(CAVEAT: Portions of this review originally appeared in the AntennaFree.TV piece, ‘Breaking Bad’ Critics’ Thread: Secrets are Unearthed in ‘Buried’, which also features reflections from Joel Keller, Mike Moody, and Mekeisha Madden Toby, all of whom are pretty damned fine writers in their own right.)
When this week’s episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ kicked off, the only thing that was running through my mind was a comment I read somewhere last week: “Join us next time on ‘Breaking Bad’ when Walt breaks the uncomfortable silence and asks, ‘So, Hank, you, uh, gonna open the garage door?’” Before we reached that point, though, we had a quick pre-credits look at what happened in the wake of Jesse’s free-money spree. Last week, I wrote, “It’s only a matter of time before someone identifies the car and says, ‘Let’s see if he’s got any more,’” but that’s not exactly what happened, although someone did end up following the trail back to where it began.
I was completely convinced we were going to follow the old man on his path of picking up packets of bills until he met up with someone else who was following the money trail from the other end, at which point things would go terribly wrong…but, no, the trail instead led straight to Jesse, literally going in circles on the playground merry-go-round. It’s a great overheard shot, and knowing this show, the whole going-in-circles thing is probably meant as a metaphor, since he’s clearly wracked with guilt and has no idea what the hell he’s supposed to do. We don’t actually see what happens after the old man stumbles upon him, but he clearly ends up in police custody at some point. (I’m just hoping the old guy ends up keeping a decent amount of cash for himself.)
After the credits, we finally get to see Walt leaving Hank’s garage, a moment in which the silence between both men speaks volumes, but the second Walt’s back in his car, he’s on the phone and desperately trying to get Skyler on the phone. The fact that Hank’s beaten Walt to the punch in contacting his own wife feels like a sneak preview of the battle that’s going to be going on between these two guys throughout the upcoming episodes. Walt might be a bad-ass when he’s in Heisenberg mode, but Hank’s a bad-ass 24/7, and if Walt can’t manage to maintain that level of intensity at all times, he’s going to find himself quickly outmatched.
For a moment, I was surprised that Skyler conceded to meet with Hank, but then it occurred to me that, really, what choice did she have? If he told her outright what he knew about Walt’s goings-on, with no indication that he knew how deep her involvement went, then meeting with him would be the best way to go, if only to try and further his presumption that she was stuck in her situation under duress. When Hank refers to Walt as a monster, however, there’s a look in Skyler’s eyes that’s hard to read: is it a sudden awareness that Hank’s right, or is it a momentary glimpse of Mrs. Walter White thinking, “Look, he might be a monster, but you don’t get to call him that”?
Given her reaction to his comment about how she’s “done being the victim,” it seems most likely that it’s the side of Skyler we saw confronting Lydia last week, the one that’s enjoying her new life as a business owner and doesn’t want to give that up. When Hank tries to get her to go on the record about what Walt’s done over the past several months, she reasonably balks, probably unsure how much she really wants to give up about her husband’s activities, but when Hank reveals a piece of information that she didn’t know – that Walt’s cancer has returned – it’s clear that she’s turned a corner and made the decision to keep her mouth shut. (Mind you, if she hadn’t decided it at that moment, then she certainly would’ve done it when Hank said, “It’s in your best interest to get out there and show the world that you have nothing to hide,” since lord knows she’s got plenty to hide.)
The scene with Huell and Koby in the cash-filled storage locker may have ultimately served the same purpose as Badger and Skinny Pete’s “Star Trek” story last week, i.e. to provide a moment of light amidst an otherwise dark hour, but I thought it proved more effective at its task, possibly because I like Bill Burr, but most likely just because they worked a Scrooge McDuck reference into the proceedings. (I don’t know if anyone’s listening, but after Vince Gilligan gets this Saul Goodman spinoff green-lit, I’d be all about seeing someone move forward with “The Further Adventures of Huell and Koby.”) It seems pretty obvious from the knowing glances between the two guys when they’re briefing Walt on his barrels of bucks that they’d already taken a little bit off the top for themselves even before he’s told them to go ahead and take their cut, but he’s freaking out too much to really consider the possibility that they might’ve done so, and they’ve done enough dirty work for Saul over the course of the past season or two that they’ve clearly earned whatever they’ve managed to swipe, and then some.
