[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 15, "Granite State"

Courtesy of AMC
Before we continue any further, can we all acknowledge how excellent a casting move it was to get Robert Forster to play Saul's fixer? While Breaking Bad has never seemed overtly Leonardian, it certainly owes a lot to Elmore Leonard and his pioneering the criminals-as-protagonists genre. It certainly shares Elmore's modern day western motif. So who better, in the dying embers of the series, to bring a bit of cold pragmatism to the series than someone who owes the success of the last two decades of his career to Leonard's writing. He isn't a friend, he isn't rooting for Walter to succeed, and he isn't in this for the moral victory over authority. He's a guy, doing a job, getting paid, and not willing to risk anything. 

He's Walter, if Walter had never had ambition. He plans, he acts, and he never goes above and beyond. If Walter had done that, if he had stuck to the plan all the way back in the beginning, he would have made a couple hundred thousand, his family would have been secure, and he would have died happy. Now, he's alone and cold, alternating between passion fuelled vengeance and absolute defeat. He's got a barrel full of money that he can't spend, a family that fears and hates him, and nothing left to live for. 

Hit the jump for the review which contains spoilers that understand Todd's Neo-Nazi Batman isn't the home invader we need, but the home invader we deserve.


Every week, it's the same old thing: this show never ceases to surprise me. With Walter driving off into the sunset last week, I fully expected the show to immediately jump ahead a year, with Walter having stewed in his juices and worked up a right good lather concerning Uncle Jack and the Nazi Hank murderers. I was wrong, and that's a good thing. The slow path was worth so much more, and necessary to the character of Walter, who needed to finish his fall. Last week, he was knocked off his perch, and flailing as he fell. this week, he hit the ground, hard.

We haven't seen Walter this defeated since season one, when the cancer was first getting the better of him. Back then, he cooked and hoped to make money for his family, but had resigned himself that the cancer would kill him, and they would be left alone. Now, his family is in desperate need of money he has, but he can't get it to them. He fights the cancer, but with no intention of overcoming it, just postponing it. He accepts that his death is inevitable and only wants to guarantee a level of security for the people that he loves. Problem being, they don't love him anymore. Flynn, in yet another show of strength, excises Walter from his life entirely. It's just a shame that their entire relationship had to be sacrificed for Flynn to find that strength.

If you remember back to season one, the first time Walter really asserted himself was in the face of the Schwartz's. The first signs of what would become Heisenberg bubbled to the surface when his former partners undermined his own sense of self. It is fitting (and yet another in a long line of evidence that the writers are paying attention) that it would be the folks at Grey Matters that would jostle him out of his self destructive slump yet again. Spurred into action by his name and accomplishments yet again being belittled. Somehow I doubt that he'll be taking that machine gun on a rampage at Grey Matters, but if he needed a kick to get himself back into "avenge Hank" mode, he certainly got it. A man with nothing to lose is the most dangerous kind of man, and if he believes his death is certain, Walter is free to act in whatever way will accomplish his one final mission.

Elsewhere, everyone whose life Walter has touched as turned bleak and without much sign of hope. Saul has run for the hills, leaving behind the little empire he built up. Flynn, as mentioned before, has found a strength of character, but it is born on the back of hate. It is doubtful he'll grow into a well adjusted adult, unable to trust the people he's closest to, suspicious of success and plagued by the knowledge that his father killed his uncle. If it weren't for the fact that Walter left them with no money, I'd say there are lots of therapy bills in Juniors future. Marie has nothing to live for, her sister having been party to the criminal enterprise that lead to her husband's death. This leaves her alone in the world, without comfort or reason. Skylar, despite Walter's best efforts, is still under suspicion by the DEA. She has no money, a menial job, the looming threat of jail time and thanks to Todd, the constant worry that if she says anything of real assistance, her daughter will be taken from her. Even Lydia, who has done a half ways decent job of keeping herself out of the line of fire, has allowed greed to get the better of her. I don't doubt that if she had insisted on taking a break from the meth dealing, she wouldn't be anywhere near the trouble that is coming.

Then, as always, there is Jesse, and his increasingly special hell. Talk about a bleak existence. His choice wasn't a choice: be a slave, or risk the lives of the people you love. He acted out of self preservation, and got an innocent killed. One of the increasing number of innocents to die as a result of the Heisenberg legacy. Every time the show makes Todd seem like a sweet guy (the man eats Stephen Colbert's ice cream, he can't be all bad!), just desperate for affection and positive reinforcement, he does something cold and unforgiving as that. And forces Jesse to watch. Last week, I wondered if Jesse might survive everything, if he might be the one who gets to walk away. I don't know now. He might live, but after everything that has happened, I doubt he'll survive. The damage might be too great for him to bare.

Next week, it ends.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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