“You keep the money. Don’t ever speak of it. Never give it up, and pass it on to our children. Give them everything. Would you do that? Please? Please don’t let me have done all of this for nothing.”
Oh, BB, bringing your perfect A-game as usual. Last night’s episode, “Buried,” was without a doubt one of the most tightly choreographed, story-cruxing hours in the show’s history. It’s pretty amazing how this season is developing week to week (she said with an authoritative keyboard flourish, two episodes into the season).
This last stretch of episodes is proving to be so fascinating in terms of ending strategies. As viewers, there were certain HUGE THINGS we hoped would never happen, because they rang the toll of BB finality; the biggest HUGE THING was undoubtedly Hank discovering Walt’s true identity, because the subsequent disintegration of family trust and Walt’s business (including his giant pile of money) would remove all the moving parts that comprise the essential tensions of the show.
But that shit has already gone down in the first couple episodes! And OPENED UP ENTIRELY NEW AVENUES WE NEVER EVEN SAW BEFORE – mostly emotional. What’s amazing about BB‘s long final bow is that from the dust of the biggest bombshells, more monsters arise. So Hank found out. Insane. But how is Skyler going to deal with him? Can she walk the fine line between morality and allegiance to her husband? Has their original union even survived the past five seasons? What kind of partnership have they come to? How is Hank going to handle the inevitable combustion of his police career? What’s his best strategy for revealing Walt and saving professional face? Questions! Questions! Hysterical! Vapors!
I reiterate my awe at Dean Norris’ incredible performance. The way he is handling the character is so many light-years beyond where Hank started; once a blowhard macho gorilla with a heart of gold, now a frazzled shell hellbent on revenge. This particular scene, between him and Skyler in the diner, had me completely catatonic in front of my screen, simply basking in its genius. Norris really fucking kills it. It’s shocking in the first place to hear him actually verbalize the litany of Walt’s crimes – to ask Skyler about possible abuse she suffered! Heisenberg-wise, Hank never had any idea what he was dealing with; he still doesn’t, but the difference now is that he has the facts. He has the man. He may not have the evidence, but the truth of Walt’s betrayal is so obvious that it’s EATING Hank. It’s a great episode to showcase Norris’ particular gift for emotional subtext. His shaking hands and clipped, desperate dialogue delivery show us the surface anger. But it’s his eyes, the tearful shellshock, that makes Hank so compelling in this moment. He perfectly performs hatred for a monster as curdled love for his brother.
I liked Skyler in this scene too. I’ve never been Anna Gunn’s biggest fan; it’s not that she’s a poor actress or anything, but Skyler’s mostly been clueless, a victim, or a killjoy and I was never a fan of her self-righteousness. But Gunn has a LOT to deal with in this scene. Skyler may be annoying, but she’s a master strategist and a really clever liar. However, she also loves her family, and part of her is still desperate for the support she lost when she chose to stand with Walt and help clean up his messes. Here, she has to negotiate with Hank at his edgiest, maintaining her own innocence while attempting to snatch back the power. She struggles with protecting Walt, her husband, at the expense of her own moral code. Actually, at the expense of her life, pretty much. Her sister, her children, her identity. I loved the way this conversation ended, with Skyler screaming, “AM I UNDER ARREST?” and wrenching herself from Hank’s claws. She makes her choice. She draws the lines in the sand.
Marie was also AMAZING in this episode. One of the best bitch-slaps ever delivered! Betsy Brandt has played Marie as flighty, girlish, and weird for so long that her reaction to Skyler’s treachery reads as a long-overdue release. And when she leaves her sister’s house and sits with Hank silently in their car? And brokenly whispers this line? Chilling. All the chills.
Also, this episode was amazing because the darker things got, the more black comedy reared its amazing quirky head. So many lines that I would have laughed at, had I not been frantically meditating to lower my own blood pressure.
SAUL. SAUL IS PERFECT. BB needs Saul, because his weaselly survival instincts and distaste for ruthless violence provides such a delightful and unexpected counterpoint to Walt. Bob Odenkirk always plays Saul to perfection, but in “Buried,” he delivers one of the character’s best moments ever. He doesn’t want to bring it up, but he knows the best way for Walt to save his ass is to murder Hank. Saul doesn’t like that his biggest client is a psychopath, but he does like his client’s meth money very much. How to bring it up, how to bring it up…
“Maybe you could send your brother-in-law on a trip to…Belize. You know. A vacation to Belize. Where Mike went.”
“BELIZE? Are you kidding me? What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s worked very well for you in the past.”
So good. So funny, despite the gravity of the situation. As usual, Bryan Cranston performs Walt’s reaction with such on-point disgust that I could not help but replay the line 3 times.
Normally I like to conclude my Breaking Bad reviews with some thoughts on Jesse, because 1) the critics severely neglect him and he is the story’s dark horse, and 2) I like to write about every nuance of Aaron Paul’s performance because it’s the closest I’ll get to exploring his body in intimate ways. However, it seems like Vince Gilligan and Co. are keeping Jesse on the back burner for now, letting him slip into his biggest emotional crisis and removing his immediate impact on the plot. Although the whole Traumatized Jesse shtick has the potential to bore us, I hold out hope that Heisenberg’s surrogate son and right hand is about to have his explosive moment in the sun. He’s stuck in a cycle of despair and guilt, evidenced by this slow dizzy playground ride, but he’s also perceptive in a way that none of the other characters are. He’s done everything Walt’s done, but he’s the only one to feel the consequences, to grasp the weight of it. He’s been so irreparably damaged by Walt’s emotional manipulation, but he’s also a bit of a savant when it comes to navigating hot water – thanks to Walt’s tutelage. I only hope that the story brings him and his mentor/torturer back together somehow, because their connection is truly the heart and soul of the show.
MAN! Can you believe how good things are getting?! Did you watch last night? How did you like the episode, and where do you think our motley crew of moral misfits can go from here? Besides Belize. Always an option.