Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Darkest Timeline

Things keep getting worse on Breaking Bad, but we already knew that.  This week's episode, "Granite State," reminds us the entire show is a long fuse and in this last season we're finally seeing everything blow up.

The hour (plus) starts with Saul taking up that offer to disappear that he told his clients about.  We finally meet the magician--I figured he'd be a shadowy character, but it's a fairly pleasant and open guy played by Robert Forster.  Saul's move surprised me, as much as or maybe more than Jesse cooperating with the DEA.  He's been in big trouble before--the first time he dealt with Jesse and Walt they took him out in the desert and put a gun to his head. Why leave now?  He's always been breaking the law.  And during that fight with Gus and Mike he had plenty to fear, but he kept at it.  Is it that fact that he's now closely tied to a guy suspected of killing to DEA agents, so they won't let him alone?  What have they got on him?  For that matter, how can he hide?  He's famous in ABQ, if not Nebraska, but if he's any sort of witness or wanted men the feds won't let him go.  Is he scared of the Aryans?  Why?  Is he scared of Huell going missing?  I just don't get why he's on the lam, except they needed him for a scene to talk to Walt, who's still waiting to take off.

Now we see Marie, being driven back home.  Sure, she's been an annoying character, but I feel more sorry for her than any other character right now.  As opposed to Hank and Skyler, she had nothing to do with Walt's activities, and now her husband is dead.  Once she gets to her place the authorities see it's been ransacked. The neo-Nazis knew Jesse cooperated, so they looked around and got anything incriminating, especially the confession tape.

Which they watch at their compound.  There's Jesse onscreen telling about Todd killing Drew Sharp.  Todd didn't tell this part of the story earlier when he was talking to Uncle Jack, but he seems almost proud of what he did.  Certainly his Aryan brothers don't care.  About Todd.  They want to go kill Jesse, though.  But Todd wants to keep him alive.  Uncle Jack--who, if he weren't a scummy racist murderer would be a good guy to have on your side--figures out it's because he's sweet on Lydia. They sure don't need any more money.  Okay, let Jesse live a while longer.

Jesse's still locked down below, with a photo of Andrea and Brock to remind him to play nice.  He's also got a paper clip and can get out of his handcuffs.

Back at the waiting room, Walt and Saul have a talk--probably their last.  Walt is still feverishly trying to figure out how to handle his situation, even if he's going into hiding. He wants to hire killers to take out Jack's gang--they murdered Hank and stole his money.  He'd like Saul's help, but Saul doesn't understand what he can do.  He does give him some lawyerly advice, though--you can't leave your family now.  Walt believes he's convinced the police Skyler is the victim.  Good move, says Saul, but she'll be held for over a year and they will go after her hard if they don't have Walt.  She knows nothing and has nothing to trade, which only makes it worse.  The feds are not going to let two missing (dead) agents go.  So they'll RICO away the house, the car wash, the condo, the bank accounts, everything. And there's no way to get money to her--even Mike couldn't get money to granddaughter and this is worse.  Stay and face the music--you're dying anyway, so give up yourself and your money and they may leave your wife alone.  But Walt still believes he's doing everything for his family and the one thing he can't give up is his dreams.

In fact, he now insists Saul come with him since he can use him.  He repeats the line he said earlier--this is over when I say it's over.  Except he goes into a coughing fit before he can finish.  It is over, notes Saul, who leaves--the series, presumably (though he'll get his own series soon).

Over at the Feds' office, Skyler can hardly hear what they're telling her, just like Walt in the pilot when he got his diagnosis.  But she and her outgunned public defender (wonder what her former lawyer to whom she spilled the beans is thinking right now) understand they're going after her and her kids unless she can help them with Walt, which she can't.  So it's not looking good. Meanwhile, they stake out her house, and she knows it.  She goes to check on Holly and finds Todd and a couple others have dropped by, wearing ski masks.  They are not the ones who knock. They warn her not to talk to anyone about anything, especially Lydia, whom Skyler saw at the car wash.  They might have killed her except they have mad respect for Mr. White--maybe they just like anyone called White. (Some surveillance, by the way--come in the back door and you're invisible.)

Next Lydia meets Todd at her favorite restaurant. He's willing to put up with her silly back-to-back meeting style, which Mike and Heisenberg had no patience with.  Todd is doing this all for her, of course--and proving, once again, he's the creepiest character on the show.  Lydia is the type who says kill first, ask questions later, but Todd explains he warned Mrs. White but didn't remove her.  Lydia isn't thrilled, but then Todd drops the real bomb--his latest batch is blue-pure.  Well, he admits, it helps they've got Pinkman.  Lydia likes killing people, but she likes making millions even more, and is ready to open up the Eastern European floodgates again. Todd thinks this could be a start of a beautiful relationship.  Better act fast, Todd, since the last episode is next week.

Robert Forster let's out Walt, his passenger. They're in the Granite State, New Hampshire.  It's winter, and here's your cabin and two acres in the middle of nowhere.  Necessary, since there's a huge manhunt for you.  No TV reception, no computer, no phone out here.  Enough supplies for a month,  Forster will make another supply run next month--for $50,000.  Seems like a lot, but it's for the risk.  Usually his clients just disappear, but he'll keep tabs on Walt for money.  Oh yeah, you can walk away, but the closest small town is eight miles away and as soon as you surface anywhere you will be arrested.  So Walt's all alone, with a terminal illness and a barrel of money, and plenty of time to think.

Almost immediately he grabs a few fat stacks, his Heisenberg hat, and is on his way. But he stops at the gate, coughs a bit, and decides to wait another day.

