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Recap / Breaking Bad S5 E15: "Granite State"

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Season 5, Episode 15:

Granite State
Written and directed by Peter Gould
Air date: September 22, 2013

"I, uh, son, the things that they're saying about me I did wrong. I- I made some terrible mistakes. But the reasons were always, things happened that I- I never intended."
Walter White

Walt and Saul meet in a temporary hideout provided by Ed, the guy who's providing both of them with new identities. Walt is hell-bent on revenge on the Aryan Brotherhood gang for killing Hank and stealing his money, and he asks Saul for help. Saul says there's nothing he can do anymore, and suggests the best thing Walt could do now is give himself up to the police, so that Skyler and his family doesn't get the blame for his crimes. Walt attempts to coerce Saul into coming with him, but Saul refuses, saying that he is no longer a lawyer and that if he's lucky, he'll be "managing a Cinnabon in Omaha". Walt tries to threaten him further but is subdued by a coughing fit. Done, Saul quietly bids Walt farewell and leaves for his new life in Nebraska.

Jack's gang, meanwhile, have been keeping themselves busy; they break into the Schrader house and recover Jesse's confession tape, and after watching it Jack prepares to execute Jesse for being a rat, but Todd asks him to reconsider, telling him that they can use Jesse to cook more meth for them. Jack is puzzled by the request at first, pointing out that they already have more money than they will ever need after stealing Walt's millions, but he then realizes that Todd wants to impress Lydia, whom he is now infatuated with, and agrees to keep Jesse alive. Shortly after, the gang break into Walt's house and threaten Skyler not to reveal Lydia's involvement, to which a shaken Skyler complies. Lydia visits Todd and wants to end their operation because of all the heat surrounding it, but she reconsiders after he reveals that the meth composition is now at 92% purity thanks to Jesse. At Jack's base of operations, Jesse uses a paper clip to unlock his chains and tries to escape, but he is captured. The gang punishes Jesse by taking him to Andrea's house and forces him to watch as Todd kills her with a shot to the head. They then threaten to kill Brock as well, if he ever tries something like that again.

Meanwhile, Walt, who's now the prime target of a nationwide manhunt, is relocated by Ed to a more secure hideout, which is a remote cabin in the middle of a forest in New Hampshire. Ed tells Walt to lay low for the time being and that he'll return occasionally with whatever amenities Walt requests, but warns him that if he tries to contact the outside world in any way, he will get caught and that if he finds out Walt has made any such attempt he will not be returning for any reason. Walt is still tempted from the first day to walk out and give himself up, but ultimately he doesn't. Instead, he resolves to keep hiding in the cabin, becoming more and more depressed and progressively weaker from his cancer. Several months later, Ed arrives on his monthly visit to bring Walt food and supplies, including a chemotherapy dose which Walt requested, and gives him news about the outside world; namely that Skyler has returned to using her maiden name, that she works as a part-time taxi dispatcher to earn money, and that she and Walter Jr. have left the old house, and that Walt is still being hunted by the authorities. Ed is about to leave, when the lonely Walt, desperate for human contact, offers him an extra $10,000 to keep him company for another hour; Ed accepts and the two play cards. During the game, Walt asks Ed if he could arrange for his family to receive some of his leftover money, but Ed very honestly answers that he simply can't guarantee that he won't just keep the money for himself.

Alone again, Walt stuffs $100,000 of his leftover money into a cardboard box Ed left behind, before he finally decides to step outside of the cabin area and enters a nearby local bar. He calls his son, who has now legally changed his first name from Walter Jr. to Flynn, and tries to arrange for the box to be sent to his family, but upon hearing his father's voice Flynn immediately gets upset and refuses to accept anything from him, saying that he wants nothing to do with him because he killed Uncle Hank and finishes the conversation by bitterly asking "Why don't you just die?!" Shaken by Flynn's rejection, Walt finally takes Saul's advice and calls the DEA to surrender himself, leaving the line open so they can trace the call to where he is. Waiting for the cops to arrive, Walt orders himself a shot of whiskey and watches the bar's TV. In doing so, he happens to spot Gretchen and Elliott being interviewed by Charlie Rose on the Heisenberg case. Elliott claims that Walt's only major contribution to Gray Matter was inspiring the name of the company, while Gretchen says that whether or not Heisenberg is still out there, the man they knew as Walter White is now dead. Rose also reveals that Heisenberg's signature blue meth is still in circulation. Walt's anger visibly rises as the interview progresses, and when it is over, he has changed his mind about surrendering.

