Jesse’s futile escape attempts in last night’s “Granite State” – using a paper clip as makeshift key to uncuff himself, hoisting himself up to make it out of his underground prison, and just almost climbing over what seemed to be a mile-high wire fence – set me thinking about a scene in the “Breaking Bad” pilot.
Chemistry teacher Walt has tried to distract himself from his lung cancer diagnosis by accompanying his DEA brother-in-law Hank on a DEA drug bust. While he sits in the squad car, Walt spots his former flunky student Jesse Pinkman fleeing the scene by escaping through a window. Walt, who sees an opportunity to cook and profit from a high-grade meth through Jesse’s knowledge of the drug trade, makes Jesse an ultimatum the kid can’t refuse.
Even five seasons ago, Jesse was Walt’s captive.
I’m not saying Walt and the Aryans who most recently thwarted Jesse’s plans are one in the same – although each is tied 1-1 for having killed the two women most important to Jesse – but there’s something about the metaphor of escape that makes me wonder whether Vince Gilligan is going to use a big bad escape metaphor in the series’ finale next week to evoke that moment in the pilot.
Escape is inexorably tied to freedom, the bailiwick of Uranus. Walt was after emotional and financial liberation, eager to emancipate himself from disinterested high school students and a string of slim paychecks not enough to cover the bills and allow him control over his own life. And as for free-spirit Jesse’s drug dealing, you can’t beat the hours and not having to pay taxes.
Vince Gilligan is too smart and meticulous a writer to not have these two characters maneuver back to where they started. Many viewers have speculated that Walt will “free” Jesse from Todd’s literal shackles. And Walt, increasingly weaker from his cancer – his weight loss, which has caused his wedding ring to fall off his finger, metaphorically frees him from Skyler – is reaching a point where he can’t help but see death as a liberation.
My money’s on Gilligan having taken a certain passage from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” to heart:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The poem also refers to “the unknown, unremembered gate.” Next week both Walt and Jesse are going to pass through it, one way or the other. And, boy, will we remember it.
Astrology Television Rating: ♅ (Uranus)