Breaking Bad was robbed at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. They did pick up the award for Outstanding Drama and congratulations must go to Anna Gunn for picking up her first Emmy for supporting actress in a drama series but who could possible justify overlooking Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in their respective categories? That’s no knock on Jeff Bridges or Bobby Cannavale but Cranston and Paul’s performances have only gotten better since they won Emmy’s for their parts in previous years. Given than Cranston has won Outstanding Drama Actor three times and Aaron Paul has won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series twice, it might be understandable that voters would want to share the love a little. Understandable but unfortunately, Breaking Bad has been such a juggernaut of talent, I don’t know how anyone can justify it not just sweeping the entire award show.
A perfect example of that is the penultimate episode, Granite Slate. This was very much an episode of parallels. The most notable reflection is Walter White trying to pull the same ‘it’s over when I say it’s over’ that he did to Saul Goodman earlier in the season. This time around though the cancer catches up to him, implying that Walt’s body is trying to tell him something that he is just too stubborn to listen to. There is good news for Saul Goodman fans: that character seems to get out and move on.
More subtle comparisons from the second to last episode include Walter and his son, now officially going by Flynn, talking on the phone. Although the pair are in separate states, the scene is reminiscent of season 4 where Walt and Jr. had a heart to heart after Jesse and Walt have a fight. This time around, however, Flynn knows the extent that his father has lied and manipulated the people around him and the trouble it has caused. The emotional impact of having his own son demand that he die appeared to finally cause Walt to accept that the damage was irreparable. That was, until he see saw his old science cohorts on the television.
If you asked the man himself, as Jesse once did, Walter White would have always claimed family as motivation for his actions. Cooking meth was never intended to be one last act of greatness before he kicked the bucket, instead it was intended to provide for his wife and children after he was gone. He scratched and clawed and kicked and killed for that money, only to have alienated himself so much from the very people that he loved to the point where they no longer want anything he has to offer. Of course, it doesn’t seem like money was ever really the main motivation.
Pride has always been a fault of Walt’s throughout the series. In the first few seasons, it manifested in less obtuse ways, such as Walt rejecting Gretchen’s offer to pay the medical bills or telling Jesse that his batch of meth was subpar. He would later admit that Jesse’s meth was just as good as his own but that was never really the issue. The real issue was that it was his formula. He is happy to let Todd and others cook his formula because everyone knows it as a Heisenberg product and Gray Matter’s attempts to discredit Walt is much like Jesse trying to pass off Walt’s meth as his own. His pride just won’t let the snub slide.
Walter White is a genius who feels that his abilities and achievements aren’t recognised by the world. That isn’t a statement about Walt’s current state but a description of the man that he was at the beginning of the show. Circumstance has always been Walt’s excuse for why he never succeeded in science outside of the criminal world but in reality that Walt never had the guts to take the risk. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he found the courage to write his own destiny because he no longer had anything left to fear. What did he have to fear when he might die anyway?
Yet, that was a strange reversal that we saw in Granite Slate. It wasn’t the threat of being caught that kept him from walking along that snowy road to the nearest village, it was his own mortality. The prospect of the cancer killing him, dying in a ditch somewhere was too powerful to allow him to continue down that track. Eventually, his love for his family got him to the nearest bar but it was that slight against his ego that finally rekindled the old fire of Heisenberg, setting up the final episode and offering an alternative target.
Compared to most of the recent episodes, Granite Slate did lack tension. It was impossible to think that Walt would die along in the cabin as he predicted or would be captured by the police at the end because we have already seen enough scenes set in the future to know that Walt survives long enough to get back to Albuquerque. Jesse’s fate was less certain, though it would have been surprising for Vince Gilligan to deal with Jesse in the penultimate episode. Given the sort of father-son relationship between the two, it makes sense that Walt, having been rejected by his biological son, would suddenly want to right his wrong against Jesse. Perhaps he’ll gun down the white supremacists, have Jesse administer the ricin and either give all the money to Jesse or beg Jesse to make sure his family gets it. He did promise to do so once before.
That would almost be too much of a happy ending for all involved. And while he might go out with a bang, it would do very little to counteract the claims against him by Gray Matter. So is he planning to attack his former science buddies and perhaps administer the ricin to them? It is possible but sounds unlikely. It would be an odd ending for the show and a complete tangent from the build up surrounding Todd and his Uncle Jack. That is, unless Gilligan has devised a way to kill two birds with one stone, say killing off the Nazis, having Jesse administer the ricin and then divulging all of Gray Matter’s chemical and scientific secrets live on television.
Vince Gilligan really must be applauded. The creation, writing and direction of this show has been superb, from the fast paced build of this final season until the calm before the storm that was Granite Slate to how, even after five years, no one can one hundred percent predict how it will all end. The only thing for certain is that we will remember the name Vince Gilligan.