Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State”

The Breaking Bad recap panel welcomes some craggy new faces to mine Walter White’s sedimentary and igneous emotional states.

Ben Adams, Peter Fenzel, John Perich and Matthew Wrather recap Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State.”

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"Chemistry is the study of change..."

“Chemistry is the study of change…”

In the meantime, refresh yourself on relevant lore with “Granite State of Mind” by the Super Secret Project.

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7 Comments on “Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State””

  1. mezdef #

    Amazing, I think I give it a good go, and then I listen to you, only to realise (to borrow from Naruto) that I’ve failed to read the ‘underneath the underneath’. Totally missed how many times we were watching breaking bad watching breaking bad, and all the bait-and-switch moments. I’m curious to hear how many of the call-backs everyone is getting, it’s been so long since season one that I miss a lot of them. Especially Wrather who just shotgunned the whole series.

    My surface (hah) reading of the ‘Granite State’ title / theme was the rock-hard, placid facade we present to other people to conceal the turmoil underneath. The barriers between human understanding. In this case I was thinking of granite in the produced sense, the flat state we see it in when it has been carved and chiselled, rather than the natural craggy sense of mountains which Walt’s face grows to resemble as he tires of being slandered and does not feel the need to hide himself. I felt that this was a callback to last episode when we witnessed the downfall of water white and what was happening to his Ozymandias toy figurine. Apparently his action-figure can crumble and be defaced a little more.

    I felt this was echoed in the various scenes of what I started terming in my head ‘what lies beneath’. Walt being trapped in first an underground cell that is paved over with an everyday veneer (vacuums), and then in a wilderness where there is no-one to manipulate, and finally, his talents, his right to be recognised is smoothed over by his former colleagues on public TV. Jesse, meanwhile, is in a tartarus pit (literally and figuratively, continuing from the greek / norse mythology speculation last week?) that can be seen into, and thus exploited, granite pressing in from all sides. Finally, Skyler is trapped in her house, her fortress of solute (so often violated, previously by Walt, and now by Tod), which is keeping others (the cops sit outside oblivious) out, but makes for a lonely existence. You just need to find the crack in the facade to get inside however. This travels with her, when the lawyers attempt to talk to her and all she hears is sound and fury signifying nothing, further mirrored by Marie who seems to be in something of the same state.

    I also felt that the ‘Granite State’ could have been the calm before the storm. Comparing the episode structure of this BB season to Game of Thrones, BB has had 2 huge episodes building one to the other, then this calm-down, simmer of an episode, and what next? GoT has consistently adhered to the structure of the penultimate episode of reckoning followed by a re-adjustment episode where we are told to feel ok about what just happened. Will walt go with a bang or with a whimper? Or a bang followed by a profound whimper?

    General notes:

    Purple everywhere! The lawyers were all wearing purple ties, Jesse was sitting on a couch with purple cushions, and Saul was wearing a purple shirt (and tossing his luxurious fringe for the camera!). Both Walt and Saul are wearing white in the basement – new start – despite Walt trying to get his clothes all dirty again, and Saul leaving with his blue ‘baggage’. Tod is wearing a blue button-down and beige slacks, he really did learn a thing or two! He also knows that a true gentleman picks lint off a ladies back (according the the A.v. Club recap that’s what he’s doing).

    The school announces Walt Jr.s name over the PA as Flynn (has this happened before?). Apparently he’s trying to escape Walt’s name, but he’s still a White.

    The Natzis raided the Shrader household for evidence and were watching Jesse rat them out, I wonder if they also watched Walt’s fake confessional and what they thought.

    I love how many barrels there are in this episode. Walt in the TV is pacing around a cramped basement with his barrel, he’s later making plans ontop of that barrel, he rides inside a barrel to his new destination, it haunts him in his new cabin.

    I wasn’t quite sure what to draw from the image of the meds hanging from the mounted deer head, any ideas? It was such a striking image.

    I was of hoping it would be ‘Late Night Snack’ vs. ‘Americone Dream’. Any speculation on flavour choice? I hope Colbert does a section on it.


  2. Daniel #

    Great job guys, another quality recap! I’d love to hear what Wrather thinks of the show in general after binging on it, and some general commentary on the series as a whole. Perhaps after recapping the last episode you could do an extra podcast to address your thoughts about the arc of the whole show, or maybe just making the last recap extra long. Please?

    I think it’s significant that one of the flavors of ice-cream that Jesse is offered is “Americone Dream” which is tied to Stephen Colbert. The entire premise of the show is about this idea of the betrayal of the American dream and its being warped into something monstrous. Colbert’s entire persona is about showing the cruel injustices of the hegemonic discourse and pulling back the curtain on the illusory American Dream.

