Breaking Bad review, "Granite State"

(The above video is of me making some predictions for the final episode and talking more about Todd. My awesome Game of Thrones T-shirt was cut out of the video. For that I am truly sorry.)

Landry (sorry, “Todd”) has always been a bit of a Marlo Stanfield for me. In case you’re unfamiliar with The Wire, Marlo Stanfield was the kid, the punk, who stepped up and took over the West Side of Baltimore after the big dogs, whom we got to know during the first three seasons of the show, were rendered incapacitated. To me, Marlo was always a lesser villain, a lesser foil, for the detectives of the Baltimore PD. Part of it was that we didn’t know him, he came out of nowhere and just started being a “thing” when really we were all pining for the days of Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale. Part of it was that Marlo didn’t bring the same artistry to his work that the others did. He was quiet, hard to read, and unpredictable.

Same thing with Todd and Uncle Jack and their cronies. They’ve always just seemed like thugs, a bunch of guys who’d be more at home in a bar fight than in a meeting about strategy. And Todd, though he’s definitely not the sharpest suit in the closet, has been elected de facto leader by virtue of him having arrived first to the party. He’s no Gus. He’s no Mike. He’s no Tio Salamanca.

But maybe the fact that Todd is young and unpredictable and stupid is what makes him terrifying. Maybe the fact that he’s not the smartest guy in the room, that he doesn’t think before he acts, that he seems so genial and easy going until he’s not makes Todd the scariest guy in the room. You never know when he’s going to just pull that trigger. It could happen at any time.

I’ve been waiting since last season for Todd to really live up to the dark mo-fo we saw kill a kid in cold blood last season. Since then, we’ve mostly seen him following Uncle Jack’s orders and running the business side of their shoddy meth operation and ferreting Lydia The Bodyguard-style through a field of dead bodies. He has been a gentleman and a nice guy. He kept Jesse alive after the shootout in the desert. He brought Jesse ice cream – two kinds! But he didn’t do those things out of the goodness of his heart, did he? He did them because he wants Jesse to cook pure meth because, ultimately, Todd wants to make a skin suit out of Lydia.

And now that Jesse is threatening Todd’s chances for love and world meth domination with Lydia, Todd is bringing out the big guns. He’s using the one trump card he has against Jesse, namely Andrea and her son Brock (who has had the rawest deal of any character on this show). Todd, with his good ol’ boy voice and wonky Matt Damon looks, lures Andrea out of her house and kills her, right in front of Jesse, who’s watching impotently from the van. Todd is boss. Todd wants his 92-96% pure methamphetamine. Todd will stop at nothing to have it. And by “it” I mean Lydia’s teeth in a box next to his bed.

(If this show doesn’t end with Todd going full Jame Gumb on Lydia, I will be sorely disappointed.)

Outside of Todd and his attempts to build his meth empire, we saw a more sober, resigned Walter White in this penultimate episode of Breaking Bad.

Last week he thought he was doing a good thing by his family, calling Skyler when he knew the cops were listening so that he could get her off the legal hook. But he didn’t think the thing all the way through. He didn’t realize that his disappearing would just mean more hurt for Skyler – that she’d lose the house and the car wash and that she’d be questioned and tried because the DEA needs to pin the death of two agents on somebody, and Skyler is the somebody they have.

And now there’s nothing Walt can do to help his family. Well, that’s not true. He could go back to Albuquerque and turn himself in and start to realize that money isn’t everything and his family would be better off with him in prison so they could have the chance at a fresh start. But with Walter White, it’s always been about the money (and what it represents), hasn’t it?

This episode brought all of that full-circle, in stunning fashion, really. Walt’s character took quite the journey today. He started out in a room under a vacuum shop, where he tried to talk Saul into helping him one last time. But Saul is out. He’s done. He’s moving to Nebraska to manage a Cinnabon. Then Robert Forster, The Wolf, drove Walt out to New Hampshire and left him in a little shack on the side of a mountain.

Walt considered leaving. He went all the way to the gate at the end of the property, but then he saw the long road down or he realized it was futile of him to keep running or he remembered that he had just spent fifty large to be hidden, and he decided to stay. And he stayed and stayed and stayed through several monthly visits from Forster.

The two of them developed a friendly rapport. Forster gave Walt his chemo and some Ensure and a little company, but when Walt asked for more – a few hours of chitchat and cards – Forster balked. Walt offered him money. And Forster took it. Because he was not one of Walt’s friends. He was an employee. Walt said that he’d probably be dead one day when Forster came up the mountain. When that happened, what would become of Walt’s money? Would Forster give it to Skyler and the kids if Walt asked him to? Forster said, “If I said yes, would you believe me?”

So that’s when Walt decided to take things into his own hands, to make things right and make sure his family would be taken care of. He went down that long snowy road to a little pub and he called Junior at school (pretending to be Marie). He told Junior he was sending money, and Junior just went off on Walt, swearing at him and wondering why he isn’t dead yet. Walt gave up, hung up with Junior, called the DEA to turn himself in, and got a drink.

The bartender was flipping through channels on the TV when Walt noticed an interview with his former partners, Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz. They boiled Walt’s contribution to their company down to the name, and said that he had nothing else to do with the creation of Grey Matter Technologies. They said that they don’t know who this Heisenberg is, but the Walter White they knew is gone.

If anything would set Walt off to go full Heisenberg it’s this. The Schwartzes are the reason Walt is the way he is. His need to succeed as Heisenberg is directly related to the success and respect he feels he deserved to have with Grey Matter. He has a need to be the best and to make the most money because of the shit deal Gretchen and Elliott gave him when they parted ways. Really, all the blame for Heisenberg can be placed on them. They are Dr. Frankenstein and Walt is their monster. And I think they’re going to know his wrath.

Other Stuff:

  • I know the Saul show is supposed to be a prequel to Breaking Bad, but maybe they were just saying that so we wouldn’t know whether Saul lives or dies before the finale. I just really want to watch a show about Saul managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.
  • Jesse’s description of Todd: That Opie, dead-eyed piece of shit.
  • Rookie mistake by Todd and company, leaving Jesse a paperclip in his cell.
  • Walt’s movie collection in New Hampshire consists of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
  • Skyler looks like a mess. Do we think Todd will come back with his friends to “send her to Belize,” as Uncle Jack suggested?
  • Where’s Marie living these days?

What did you think?

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Filed under: TV, TV Recaps, TV Reviews

Tags: Breaking Bad

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