BREAKING BAD 5.15: “Granite State”

BBgranite1Poor Walter White.

Honestly, I know he’s a retired meth kingpin who has killed and ordered people killed, but who can’t feel sorry for Walt, trapped in the wastes of New Hampshire with nothing but two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium to keep him company? He was so desperate that paid a vacuum-cleaner salesman $10,000 to spend an hour with him.

And when Walt Jr. rejected the money — the very reason that Walt did everything he did — it was heartbreaking to watch Walt blubbering on the phone how the money for his family was the only thing that ever mattered to him; that providing for them was what kept him going and kept driving him make decisions and do things he never intended to do. And, besides — he wants to hire a hit squad to wipe out the white supremacists. (The very same neo-Nazis he hired to whack Jesse.) That’s a good thing, right?

Plus, now we know why the BREAKING BAD spin-off, BETTER CALL SAUL, is a prequel, not a sequel. Because nobody should be able to call Saul — ever again. Unless it’s to order a Caramel Pecanbon and raspberry Tangy Chillata at CinnaBon.

Ed (Robert Forster) the Extractor’s van arrives at an actual vacuum cleaner shop — and Saul (Bob Odenkirk) clambers out. The Extractor takes his photo and starts making a new identity for Saul in Nebraska. While waiting, Saul has to bunk with Walt (Bryan Cranston) in the Extractor’s basement. Walt wants revenge on Jack’s crew for murdering Hank, and he wants Saul to assemble a hit team, but Saul is out of that racket, and when his new ID is ready he leaves a flustered Walt behind.

Eventually, Walt is smuggled to the Granite State, New Hampshire, in the tank of a propane truck and set up as “Mr. Lambert” in a no-frills one-room shack in the mountains. He is isolated from the rest of the world; the Extractor will bring him newspapers and food — and chemo treatments — once a month in exchange for $50,000. Back in Albuquerque, the feds are pressuring Skyler (Anna Gunn) to give up Walt, but she honestly doesn’t know where he is. And Todd (Jesse Plemons) and pals pay her a visit and threaten Holly to make sure Skyler doesn’t mention Lydia, either. Meanwhile, Jesse (Aaron Paul) is still cooking with Todd, and Lydia (Laura Fraser) is thrilled with the 96 percent purity of the blue meth. But Jesse is miserable and he tries to escape from his pit but is caught. As punishment, Jack (Michael Bowen) makes Jesse watch as Todd executes Andrea (Emily Rios).

BBgranite2Over the course of the ensuring three months or so. Walt grows hair on his head and face and hatches a plan to send money to his family through a friend of Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), but when Flynn refuses the cash — and says he wishes his father would just die — Walt’s spirit is broken, and he phones the DEA to turn himself in. But when he spots his old business associates, Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliott (Adam Godley) Schwartz of Grey Matter, on TV and hears them dis his contribution to the company, Walt bristles at the disrespect. When the local police arrive to arrest him, Heisenberg is gone.

So now all the pieces are in place for the finale of the series, and the last episode will meld with the flash-forward scene eight weeks ago.

Heisenberg has got groove his back. And I don’t just mean the black hat he donned to go to the post office and mail his care package of blood money. Thanks to Elliott and Gretchen of Grey Matter, Heisenberg has something to live for again: revenge. Maybe offing the neo-Nazis wasn’t big enough to make Walt come down off the mountain, but the Schwartzes dissing him to Charlie Rose? This means war!

It might be hard to root for Walt to “win” or even get away with his crimes, but I absolutely so not want to see Walt reduced to the pathetic, sniveling beggar he became on the phone. Heisenberg deserves better. And becoming an avenging hell’s angel who goes out in a blaze of gunfire could be just the ticket. Remember that series creator Vince Gilligan has described this series as turning Mr. Chips into Scarface… well, that M-60 in Walt’s trunk is pretty analogous to Tony Montana’s “little friend,” and I’m expecting a bloodbath of Brian DePalma proportions Sunday night. I want something satisfyingly chaotic and drenched in ichor.

You know who else would like to see something like that? Todd.

When slack-jawed, glassy-eyed Todd first made his mark on the show, murdering the kid on the dirt bike, I figured he’d just panicked and overreacted, and while it was terrible, it was just a mistake. But we have seem ample evidence ever since what a psychotic creep he is. He seems to be looking for any excuse to kill someone. Anyone. Except Jesse, that is. The ginger psycho keeps saving Jesse’s life, but seemingly just so he can torture Pinkman some more. Maybe it’s a kind of twisted pseudo-sibling rivalry. Both Todd and Jesse are surrogate sons to Walt — who gets along with them better than he does with his biological offspring. Todd even shares Walt’s thirst for respect; witness how much he enjoyed Jesse talking about him in his confession tape. (Talk about “no such thing as bad publicity! Jesse was recounting Todd killing a kid, and yet the redhead was beaming with pride at being mentioned.) The Todd/Jesse dynamic is so twisted that the only satisfying end would be for Jesse to beat Todd to death. It has to be Jesse. Because even if capping Andrea wasn’t personal for Todd, it was for Jesse.

BBgranite3I really liked Ed the Extractor. Robert Forster has such an easygoing, homey charm that he commands respect, and his charisma keeps him from seeming arrogant. I had no problem buying him as a relocation specialist who takes an almost grandfatherly interest in his charge. Maybe he was willing to give Walt some bonus care because he doesn’t usually have long-term relationships with his clients. Or maybe Walt reminded him of himself or a son. Seriously, though, even if you’re “not a movie guy,” who gets two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium on DVD? I don’t care who you are; no one’s that big a Natalie Portman fan.

I have no idea how the series is going to end, but I would like to see Walt take out Jack’s gang and the Schwartzes. Maybe Walt can funnel his recovered $70 million through Grey Matter and seek a measure of atonement through repurposing his drug money to charity. Maybe Jesse will make it to Alaska. And maybe Walter White, who has looked upon his works and despaired, will feel like maybe it wasn’t all a terrible, terrible mistake. But then he’ll keel over dead from the cancer. And the saving grace? The lottery ticket Walt bought using the GPS coordinates of his buried money will hit — and Skyler, Flynn and Holly will be provided for after all. In the end, Walt will have provided for his family after all.

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Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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