BREAKING BAD: What ‘Ozymandias’ Means For ‘Granite State’
Last week I began talking about the ending of Breaking Bad, which according to Forbes is the Best. Show. Ever., and what you might have missed about previous episodes. Now, all of those 2,000 or so words seem like just a small fraction of what can be said about what we now know. Hank is dead, in what was a touchingly satisfying last exchange between Hank and H̶e̶i̶s̶e̶n̶b̶e̶r̶g̶ Walt. Walt Jr., again Flynn, knows his father’s true identity. Well sort of. And Holly, after some well-placed “mama’s,” guilts Walt into returning her to Skyler via fire engine. Am I the only one who thinks this means a fire will be somehow play a role in the death of some or all of Walt’s family? I mean, Walt could have left Holly anywhere, why a firehouse? If this sounds like an irrelevant question, you might be new to Breaking Bad.
I hope by now we’re all on the same page with the double meaning of “Granite State,” because if putting Jesse in front of a giant cemetery-looking background wasn’t enough, they put Walt there too. The “Granite State” is also the nickname of New Hampshire, whose motto is “Live Free or Die.” Something we should keep in mind, by the way, now that Jesse is Jack’s prisoner. Last we saw of him, he’d seen a photo of Andrea and Brock in the prison/lab. Just forming my own opinion as to what I’d like to happen in these final 150 minutes with commercials, I don’t want Andrea and Brock to be a big issue. Breaking Bad is not about them, and these final episodes are precious. However, they are a big issue to Jesse, and what happens to Jesse is what Breaking Bad is about. Perhaps simply having that photo there prevents Jesse from doing anything brave/stupid because he knows Jack can show up to their house with a mind already made up.
Is Walt still the devil?
Part of me wants to say the death of Hank meant the death of Heisenberg. The reckless Walt we see whose decisions led him foolishly to To’hajiilee is like a Heisenberg in a hospital bed with tubes up his nose while sitting on a bedpan. He’s still alive, but he doesn’t exactly retain very much dignity. He’ll still drive 120 mph through the desert shouting into a phone,but he’ll just be arrested once he gets there. When Walt crumbled to the desert floor when the gun shot rang out, I really thought I saw the last of Heisenberg. After all, if what Heisenberg was built on was the concept of family (not to say he didn’t grow using alternative fuel sources), and a major part of his family is killed, then a major part of Heisenberg is killed. This would be a hollow argument to make if Walt didn’t react the way he did. But then we got the phone call, and I remembered the M60 in New Hampshire, and that several major parts of Walt’s family is still alive.
“He realizes, that’s not his dad. That’s not anyone he knows. This is Heisenberg.” RJ Mitte
There exists a sort of spectrum of opinions of Walter White betweens fans who have invested so much time into the show: some completely hate him and want him to kill him themselves, but I think most fall somewhere in between defensively justifying ALL of Walt’s actions and thinking everything he does is pure evil. In fact, very little of what Walt does is pure evil. Letting Jane die was truly despicable, but he saved Jesse’s life. Killing Gale was the work of an evil genius, but he saved both Jesse’s life and his own. Calling his own wife a bitch over the phone may have been one of the cruelest things he’d ever done—until you realized why he did it. There have already been a number of brilliant analyses of the phone call online, such as this one by Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker.
If he’s acting like the devil to save his family, is he still evil? Think back to “Buyout,” and Jesse came over for dinner (“Hell yea I’m stoked for this lasagna”), and Walt told him he was in the “empire business.” I don’t think I have to be on Team Walt to think that Skyler acting like a bitch is the only reason he didn’t take the buyout. If Skyler doesn’t file for divorce, act cold to Walt even as late as a handful of episodes ago, or F.T., maybe Walt takes the $5 million and lives free.
The layered phone call was a chance for Walt to finally take his frustrations out on his wife. I think he means every word of what he’s saying, in the same way he was relieved when he found out Brock will live; he wouldn’t have shed a tear if Brock died, but—I buy just the one claim by Walt that he knew just the right amount to give him—he doesn’t want to kill children if unnecessary. I didn’t see Walt reaching into his waistband to gun down a 10 year old waving at him. He won’t be the devil to his own family if it didn’t also serve an important purpose. Going into “Granite State,” I don’t think it would serve us very well to see Walt as purely evil. He is the stray dog, and maybe also the problem and rabid dog.
