had been as strong as the rest of the episode I would probably be on your side saying this was the best episode of the show yet.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Romit, 24/09/2013 12:48am (6 years ago)

  • I feel like the series ended with last week's episode, and these final two episodes are the epilogue. I can't wait to see how it ends.

    I wonder if Walt ever regrets not accepting Elliot's offer to come back to Gray Matters. What a different life that would have been for him and his family!

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Roberto Suarez, 24/09/2013 12:15am (6 years ago)

  • This was great as always but nearly all of it was setup. After everything of Walt’s life collapsed in the last episode this was a much needed deep breath of cold New Hampshire air before it will get hot again. You already pointed out the few flaws in the episode especially the behavior of the Nazis. This time the show runners did everything to make it crystal clear that these guys are evil. Even when uncle Jack executed Hank you could at least understand his point of view to some degree. This time he, Todd and Kenny (I guess this was the first time his name was ever mentioned) had no redeeming to them at all. Just some stereotypical evil Nazis. No doubt every one of them will get killed in one way or another.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Robert, 23/09/2013 10:28pm (6 years ago)

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