"No matter how much you got, never turn your back on more."
Well, Todd certainly learned his lessons from Walt, didn't he?
Of everything that was compelling in "Granite State," last night's episode of Breaking Bad - and there was a lot there, it was a seventy-five minute episode and the penultimate of the series - the thing I keep going back to is Todd. Who is this guy? He's so well-mannered, so cordial, so gentle yet utterly without feeling. He seems to be running the show in a group full of neo Nazis who have no moral topography and nothing to lose. His interactions with everyone are so unnerving - particularly with Lydia, but with Jess, too, and certainly with Andrea in what was the most devastating, merciless moment of the episode. And am I mistaken, or did he have a slight smile on his face as he watched Jesse describe the killing of Drew Sharp?
As Todd continues his inexorable journey to supervillain status, put into motion by the man for whom he has so much respect, where is that man? Shuttered up in a dinky snowcapped cabin, reflecting on his mistakes with regret and paying ten thousand dollars for one hour of company (granted, I'd probably pay ten grand to hang out with Robert Forster for an hour). For much of this episode, Heisenberg is nowhere to be found, porkpie hat be damned. Walt has taken on Skyler's maiden name, Lambert (a unit of luminescence named for the physicist Johann Heinrich Lambert). And it seems as if his call with Flynn, as his son tells him he wants nothing to do with the money Walt has worked so hard to secure for his family, is the final moment that breaks Walt - until he sees Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz on a news program deriding his contributions to Gray Matter, and something in Walt snaps.
Here's where it gets interesting. There are two camps of audience reactions to Walt, it seems. Those who are completely on Team Walt, and those who view him as pure evil. I'm neither, as it turns out. I believe Walt loves his family, and truly wants above all else to guarantee their safety and comfort after he's gone. I also believe he is a monstrous egomaniac whose inarguable brilliance is tempered with more than a little delusion. And this scene in the bar shows us both halves of Walter White. He is broken by the hatred of his son, the boy who has worshipped him his entire life. He fought to give his family $85 million and now he can't even arrange $100 thousand for them. He calls the DEA, prepared to turn himself in on Saul's advice, when he sees the Schwartzes doing some serious damage control by laughing off his involvement with Gray Matter. And that's when Walt's ego takes the wheel, as it has so many times before. Walt can say as often as he likes that he's done it all for his family, and I do believe that some of that is true. But he also did it because he is the one who knocks, it's not done until he says it's done and you'd better tread lightly and stay out of his fucking territory. Walter White is the man. Heisenberg is the ego.
When writing up the episode before a series finale, it's tempting to delve into predictions, but I don't want to do that here. As Breaking Bad nears its inevitable conclusion, it occurs to me that expectations are worthless. I know what I personally want out of a Breaking Bad finale - some moment of reckoning for Jesse, more than anything - but when a story has been told this well for this long, it doesn't matter what the audience wants. Let's trust Vince Gilligan just this little bit further, what do you say? I think he's earned it.