Why is Walt going to NH?
Last week, Marie showed up to the car wash in black clothes–despite her love for purple–before she even knew Hank was dead.
Tonight, Walt is going to don new glasses–a pair with black frames. The gold frames that became part of the “Heisenberg” identity, and the glasses that the police make note of in the final minutes of “Ozymandias,” will be replaced.
As poetic as it is that NH’s nickname and motto fit into the themes of the show, I don’t think Walt goes across the country to do some fishing an enjoy the mountainous scenery. I’m also not convinced buying a machine gun is the only luring business matter that needs taking care of. If you thought that, how dare you think that Vince Gilligan is going to tell us everything going on in his head. If he knows he’s dying, which is supported by the pills we see him take in the cold open of “Live Free Or Die” (but what about his hair? Are the pills even for cancer?), his end game can’t possibly be to live as a multi millionaire for 6 months, knowing his family still isn’t safe with Jack running around ABQ “making up his mind.”
If the flashback that opened “Ozymandias” was played at the end, rather than the beginning, it might have been the episode’s best scene. Walt is just getting the hang of this lying thing and Jesse is still a smart-ass big-mouth. Well, some things don’t change. Also, him mumbling “put me into a coma, why don’t you?” is something else we should keep in mind moving forward (but I get the feeling that would be too merciful). On second viewing, seeing Skyler clawing her way to a few extra dollars and cents on eBay again is just incredibly sad. In the pilot, we had no idea the kind of danger Walt was bringing on his family. The prospect of breaking the law to provide for his family was a legitimately intense moral and philosophical debate. Now, if only we can time travel back to the pilot and tell Walt “Just don’t do it. Keep selling your crap on eBay and your family will be just fine.”
It’s like investing your life savings into a stock and losing it all, then realizing if you just put it in a damn bank at 1.5% interest, you wouldn’t be standing on the roof of your company’s skyscraper with an empty bottle of scotch. But Walt’s stock isn’t money; it’s his identity. Baby Holly is the only character in the entire show that can’t just get in the car and drive as far away as possible. Her fate will be an absolutely direct result of her parents’ actions.
“Why did you go along with it?” “I’ll be asking myself that for the rest of my life.”
Less than two years ago, the biggest decision Walt and Skyler could’ve made concerning their baby’s life was simple: her name. Fast forward about an hour, and Walt and his adrenaline just snatches her up as either a bargaining chip or to salvage the only family that he has left. Again, you’d have to think Walt is purely evil to think he’d use his infant daughter as leverage. I know many viewers definitely hold this opinion, so my question to you would be—what’s his next move? Would he have told Skyler she can have Holly back if she’ll believe him about Hank? If she’ll leave New Mexico with him? Taking Holly as a pawn just doesn’t add up to anything. Maybe that’s the sort of reckless reasoning that Walt has been prone to recently, but I think it’s the more morally conflicting reason of trying to hold onto family.
Holly is Season 4 & 5’s version of the pink bear, and Walt sending her back home is just going to be all the more hard on him when she dies. At this point it also seems likely that all of Walt’s family is dead by the time he returns home for the ricin; Carol’s reaction is that of seeing someone way worse than just a meth kingpin. Maybe she thinks he’s dead. Or maybe she knows he caused the death of his entire family. I just hope Mr. Gilligan saves us the nightmare of seeing Holly with half a face.
–“Simmer down there, Sparky,” Jack. These are the sorts of the lines where you can’t help but question if he’s just being funny (since when is Breaking Bad funny only for comedy’s sake?…never) or if this means he’ll kill someone or be killed by means of electrocution.
–I’m standing by my “Jack shit” = Jack’s hit prediction of last week: Jack kills Walt Jr., who has been liberally working the phrase “Jack shit” since probably he heard it from one of those damned kids at school who come from a broken home.
–Jesse couldn’t have felt very good that he was about to become vulture food. A fitting end for this other kind of vulture: flying high above ABQ preying on the weak. His abused face after spending time in Jack’s prison resembles that of Gus’ in “Face Off.”
–“Walt is that you?” Skyler in the pilot; Skyler in “Felina.”