    Walt is extremely intelligent, he has worked hard, he had been a model citizen. He applied his talents, took a risk and started a business which ended up making many people extremely wealthy, and he got none of it.

    When he becomes sick, he realises that wealth and power were always available to him, but only if he was willing to embrace the dog-eat-dog ethic and ignore the human cost to others.

    Through this lense, the 1st half of season 5 is about him finally achieving what he felt he’d been owed. The 2nd half is (from his perspective) about showing that it is STILL an illusion, and that no matter how hard he tries to seize power and wealth, he will still always lose in the end.

    The injustice of this is rubbed in in that last scene at the bar when the world is told that he was never that skilled and his former colleagues owe him nothing. Compare this to an unemployed person or a member of the working poor who are told repeated by society and the media that they have no one to blame but themselves for their hardships. They’re just not good enough, not smart enough, not skilled enough, they didn’t work hard enough, etc. because anyone with skills who is willing to work hard can get rich in America!

    (Just in case I haven’t included enough egalitarian rhetoric: “Property is theft”, “Workers of the world unite” and “From each according to his meth-lab to each according to his addiction”… or something.)

    Note: I just realise that this ties in heavily with Perich’s excellent piece about Season 4 being a metaphor for labor relations in America


  3. Falconer #

    This episode is about Walts name.

    Did anyone else see the parallel that Walt is imprisoned in a place that is all WHITE.

    As stated in the podcast all the sediment that is Walt is being worn away. He can’t push Saul around anymore. He has to pay someone just to play cards with him. His ring falls away. Flynn falls away. He’s got nothing but his ‘name’ in a place covered in white.
    And then Gretchen has the nerve to say “Walter White is dead”.
    In the end even his name is being assaulted. Even his pseudonym Heisenberg is being assaulted by Todd and his ilk.

    Walts only reason for returning is to prove once and for all the GREATNESS that is Walter White.
    That is my prediction for the last episode: we’re going to see Walter White’s finest hour. All his cleverness, gamesmanship, creativity, and SCIENCE BITCH.

    So that ALL will remember his name.


  4. Tracy #

    Just a very minor “Well, actually” for youse: if my elementary-school science classes are to be believed, there *is* a third kind of rock besides igneous and sedimentary: metamorphic, which is what happens when igneous or metamorphic rock is subjected to great heat and pressure over time. The classic example is that this process turns granite into marble… Insert overthought metaphor here. (What material is the “Ozymandias” statue made of? And so on.)

    Way to get me to follow and comment on recaps of a show I don’t even watch, team. Well played.


  5. Benjamin Ragheb #

    I was annoyed none of you made predictions this week, since I’m not very good at that myself. My friend Hal made a pretty good one: Walt will find a way to turn himself in exchange for granting Skyler immunity, then take the ricin so he can die in prison on his own terms. This seems to take care of Perich’s objection (last week) that the slow-acting ricin wouldn’t be a good way to commit suicide.


  6. Paul #

    A minor point: I enjoyed the fact that Walt’s coughing betrayed him at the beginning (“Mr. Mayhew?”) and the end of his relationship with Saul.


  7. Chris Morgan #

    Funny, I read the comments here just before watching last night’s Colbert Report, wherein Colbert did, indeed, mention his iced cream showing up on the show.

    There was a prevailing theme going through some reviews of the most recent episodes that sort of has bugged me, and while it isn’t something you guys have touched on, it has to do with the show, so I figured I’d air my grievances here.

    The point being made has been that the recent dark turn to the show and the characters suffering and innocent people dying and such has been sort of a scolding of the audience for enjoying the show, and that it has been saying that “This is what drug dealing and the meth trade is really like. It’s ugly and brutal and the people involved are folks like Uncle Jack and his crew.” And so somehow this has been a necessary correction down the stretch or something.

    To which I say, the entire reason I watch the show is because it is pulpy and not grim and morbid and realistic. I didn’t want that kind of show. I wanted the kind of show Breaking Bad is, because that was something I have found enjoyable. The show didn’t need to be realistic or properly reflect the drug game. This isn’t The Wire. I don’t necessarily thing that was the plan of Vince Gilligan anyway, and I certainly don’t feel like the show needed any sort of course correction toward reality and bleakness.

    I would make predictions, but at this point, I am a little shaky on what may go down. All I can figure clearly is that the Nazis die and Walt dies. I feel very confident in that. I think Jesse may actually kill Lydia to seek vengeance on Todd, but that may be a bit out there. I am starting to feel like Walt may take the ricin himself, but I feel no certainty on that.


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