The police arrive and ransack the bar, but Walt is gone, his unfinished whiskey and a $20 bill the only evidence of him having been there.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: As much of a tyrannical asshole Walter has become, you couldn't help but pity him when he shells out ten thousand dollars just so he can pretend to have someone to talk to for an hour. And when he desperately begs his son "don't let this all be for nothing".
  • All for Nothing: Subverted. Walt eventually can't take being cooped up in the cabin anymore and attempts to deliver some of the money to Flynn. However, Flynn is still enraged beyond measure at his father for getting Hank killed, and refuses to accept the money while telling Walt to just kill himself already. With his last desperate attempt to salvage something from his struggles ending in yet another failure and hated by everyone he's ever loved, Walt finally gives in to despair and calls the police to turn himself in... but then he sees Gretchen and Elliot on television disparaging him and decides it can't end like this.
  • All There in the Manual: The name of the identity provider is never mentioned within the episode. Various press materials reference him as The Extractor or The Disappearer. The name 'Ed' is found in the plot synopsis for this episode on AMC's official Breaking Bad website.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Not only does Jack make Todd shoot Andrea and force Jesse to watch it happen, he also makes a point to tell Jesse that if he ever tries to escape again, "...there is still the kid."
  • Apologetic Attacker: After showing Andrea that Jesse is in his truck, Todd lets Andrea get a closer look before saying "Just so you know, this isn't personal." and shooting her in the back of the head.
  • Beard of Sorrow: During his stay in New Hampshire, Walt's appearance becomes increasingly disheveled, and he grows out a full, shaggy beard as he lives in isolation and grows ill from his chemo treatments.
  • Berserk Button: Gretchen and Elliott unknowingly slam down hard on Walt's by minimizing his contribution to Gray Matter Technologies to "just the name".
  • Broken Masquerade: By this point, the whole world has found out who Heisenberg really is.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    • Saul pulls no punches describing the legal nightmare in store for Skyler and his family if Walt doesn't turn himself in.
    • Later, when Walt asks Ed the Eraser if he's willing to help get some of his drug money to his family if and when he succumbs to his cancer;
      Ed: If I said "yes", would you believe me?
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz, returning for the first time since Season 2 note .
    • Carmen, last seen firing Walt, also makes a reappearance.
  • Butt-Monkey: Played for Drama. After all the bad stuff that's already happened to Jesse, this episode makes things even worse when Todd shoots Andrea just so Jesse will keep cooking for them.
  • Call-Back: Walt attempts the same intimidation tactic he used on Saul to bully him into remaining in his employment. This time, he can only say "You remember what I told you? It's not over until-" before a coughing fit takes the wind out of his sails, giving Saul the opportunity to get away from him with a parting "It's over."
    • Jesse once again tries to scale a barbed-wire fence in desperation. It doesn't go nearly as well this time.
  • Call-Forward: Saul did end up managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.
  • The Cameo: Robert Forster plays Ed, the guy who fixes Walt with a new identity and a hideout. And there's Charlie Rose as himself, interviewing Gretchen and Elliott. At the time the episode aired in 2013, Rose had his own talk show on PBS and was also on CBS This Morning.
  • Chekhov's Skill: At first glance, the compound being surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire might be daunting. But Jesse has overcome that obstacle before, and he barely hesitates to go for it.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Walt finally emerges from the mountain cabin where he's been hiding out and goes to a bar. What pops up on the television mounted above the bar? Naturally, a PBS interview with Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz, Walt's old partners and co-founders of Gray Matter.
  • Continuity Nod: During his "reality check" speech to Walt, Saul brings up how, as smart as Mike was, whenever he tried to get his money to his granddaughter, it just ended up seized by the Feds.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Walter is in hiding in New Hampshire. After he tries to reconnect with his son and is harshly told off, he calls the DEA and settles in to let them trace the call to the bar where he is drinking and arrest him. Before they find him, the bartender randomly starts channel flipping, which allows Walter to see an interview where his ex- and old business partner badmouth him on TV and minimize his contribution. This angers Walt so much he chooses to escape and return to New Mexico for his vengeance.
  • Darkest Hour: Walter is the most wanted man in America, he's forced to go into hiding in the wilderness of New Hampshire, Jesse is taken captive by the Neo-Nazis, Andrea is killed by Todd right in front of Jesse's eyes, Hank is dead, and Walt's family is completely broken. Walter is about to turn himself in when he sees Gretchen and Elliot on TV downplaying his contributions to Gray Matter, and the insult to his ego is enough to make him change his mind and head back to New Mexico to make things right.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Walt comes close to this when Flynn refuses to accept any money from him. He is finally ready to surrender to the police, but seeing the interview of Gretchen and Elliott makes him change his mind.
