Collateral Damage: A Breaking Bad Recap for the Episode “Granite State”. Spoilers All Up In This Thing. You Were Warned.
Chemotherapy isn’t your typical “therapy”. Ask anyone who’s undergone treatment and they’ll tell you it’s pure Hell.
My dad’s dad got pancreatic cancer when I was six and didn’t get any options for treatment because, well, he didn’t want them and they wouldn’t have done any good given his stage. He died at home, after a few agonizing weeks.
My mom’s dad got Mesothelioma from his years working on Navy ships, installing asbestos. When he got his diagnosis, he was asked about possible treatment options. He, too, waved off the idea of chemo. He wanted to go. He got to die at home as well, holding my grandmother as close as he could and then drifting off in the middle of the night in his own bed. Both men underwent intense pain in the end, but they wanted that to be the end.
The people I know who have undergone chemotherapy tell me about its many pitfalls, how sick it makes you feel, how helpless it makes you feel, and how you wonder if the alternative is really that much worse at a certain point. My sister, who runs a lab at a hospital, tells me about the trouble she has with chemo patients - their veins are hard to get blood from and their bodies are often ravaged, by the treatment more than by the illness.
If you make it through chemotherapy, there’s no guarantee you won’t need it again. It doesn’t destroy your cancer permanently - it could always resurface. And the collateral damage is hard to take the first time, let alone a second.
Walter White’s decision to cut and run is a hasty one, but a necessary one. Like chemo, it’s a drastic measure that carries a lot of nasty implications and a whole lot of collateral damage. The people Walt has loved best these many seasons are now paying for all of his sins. No one is untouched - even Saul has decided it’s time for him to be shut of Albuquerque and any connection with Walter.
The two meet at the “Vacuum Repair Man’s” workshop where they’re being stashed until they can be properly relocated. Walt wants Saul to make a few calls before Saul Goodman becomes Mr. Manager at a Cinnabon. Saul insists to Walt that it’s over and makes tracks. After that, I was a little confused - Saul takes his luggage and leaves the holding room, presumably to re-face life as Saul Goodman? Or is it just to get clear of Walter? I couldn’t tell.
Mr. Vacuum, played by Robert Forster (Max Cherry!), gets Walt out of New Mexico in what I can only hope is a garbage truck. Poetic justice and all that. He takes him from one wasteland to another, from the barren deserts of the southwest to the frozen mountains of New Hampshire. There, he stuffs walt in a Walden-esque cabin with very little in the way of modern convenience. A wood stove, a bed, a TV that only plays Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium…hardly the proper burial place for the Pharaoh of New Mexico’s drug dynasty.
There, Walt grows his shaggy hair, gains his stylish new glasses and adopts his haggard, meager frame that we see in the first episode of this last season. He preoccupies himself with clippings from Albuquerque newspapers that Mr. Vacuum brings him and with the chemotherapy he’s chosen to continue. But why continue? Is self-preservation a possibility at this point? Is Walt still so convinced he can go back and take what’s his from Jack and Todd? Is he trying to live to make everything right again?
As Walt plays Thoreau in the frozen wilderness, Skyler answers for his sins back in New Mexico. We open on Skyler having her own “ringing in the ears” moment, not unlike the one Walt underwent as he learned his cancer diagnosis. She, like Walt, nods in understanding - yes, she knows they want Walt. Yes, she knows they’ll hurt her and her family if they don’t get Walt. But she has no Walt to give them. Walt’s last-minute mea culpa over the phone didn’t help all that much. They still believe Skyler has some idea where Walt might be.
If the pressure from the DEA wasn’t enough, Skyler’s home is invaded by Todd and the other Nazis, standing over her baby’s crib in the middle of the night. They threaten her to forget all about Lydia, a woman Skyler knows nothing about anyway, and then disappear. Just as Saul warned, Skyler is now on the hook for Walt’s misdeeds, both publicly and privately. When you see Skyler there, sitting silently, her ears ringing, you are looking at a battered woman.
Lydia is a concern here. Skyler’s hard, brusque threat has spooked Lydia into thinking that Skyler is going to turn Lydia’s European operation over to the Feds. Little does Lydia know, Skyler doesn’t know anything about the Czech connection. But Lydia doesn’t really care, either. She wants Todd to close that book permanently and she herself wants out of the game. Todd tempts her with appealing news - the meth’s purity is back up to 92% and the blue color is back. Lydia’s greedy nature might be what’s saving Jesse and Skyler at the moment.
