After last week’s incredibly exhausting and emotional depleting offering, Breaking Bad chooses a more subdued path for this week’s penultimate episode. Primarily used as setup for the finale, how does our second to last episode of the series fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
It wasn’t nearly as fast-paced or revealing as last week, but we still had our fair share of gut-wrenching moments with “Granite State”. The only difference this time round was some breathing room. There were two particular instances this week that knocked the wind out of me (and not in a good way) and I’m sure many will complain that it didn’t ‘measure up’ to last week’s near-perfect episode. But I’m not in the interest of comparing. Right now I want to work toward a satisfying conclusion to the saga of Walter White, leaving me to appreciate the expository nature of this episode in properly setting things up for the finale. Besides, we’ve got to leave some fireworks for the final episode, right?
The first part of the one-two punch came via Jesse (Aaron Paul). POOR JESSE. I think that’s the running sentiment across everyone’s mind. I’ve said it week after week – I’ve never regarded Jesse as the innocent victim in all of this. He may be capable of redemption, but up until this season, he’s been just as responsible for all the corruption and chain of terrible events as Walt (Bryan Cranston). Well almost as responsible. But really, what he’s gone through these two weeks takes the cake. It’s so incredibly bleak that it’s difficult to think anyone deserving of it. We’re witnessing Jesse’s penance for his part in the Heisenberg Empire and it seems like he’s gone through more than enough.
There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that his escape attempt would be thwarted, but subsequent assassination of Andrea (Emily Rios)? Yikes. It’s the very definition of heartbreaking. Death for Jesse seems like the only humane option left. What kind of life would await him even if he were able to escape the Neo-Nazis? I still believe that we’re going to get a final confrontation between Walt and Jesse, but I think Jesse has paid his ‘pound of flesh’ and then some. His predicament shows us the kind of suffering necessary to be worthy of living through the end of all this, which I predict Jesse will indeed accomplish at the end of next week’s finale. Truly, Jesse will be paying for his crimes for the rest of his life and I almost wish he does bite it in the end just to save him any further anguish.
Witnessing Jesse scream through his gag in the back of that van was agonizing but surprisingly, an equally heart-wrenching moment comes at episode’s end when Walt is on the phone with Junior/Flynn (RJ Mitte). I’ve never regarded Flynn as an interesting character, often thinking he was there just to move things along, never really adding anything in terms of depth or richness. But I will gladly take the first slice of humble pie because the moment when he declares, “Just die!” to Walt over the phone just wrecked me. At that moment I just felt like everything Walt had done was past the point of no return. All the money that Walt sold his soul for was for not – and that’s a devastating reality.
It was at this moment where I discovered the cause of my love/hate relationship with Walt and why I find myself still rooting for him despite what he’s become. There was always this insistence on Walt’s part that everything he’s done, not matter how deplorable, stemmed from the desire to do better for his family. And yes, there were several instances where his ego clobbered any altruistic intensions, but at the end of the day, even if he lost his way, everything centred around this noble cause – a cause that many of us can relate to. As long as the money ultimately ended up with his family, for some reason, it seemed less tainted with the blood of the innocent because it had the potential to give Baby Holly/ Junior a better life.
With Flynn’s adamant disavowel of Walt, it’s exactly what Walt fears – “All for nothing”. It means that there’s no way for the deaths of Hank (Dean Norris) Andrea, Gale or the countless number of murdered people along the way, to be anything but senseless and tragic. And quite frankly that doesn’t sit well with me.
There’s a lot of debate online right now on whether or not Walter White should be seen as a hero. Although ‘hero’ seems like a stretch, at the end of the day, I can’t simply disregard Walt as a monster and await his fitting punishment because if I did, all of the deplorable things he’s done season after season would amount to nothing. And what a discouraging ending that would be. I have no doubt that Walt will expire in the series finale, but I have enough faith that the series will show us that his journey had some higher purpose rather than simply being a tale of a fallen man who got what was coming to him. It can’t end “well” for Walter White, he’s just not deserving of it – but in order for the finale to be truly satisfying there has to be a way to make his crazy journey somehow worth it, meaning all those millions end up can’t end up federal custody, or the in the hands of Uncle Tom (Michael Bowen) and the Aryan nation. Let’s give Walt one final ‘win’ for the good of the series.
- There were also subtle touches throughout the episode that managed tug at my heartstrings in addition to the more obvious ones, such as Walt’s makeshift cottage chemotherapy treatment, or offering 10K for an hour of company. I know he’s done some terrible things, but I just love how the series gives us these moments of his pitiful vulnerability, reminding us that he’s still a human being.
- I love how The Cleaner (Robert Forster) actually owns a vacuum cleaner store.
- Bob Odenkirk is brilliant giving us the comic relief as Saul, but when he’s providing his ‘nickel’s worth’ of advice to Walt, Odenkirk shows us that he’s got quite the dramatic acting chops as well. Here’s hoping that his spinoff series will allow him to show us equal parts comedy and drama. It also shows us that at the end of the day, Saul is actually a pretty darn good lawyer.
- I’m quite surprised at how nuanced the character development of Todd (Jesse Plemons) has been these past few episodes. At first glance he’s clearly meant to be seen as a one-dimensional character, but the way in which he’s been behaving suggests there’s way more beneath the surface. Why is he so kind to Jesse? Why is he proud at the mention of his part in the Drew Sharp murder and why is he willing to risk it all on some silly schoolboy crush on Lydia (Laura Fraser)? Anyone else wondering what the hell happened to Todd to make him the sociopath that he is?
- I hope Skyler (Anna Gunn) has a larger role to play in the finale than the comatose victim she’s portraying in this episode.
What did you think viewers? It seems we’ve now caught up to Flash-forward Walt (FFW) so what are you predictions for the finale? Who is the ricin for? Do you think the M4A1 machine gun will pay a visit to Gray Matter Technologies before heading the Neo-Nazi camp? Is the Walter White of days past really gone forever, leaving only Heisenberg? What will Jesse do when he sees Walt? Chime in with your predictions below!
Breaking Bad airs its series finale (!!) at 9pm EST, next Sunday on AMC.