A Jackie Brown star, lots of freaky-ass Todd and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium dominate this week's 8 for 8 of Breaking Bad's penultimate episode, "Granite State."
8) Forster the People
Not since Lost randomly dropped Allison Janney onto Mystery Island in the third-to-last episode have we been as surprised to see a familiar face making a late-inning appearance on a soon-to-end series. And in this case, it was actually a pleasant surprise to see Robert Forster -- the man who wooed Pam Grier in Jackie Brown and played Karen Sisco's papa on the sadly short-lived eponymous ABC serial -- enter the frame as the identity fixer that Saul Goodman (better) calls whenever a client (or, in this case, Saul himself) is in need of instant relocation. And the actor was characteristically great as a character we frankly never thought we'd actually get to meet; it was counter-intuitive casting, which is why it worked so well. One would think some smooth operator would be the guy smuggling wanted felons out of state, but no… it's just a guy who looks like he could (and probably is) someone's grandpa. When Breaking Bad sweeps the Emmys next year, Forster's getting that Guest Actor on a Drama Series statuette, right?
7) Meet the Real Walt Jr.
It's been pointed out before, but this episode made it explicit that Todd is effectively Walt's real son… or to be more accurate, Heisenberg Jr. Like his father, Todd likes hearing his exploits talked about (just look at the satisfied smile that creeps onto his face when Jesse describes the way he killed that innocent kid in his videotaped confession); he doesn't want to kill others in his "family" (he's saved his brother Jesse's life on several occasions now and even brings him late-night ice cream. Granted, he also kills Jesse's girlfriend and forces him to cook meth, but chalk that up to sibling rivalry.); and he wants to be an empire builder, talking Uncle Jack into continuing in the meth trade despite the fact that they're sitting pretty on $70 million. If Flynn doesn't want to see his dad anymore, Walt now has another son who'll be tickled to have a catch (or a cook) with his old man.
6) One CinnaPack with Extra Goo
Saul Goodman: Cinnabon Proprietor? Sounds like a series to us! Honestly, AMC is riding so high on Breaking Bad right now, Vince Gilligan could have pitched an animated series called The Adventures of Tortuga and the Tortoise and gotten it on the air. At least this explains the Better Call Saul title now that he's not a lawyer anymore. They're ringing him up to find out whether his Cinnabon franchise is open on Sundays.
5) Black Mask Party
In perhaps the creepiest scene in an episode filled with them, an under-surveillance Skyler walked into the baby's room to check on her previously abducted daughter… and saw two men in black masks standing over her while another seized her from behind. It was a moment straight out of that genuinely scary home invasion flick The Strangers (as well as the opening minutes of the better-than-you'd-expect low-budget action movie, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), but it was just as terrifying here, especially knowing that Todd really would carry out any threat he issued to Skyler up to and including ending Holly's short life. Forget Jason or Freddy: the scariest boogeyman of this decade is Jesse Plemons in a ski mask.
4) At Least It Wasn't Little Fockers
Since it's located in Middle of Nowhere, NH, Walt's one-room cabin lacks a phone, Internet, television reception… hell, pretty much anything that might function as a distraction from his complete and total isolation. On the other hand, he does have a pile of DVDs to pass the time -- including two copies of the 2007 Dustin Hoffman/Natalie Portman "classic" Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, which is the first time anyone has thought of that movie before it came and went from theaters in, like, an hour. (Expect its DVD and iTunes sales to suddenly skyrocket now, though. And we know Paul Scheer is a Breaking Bad fan, so fingers crossed we get a How Did This Get Made? episode deconstructing this flick real soon.) The thought of Walt starting his fourth re-watch of Emporium to while away the sleepless hours of a frigid New Hampshire night is the only funny thing about this episode. Aside from the thought of Saul managing a Cinnabon, of course.
3) The Less-Than-Great Escape
Nice to see that Jesse's not so banged-up and strung out that he can't devise a way out of his torture pit. In a plan that would tickle Steve McQueen, Pinkman uses the paper clip from the photo of Andrea and Brock that Todd employs as incentive to keep him cooking, Jesse opens his cuffs, rigs a makeshift ladder and swings like a monkey from the bars of his cell until he can wiggle the latch loose. Unfortunately, his inventiveness doesn't extend to what happens when he gets above ground, sprinting like a bat out of hell for the fence without noticing the security camera that catches him in mid-run, thus bringing out the Nazi cavalry. The subsequent death of Andrea (and orphaning of Brock) via Todd's bullet in her brain pretty much ensures that Jesse's escape days are far behind him.
2) $50,000 Might Have Gotten Him a Lunch Date
This is how far Walter White has fallen. In the season premiere, he was still able to enjoy a boisterous backyard lunch surrounded by his loving family (and Hank). Now, he's got to pay Robert Forster an extra ten grand to convince him to spend a single hour in his company. We know we're not supposed to feel sorry for him, but it's hard not to after that bit of haggling.
1) Bringing It all Back Home
After his apocalyptic phone call with Flynn, where the boy rejected the one thing his father still had left to offer -- money -- Walter White's world was finally, irretrievably over. But as he sat there in that dive bar, waiting for the law enforcement officers he had just phoned to come arrest him, he was rescued from his fate by none other than Charlie Rose. In a plot move that resurrects a storyline we assumed was long gone, Walt caught the tail end of an episode where Rose was interrogating his former Grey Matter colleagues Elliot and Gretchen about their relationship (or, as they insisted, lack thereof) with New Mexico's biggest meth kingpin. Their denials and outright disdain for Walt proves just the thing to reignite his Heisenberg persona, giving us an indication of who exactly he was returning to his old stomping grounds to face in the present timeline. And isn't it interesting that after all the debate over the Walt/Skyler phone call this week and how we were supposed to respond to Walt's actions, this episode wound up giving the Team Walt forces (whose sentiments we don't subscribe to, by the way, particularly when it comes to their hate-on for Skyler) a fair amount of ammunition? Apart from his repeated insistence that he's still doing all this for his family -- even though he's more pathetic than heroic when he says that now -- Walt's reaction to the Rose broadcast also awards him the kind of badass moment (complete with episode-closing music sting) that makes people want to root for him. He's going back to reclaim what we already know those two stole from him long, long ago: his name and his reputation… and possibly some money, too. Granted, anything can (and likely will) happen in the series finale and the show has repeatedly proven that it would never do anything as simplistic as giving Walt a grand hero's send-off. But it also seems like he's not going to end the show as alone and, well, broken as this episode initially suggests. Bring it on, Vince. We're ready for your checkmate move in this five-season chess game.
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