And speaking of Jesse…
The picture the Nazis put in Jesse’s lab of Brock and Andrea is the only tool Jesse needs to break free of his cuffs. Say what you will about good ol’ Mr. White, he turned his star pupil into quite a resourceful young man. After a visit from Todd leaves Jesse’s holding pen uncovered, Jesse plays G.I. Joe and grabs the bars, hosting himself to safety and, seemingly, to freedom. The Nazis, however, are too smart for that. Jesse swears he’ll die before he cooks for them again. But then, that’s not what the Nazis waved in front of Jesse, is it?
A knock at Andrea’s door brings her face to face with Todd, the now-figurehead of the meth game in New Mexico. As she steps out into the darkness, looking for her benefactor and one-time lover, Todd raises a gun.
"Just so you know, this isn’t personal," he says to her. With a pull of the trigger, Andrea’s dead, another victim of Todd’s sheepish, "aw, shucks" personality. Jesse screams while bound and gagged, forced to watch the execution of one of the only people he ever cared for, and Jack gently reminds him that Brock is still a target if he doesn’t comply.
Back in New Hampshire, Walt’s been hit with an interesting notion - what if he could get some money to the family under the radar? He empties out an Ensure box (to “ensure” his family’s happiness - a little on-the-nose, eh?) and stuffs it with a hundred thousand dollars. Foolishly, he calls Walt Jr. at school under the guise of his Aunt Marie and instructs him to go to Lewis and wait for a package to come.
And here’s where the needle meets the damage done.
Walt Jr. flips out on his old man, screaming at him and furiously demanding to know why Walt isn’t already dead. Hank’s death’s been hard on Walt Jr. and Hank’s stubbornness seems to have made its way to dear nephew (along with Hank’s signature orange garb, present in Walt Jr.’s shirt). With a decisive slam of the phone, Walt bids goodbye to his one and only son. The money won’t make it to New Mexico…at least, not by mail.
As Walt sits in the bar and awaits the barrage of cops brought there by his hasty phone call to the DEA, a TV interview with his old chums from Grey Matter comes on screen. They’re whitewashing Walt out of the picture by insisting that Walt never had anything to do with Grey Matter’s success, or even its founding, really - just the name. And as Walt has insisted this whole season long, it’s all about the name.
The police storm an empty bar. Walt has taken wing again. Back to his home, to right the wrongs. But will those wrongs involve Jesse? Will they involve Skyler and Walt Jr. and Holly? Is he going to shoot up the offices of Grey Matter? Will all of Walt’s business be tended to in one last destructive ride? How much collateral damage is Walt willing to undertake to get his satisfaction? Is there even one single scenario in which Walt doesn’t die?
Tune in next time, True Believers. For the last time.
Not for nothing:
- Color Combos: Todd’s got a blue shirt on these days. Lydia has on her black suit with a beige undercoating - violent, but not too violent.
- That creepy lint-picking in the coffee house scene? Ew, Todd, be weirder.
- The hat is back, but only for a moment. Walt puts it on to build his defiant spirit and, halfway to the driveway, realizes he’s not fooling Mother Nature.
- Todd offers Jesse “Americone Dream”, the Stephen Colbert themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor. A nod to a big fan of the series.
- That pain in Jesse’s face when Andrea dies…why doesn’t Aaron Paul have last night’s Emmy in his hands? Maybe next year.
- Apparently a “couple youtube videos” and you, too, can give chemo to someone. Progress!
- Lydia needs pure meth. Walt needs chemo. We all need our drugs.
- Walt quite literally can’t buy a friend in this world. Ten grand for an hour’s worth of cards.
- Walt’s masterstroke to get the family their cut…hinges on Lewis?
- Is this retribution all about pride?
- Next week’s epsiode title: “Felina”. @Scottknaster on Twitter pointed out that Felina, broken down into chemicals, is Fe (iron, or “blood”), Li (Lithium, for the meth) and Na (Sodium, for salt…or “tears”). Blood, meth, and tears. He also points out that “Felina” is an anagram of “Finale”. But more importantly, Felina is the name of the woman in the song “El Paso” by Marty Robbins. In the song, a man foolishly guns down another man over the love of Felina (though I believe Marty Robbins spells it “Feleena”), then hides out in, where else, New Mexico. He returns to face his would-be persecutors and those that want his head because, as he says in the song “My love is stronger than my fear of death”.
- I can’t wait for next week.
(Art by me, and I actually took my time this time. Poor Skyler.)
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- ddubyak said: That scene in the bar, watching Walt fume as his former GreyMatter partners dismiss his involvement in the company, makes me think the ricin is meant for them. Nothing is about family anymore. It’s all about Walt’s ego.
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