Breaking Bad Review: “Granite State” (Season 5 Episode 15)


“My money goes to my children. Not just this barrel. All of it. I am going to kill Jack and his entire crew, and I am going to give it to my children. And then. And only then. I’m through.”

It has been tempting, throughout these last six weeks, to say Breaking Bad has had one of, if not the, best final seasons for an American drama series ever. Even the best of shows are prone to stumbling, in one small way or another, as they near the finish line, but not Breaking Bad. It seemingly got all its stumbling out of the way in last year’s good-but-not-great episodes, leaving these final eight hours open to deliver on every narrative, thematic, stylistic, and character-based promise the show has ever made – and then some. If anything, Breaking Bad has found a higher gear than ever before as it nears the finish line, for by honing in uncompromisingly on the dark, destructive consequences of Walter White’s criminal journey, the series has surprised, stunned, and emotionally devastated longtime viewers, even as it flawlessly delivers each big, climactic, long-anticipated moment in the most satisfying way possible. Best final season ever? I would not have dreamt it going in, much as I have loved Breaking Bad over the years. Yet with each passing week, that historical distinction has come closer and closer within the show’s reach.

And after tonight’s episode, “Granite State?” Well, I for one may be ready to jump aboard that hype train, full speed ahead.

It may sound strange that this is the episode that pushes me over the hyperbolic line, given what tremendous, intense hours the show delivered these last two weeks in “To’hajiilee” and “Ozymandias,” and how heavy my praise for both those hours was in their respective reviews. “Granite State” is a definite, necessary slowdown, given the climactic insanity of the last two weeks, and it obviously does not have the same string of standout, instantly-iconic moments as those hours (Walt surrendering to Hank, Hank’s murder, Walt confessing to Jane’s death as a means of tormenting Jesse, the explosive White family confrontation, Walt’s tragic call to Skyler, etc.).

But if one examines Breaking Bad from a holistic standpoint, looking at both this season and the series as a whole, “Granite State” may be even more crucial than those episodes, because through the healthy stretch of introspection it provides, the hour transitions us from the narrative and emotional climaxes of the past two weeks into an expertly constructed set-up for the endgame. And if there is one thing I did not feel I got from “To’haijiilee” or “Ozymandias,” it was a clear sense of exactly what kind of ending Breaking Bad was building towards. I expressed, in my reviews of both of those episodes, the belief that either could have served as effective series finales. “To’haijiilee” as a summation of the show’s thematic core of consequence, with Walter White’s arc ultimately culminating in endless, Nazi-driven hellfire, and “Ozymandias” as an examination of what becomes of Walter White and his immediate family when Heisenberg is finally confronted by and comes to understand the sheer scope of his many countless sins. Either would have been effective endings, and while “Granite State” is mostly set-up for next week’s series finale, the conclusion it points towards is so immensely intriguing to me, so perfectly inclusive of everything this show has ever been about and all it has ever had to say about its endlessly complex main character, that I cannot help but be just as blown away as I was last Sunday or the week before.

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