    • Andrea's death is this for Jesse, not that he hadn't already crossed it to begin with.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • The point of Saul's entire rant to Walter on how he has failed to realize the full impact his actions have now. By being made out to be an innocent victim, Skyler has nothing to trade with for the Feds and thus they'll go after her to get at Walt. Walt may have the money but there's no way to get any of it to his family without the Feds grabbing it. Now that it's out that she was married to a murderous drug lord, Skyler will probably never find a stable job and that affects their kids. By the look on Walt's face during Saul's talk, it's clear that he never considered this himself and realizing how bad he's screwed things up.
    • Jesse's escape plan essentially amounted to "Get out of the hole, then run like hell", with nothing planned for exactly how to escape from a compound with surveillance cameras and a barb-wired fence around the perimeter.
  • Disowned Parent: Walter Jr. has legally changed his first name to Flynn in the interim months after his father's disappearance and blows up at Walt when he calls him at school to offer to send him money, telling him to just up and die already before angrily hanging up.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Walt realizes he could coerce the Schwartzes into 'donating' his money to them as an act of charity due to Flynn's father being a drug lord and as an act of sympathy.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jack would be happy to retire but stays in the business so he can help his nephew impress Lydia.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. Initially it looks like Uncle Jack is disturbed by the idea that Todd so effortlessly killed a child. It turns out he was actually furious that Jesse ratted his nephew out personally.
  • Every Man Has His Price:
    • Subverted. Walt finds out that even though he has millions of dollars, it won't help him in his revenge against Uncle Jack's gang, nor can he give it to his family.
    • Played razor straight with the Extractor, though, who negotiates Walt down from two hours to one hour of companionship in exchange for ten thousand dollars.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Jesse's escape plan is pretty abysmal. He not only fails to spot the blatant cameras looming down on him, but he ends up barrelling through the compound to make a frenzied attempt to climb a barbed-wire fence. All things considered, it's a very Jesse-like escape plan.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: While it is certainly not played for laughs, Walt tries to threaten Saul into working for him before they leave with their new identities but is interrupted by a long coughing fit. This prompts Saul to leave as soon as he can before Walt can finish.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Jesse being enslaved, tortured, starved, and caged like an abused zoo animal by the Neo-Nazis for months. When they capture him in a failed escape attempt, he tries to provoke them into killing him, because he's decided it's preferable to going back. They do one worse, killing Andrea as punishment and threatening to get Brock next if Jesse causes trouble a second time.
  • Forced to Watch: The Neo-Nazis force Jesse to watch Andrea getting killed as a punishment for trying to escape.
  • Gilligan Cut: Played for Drama. After Jesse is caught trying to escape by the neo-Nazis, he begs them to just kill him now because there's no way he'll do one more cook for him. Cut to Todd walking up to Andrea's door.
  • He's Back!: Walt is ready to give himself up after hearing Flynn tell him to "just die". As he waits for the police to descend on his location, he catches an interview with Gretchen and Elliot on television, where they distance themselves from him by minimizing his contributions to Gray Matter and insulting his character. His ego provoked once more, Walt decides he can't go out like this and leaves to finish what he started before the police arrive.
  • His Quirk Lives On: Walt sometimes imitates the habits of people he has killed, or whose death he feels responsible for. Walt initially drank whiskey neat, but began taking it on the rocks after killing Mike, who drank it the same way. In this episode we see him ordering his whiskey neat again, the same way Hank used to do.
  • Hope Spot: Jesse nearly escapes the Aryan compound, after fooling Todd, not noticing the camera on the boundary. During his moment of escape, he is captured again. Todd and Jack drive Jesse to Andrea's house, where Todd lures her out on pretext of Jesse's information. When Andrea is in clear view of Jesse, he panics as he tries desperately to save her. Todd shoots her quickly, with Jack warning Jesse another such attempt will lead to Brock's death. Jesse's breakdown really seals the deal.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: In just a few short months, Walt has gone from being The Dreaded drug kingpin of New Mexico to a malnourished, ragged-looking man hiding out alone in a decrepit cabin in New Hampshire, with only Ed the Disappearer willing to talk or spend time with him (for a price).
