From Geek Goes Rogue TV Editor Zach W. Lorton, who, until a few minutes ago, was having the hardest time deciding whether to watch the Emmys or do this…
My wife is in the bedroom on the phone. She thinks I’m balancing the checkbook.
Here it is, my review of the penultimate 75-minute episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad. I have mixed emotions because I was drawn to Bryan Cranston’s character, and he’s always been the centerpiece. But last week’s episode thrust me into the realm of hating Walter White. I despise him. I want to see him go down, and I want it to be as painful as possible. So, strap in for my patent-pending, blow-by-blow, commentative review of the next-to-last episode of Breaking Bad, “Granite State”.
0:01:11 – Recap. Let’s take another look at why Walter White sucks so hard.
0:01:50 – Walt, in the minivan, is driven into the parking lot of a vacuum store. True to his word, Saul’s guy comes through. And surprise of all surprises, it’s Robert Forster! Awesome! This show didn’t need another spectacular character actor, but here he is! He brings the minivan into the building (through a door, not a wall, just in case you were wondering) and tells Walt he can get out.
0:02:18 – Oh, it’s not Walt, it’s Saul. What’s happening here? Robert Forster has Saul stand in front of a blue screen for a new ID picture. Saul fixes his hair. Keep up appearances, Saul. Turns out he’s headed to Nebraska, at least he will be once the fixer makes the proper arrangements. In the meantime, he’s staying in a room downstairs.
0:03:54 – “You’ll have a bunkmate.” Walt is still hanging out, it seems. And the quarters are being monitored on closed circuit television. Walt is seen pacing in the room, looking like he’s violently talking to himself, having the conversation I assume he wishes he was having with someone else. He hits the light hanging from the ceiling. Pace and suffer, you son of a–
0:04:20 – Title card.
0:06:57 – Marie is being driven by one of Hank’s colleagues. In a bit of good writing and costuming, she’s wearing black instead of her signature purple. The agent reassures her that they’ll find Hank and Gomez, when they pull up in front of ShraderHaus. There appear to be papers strewn all over the place, and the front door looks like it’s open. Two agents jump out, weapons drawn, and tell the third agent to get Marie out of there.
0:07:42 – We hear Jesse’s voiceover coming from the confessional tape he recorded with Hank. The scene switches to Uncle Jack’s hideout, all eating, drinking beers, and smokin’ cigs. They’re watching the tape they stole from ShraderHaus. They fast forward to a part where it appears Jesse isn’t crying, and it lands on a section where he begins to describe Todd shooting Drew Sharp after the train heist. When Jesse says it, the look on Todd’s face changes into a quietly proud moment. This dude is something else.
0:09:09 – Uncle Jack looks none too pleased that Todd’s been fingered in the video. He leaves the house quickly, gun in hand, headed towards the cage where Jesse’s still being held. Todd tries to stop him, saying they still need another cook or two out of him. Jack’s ready to flush the meth manufacturing because they took off with most of Walt’s money, but Todd’s point of view is “no matter how much you got, how do you turn your back on more?”
0:09:56 – Jack’s face settles into a knowing look. He thinks Todd is sweet on Lydia, and he’s pretty tickled at the idea. Of course, Jack and the guys throw some jabs because Lydia’s so uptight. Jack walks over by the other guys, who are all standing in a formation-type group opposite Todd. Makes me wonder what’s about to happen. Because the look on Todd’s face isn’t happy that Jack’s going off on Lydia the way he is.
0:10:36 – Nothing happens. They all walk back inside while in his prison, Jesse sits on the floor, holding the picture of Andrea and Brock. He takes the paper clip that was on the pic and begins to unfold it, attempting to pick the lock in his handcuffs.
0:11:46 – Robert Forster is on the phone doing business. The camera pans down in to the bunker where Walt and Saul are biding their time. Walt is making a list, possibly checking it twice, asking Saul to come up with names of mercenaries and hitmen (naughty, not nice). He’s looking for five, and Saul asks who the target is. Walt wants to get Jack and his men for murdering Hank and stealing Walt’s money. Really, Walt? Are we really going to split hairs at this point? Does your pride have a limit?
0:13:00 – Saul talks about Walt’s family, and how Walt’s departure makes it look like he’s leaving them out in the wind. And while the phone call was a smart move, Saul is convinced that the police will go after Skyler if they can’t find Walt. There’s a whole host of problems surrounding Skyler that Walt probably hasn’t figured out, not the least of which is getting money to her without the feds being all over her accounts and other assets.
0:14:33 – Saul suggests that Walt stays since his cancer is back and he might not have much time left, anyway. He goes inside, becomes big man on Cell Block D, and has the money to be influential. Walt’s having none of it, still deluded. “What I do, I do for my family. My money goes to my children. Not just this barrel. All of it!” I’m not sure you get how the law enforcement crews work, there, Walt. Still, he is determined to stop at nothing until he gets all the money back and makes sure that it’s there for his kids.
