Watching the latest Breaking Bad episode, Granite State, was an exercise at peeling away layers of the storyline and a lot of the characters in the Heisenberg verse. Especially Walter White. In an almost perfect parallel to the five stages of grief/death, we see Walt exhibiting denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But, because of White’s alter ego Heisenberg, his doomed duality swings back to rage at the end.
We learned earlier in Breaking Bad that Walter feels he sold out to his former business partners. His admission to Walt Jr that he had sold himself short, selling his share of the business for $5,000 has always haunted him. The company that he abandoned then went on to become wildly successful and worth billions. He expressed his hate of his ex-partner, and ex-girlfriend, Gretchen Schwarz along with her husband Elliot, who was the third spoke in the business/love triangle when he met with Gretchen earlier in the series.
The fact that Gretchen and Elliot both made a fortune based on Walter’s knowledge while he struggled to provide for his family entrenched a deep resentment and rage against both of them. It is this “hidden” part of White that helped him to make his later transition to Heisenberg. His “other” personality that has no problem making and selling meth; killing the competition; or poisoning an innocent child.
Walt loses Heisenberg in the To’hajiilee episode when Todd and Uncle Jack arrive to rescue him from Hank and Gomez. When Jack takes all his money, except for the token 12 million, White is back to where he was at the beginning of the series. A beaten man who is dying from cancer.
His losses go further than the money taken from him, he loses everything; his wife, children and the mythological part of himself that was Heisenberg. After attempting to “clear” Skyler, he runs.
As Granite State opens we see that Walt is not the only one who has decided to bail out. Saul Goodman has called the vacuum repair man cum travel agent and set up his own disappearance. When he and Walt share a temporary room, Walt attempts to dig deep and bring the cold and deadly Heisenberg part of himself out for action. His dredging is cut short by a coughing fit and Saul’s departure.
White is moved to New Hampshire, the granite state that the title alludes to, where he is ensconced in a two room cabin surrounded by fields of snow and ice. He is in New Hampshire in the winter and he is isolated. No phone, internet, or television. As Walt continues to come closer to the realization that he is truly alone, Todd turns out to be more than the sum of his, seemingly, limited parts.
Like Walter, Todd also contains a sort of doomed duality. The Granite State episode of Breaking Bad peels layers away from not only Walter, but Jesse and Todd as well. This look at the inner workings of these characters shows that nothing can be taken for granted in this series. It also seems to indicate that for next week’s final show, all bets will be off. Anything can happen.
Until this episode, Todd came across as a sort of simpleton sociopath. Capable of shooting a child to death without hesitation, while being confused as to why his business partners are upset about the act. But Todd’s introduction to paranoid businesswoman Lydia has awakened something in the young killer. He is in love or, at least, captivated by the highly strung female distributor of meth.
The white supremacist gang force Jesse to cook meth for them, and in the process destroy Jesse’s will and kill him just as effectively as if they had shot him in the back of the head. Todd meets with Lydia to discuss sales and distribution. She attempts to sever relations until the sociopath tells her that the latest batch is 92 percent pure. With visions of increased profits running through her head, she ponders this turn of events; while Todd tenderly reaches out to take a bit of fluff off of her jacket.
Until this point, the teasing glimpse we had of Walter with his big gun and beard seemed to indicate that his target was Jack and his gang. That would be the area of both the most danger and the biggest threat. Jesse would also be dealt with and Walt would get his money back. But, it now looks like the real threat could be that teaming of Todd and Lydia. Two mentally unstable individuals who, together, will surely equal a much deadlier foe than Jack and his gang.
But by the end of Granite State, Walter has found Heisenberg again. AFter an emotional phone call with Walt Jr. ends badly, he calls the police and leaves the phone off the hook so that they can trace him to his location. While waiting for his arrest, he watches the bar’s television where he sees Elliot and Gretchen attempting to distance themselves from their ex-partner.
Their damage control consists of the two diminishing the importance of Walt to them and the start of the company. Stating that his only contribution was the founding of the company name. As White watches this, he rediscovers his hate for the two and his inner Heisenberg comes roaring out. His eyes have turned alternately hot with rage and then cold as the New Hampshire countryside, as he decides that he will not turn himself in after all. He has at least one more thing to do.
Breaking Bad’s Granite State, despite being 15 minutes longer than the usual episode length moved so quickly that it actually felt shorter than the allotted 75 minutes. The doomed duality of the show’s main characters and the final unravelling of that last Walter White layer takes us to the root of the chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. As Heisenberg, Walt has some debts to pay and since he seemingly has very little time now that his cancer has returned, he will be in a hurry bring his story to an end. The final episode, Felina, will be another 75 minute rollercoaster ride which will be aired on September 29 on AMC.
By Michael Smith