“Breaking Bad” has always been about the compartmentalization of Walter White’s motives. Caring for his family, so he says, propels him. But so does rising professionally, based on how he uses his chemist’s skill sets, no matter how many people’s lives he destroys.
From the very first episodes, we saw Walt’s frustration being a high school chemistry teacher. Not enough pay, for starters, especially when you get a cancer diagnosis and start wondering what you’ll leave your loved ones after you’ve passed on. And certainly not enough recognition.
The possibility of singularizing himself professionally had once all hinged on Gray Matter Technologies, the enterprise he co-founded, as a much younger man, with his two, similarly brainy friends Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz. But early on Walt allowed himself to be bought out of that business for a relative pittance. And the company’s value skyrocketed.
It always seemed that Walt’s desire to be lauded as a top scientist had everything to do with a self-imposed race against time to amass Gray-Matter-level assets.
At the end of last night’s “Granite State” – a nod to New Hampshire where he’s laying low, thanks to vacuum cleaner man – Walt is having a drink in town and happens to see Gretchen and Elliott guesting on a talk show.
It’s now in the open that Walt was Gray Matter’s co-founder. And, to blatantly distance themselves from his involvement in the company, the couple is now publicizing their nearly $30 million donation to help fund addiction-treatment centers. The couple underplay Walt’s contribution to their business – when, in fact, all three had collaborated on research, out of which Elliott snagged the Nobel Prize – and note that his sole input was his name.
Walt is clearly angered by their public display, which has rendered him irrelevant. But even more than that, what Walt feels is the massive granite boulder of abandonment. After all, he and Gretchen were once a romantic item and, early in the series, when Gretchen offered to foot the bill for Walt’s cancer treatment, she reminds Walt that it was he who disappeared on her and essentially abandoned Elliott too. Walt at that point called her a “little rich girl, just adding to your millions.”
Perfect projection of Walt’s there’s-never-enough-money anima onto a seemingly greedy chick. (Money-hungry Todd, who won’t stop cooking despite the millions he and Jack have taken from Walt, is goaded by the same hunger.)
Abandonment and betrayal – Pluto territory – is at the heart of “Granite State.” In a telephone call to Walt Jr., Walt learns his son wants nothing to do with him. Todd has stolen (akin to the Schwartzes) the Heisenberg juice behind the meth operation. And Walt has been reduced to having to pay the vacuum cleaner man $10,000 for an hour of time to assuage his burning loneliness.
The series’ finale will bring Walt out of the woodwork. Abandonment means giving up something forever. What’ll it be? Death and desertion? Sounds like a Pluto two-fer.
Astrology Television Rating: ♇ (Pluto)