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: After his failed escape attempt from the Neo-Nazi compound, Jack and Todd drive Jesse to Andrea's house and murder her in front of him as punishment, with the warning that Brock will be killed next if he tries to escape again.
    • Saul warns Walt that if the Feds can't arrest him, they'll use every legal means at their disposal to ruin Skyler's life as retaliation for the deaths of Gomez and Hank.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Word of God states that this is why the only DVD Walt has in the cabin is Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. When writing the episode, somebody threw out the name as a suggestion, and Vince Gilligan put it in the show because he thought it sounded funny.
  • Ironic Echo: Flynn repeats his "Why don't you just die already?" from the first season. Back then, it was out of despair at his dad seemingly giving up. Here, it's out of complete disgust. He's also unknowingly echoing Marie's more recent line.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After dressing down how Walt's actions to exonerate Skyler have made it worse, Saul outright says that if he really cares about his family, he will give himself up to the Feds to spare them the suffering they are about to endure. Walt doesn't.
  • Kick the Dog: Jack orders Todd to kill Andrea in front of Jesse. Then tells Jesse he better shut up and stop crying, because the kid is next.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Saul suggests that the best thing Walt can do for his family is give himself up, as it'll spare them the DEA's attention and he'll be a celebrity felon for his remaining time. Walt doesn't listen. Saul, for his part, readily leaves to live out a new life under a new identity, far away from the madness he and Walt were caught up in.
  • Last-Second Chance: Implied, given that Flynn at least was willing to hear out his father's last call to him instead of immediately yelling "You killed Uncle Hank!!" or hanging up before Walt could begin speaking. Walt apologizing or properly explaining Hank's fate could have softened things somewhat between them. All Walt does is offer money which makes Flynn snap.
  • Leno Device: As proof of Heisenberg's nationwide notoriety, the case is being discussed on Charlie Rose.
  • Meaningful Echo: Walt and Saul's last scene together is a replay of the scene in the season premiere where Walt tells Saul they're done when he says they're done - only this time Walt begins coughing before he can finish speaking and, no longer intimidated, Saul says "It's over," before exiting the scene and the series.
  • Meaningful Rename: Skyler has gone back to her maiden name "Lambert", while Walter Jr. has legally changed his first name to "Flynn", symbolizing the fact that neither of them wish to be associated with Walter White any longer. Interestingly, Walt has also chosen "Mr. Lambert" as his new alias while living undercover, meaning that he and Skyler are still sharing the same last name.
  • Men Don't Cry: While watching Jesse's confession, Jack and his gang spent most of their time calling him a wimp for crying.
  • Money Is Not Power: Walt still has millions, but none of it can really help him with any of his problems.
  • Money to Burn: Played for Drama. While Walt is hiding in his remote cabin over winter, he burns some of his money for extra warmth, because at this point there's nothing else he can really do with it, as it's seemingly impossible for him to get it to his family now that he's an internationally wanted man.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: When Walt tries to intimidate Saul into sticking with him, echoing his "We're done when I say we're done" declaration from the season premiere, he goes into a coughing fit that takes all the wind out of his sails. Saul sees Walt for the man he is: weak, desperate, and divested of any power he once had. With that, he simply tells Walt "It's over" before taking his leave.
  • Nothing Personal: Todd says this to Andrea before he kills her.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Flynn White, who had previously expressed nothing but pride and admiration for his father for much of the series, angrily screams at Walter when he begs to take his money, and outright tells him that he wishes he was dead. The fact that his name is legally Flynn now instead of just a nickname further indicates Walter's son has no love for him anymore.
  • Off the Grid: While most of Ed's clients only have to get a change of identity and are still able to participate in society, Walt is only allotted a small wooden cabin up in snowing mountains. In addition, Ed cuts him off from Internet, cable TV, telephones and even orders him not to go to the small town nearby to even eat. This is entirely justified; unlike many of Ed's other clients, Walt has become one of the most notorious criminals in recent memory and is the subject of a major (inter)national manhunt, and there are limits to even Ed's powers; Walt will need to remain off the grid for a long time while the heat on him dies down.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: A less heavy example. After living in isolation for a while, Walt is willing to pay Ed a small fortune just to stick around a little longer.
  • Put on a Bus: Saul goes off to live under a new identity.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Saul's final bit of legal advice for Walt is for him to turn himself in to save Skyler from prosecution.