0:15:28 – Robert Forster opens the door. “Everything good?”
Saul’s response is stellar. “Define ‘good.’”
Saul’s relocation is set to go, but Walt decides that things should change, and that Saul will go with him. Robert Forster sees this is a fairly new development, not fully thought through, so he nods. “I’ll give you two a minute.”
0:15:56 – Saul’s done, he says. Walt is done with him, but Walt insists he’s still in. Walt approaches him, reprising his previous blanketing threat. “It’s not over unt– *hackcoughhackhackcough*” He can’t finish, so Saul does for him. “It’s over,” he says, almost apologetically, then grabs his bags and leaves Walt on his own.
0:21:30 – Skyler is in a business suit, apparently in a deposition of some kind, zoning out. She’s brought back to reality opposing counsel asking if she understands what’s happening. “Yes, I understand. I understand I’m in terrible trouble. I understand that you will use everything in your power against me and my children unless… …unless I give you Walt. But the truth is, I can’t give you what you want. I don’t know where he is.”
Opposing counsel is not happy. He suggests she comes up with something they can use. Doesn’t sound like she’s going to have many outs.
0:23:01 – The White House is being surveilled. No activity to report by the men in the car. Skyler, on the couch, smoking a cigarette, looks out and sees the car across the street. She slowly walks down the hallway into Holly’s room, where she comes upon two men in black with ski masks on. A third grabs her from behind and covers her mouth. Todd, one of the men in black, walks towards her. “Ma’am, is there anybody else in the house?” He’s a well-mannered young man, to be sure, sociopath or not.
0:24:38 – Todd says they have a lot of respect for Walt, but they have to get something straight. He says they know Skyler’s been talking to the police, which is understandable. But they’re wondering if she said anything about Lydia, given that she kicked her out of Car Wash World recently. She shakes her head, but Todd insists she actually says the words. “I… will… not… say anything about her… ever. I swear.”
She’s convincing. And afraid for her daughter. I would be, too.
0:26:02 – Convinced that Skyler won’t talk to the cops staking her house out, Todd wants to make sure Skyler knows that they don’t want to come back. He places his hand on Skyler’s shoulder — not in a threatening way, but just with enough contact to communicate how serious he is. They leave as silently as they came in, and Skyler grabs Holly, relieved.
0:26:31 – Todd, dressed in regular clothing, is sitting in a cafe. He takes a sip of tea from a colored ceramic mug with the tea bag still in it, tag hanging out the side. I can only assume he’s waiting to meet Lydia. Oh, here she is, espionage sunglasses and all. She walks in and does what she did the first time she was supposed to meet Mike — walks past his table and sits at the table behind Todd. You’d think this woman would know how weird that looks to other people. Actually, I think it’s weirder that Todd’s drinking tea, but hey.
0:27:08 – Todd communicates that he made sure Skyler understands them. They’re interrupted by a server taking Lydia’s order — chamomile tea, and more stevia. After the server leaves, Lydia wants to make sure there’s no misunderstanding about the fact that Skyler saw Lydia’s face. Todd insists that Skyler’s scared, but Lydia still sees it as a risk, so she decides they should take a break. That’s when Todd reveals he’s gotten the cook up to 92% purity, and the blue color is back.
0:29:21 – Todd pours on the charm. “I just think we work together… good.” Grammatically incorrect, Todd, not to mention a touch creepy. Seriously, he says the word “good” three times in 15 seconds. As Lydia ponders this new information and what the rise in quality could mean, we cut to a wide shot, where we see Todd picking something off of Lydia’s back. The mutual grooming stage doesn’t come for a while, Todd.
0:29:47 – A metal hatch is opened, spilling light into a cylindrical container. Walt crawls out of the opening into a snow-covered forest land. Robert Forster helps him out of what we now see is an empty shell of a propane gas truck. “Mr. Lambert, welcome to New Hampshire.” Congratulations, Walt. You’re nowhere (which, incidentally, used to be the state’s nickname before someone decided “The Granite State” would be more appealing).
0:35:22 – Walt is moving in his most important items, which means his barrel of money. Robert Forster’s giving him the layout, filling him in on his supply status, the amenities, and that he’ll make another supply run in a month. Then, through the magic of expository dialogue, we find out the “supply run” is a trip to Costco, which will cost Walt $50,000. Hey, man, you wanted to disappear.
0:36:53 – “Mr. Lambert, my clients and I don’t usually have an ongoing relationship. Normally, you and I would have already gone our separate ways, but… you’re you.” How is it that Walter gets himself into so many situations that he has to control, that he just can’t leave well enough alone? Anyway, it turns out that by this time, Walt has become nationally known to police agencies. Phone, internet, and anything else that could give him away is highly discouraged.