Meanwhile Jesse is trying to break out of his cell. Todd, who's pleased as punch at Cap'n Cook's work, stops by the give him some ice cream.  After he goes, Jesse's at it again, and Aaron Paul does some nice stunt work getting out.  But it's for naught since he can't get out of the compound on time, and is stopped at the gate.  Just kill me, he says.  Look at our two "heroes," Walt and Jesse. How the mighty have fallen.

And they certainly would kill him, if Todd didn't need him. Next thing you know, Todd is knocking on Andrea's door, late at night.  Todd isn't wearing a ski mask, which is bad new for Andrea.  He says Jesse is in the truck parked on the street. Turns out he's telling the truth.  At first you might think they're just going to kidnap her to get Jesse motivated, but no, sweet-faced dead-eye Todd caps her in the head.  One of the most heartbreakikng deaths ever on the show.  If this were the middle of the series I might stop watching now.  And Jesse has front row seats--he's uffered more than anyone else on this show, but it never ends.  It's also a reminder that even people peripheral to Walt die.  I thought she'd make it, but no one is safe.

Back at the cabin, Walt excitedly awaits the monthly visit from the vacuum repairman. Walt's hair has grown out so we can figure it's been a few months.  Probably just short of his 52nd birthday.  Forster brings newspapers and other goodies, including news of all the trouble Skyler is in.  Also the White residence has been fenced in by the bank, since it became a tourist attraction, so to speak.

He also brings the chemo bag for some homemade medical help.  Heisenberg is a weak old man, near death.  Not so long ago he thought he could control everything, but now he can't even leave his cabin.  Lonely, pathetic Walt begs the guy to stay a couple more hours. He'll pay him $10,000.  He also says some day Forster will return and he'll be dead, so would he promise to get the money to Walt's family.  Forster knows enough not to even make the promise--could Walt believe him (even if he could somehow get the money to a family that's getting so much attention)?

Walt is defeated.  Time to officially give up?  Next morning he puts $100,000 in a parcel and walks into town.  Now we see Junior in high school, pulled out of class (by the hot pricinpal whom Walt made a pass at seasons ago).  Supposedly Aunt Marie is on the phone for him, but it's really a woman at a bar in New Hampshire--Walt put her up to it.  Once Flynn has answered, Walt talks, almost crying to hear his son.  He tries to explain why he did what he did, even if it fell apart. He also plans to send the money to the friend--Louis--whom Junior is staying with.  But Junior is done with his dad.  He doesn't want anything. His father--he believes--is responsible for Uncle Hank's death. (And isn't he?) Junior screams at his dad to just die already.

Wouldn't the principal figure out who was on the other end and let the authorities star 69 it?  Turns out she won't have to.  Walt calls the DEA and admits he's Walter White, and leaves the phone off the hook.  The authorities should be by soon enough.

He goes up to the bar and orders a drink.  It's over.  Then he sees something on TV that intrigues him--Charlie Rose (who let out a while ago he did a Breaking Bad) interviewing his old Gray Matter pals Elliot and Gretchen.  It's nice to see them again.  I thought they'd be gone for good, but you never know who'll be pulled back in on this show. (It's the middle of the day.  I don't recall Charlie Rose being on in the middle of the day, but who knows what goes on in New Hampshire).

Turns out even the Schwartz's have been harmed by their association with Walter White.  Now the world knows their co-founder was a meth kingpin.  So they're putting millions into their foundation to fight drug abuse. Elliot and Gretchen say Walt did nothing for the company except come up with the name.  And Gretchen (a little off-book--did she clear this with Elliot?) says the old Walter White is gone, this Heisenberg is not the real Walter White.

Which helps bring back Heisenberg, who is the real Walter White. He'd given up, but he can't let these two people who took away everything he believes he was owed write his obituary. By the time the cops show up, Walt is gone.  We sort of knew this was going to happen, thanks to the flashforwards, but it's what we want.  A lot of people, even loved one, may die, but we don't want Heisenberg giving up, we want him to go out in a blaze of glory.

So that's it.  Nothing but the last episode, and we know how it starts. Walt and his hair return to ABQ where he celebrates his 52nd birthday with some bacon, a lot of firepower and some ricin. Just what his plans are, and how he expects to kill people to help his family, is unclear.  For that matter, the fate of Jesse, Skyler, Todd, Lydia and all the others is uncertain.  Anyone can die, and there's no reason to expect anyone will end up happy.

And who's responsible?  We're supposed to think it's all due to Walt, and that's true as far as it goes.  But still, if Hank had just kept his mouth shut once he got off the crapper, he'd still be alive, Gomie would still be alive, Marie wouldn't be a widow, Jesse wouldn't be in a dungeon, Andrea would be alive, Skyler wouldn't be threatened by prosecution, Saul Goodman would still be putting up billboards. The only guy who made out well isn't Uncle Jack, since his day may still come, but Robert Forster--he got two new clients, including one who pays him $50,000 a month.  I bet he's behind it all.

It also turns out the bad guys in the end are Uncle Jack's crew. They may seem a cheap and slimy letdown after Walt defeated someone as elegant and classy as Gus.  But that's what he deserves. Nothing glorious about it.  And don't forget, Gus was really no better. He might have dressed better, and been smarter, and had better motivations, but he was just as ruthless and deadly as anyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sort of a sweet spot, eh? Down to the last episode, and you don't know what it is.

6:37 PM, September 25, 2013  
Anonymous LAGuy said...

The funny thing is we even know a bit about what happens in the final hour, but who buys it, or even precisely what Walt thinks he's doing, is a surprise.

Another surprise is Hank is out of the picture. I think it was the right move, but eight episode ago most would have guessed he'd make it to the finale.

9:28 PM, September 25, 2013  

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