More answers lead to more questions in the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad

By Denise Warner
September 23, 2013 at 08:13 AM EDT
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
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The same night that Breaking Bad took home its first Best Drama Emmy, the series’ penultimate episode aired. And although Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks lost their respective races — to Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Bobby Canavale (Boardwalk Empire) — Anna Gunn walked away victorious. Congratulations all around. Now on to the the matter at hand.

“Granite State” didn’t pack the same thrilling punch that “Ozymandias” did. What Sunday night’s slow burn episode did do is set up an epic showdown, teeing up more questions that need to be answered by the end of the series.

Let’s get through it. Saul and Walt are both at the vacuum cleaner guy’s shop. (The vaccuum cleaner guy is  played brilliantly by Jackie Brown‘s Robert Forster — more Tarantino references!) Saul gets sent out to his new life in Nebraska, while Walt has to wait a few more days in the makeshift holding cell. Ultimately, Robert Forster takes Walt to New Hampshire (but we basically knew that already). The Aryans still have Jesse, and when he tries to break out, they end up killing Andrea to keep him in line. The Blue Meth is back to Heisenbergian levels. Walt makes contact with Junior, telling his son he wants to send the family money. Flynn freaks out, and Walt is defeated, ready to turn himself over to the cops.

Walt’s next call is to the DEA, where he explains that he is Walter White. He leaves the phone off the hook and sidles up to the bar. He sips his Dimple Pinch scotch, waiting for the police to come and take him into custody. The bartender flips through the channels, and Walt asks him to stop when he recognizes someone on the screen. It’s Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz, distancing themselves from their former partner during a sit-down with Charlie Rose. Gretchen explains that all Walt contributed to Gray Matter was the name. Walt’s demeanor changes. The Breaking Bad theme music cues up as the police enter the bar. But Walt is gone.

Walt spends most of “Granite State” alone in the woods — in his own “Walden,” if you will. Walden being the work of Henry David Thoreau — a contemporary of Walt Whitman, and another transcendentalist. In Walden, Thoreau writes of living in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s cabin, away from society, in order to come to a better understanding of society as a whole as well as his place within it.

It’s here, of course, that Walt learns where he stands — with his family and the world outside. His son wants him dead, and won’t take his help. In effect, his family doesn’t need him — and he destroyed them anyway. Todd and the Aryans, with the help of Jesse and Lydia, are successfully recreating and distributing the blue meth that was Heisenberg’s trademark. Walt’s not needed there, either. Gretchen and Elliott add the final blow by taking away Walt’s last legacy — the credit for his chemistry work that provided the foundation for Gray Matter Technologies.

The return of Gretchen and Elliott — and Walt’s subsequent reaction — mirror Walt’s phone conversation with Skyler. Like Walt, Gretchen and Elliott are lying to rewrite the story. Like Skyler, Walt realizes what’s happening. In Skyler’s instance, Walt was giving her a gift — trying to lessen her punishment for his deeds. With Gretchen and Elliott, they are unwittingly giving Walt a gift, albeit a twisted one. Minutes earlier, he had given up. Now he’s ready to break bad, possibly for the final time.

Whether you believe the phone call in “Ozymandias” was Walt pretending to be Heisenberg, or you think it was the Heisenberg personality shining through to do what Mr. White could not, it’s clear that at the end of “Granite State,” Heisenberg has taken over. Is this the moment of the full transformation from Mr. Chips into Scarface?

NEXT: More questions, more non-answers

Other questions that need to be answered:

Will Jesse serve out his life as a meth cook to keep Brock safe? It’s hard to see how he escapes this indentured servitude.

Where is Huell? Is he still waiting patiently for Hank and Gomez to return? If he is, then he will be waiting for a long time.

Speaking of Huell, what about Kuby? (No matter what happens to Huell and Kuby, hopefully they both show up in Better Call Saul — or whatever the name of the Bob Odenkirk series will be.

Is that really the sendoff for Saul? Sure, he’s getting his own prequel-spinoff. But if that’s the last we see of him on Bad proper, that seems a little sad. It was nice that Saul tries to get Walk to do the right thing and turn himself in for his family’s sake, when all Walt wants is revenge on Uncle Jack and company.

Will Walt Jr. learn that his father didn’t actually kill Hank? Junior is certainly right to hate Walt for what he did to the family, but Junior should know that his dad wasn’t directly responsible for Uncle Hank’s death. (Indirectly responsible? Yes. That’s a different story.)

Do Skyler and Marie make up? Does Marie start wearing purple again? (Purple is the color of half-mourning after all. It’s also the color of royalty. Maybe Marie walks away with everything? Maybe not.)

Seriously, for whom is the gun and the ricin intended? The easy odds for the giant gun are Uncle Jack, Todd and the Aryans. It’s unlikely Walt would be able to poison an entire squadron of Nazis with the vial of ricin. But the gun? That makes sense. The ricin, on the other hand, seems destined for Lydia and her tea.  Or maybe even Walt himself, when he’s done taking out the white power posse.

Are Jesse and Walt destined to meet again? Am I foolish for hoping that Walt saves Jesse, and then Jesse kills Walt as the end credits roll?

Final tidbits of note:

Glad to see Jesse get another “bitch” in this hour. When trying to break free of the Aryans’ underground prison, he grunts “Come on, bitch.” There’s the Pinkman we know and love. Too bad his future looks bleak and depressing.

I never want to speak ill of the dead, but Andrea is a little stupid, right? Who opens the door and walks outside for a stranger like that? Hopefully, she taught her son better before she died.

Todd has taken over Heisenberg’s product, and he’s now the one who knocks, too.

Walt is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad man. However, you have to feel a little bit sorry for him. He pays Robert Forster 10K to spend one hour with him. “Stay a little longer?” he pleads. He’s receiving homemade chemo. His family won’t take what little help he wants to send. The tears in his eyes when he’s on the phone with Flynn elicited a bit of sympathy for the fallen Heisenberg. “Why don’t you just die already? Just die!” Junior screams at his father. It’s a heartbreaking moment — especially where Walt is concerned. Are we really allowed to feel bad for him?

“Felina” is the name of the last episode. Names are important in the Bad universe. And Felina, according to Wikipedia, could refer to the scientific classification for small cats. Honestly, I wish I could write some eloquent prediction based on this nomenclature. Unfortunately, I have no idea what cats and Breaking Bad might have to do with each other. Conversely, it might not have anything to do with cats — but I think the Internet would love it if it did. Because what is better than mixing two of the web’s favorite things — felines and Breaking Bad? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out. (Or I’ll leave it to you to guess in the comments.)

Follow @DeniseMarie13

Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.
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