Photo: © 2013 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Ozymandias was the king of Breaking Bad episodes. It was full of tension, upping the ante and getting to the point where Walter White’s last stand became a close inevitability. Now, with Granite State, we have to take stock. That involves a lot of sitting around, from Todd at the cafe and Jesse looking up at the stars to Walter and Saul working out where to go from here.
As good as Season Five Part Two has been, it’s a complete 180 from the Breaking Bad of old, where the show could spend a long time focussing on such miniscule details rather than building a hectic pace.
There’s something slightly irritating, then, in this last gasp before the finish line. The exciting moments are ramped up expertly (see last week) but now, when the series pauses to take a breath, it doesn’t know what to do.
Gliding All Over, one of the best Breaking Bad episodes, had a montage to show the passage of time, but for a show that spent almost 60 episodes covering the course of a year, to see Granite State tackle three months within minutes is disconcerting.
As Walt is shacked up in a glorious New Hampshire estate, it would be fascinating to see the Albuquerque he’s left behind; how the locals are treating Skyler and Flynn – and Holly, who one guesses gets the most dirty looks for having the same hair style as her dad.
Instead of that, we are introduced to Jesse and Todd’s new fun sitcom, “I’m going to kill everyone you care about if you don’t cook”, and Walt sitting, stewing, waiting to die. Years ago, the show would have turned this Walter storyline into half a season, but there’s just no time to focus on the isolation, the loneliness that’s as deadly as the cancer, or the creation of a wall in his cabin full of Mr. White press cuttings. The Breaking Bad that once ran on the minutiae is gone, replaced by the race to the big finale.
Jesse’s hard times, meanwhile, never really register. He’s been screwed up all year and there’s something not clicking. Todd is a creepy psycho, that’s confirmed entirely, but the spark of the old Pinkman has wilted. Watching him sit around, crying, doesn’t connect, even when the worst moments of his life happen before his eyes.
One wonders what we’ll see from the finale with Jesse. Another escape attempt is unlikely, but we can’t imagine Todd going down through Jesse’s hands anymore and Walter’s return won’t spell good news for him anyway. The destruction of both men should be gruelling, but at this stage there’s a lack of impact on Jesse’s side of the story.
A few loose strings are left. After all this talk of a vacuum repairman who will take you away and give you a new life, Robert Forster slips into the world perfectly as a hard-edged companion for Walter White. RJ Mitte as Walter’s son, though, can’t quite pull off the big emotional scenes he’s given – he was fine floating in the background waiting for meals but now he has to react to what’s going on, it’s not working out. A shame.
And so Walt is left with nothing but two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. As fans, must we own two as well? Is there any chance that in the month or two that we didn’t see Walt he might have sat through both, checked out the bonus features, and re-created some of his favourite Hoffman-Portman scenes with that barrel of money?
The final sequence uses the long version of the theme tune in a pseudo-superhero montage, which is quite silly yet utterly brilliant, and teases what will happen next with the Dennys, the machine gun and the trip home for a spot of ricin. But as we approach the final hour, it does feel like the build up has been less than stellar.
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