The question since the beginning of this season has been about what happens to Walt after it's all said and done. When Heisenberg has nothing else from the empire he had built up what will remain of the man Walter White? What happens when you take away his safety and his family, what happens when you leave him with nothing left to live for but a small hope of making everything right again? For Walt it's the question he has been avoiding all season and trying to answer throughout this episode.
The empire has fallen and Walter White is waiting for his new life. Relocated to the deep woods of New Hampshire where he survives with a wood stove and a monthly delivery of goods, Walter White becomes himself again. Heisenberg wastes away and even after one day only Walter White remains. We get one scene of a confident Heisenberg strutting to the gates of the cabin he's been left at but Walt slinks back to the cabin alone, saying "tomorrow". Back home Skyler is taking the brunt of a justice system who are looking for someone to blame. With no Walter White around she is left alone to take the brunt of the prosecution and strain.
Meanwhile Jesse is also suffering from the hellish reality Walt has left behind. Todd has now taken over where Walt left off and even has a strange affectation of Heisenberg. Calm, well-mannered, and a harsh killer when he needs to be, Todd even balances running a meth business with the demands of normal criminal life. Just like Heisenberg, Todd has a reluctant partner in Jesse who is trying his best to escape from his psychotic grasp. Even when he does manage a mini-jailbreak it only costs the life of Andrea with her son Brock still a possible victim if he refuses to cook.
The man who could do something is wasting away clinging to any news brought to him via days old newspapers. The bits of news he can get are enough to paint a picture of his family only barely getting by and absolving Walt from their lives. Walt is still suffering from his bout with lung cancer and the crippling loneliness from being alone. Then he finally comes up with a lackluster plan and lumbers to the nearest bar with a wrapped package of money. He phones his son Flynn at school with the plan to send the package to one of his school friends in a roundabout way to get the money to his family. However Flynn doesn't want any of it, now that he knows what his father truly is, and wishes that Walt would die already before hanging up.
Walt calls the DEA, leaves the phone off the hook, and sips on a fresh drink waiting for just that, the death of everything he has left, only Walt. Just then comes on a few familiar faces to Walt, his former partners in business who bought him out of a now hugely successful company company. They are bragging about donations made to drug clinics while distancing themselves from Walt in the press which includes a lie or two that Walt had nothing to do with the company except the name. When asked if Walt was still alive even with reports of his signature blue meth still on the streets they admit they think Walter White is dead. They're right, Walt is dead and gone and we may never see him again. Heisenberg is coming home to get even and set things straight where so much has already gone wrong. He's there to pick of the pieces of an empire he once thought invincible and destroy those who get in his way. Next week, it all ends.
The hashtag for this weeks episode of Breaking Bad, “Granite State” was #ItsOver. In a lot of ways “Ozymandias” was the end of Breaking Bad. It was the end of the story Walter White had concocted for himself and would be the end for most stories like Breaking Bad. These last two episodes are an effort by Walter to regain the thing he lost, control. He thought he had control over his story and through sheer force of will, he plans to kill the Jack and Todd and end this story on his own terms. “It’s over when I say it’s over” is what Walter tries to snarl out at Saul and get him to tow the line. Sheer force of will and animal magnetism don’t seem to have the power they once did for Walter as the cancer begins to clearly affect him. But in typical narcissistic fashion, the thought that someone wouldn’t remember his name or all of his feats is just the fuel necessary to kick cancers ass and kill them Neo Nazis. At least, that’s how Walter White imagines his story ending. Definitely not a hero but someone who did some crazy shit and can’t be forgotten.
A haze transforms into crystal clear vision, was the flow of every scene in last nights episode. Marie coming back from Hanks funeral is in a state of grogginess only to be snapped back into terrible reality at the sight of her house violated by Jack and his thugs. Skyler, lost in her own thoughts, not paying attention to what the FBI lawyer is telling her is pulled above water where she has to coldly admit that she is the fall guy in this situation. Walters berating phone call be damned there are still two dead DEA agents and others left in Heisenberg's wake and they don’t have a spare one of those so will have to do. Todd paying her and Holly a little visit grabs her full attention right away. Jesse, like clockwork, pulls off an initial escape from his cage and thinks he’ll finally get himself killed once he is caught. Only to realize that there is still so very much for him to lose. In yet another painful moment of realization for Pinkman. Or Walter White wandering around his New Hampshire compound defeated trying to find a way to put his plan in motion. The phone call with his son had nice mini wave of realization init as Flynn lets out all the months of unsaid words to his father “Why are you still alive!?” he yells through the other line. His sons contempt does not wake Walter up. It’s seeing his old business partner at Grey Matter Technologies throw him under the bus and do their best to make the name Walter White forgotten that does it.
All of those scenes prior were the people affected by Walter’s action or inaction waking up to the reality around them. In the case of Walter’s, surprisingly effective call to arms scene, he sheds that reality regains the old one. The reality where that magnet worked because he said it would. The one where people would say his name half out of fear and honor. The reality where the cancer wasn’t eating away at his body and he could go commando on anyone guile and bombast.
This wide angle to super focused structure gave this episode a natural rhythm and sense of momentum. It didn’t feel appreciably longer than a typical hour of television. Which for me is always the sign a writer and director did something right. When you make me forget the clock, I’m yours. Breaking Bad has never made me remember the clock.
I don’t know what to expect out of the finale, “Felina". Wild speculation isn’t my game. No matter what happens, I doubt I’ll feel dissatisfied. Which isn’t something you can say about the majority of media. That utter trust in that creative person will just get it right.
75 minutes left.