There’s an interesting dynamic between Walt and Saul during their conversation in the latter’s office, due to the absence of the usual undercurrent of humor to the things Saul has to say. When he tells Walt to take the battery out of his phone because they could be using it to track his movements, adding, “I’m not being paranoid,” we know he’s right, which is strangely disconcerting. A few moments later, when he suggests that Walt may want to consider sending Hank “on a trip to Belize,” it’s the sort of line that could’ve earned a laugh in the past, but Bob Odenkirk – a man who knows comedic timing – delivers it in a way that isn’t funny…which is only appropriate, since we know that it really could come down to that. (With that said, I did laugh out loud when Walt dismissed the suggestion, muttering, “‘Send him to Belize…’ I’ll send you to Belize!”)
Walt’s decision to bury the money in the desert all by his lonesome may be one that comes back to haunt him, given how much energy he expended to accomplish the task (case and point, the way he passed out on the floor of the bathroom after he got home), but the deed’s done, and if things pan out the way he’s hoping, then if nothing else, at least he’ll have succeeded in the whole reason he got into the meth-manufacturing business in the first place: to provide for his family. Given the flash-forward that started last week’s episode, however, it’s clear that things have not, in fact, gone exactly how he’d hoped. We just have to wait and see whether or not the end result works out the same nonetheless.
As seen in the meeting between Hank and Skyler, Hank now comprehends that Skyler’s eccentricities were her way of dealing with what she knew about Walt’s activities, but it took the conversation between the two sisters before it became apparent to Mr. and Mrs. Schrader exactly how long Skyler had been aware of Walt’s shenanigans. The scene with Skyler and Marie battling back and forth over Holly was – somewhat surprisingly, given the competition – one of the most tension-filled moments of the episode, partially because both women felt they were doing the right thing, but predominantly (at least for me) because Marie is as much of a wild card as any of the folks in Heisenberg’s crew. I mean, I didn’t think she was going to suddenly snap the baby’s neck or anything, but we know she’s a little off-center. Because of that, I simply had no clue what her next move might have been. As such, I was totally white-knuckling it ‘til Hank finally got her to hand over Holly and end the stand-off.
It remains to be seen if the relationship between Skyler and Marie is reparable, but given Marie’s comments to her sister and her terse statement to Hank when she gets back in the car (“You have to get him”), it ain’t exactly looking good for both of them to be in attendance at the next family reunion. The bond between Hank and Marie, however, remains as strong as ever. Although he’s on the verge of falling down the same rabbit hole that’s tripped him up before, namely his tendency to always want to be the one who nails the son of a bitch, she talks him down a bit, and while he justifiably claims that his career in law enforcement is likely to be over no matter how things play out, he accepts her argument that he doesn’t have to do this thing all by himself.
Speaking of martial bonds, I don’t know that anyone else found it as darkly funny as I did, but my favorite exchange in the entire episode was probably the quiet one between Walt and Skyler when he confirms to her that his cancer’s return.
Walt: “Does that make you happy?”
Skyler: “I can’t remember the last time I was happy.”
That’s as may be, but given the heartfelt conservation between husband and wife, the ties that bind Skyler and Walt together aren’t as weak as they were even as recently as last season. If they truly are going to be working together for the long haul, then Team White may yet prove to be a force to be reckoned with.
As for the whole Lydia & Todd storyline, I suppose it’s a necessary evil, since it was always inevitable that Walt’s attempt to distance himself from the meth manufacturing business would eventually lead to a “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” moment, but effective though it may have been, it was still probably my least favorite part of the episode. With that said, I freely admit that Lydia is proving to be a more faceted character than I’d previously suspected. With all due respect to Jesse Plemons, though, I’m hoping Todd gets taken out soon…and that Jesse gets to be the guy who does it. Not that Jesse needs to have any more blood on his hands, but, man, you just know how good it’d make him feel.
And speaking of Jesse, to bring this whole thing full circle, being on the other side of the table from Hank is arguably one of the better directions in which Jesse’s life could go, given the way things have been going in his life. Mind you, this particular conversation has the potential to go terribly, terribly wrong, but in the long run, I see Jesse being willing to just say, “Fuck it, I’ll tell you everything I know, because I deserve to suffer the repercussions for everything I’ve been involved in.”
One last thing:
In a small but notable case of the series steadfastly refusing to avoid predictability, I couldn’t help but admire the fact that Walt did not run over the remote-controlled car outside Hank’s house.