“Buyout” is one way to describe action that took place this week on Breaking Bad, but there was also an immense amount of payoff as well. To start, last week’s shock ending set up not only an immediate game-changing arc for Jesse, but longer-term questions about the nature of the business, the payoff from which we were immediately thrown into this week (narratively it paid off but specifically … wow, that was a difficult cold open to get through). Then there was the fantastically unexpected series of events heightened by the volatile and uneasy alliance among Walt, Jesse and Mike that lead to the more literal payoffs. It’s difficult being so exceptionally vague about such a packed episode, so for more on the specifics of the night, hit the jump.
“Buyout” included almost all of the elements that make Breaking Bad great. It leveraged the drama created at the end of last week’s episode and parlayed it into unknown territories of awkwardness. For those who harshly questioned my grade of last week’s episode, this week I hope proved the reasoning for it. You knew in that final scene that something big was coming this week, and it delivered. Breaking Bad is known to escalate its drama throughout the season, and this truncated season has compacted those narratives into some pretty impressive hours of television; but keep in mind the long game. It’s only going to get better.
To return to the cold open, what a fantastically horrid way to process Drew Sharp, a.k.a. Dirt bike Kid’s death. The painstaking process of breaking his bike down to dissolve in a bucket of acid was all a chilling foreshadowing of what was about to happen to Drew himself. I doubt anyone avoided a visceral response to Todd rooting around in the dirt to locate Drew in his shallow grave, as one hand finally, limply emerged. And then the resignation on Walt’s face when he opened up Drew’s next stop … I honestly feared how far the show would take things, but it was enough to simply suggest the outcome. Our minds, unfortunately, could fill in the rest as it harkened back to one of Breaking Bad‘s ickiest moments, when Jesse decided to dissolved a body in a bathtub.
Breaking Bad never shies away from portraying the harsh reality of the world these men have entered into and, in many ways, created for themselves. Todd’s trial was another aspect of this, where time was taken for Walt to detail their options — and, once again, a man’s life hung in the balance at the mercy of the Triumvirate — sorting through the messy logic of their business.
So what kind of business are they in, exactly? As Jesse asks Walt, “are you in the meth business or the money business?” to which Walt later replies, “I’m in the empire business.” Jesse, Jesse of all people acknowledges at that point that’s not exactly something to be proud of. It is Jesse, user and street peddler turned polite young man with an newly awakened aversion to the crimes of this business, seems to be providing the most insight and logic of the three men lately. It shocks him, rightfully, when just moments after Walt claims he’s been “sleepless” over Drew’s death, Jesse finds him whistling cavalierly. His decision to walk out on Walt behind Mike was not much of a surprise, but nor was it a surprise to see a complication preventing the trio from being rid of one another so cleanly.
Though many viewers at this point may feel caught, like Jesse, between the cooly logical Mike and Walt, one of Mike’s greatest flaws is his underestimation of Walt. Mike never thought Walt could take down Gus and start up another empire, but he has. Further, Mike — who is usually so cautious — should have known better than to zip-tie just one of Walt’s wrists. Walt is driven and desperate and, as has saved him so many times, a genius. Never leave Walt alone and think he’ll do what you want him to — the man is like MacGyver, give him bubble gum and some string and he’ll probably find a way to fashion it into a deadly weapon to use against you and then dispose of you afterwards.
Walt may excel in certain things, but he can’t seem to find a good balance between work and family. When his family life was great his job was shit. When he’s raking in the dough and in control of his life, his family falls apart. Hearing Walt confide to Jesse more than once about his situation was a great way to show some insight into what Walt is feeling now. He may bullshit people 98% of the time, but with Jesse he was more honest than with anyone since he revealed the specifics of his business to Skyler last season. Jesse will never be Walt’s great friend and true confident, but they men share a bond that has, of course, driven the show since its inception, and it’s a nice little bone to throw to see them sharing — however brief and despite all of the other stuff between them — a few honest moments together.
As for Walt’s family, Ted Beneke essentially becomes a code and coverup for Skyler and Walt regarding the meth business. Skyler, already shaken by so much, is also clearly feeling trapped that Walt has already preempted her with Hank and Marie by telling them about the affair, which takes the blame for, of course, the much larger sin. She can see in this though as we can Walt’s brilliance and coldness. By blaming everything on the affair it creates a reasonable narrative for Skyler and Walt’s behavior without, of course, tipping anyone off to anything more, yet it only deepens the mistrust between them.
So far this season has mostly been about Walt getting his way. We know this cannot go on forever, and the stakes are being raised every week as Walt climbs higher and higher towards the precipice where he will surely come tumbling down. The question is, who else will he take with him when he does?
Episode Rating: 9.4 out of 10
— I didn’t think anything could get more awkward than Walt’s birthday, and then came The Dinner. How fantastic was Jesse? He reverted a bit to old Jesse with his speech and mannerisms (and terrible table manners!) but his struggle to create small talk and his reactions to Skyler bringing up the affair with priceless.
— Saul! Oh my dear how I have missed you and your snazzy suits.
— Saul referring to Mike as a senior citizen was a weird reminder that he actually is. For some reason that fact never really registered, despite him being a grandfather.
— “We’re going to spend the night here together, like it’s my birthday” – Mike
— I loved the callback from Jesse to Walt about what Walt originally wanted from all of this — $737,000. But the Walt of today is not the same Walter White of Season 1. He’s found a way to start addressing that enormous chip on his shoulder from Gray Matter, and he is not about to let it go.
— “I would never come to the headquarters of our illegal meth business dragging a bunch of cops. It would be unwise.” – Mike
— Marie Purple Count: 5 — blouse, bracelet, pillows, chair, carpet
— Would you take the $5 million or keep cooking?