Breaking Bad: Granite State   Rewatch 
February 6, 2015 8:11 AM - Season 5, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Events set in motion long ago move toward a conclusion.

"The sweet, kind, brilliant man that we once knew, long ago, he's gone."

Andy Greenwald, Grantland: "If last week’s Ozymandias snapped and cracked like a hangman’s noose, Sunday’s Granite State was the long, slow walk to hell."

Chuck Bowen, Slant: "The episode allows us to take a moment to register just how profoundly damaged a man Walt is, and to see how far he's fallen as he grows literally and figuratively less substantial, to the point of threatening to vanish in the wind."

Todd VanDerWerff, LA Times:
There’s no way around this: “Granite State” is a weird, weird episode, filled with odd structural choices and some leaps in character motivation that typify some of the problems the final season has had in making all of its character arcs count. It’s also an episode that finally tips Jesse Pinkman’s storyline over into something like misery porn, simply forcing him to stare at one terrible thing after another, while making that open, weeping face that Aaron Paul does so well.

Yet at the same time “Granite State” is starkly brilliant. It cast a pall over the rest of my evening, but in a way that was wholly intentional, I think. It's dark, uncompromising television, and if that occasionally results in story moments that feel placed there to punish the characters and audience, it also results in the brilliance of Walter slouching alone into a small-town bar and trying to win his son back to him over a long-distance telephone call.
Maureen Ryan, HuffPo:
This was an episode full of stops and starts, and his conversation with his son was full of sentences that he couldn't finish. His attempt to explain himself to Flynn was a very Walt-ian mixture of admissions and half-truths that slid way too easily into the passive voice: "I did wrong. I made some terrible mistakes. But the reasons were always ... things happened. I never intended, I never intended...."

"Things happened." As if Walt didn't cause them to happen, and keep causing them to happen, over and over again.

As for "The reasons were always..." What were they, Walt? Good? Right? Just? Walt can't finish that sentence -- the old song and dance about having done everything for his family -- because he knows how ridiculous it will sound to the son whose life he absolutely destroyed. Walt's Big Lie has crumbled in the face of Flynn's actual life.
James Poniewozik, TIME
It feels in a sense as if these past few weeks have tried on several alternative endings for the story of Walter White. His surrender to Hank in the desert was one way it could have gone down. His disappearance into the horizon, last seen in the rear-view mirror of Vacuum Guy’s minivan, was another.

The Shield’s outstanding finale left its antihero-villain, Vic Mackey, alive and chained to a desk, presumably to ponder his crimes forever. Walt’s exile in “Granite State” might be considered The Shield alternative for Breaking Bad — letting Walt “escape,” but in such as way as to be tortured by his deeds for the rest of his short life. So his world ends, as another New Hampshire resident posited, not in fire but in ice.

We’ve seen Vince Gilligan run through several could-have-been endings for Walter White. Next week, we get the real one. Walt, and this story, are on the move, and this time it’s a one-way trip.
Writer/director Peter Gould interviewed at TV Guide; at The Hollywood Reporter; at Rolling Stone; at Vulture; at Entertainment Weekly:
I was really hoping that you would watch the episode and say, “This is the end? It’s going to end not with a bang but a whimper? Where’s Heisenberg?” The man has lost his mojo, he’s lost his energy, which I think ultimately is the thing that we love about him is his energy, his springing back, and that’s gone. He just becomes this drained little man, and I think it creates, for me anyway, it creates this frustrating suspense because you want him to act, but the truth is, everything he’s done, every action he’s taken has just made things worse. It’s all turned to ashes in his hands.
The New York Times noticed the show's mention of columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, resulting in the publication of some unusual fanfic.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I watched this one for the first time right before I went to work, and all day I was worried Walt would kill Elliott and Gretchen (they just seem so sweet and open and uncomplicated, probably the least-damaged characters in the show!)

Otherwise I wasn't sure what to make of the episode, really--I hated what happened to Andrea (and, by extension, to Brock and to her mother) but Walt's scenes seemed slow and melancholy. I liked it that he was reduced to paying people by the hour for socializing, but it was so pathetic I almost felt sorry for him. I guess my schadenfreude only extends so far, even against a bastard like Walt.

A bit of poetic license at the end, maybe--Walt's empty glass is still on the bar, so I'm guessing he hasn't been gone long. His undramatic (and apparently effortless) escape from the police at the start of Felina continues to strain suspension of disbelief for me.
posted by johnofjack at 6:03 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I appreciate the choice not to show the unmasking of Heisenberg but I would have liked to see it in detail.
posted by Monochrome at 8:26 PM on February 6, 2015

This is one of my favorite episodes, but only for the Walt story; all the stuff with Jesse in these last few episodes, where they kinda Theon him, just feels very heavy-handed and over the top to me. Frankly, too, Breaking Bad is a show that does not do female characters well, and Andrea's pointless death reduces her to a woman in a refrigerator, which also sucks. I basically think the whole storyline with the nazis is weirdly problematic and distracting for this last stretch of the feels very season one, and I was hoping they'd be dealt with in the first few minutes of the finale (rather than the last), so that we could move on to what the show is really about. But I'm getting ahead of us...

What I totally love about "Granite State" is the way that it plays with our sense of place...ABQ has come to feel like home sixty or so episodes in, and Walt being stranded out in the last reel of The Shining could not be more jarring. And time: Breaking Bad has stretched a single year out as far as the viewer's suspension of disbelief will allow and then some, and so to have six months pass in an hour is equally unsettling. And Robert Forster! That fantastic face, not unkind, no judgment...but nothing like friendship, either. Maybe respect. Probably some pity, but not much. Too much the professional to simply kill Walt and be done with it, even though no one would ever know. And Walt, tossing and turning through the winter night, arms scabbed, dying, consumed by guilt, by rage, by what dreams we cannot know. It's perfect.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:48 PM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

Both times I watched this episode, it struck me that of the many improbable things that occur in the series, the one that broke my suspension of disbelief and took me out of the moment the most was Charlie Rose asking tough, embarrassing questions of billionaire guests. That just does not happen.
posted by gimli at 1:42 PM on February 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah I wasn't a fan of the Jesse subplot in this episode, it does feel unnecessarily cruel. Walt though, this is perfect. I wanted him to die in the snow, unloved, unmourned, unknown. That's what he had earned, and the contempt Gretchen and Elliot show for him? More than fair. Walt Jr's contempt? Completely earned. That money Walt, that's blood money. It deserves to die with you.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:16 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

What I totally love about "Granite State" is the way that it plays with our sense of place.
New Hampshire's more straight to the point motto "Live Free or Die" has already featured as a Season 5 episode title. That phrase comes from a latter written by General John Stark - penned at a time when the former war hero was too ill to attend a reunion for veterans - and suggested "Live free or die" as a toast for them on his behalf.
That seems to be the option facing Walt at this point: he can go ahead and just die in his cabin: Ed Galbraith will dispose of his body and nobody else will know. Or he can pursue his agenda for revenge, reconciliation and recognition to the point where he is either killed or gets to "live free" (probably not for long).
posted by rongorongo at 11:14 PM on September 25, 2022

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