‘Breaking Bad’: ‘Granite State’ review (spoilers!)

breaking_bad_by_chapel_4-d5h68vgBy Seth MacDonald

The series of events that took place in the penultimate installment of “Breaking Bad,” titled “Granite State,” was perfectly structured for the highly anticipated series finale which airs this Sunday, Sept. 29.

Of course, this review contains spoilers. If you are watching the series but are not caught up with the events in “Granite State,” read no further. Same goes for those who have never watched “Bad” but are considering getting around to it. It’ll be worth it in the end, trust me.

The previous episode, “Ozymandias,” ended with Walt being relocated by Saul’s strange “vacuum cleaner guy” to New Hampshire, hence the name of this week’s episode. On Sunday, we finally got to see this mysterious character on screen — Ed, played by Robert Forster. Just another bad guy helping other bad guys break the law and avoid the consequences of their actions; another guy who made the decision to break bad at one point or another and never look back. Really, that’s the show in a nutshell.

At this point, everything’s hell for Walt. Hank’s dead. Most of his fortune’s gone. Flynn now knows the truth and the feds are after him. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes a hit on the news and a massive manhunt for him begins. He’s got no other option but to skip town and abandon his family.

Also, Walt no longer has Saul. “Granite State” revealed Saul planning to move to Nebraska to begin a new life. Walt asked Saul if he could do him one last favor by having one of his guys put a hit on Jack and his men. Saul refused, saying “it’s over.”

So Walt’s gotta do that himself. Being the egotistical monster he is, he’ll stop at nothing to get what’s his. He’s after blood for not only that, but to avenge Hank’s death. Surely the show can’t end unless a major confrontation between Walt and Jack’s team ensues. Bank on that.

Meanwhile, Skyler’s torn between cooperating with the police or remaining silent regarding her and Walt’s criminal affairs. The longer she won’t talk, the longer she’ll continue to be tracked 24 hours a day by the feds.

Jesse’s first slave cook was 92 percent pure, a significant increase in Jack’s operation and roughly consistent with his overall level of quality back when he cooked with Walt. Todd congratulates him on a great batch by bringing him two different kinds of ice cream while he sits helplessly in his cell (TWO kinds — in case he didn’t like one in particular, what a nice guy!), and promises “we have another big day tomorrow.”

Pinkman Reaction

Jesse (Aaron Paul) faces more torture.

Jesse is caught attempting to leave Jack’s headquarters after breaking free from his cell, thanks to a bit of carelessness by Jack’s crew. Jesse pleads to be killed as he refuses to do a single cook more. Jack and his men aren’t buying it, and Jesse’s now facing a fate far worse than death — getting tortured in the worst possible ways.

Jesse watches in horror as Todd puts a bullet in Andrea’s head after arriving unexpectedly at her door in punishment of Jesse’s refusing to cook. Jack warns “there’s still a kid” (referring to Brock) if Jesse disobeys again.

A few months go by after Walt arrives in New Hampshire. He’s living a broken, lonely life. He’s significantly thinner with a full beard and head of hair — and finally leaves his isolated cabin. He goes to a local tavern, calls Flynn on the phone while he’s at school and tells him he’s sending a package worth $100,000 to his friend Louis’s house, as well as that everything he did was for the good of the family.

Walt feels completely defeated when a frustrated and heartbroken Flynn rejects his father – and the money — and wishes for him to be dead. Left with no other options, Walt calls the police to identify himself and doesn’t say another word, leaving the line open so he can be tracked down by the feds.

That’s when things take a major turn.

As the bartender is flipping through the channels, Walt spots former business partners — Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz — talking live with Charlie Rose. Walt requests to the bartender to leave it on. Walt watches both of them confirm the same thing — that he had absolutely nothing to do with the success of their multi-billion dollar establishment Gray Matter Technologies except for the name (White + Schwartz (black) = gray). Gretchen then assures that Walt is dead. Enraged, Walt leaves the tavern just before the feds show up. They search the tavern, can’t find Walt, and all that’s left is his unfinished drink.

