Mere hours from now, at 9 p.m., AMC unveils the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad. This means that only 60, er, 75 minutes of action stands between you and the series finale of the acclaimed drug drama featuring the world’s most dangerous former high school chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston). For those still hyperventilating after last week’s magnificently chilling installment “Ozymandias,” which has become the show’s most-watched episode, co-executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett is advising that you keep nearby a supply of soft objects, including astronaut diapers, and medicate as needed before tuning in tonight.
And for those of you who are jonesing for a few hints about this episode, start with the name of the episode, “Granite State”, which is the nickname for New Hampshire. “Remember the license plates,” coyly says co-executive producer Maura Walley-Beckett, making a reference to Walt’s, er, Mr. Lambert’s New Hampshire-tagged, M60-loaded Volvo from the first episode of season 5, which was titled “Live Free or Die,” the state’s rather badass motto. (Another fun connection: In the seventh episode of season 5, “Say My Name,” the safety deposit box number for Mike’s granddaughter Kaylee is 603, which happens to be the area code for New Hampshire phone numbers.)
But the state that Walt & Co. will truly find themselves in these last episodes is the opposite of blissful. “It’s just going to be constant, brutal madness until the final moments of the show,” Aaron Paul, a.k.a. Jesse, tells EW. Confirms Cranston: “In other seasons, we’ve sort of serpentined our way through. There were highs and lows, this way and that way, but ultimately now we’re just going downhill. It’s a rollercoaster ride. And never before have we been so interested in finding any finality to things.”
While Walt rode off in the extractor’s minivan with a barrel full of cash at the end of “Ozymandias,” his physically and emotionally tortured ex-partner Jesse was last seen attached to a dog cable, about to be put to work as Todd’s meth-making slave. “These are the darkest days of Jesse Pinkman’s life,” teases Paul. “He’s just desperately struggling to hold it together, and trying to grasp at any sort of glimmer of hope that he can.”
Meanwhile, it sounds like less-than-scrupulous consigliere Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) will attempt to get Walt to see the light, or at even a sliver of it. “Saul hasn’t completely lost his humanity in this game he plays of justice and money,” says Odenkirk, whose character will live on in a spinoff prequel. “He talks to Walt and tries to get him to make a healthier choice.” And don’t forget about the deceptively dangerous Lydia (Laura Fraser), who’s been running point on the meth operation for Madrigal. While series creator Vince Gilligan has advised viewers to expect more “ice-cold behavior” from this “Darth Vader in Louboutins,” Fraser herself says with a chuckle: “She goes from ice-cold to glacial.”
Fair to say, no one has anything warm and fuzzy to say about the situation facing our characters in “Ozymandias” and beyond. “I’d describe it as apocalyptic,” offers Anna Gunn, whose Skyler was forced to reveal the family’s dirty secret to Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) before enaging in a vicious physical struggle with Walt. “In the world that Vince has created, in the world that these people are living in, it’s like the apocalypse for them. And I mean that in an emotional way, and in a mental way, and in a spiritual way. It’s enormous, the intensity of it.” She adds that while the cast was “blown away” by the last eight scripts, it was the final four that truly jolted them: “We started emailing each other saying, “Are you– can you believe what’s happening? Can you even believe this? Oh my God!” We were freaking out.”
Sums up Odenkirk: “You know what it makes me think of metaphorically? The race car hitting the wall. When a real car hits something, it crumples into a box. But a race car just shatters and slides in every direction. And that is what happens in this show. Every piece, every character goes flying off into a different direction, and it’s surprising, shocking, and amazing to look at.”
Buckle up — and double up on those diapers as you enter a “Granite State” of mind.