    • Todd talks Lydia out of killing Skyler.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Flynn to Walt, when Walt tries to send him money; and rather appropriately, this winds up being the last conversation they had:
    Flynn: You killed Uncle Hank! YOU KILLED HIM! What you did to Mom, you asshole! You killed Uncle Hank- Just shut up! Just shut up! YOU KILLED UNCLE HANK! YOU KILLED HIM! What you did- just shut up! SHUT UP! Will you just- just leave us alone, you asshole! Why are you still alive?! Why don't you just- just die already?! JUST DIE!
  • Rule of Symbolism: Walt loses so much weight in isolation due to his advancing cancer that his wedding ring no longer fits on his finger. It's an extremely poignant visual metaphor showing how his relationship with his family has disappeared.
  • She Knows Too Much: Lydia wants Skyler dead because the two met at the car wash and fears implication in the Heisenberg case.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: This is possibly the bleakest and most depressing episode in the entire series, and begins with the witty and charming Plucky Comic Relief character Saul Goodman cutting ties with Walt for good and being Put on a Bus.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Walt's attempt to get Skyler out of trouble with the law may have been well-intentioned, but his conversation with Saul at the beginning of the episode painfully illustrates to him that he didn't think out the consequences as well as he thought. Painting Skyler as a blameless victim who just went along with Walt's plan may make her look good to a jury, but in the meantime, she has nothing to offer the DEA, who really want to make someone pay for the deaths of two of their agents and are almost certainly going to go after Skyler to get at Walt. Not only that, but the news that Skyler was married to and assisting a known drug lord is going to make it nearly impossible for her to get a new job, limiting her ability to provide for her children, and Walt has no way to get his own money to them because the government is watching them all and would just immediately seize the money.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Uncle Jack figures out the reason Todd wants to keep on cooking meth — even though the gang is now richer than they could have ever imagined — is because he has a crush on Lydia and wants to impress her.
  • Take That!: The film chosen as the absolute antithesis of what Walt would want as his only entertainment material? Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. "Two copies!" However, an interview later clarified the movie was picked solely due to its silly-sounding title and Vince Gilligan had never even seen the movie.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: When Walt is at his Darkest Hour and having a last drink at a bar before surrendering to the police, but happens to watch an interview on the bar's TV with his old business partners, Gretchen and Elliott, who manage to seriously push his main Berserk Button by attacking his Pride, as they downplay his contributions to the Gray Matter company. As Walt's fury grows as he watches the interview, resulting in him changing his mind about surrendering himself, the show's main theme song starts kicking for the first and only time during an episode, and the "power-up" lasts Walt until the very end of the finale.
  • Un-person:
    • It's the fear of becoming this that motivates Walt out of his Despair Event Horizon and to make his final moves, fitting with the season's tagline, "Remember My Name!"
    • Saul is this, in a sense; he's not Saul Goodman anymore. Even his Jimmy McGill, Attorney at Law days are far behind him. He's just plain old Gene Takavic now.
  • Weight Loss Horror: Walt has lost so much weight from his cancer that his wedding ring no longer fits on his finger, so he wears it on a necklace.
  • Wham Episode: Walt and Saul both disappear using the identity-eraser, with Saul fleeing to Nebraska and Walt to New Hampshire, where he takes the name Mr. Lambert. Walt's plan to absolve Skyler from any culpability has failed, leaving her to face trial, and she is threatened by Todd and Jack's men to not mention Lydia to the police. Jack has Todd kill Andrea to punish Jesse for trying to escape, and threatens to kill Brock too if he tries again. Walt makes one last call to Walt Jr. (whose name was legally changed to Flynn) at a local bar and, barely holding it together, tells him he wants to send $100,000; Flynn responds with a scathing speech, prompting Walt to decide to turn himself in to the DEA. But, seeing Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz announcing on TV that Walt had nothing to contribute to Gray Matter Industries (plus talking bad about him in the process), he decides to leave the bar (avoiding the police), going back to Albuquerque to set things right.
  • Wham Shot: Walt calls the DEA to give himself up and settles down to have a last drink before being captured, only to see his former Grey Matter business partners talking on television about him. The police raid the bar he called from, the final shot being his still full glass left alone on the counter.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After Jesse tearfully witnesses Andrea's murder, Jack threatens to kill Brock too if he stops cooking blue meth.

"I can't speak for this Heisenberg that people refer to, but whatever... whatever he became, the sweet, kind, brilliant man that we once knew, long ago, he's gone."