Honestly, it sounds like a great way to hide out while you wait for your appearance to change. As long as you didn’t have to watch Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium over and over again. Or at all. Even once.
0:39:28 – Walt is pulling stacks of cash out of his barrel and putting them in his jacket pocket. You have to wonder why, really, especially if he’s not going anywhere, and if he’s in such a remote area that no one can really get to him unless they’re trying. He pauses, then walks over to an open bag, reaches in, and pulls out Heisenberg’s porkpie hat, a little worse for the wear, having been beat around a little bit in transport. He bangs out the indentations and places it on his head. Then he leaves the cottage, walking all the way to the gate at the foot of the driveway. He opens the gate and looks down the road, then coughs. Thinking better of it, he closes the gate and decides, “Tomorrow.”
0:41:06 – Walt’s got a fire going in the wood burning stove. The porkpie hat is hanging on the antler of a buck head mounted on the wall.
0:41:22 – Jesse’s out of his cuffs, standing on a stack of items, trying to reach the top of the cage he’s in. He hears voices coming and gets back down. Todd removes the cover from the cage and lowers a bucket with a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I half expect him to say, “It washes all the ice cream down, else it gets the hose again.” But he says it’s a treat since the last batch Jesse cooked was 96% pure. Oddly, Jesse thanks him for the ice cream.
0:43:01 – Todd closes the hatch, and Jesse asks him to leave the tarp off because he wants to see the stars. Todd agrees, and Jesse thanks him. (???) Todd wishes Jesse a good night, to which Jesse reciprocates. Cut to a shot of Jesse using the paper clip to free himself from his wrist and ankle cuffs. He folds over the mattress pad he’s been using to sleep on, piles the blanket and a bucket on it, the stands on the bucket. In a brilliant acrobatic move, Jesse leaps and grabs one of the bars at the top of the cage, then gets a grip with the other hand. He finds the latch, and through some grunting, opens it.
0:45:12 – Jesse runs through the lot, trying to keep from being seen. He sees nothing but fence with barbed wire on the top all around him, then decides to run right past a camera towards a fence. He’s soon surrounded by men with flashlights. He falls to the ground and basically tells the men to go ahead and kill him, as he refuses to cook for them anymore.
0:46:25 – Todd is walking towards a house that we probably should recognize, but don’t. Not until the doorbell rings and a young woman answers the door with the safety chain still attached. “Hi, ma’am, how you doing tonight? You’re Andrea, right?”
0:47:05 – Todd tells Andrea he’s a friend of Jesse’s, to which Andrea unlocks the safety chain and opens the door. Todd says that Jesse is actually in the truck parked across the street. Like a stupid swan, Andrea walks out the front door towards the front of the porch while Todd looks into the open living room. Jesse’s tied up and gagged in the back seat, trying to communicate with Andrea. Andrea asks Todd where he is, to which he replies, “Just so you know, this isn’t personal,” and he shoots Andrea in the back of the head.
Jesse freaks. How much has Jesse lost in the course of this series? His former partner, Emilio, dead. Jane, the first girl he really fell for, dead. His parents, estranged. His former partner, betrayed. And now, Andrea’s been shot. How much more can one man lose? As Jesse screams, Jack reminds him to calm down, because there’s still Brock to consider.
Who needs a drink?
0:52:15 – Walt is walking towards the gate at the foot of his driveway, and he gazes at the end of the road, where he sees a Jeep pull up. Robert Forster is back with supplies. The first thing he pulls out is a pile of newspapers from Albuquerque. Walt has grown hair back on his head, and he has a full beard now. He mentions that he can hardly read the print, and Robert Forster hands him a case full of eyeglasses of varying prescriptions.
0:53:42 – Robert Forster (really, there’s no better name for the guy — it could be The Fixer, but that’s too ambiguous, and besides, it really encompasses the character arc) reports that Skyler is living somewhere else, and Walter Jr. and Holly are still with her. No court date has been set, but a grand jury might convene. Skyler’s been part-timing as a taxi dispatcher, and she’s gone to using her maiden name.
0:54:22 – Walt finds a pair of dark-rimmed glasses that do the trick. Robert Forster also reports that the old house had become popular with locals who were breaking in, so a fence had been put up. Finally, he holds up a case and asks Walt if he’s ready.
0:55:06 – An I.V. bag hangs from the buck’s head on the wall. Walt finds his vein and goes to put the I.V. in, but he can’t. Robert Forster does it instead, and Walt starts the drip on his chemo. He asks if Robert Forster will stay a little longer, to which he declines. Walt offers him an additional $10,000 if he’ll stay for 2 more hours. Robert Forster negotiates to one hour, grabs some cards, and calls seven card poker.
