Breaking Bad 5.15 – “Granite State”

After hearing about Saul’s “guy” for quite some time without ever getting the slightest hint about the identity of this individual that could, for a price, make you disappear, it seemed reasonable to presume that we might never actually catch a glimpse of him. Surprisingly, however, we were finally introduced to him this week, and the casting couldn’t have been any better: ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Robert Forster. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but, dammit, he might well go down in history as my favorite Breaking Bad guest star of all time. Blame it on my love of Jackie Brown and a youthful obsession with Alligator if you wish, but for my money, you just don’t get much cooler than Robert Forster.

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As it turns out, Saul’s also taking advantage of his “guy,” and with good reason, given that he’s arguably the only one in the mix with a higher profile than Walter White at the moment. Soon, he’ll be living in Nebraska and – fingers crossed! – maybe even managing a Cinnabon. First, though, he’s got to escape from the clutches of his temporary bunkmate. Despite seeing him hop into the van and drive away at the end of last week’s episode, Walt’s departure from ABQ has yet to take place, due to the fact that, as implied a moment ago, he’s a pretty hot commodity that just about every law enforcement agency in America wants to get a piece of. Not that that’s stopped him from spending his time in the basement of the vacuum-repair place figuring out how to extract his revenge on Todd’s uncle and his neo-Nazi pals.

Saul realizes that Walt’s reached new depths of instability when he starts quizzing him on the names of reliable mercenaries (“five should do it, provided they’re the right men for the job”), and he decides to risk trying to give the guy a bit of advice, suggesting that if he’s truly worried about his wife and kids, what he really ought to do is turn himself in, face the music, and enjoy the government’s prison hospitality ‘til the cancer calls him home. In return, Walt assures him that everything he does is for his family, and that this thing won’t be finished ‘til he’s gotten all of his money back and given it to the people he made it for in the first place. Saul wisely attempts to cut ties, but Walt’s not having it, and as he starts to threaten his former attorney, there’s a brief moment where it seems like he might still be intimidating enough to get his way…until the coughing jag kicks in. With that, the moment is broken, and Saul takes advantage of it, saying, “It’s over.” And with that, it seems likely – if not certain, since nothing’s ever 100% certain on this show – that we’ve seen the last of Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad.”

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Elsewhere in ABQ, Marie’s in shock, as any grieving widow would be in the wake of her husband being brutally buried and dumped in a grave somewhere in the desert, and it probably doesn’t help her spirits when she’s hustled away from her own home after the DEA agents protecting her realize that the place has been broken into and searched in a fairly crazed fashion in order to find the DVD of Jesse’s confession. Meanwhile, Skyler is also in shock, as any wife would be in the wake of finding out that her husband’s responsible for her brother-in-law’s death and knowing that she’s only one false move away from imprisonment herself. It’s bad enough that she really doesn’t know where Walt is and therefore can’t do anything to change her situation, but things manage to get worse for her when Todd and his team break into her home wearing ski masks and threaten her and the kids if she dares to say anything about Lydia. This almost certainly never would’ve been an issue, as Skyler only met Lydia once and didn’t know anything about her that would’ve been incriminating, but the fact that Lydia doesn’t like her and would just as soon see her dead rather than have herself and her business compromised…? I don’t see this storyline just fading away.

So let’s talk about Todd. If ever there was a wild card on this show, he is it. He’s a frightening motherfucker because you never have any idea what he’s going to do at any given moment, but you know he’s capable of anything…and I do mean anything. Witness how he handles Jesse: when he’s good and make high-quality meth, Todd gives him ice cream, and when he’s bad and tries to escape, Todd murders his beloved Andrea with a single shot to the back of the skull. Meanwhile, the guy’s got a schoolboy crush on Lydia, one which is clearly destined to end poorly, though it remains to be seen if it’ll happen because he kills her or because he does something to try and make her happy and ends up getting killed himself. Frankly, the only other unanswered question about Todd is where he gets his sweet side from, because it’s clearly not from his uncle. Or then again, maybe it is, since he follows his comment about how Lydia has a woodchipper for a coochie by shrugging and saying, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Truly, he is the neo-Nazi with the heart of gold…