We still don’t know exactly what happened when Walt chose to part ways with Gray Matter for — at the time — a pretty significant buyout. It was pretty chilling watching Walt’s reaction to hearing what Gretchen and Elliot had to say on the news, which — let’s face it — is a lie. We assume. Hurt, confusion and anger were all clearly written on Walt’s face at the same time as he listened in. The finale of “Bad” promises to tie up the loose end with Gray Matter, as well as several others.

Is Jane’s dad still out there? All we know about Donald Margolis is that he was rushed to the hospital in season 3 after a self-inflicted gunshot wound following his fatal airline mistake at the end of season 2, which cost the lives of almost 200 people — his current status is unknown. That’s a loose end; series creator Vince Gilligan has guaranteed no loose end will go undone when the series wraps up. So it should be interesting to see how that character will fit into the storyline, dead or alive.

Then there’s Beneke. What’s he been up to these days? For all we know, he could be dead. He hasn’t appeared since the first episode of this season when he woke up from a coma assuring Skyler he’d never speak a word to anyone regarding their IRS scam that could send both of them to prison. That’s the last we saw of poor old Teddy. Surely a finale without Mr. Tax Fraud himself in one way or another is out of the question. He’s been one of the more important supporting characters in the entire series. You gotta believe that Gilligan and the rest of his excellent writing team have something lined up involving Beneke that will absolutely shock people.

A few predictions for the series finale:

Gretchen and Elliot

Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliot (Adam Godley) have a word with Charlie Rose.

No. 1: The ricin will be used on Gretchen and Elliot.

I think most people already assumed the M60 would be used on Jack and his gang before “Granite State” even aired. Walt’s out for blood because they murdered Hank and because they stole his money — $69 million of it. He’ll stop at nothing to retrieve the fortune he worked for. We all knew he’d be back in Albuquerque anyway before we had even seen him give himself up to the feds via a phone call in an isolated New Hampshire tavern. We all wondered the same thing: ‘who’s the ricin for?’ and it would make sense now that it will be intended for Gretchen and Elliot. (For all we know, maybe it’s not. Anything can happen. You gotta admit, Vince is a genius.) Walt had already strongly blamed them for ruining his life, now he’s got this on his plate.

No. 2: Todd ‘makes a move’ on Lydia.

Let’s face it. Todd’s in love with Lydia. He dressed in handsome attire to meet her at a restaurant to talk business and told her he thinks they make a great team. Just by looking at him when they’re together, you can’t seem to have a good feeling about his intentions with her. You have to figure something between the two of them goes down before “Bad” ends. It would seem fitting given all the strange tension that has been created between the two characters. Todd’s a sociopath and sociopaths do some things — things I’d probably be better off not talking about or making a prediction for. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what Meth Damon plans to do, if anything, with his mesmerizing work associate.

No. 3: We see Jesse’s family.

Speaking of loose ends, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman. It’s been even longer since we’ve seen Jesse’s much younger and academically successful brother Jake (he’s got to have aged at least two years). Jesse’s been long estranged from his family. His parents disown him and have kicked him out of their house — and then his house (sort of his house). Jesse, the troubled “kid” with a conscience, is who he is because of his parents. I’d be extremely satisfied with the show’s ending if Gilligan and company manage to have Jesse’s family play a role, no matter how significant, in the storyline leading toward the conclusion. I’d feel a bigger sense of closure by seeing Jesse’s family one last time in the finale. Family is everything — one of the themes of the show, right? Who knows, they could be dead, but they’d at least be mentioned. Again — they’re a loose end. But I gotta think they’ll be alive and breathing come the finale. (I would have to imagine the police go to their house to question them about who-knows-what or Todd’s men pursue them to punish Jesse in some way.)

No doubt, the series finale of “Breaking Bad,” titled “Felina,” promises to be a “roller coaster ride to hell” (described by actor Bob Odenkirk who plays Saul — he doesn’t even know how it ends!). Gilligan admitted crying after writing “Felina,” describing the show’s ending as “polarizing.” Whatever happens, we’re in for a memorable hour-plus of TV Sunday night, my fellow fans. It’s going to be a bloodbath. Get ready.

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