0:57:30 – Walt says that eventually, he’ll be dead one of the next times Robert Forster comes to visit. He wants his money to be given to his family and asks Robert Forster if he would do it. His response: “If I said yes, would you believe me?” Guess we have our answer, then.
0:58:26 – Newspaper clippings have been tacked to the wall over Walt’s bed, all about the case. Walt shifts in bed, coughing, and his wedding ring falls off his finger. He’s losing enough weight that his fingers are becoming gaunt. Walt grabs a string and hangs the ring around his neck.
0:59:49 – Looking across the room, Walt sees the boxes of Ensure the Robert Forster brought. Walt gets up and begins to stack bills into an empty Ensure box. Cut to Walt carrying a wrapped box down to the gate, opening it, and making his way down the mountain.
1:05:29 – Walt’s old high school. Walt Jr. is being called over the intercom to the office, but they’re still calling him Flynn. The principal tells him his Aunt Marie is calling, so he takes the phone. “Hey, Aunt Marie, what’s going on?”
On the other line, at a dark bar, a woman who is definitely NOT Marie says, “Hold on a sec, honey.” She takes money from Walt, who gets on the phone. He tells Junior not to say anything or let anyone know that he’s on the other line. Junior agrees. I guess that deep down, he always wanted to believe the best in his father. I mean, what kid doesn’t?
1:06:49 – Walt tries to explain himself, but he’s doing a horrible job. Instead, he confirms Walt Jr.’s friend Louis’ home address, and says he’s sending a package there for him, his mom, and his sister, with money inside. Walt cries into the phone, “I wanted to give you so much more, but this is all I could do.” Hate him or not, I have to hand it to Walt — when he finds something that he feels he has to do, he does it.
1:08:31 – Walt Jr. is taking all this in. “You want to send money?” he asks. Then he lets Walt have it. He’s been holding on to whatever rage has been building up since the day Walt disappeared, how he killed Hank, how he treated Skyler. “I don’t want anything from you. I don’t give a s***.” Walt tries to appeal to his son, but Walt Jr. is relentless, and finally ends the conversation with something I think any kid in his position would say: “Why are you still alive? Why don’t you just die already? Just die!”
1:09:36 – Walt hangs up, completely broken. Then he drops more coins in the payphone and places another call to the DEA office in Albuquerque. He asks for the agent heading up the Water White investigation, identifies himself as Walter White, then drops the receiver and lets it hang with the line still open. He slowly shuffles to the bar, package of money still in hand, takes a seat, and orders a dimple pinch, neat.
1:11:10 – Walt takes a small sip of his drink and relaxes a little while the barkeep changes channels on the television behind the bar. Something catches Walt’s ear, and he asks the bartender to backtrack. The bartender goes back to a channel where Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz are being interviewed by Charlie Rose about a multi-million dollar grant that their charity had donated to drug abuse treatment centers throughout the southwestern United States. Charlie Rose says that a New York Times reporter suggested the grant was a publicity stunt to disassociate themselves of any associations with Walter. Through the interview, Elliot says that Walter’s contribution to Gray Matter Technologies was helping to come up with the name, and nothing more.
1:12:56 – The napkin in Walt’s hand becomes trapped in a tighter grip as the interview continues. “Is Walter White still out there?” Gretchen says he’s not. “Whatever he became, the sweet, kind, brilliant man that we once knew, he’s gone.” Walter sets his jaw and straightens his gaze, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he turned into The Hulk just then. At this precise moment, we hear the music of the show’s opening theme as the rage boils in the face of Water White.
1:13:50 – Two sheriff’s cars pull up outside the bar, and armed men in uniform walk towards the bar entrance. They enter, asking to see people’s hands in the air. The camera pans over to Walt’s unfinished drink and a crumpled-up napkin on the bar next to it.
1:14:27 – Executive Producer Vince Gilligan.
I’m afraid of what will happen next week. At the same time, I don’t really know how everything will be resolved in one 75-minute episode. As much as I want to feel for Walter White, I can’t. The next time I begin watching this series from the beginning, I will forever have a new perspective of the show’s central character. Although Walter White was a man who wore pretty much everything on his sleeve, there was so much depth, so many layers to a man who desperately wanted to matter to someone, to have some kind of significance in his life. He has a draw to himself that is undeniable, and no matter how much I hate him, Walter White will always be one of those indelible characters in the annals of television. His mark will not go away. Ever.
Next week, we’ll have the final episode. There will be mourning, there will be vengeance, there will be blood, and it will be grand. Prepare yourselves.
Zach W. Lorton is a media producer and professional DJ/MC by trade, and a comedian, actor, and musician by default. His debut music project is set to begin recording in 2014, and will likely take the world by storm, possibly in the form of a Sharknado.
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