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Briefly, I just want to say something about Jesse: the guy’s arguably suffered more than anyone on this show, and most of that suffering has come about as a result of having been caught up in Walt’s web. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t have found himself in trouble with the law even if they’d never had their post-high-school reunion, but he certainly wouldn’t have had to deal with the same level of shit he’s had to endure. It may be too late for him to ever find a happy ending, but if anyone gets one at this point, I really do hope it’s him. He’s earned it.

And so we return to Walt, which is where we’ll be focused for the remainder of the conversation. Once he arrives in New Hampshire, having spent at least the last portion of the trip in the bottom of a propane truck, we’re treated to Forster reciting the amenities of Walt’s new domicile, which I would’ve been happy to listen to for the remainder of the episode, frankly. There’s just something about that guy’s voice that’s downright hypnotic…but enough of my man crush. Walt’s informed that the only way to stay safe is to say put, to enjoy the silence and the lack of outside contact and keep off the radar. Should he leave, he’s risking his freedom, and, as Forster informs him, “If I find out you’ve left the reservation, I won’t be coming back.” Naturally, Walt plans to ignore this instruction, packing his pockets with cash from his money barrel and placing his pork pie hat atop his head once more, but he can’t bring himself to walk through the gate. Not yet. “Tomorrow,” he mutters to himself. But it doesn’t happen tomorrow…or the next day, either. Or the next, or…well, you get the idea.

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Eventually, Forster returns, bringing newspapers and Ensure, along with a handy-dandy chemo kit to help Walt at least try to keep the cancer at bay. He’s also brought him some new glasses, explaining why he’s got new frames in the flashbacks, along with an explanation of how things got to looking so bad at the White house. (After being so sure that Jesse was the cause of the damage and graffiti, it feels a little anticlimactic that its state is only due to it having become a tourist attraction of sorts, but fair enough. Still, I’m hoping we find out there’s more to it than that.) Walt’s so lonely that he pays Forster $10K just to stick around for an hour of card-playing and conversation, but it’s hard to imagine that he was happy with the end result of the chat, which was the realization that, should he die, there’s basically no chance that Forster is ever going to deliver his money to his family.

It’s this realization that sets Walt on the path to finally leave the cabin, pass through the gate, and enter town in an effort to mail off a package full of cash to Skyler and the kids. Unfortunately, to make the plan work, he has to send it somewhere besides his own home, so he decides to risk calling Walt, Jr. at school to tell him what he’s doing. Bad move. If he thought that absence had made the heart grow fonder, he was very much mistaken: if anything, Jr.’s more bitter now than he was before, screaming at his father much the same thing that Marie did a few episodes ago, “Why don’t you just die already?” Even after all Walt’s done, it’s still a heartbreaking moment to see him coming to grips with the fact that all of his actions have ultimately been for nothing. And so he retreats to the bar to have a drink, but not before calling the DEA, announcing himself, and leaving the line open so that they can find him and capture him.

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But while waiting for their arrival, as the bartender flips down the TV dial, something catches Walt’s eye: Charlie Rose interviewing Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz, Walt’s former business partners in Gray Matter. The topic of conversation is whether or not the revelation that one of their firm’s founders is now a known meth manufacturer is something they’re trying their best to sidestep. As dark as we’ve seen Walt’s expression get over the course of these five seasons, the look on his face when he’s described as only having contributed the name of the company…now that’s some seriously scary shit.

When the sheriff and his men arrive at the bar to take Walt into custody, the only thing that’s left of him is his drink. We may not know where he’s going right away, but we know where he’s headed: back to ABQ.

Only one episode left. I can’t say I’m not sad….but, man oh man, I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

  

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