After last week’s tension-filled final scene, this week’s Breaking Bad immediately deals with the heartbreaking aftermath of tarantula boy’s death. We also get some insight behind Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) motivations and one of the most hilariously awkward “family” dinners in television history.
Let’s take a closer look after the jump.
We don’t lose an ounce of the momentum from the closing seconds of ‘Dead Freight‘ to the opening of ‘Buyout’ despite the week long break in-between episodes. The first scene finds Walt (Bryan Cranston), Mike (Jonathan Banks), and Todd (Jesse Plemons) breaking down Drew Sharp’s (Samuel Webb) dirt bike into pieces that will easily fit into plastic bins. Cinematically, this cold open is wonderful. The quick shots convey the urgency of the team, while the contrasting, sombre soundtrack gives the entire operation a distinctly (appropriate) melancholic tone. It’s a sad requiem for the boy who will literally be erased from the world without a trace. My heart sank watching the dirt bike reduced to its bare frame and the shot of Drew’s hand peering through the dirt in the truck is truly heart wrenching.
Noticeably absent from the “clean up” is Jesse (Aaron Paul) who is struggling over the boy’s death far more than the others. In fact, we don’t even see Jesse until after the evidence has been disposed of. The quick scene clearly outlines the roles and distinctions between the ‘Bald Trinity’: although Mike and Walt are both undeniably affected by Drew’s death, they both acknowledge what’s done is done and they’ve got to protect themselves. The speed in which they get rid of the body and the dirt bike is indicative of this. This is familiar territory for Mike, who is likely de-sensitized due to his experiences thus far (remember his time in the Pollos truck waiting for the assassins?), but it’s troubling that Walt jumps right in with very little reservation. While exhibiting the occasional forlorn facial expression, Walt is not paralyzed like Jesse, which is testament to his commitment to the ‘business’.
This is later confirmed when the baldies have a roundtable debate on what they should have done about the boy, and what to do now with Todd and his hasty trigger finger. It feels a lot like a mock trial in which the pros and cons of a desperate situation are verbalized from people with very different opinions (reminiscent of the Randall debate on The Walking Dead last season). Todd’s “I’m sorry but I had to do it…” justification creates a “him or us” debate. The new addition has proven his loyalty, but is he a loose cannon? Walt presents three options for dealing with him: 1) fire and pay him off, 2) kill him, or 3) continue to trust him as a team member. I admit that even though killing Todd is an obvious option, I’m shocked at the ease with which Walt proposes this option. Ultimately both Walt and Mike vote to keep Todd around, leaving Jesse’s vote immaterial. I do wonder if Jesse would have opted to “dispose” of Todd as retribution for the murder of a child; it certainly would have complicated his ‘moral high ground’ position. Last season’s finale made it clear to us what Jesse is capable when a child is endangered. Hmm…
As predicted last week, the death of Drew creates significant ramification for the business – namely, Jesse can no longer stomach the consequences their activities force upon them. He wants out, as does Mike, who has become the number one person of interest on Hank’s (Dean Norris) hit list. There’s a wonderful moment where Mike listens in on Hank’s bugged office, overhearing Hank telling Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) that even “pros makes mistakes”. Banks’ subtle nod of agreement is a wonderful little piece of acting and immediately tipped me off that Mike would try to exit the partnership in the next scene.
Unfortunately for Mike and Jesse, getting their titular buyout isn’t as easy as they initially planned. On one hand Walt wants none of this, refusing to sell his part of the business. He’ll take his third and find a way to continuing cooking. On the flip side, their methylamine buyer wants to “increase his market share” and wants all of the methylamine…or none at all. Looks like the power of mathematics triumphs once again (!) as the methylamine dealer knows that 666 gallons is an unusual number, cleverly deducing that there is a third party involved beyond Mike and Jesse. This leaves Jesse with the impossible task of convincing Walter to give up his share.
The result is another amazing Breaking Bad scene. Jesse’s logic skills have clearly benefited from his proximity to Walt these past few seasons and he goes to work trying to help Walt realize that $5M is far from selling-out. Jesse reminds him that initially all Walt wanted was $737,000 in order to keep his family afloat after the cancer diagnosis. So why now does $5M seem like small potatoes? We know for Walt, or rather the man Walt has become, this isn’t just about money. This is about power, and getting what he’s owed and proving that he’s better than everyone else at this game. But we also get a glimpse into the underlying motivation behind this – and that boils down to two words: Gray Matter. It’s a blast from the S1 past as he reveals that his $5,000 buyout (to pay the rent) cost him billions (2.16 to be exact, since Walt continues to look it up each week).
This confession brings back memories of a more sympathetic Walt, back when he was a simple chemistry teacher trying to provide for his family before his death. The Gray Matter decision has clearly haunted him all these years. Walt declaratively states that he’s not in the meth or money business, but “in the empire business” as he sits back in his armchair like a king on his throne. This prompts Jesse to ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind: “Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” Of course, we’re interrupted with the arrival of Skyler (Anna Gunn) before he can answer it, but something tells me we’ll get our answer throughout the remainder of the season.
Skyler’s arrival prompts one of the most hilarious scenes in Breaking Bad history: the most awkward ‘family’ dinner ever. It’s a moment that I knew was coming as Jesse takes on the literal role of Walt’s surrogate son. I loved every moment of Jesse trying to break the tension by creating even more uncomfortable silences. Equating nuked frozen lasagna with eating a scab? Disgustingly brilliant. The look on Aaron Paul’s face alone is sure to secure him another Emmy nom. But more importantly the dinner gives us some much-needed comedic relief from the intensity of the preceding scenes. Ultimately this leads Walt to reveal to Jesse that the meth business is all he has left in the world. And while this isn’t necessarily new information, I appreciated the lead-up to it and Cranston’s delivery of the line. Yet another moment that I started to feel sorry for him! A fleeting moment, but a moment nonetheless. Damn you, Walter White!
Some other observations:
- I love the plays with shadow and light that we’re seeing this season. The Whites’ house in particular is always bathed in darkness with heavy contrasts and harsh lines. This is no longer a domestic abode, but where Walt can sit in his throne brooding about his next move. No wonder Skyler feels like a hostage.
- Tonight’s sinister-moment-of-the-week comes courtesy of Walt’s cheerful whistling while he suits up in the meth lab just moments after he and Jesse see a news story on the search for young (dead) Drew. What. An. A*shole.
- Interesting that we’re shown Mike and Walt’s all-nighter simply as a time lapse from outside the building. This is great way to economically show that there is no possible way these two will ever see eye to eye.
What did you think viewers? Any conjectures as to what Walt’s plan is where “everyone wins”? What do you think the outcome would have been had they had a roundtable before Drew was shot? Any theories regarding Todd keeping the tarantula? I’m inclined to think he just thought it was cool – but how morbid is it to keep a souvenir of this crime?! Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.
Breaking Bad airs 10:00pm EST, Sundays on AMC