In what has been an awesome season thus far, even by Breaking Bad standards, it’s hard not to feel disappointment with “Buyout,” the sixth and latest episode. It had nothing to do with the acting and more to do with the fact that it felt like the show was trying to push too much into a single episode. Because the first eight part mini-season culminates in just two weeks, it seemed like Vince Gilligan and company wanted to rush through some issues so that we can get to a climax soon. I’m not complaining. I personally can’t wait for a showdown or an ultra lavish purchase to take place, but for a show like Breaking Bad that is usually so methodical with the details, it didn’t feel right.
The episode opens with the crew cleaning up the mess brought about by Landry in last week’s “Dead Freight.” Without a single word being uttered, the crew disposes of the dirt bike and dead boy. The cleaning solution of choice is hydrofluoric acid which the guys are more than familiar with. It’s a sad look at just how far into hell these souls have gone. The whole process is mechanical. They know exactly what to do and exactly how to go about it in the fastest way possible. There is no wasted effort in the whole sequence. Walt and Jesse have come a long way since that first acid bath incident. While well executed, this is the kind of event that used to have an impact for several episodes, whereas now it only takes an opening sequence.
The DEA is then watching Mike watching his daughter play at a local park. The two agents are taking the whole event way too seriously and easily fall for Mike’s prank of leaving a note under the trash can. The agents go into a frenzy believing he’s just made a drop of the product. In reality Mike delivers a simple note. A simple four letter word is involved. It’s all pretty hilarious. It reveals two key things though. The DEA is getting zealous in their pursuit of Mike but also that Mike is extremely aware of this fact.
At their latest cook, Walt and Jesse kick back after completing another batch. Because Jesse still has a soul, he flips over to the local news where they are discussing the missing boy. Walt launches into yet another monologue where he convinces Jesse that they’re not really monsters and yet again Jesse seems to buy it. I have to admit even I am impressed with Walt’s acting abilities these days. Unfortunately for him, he blows the whole charade by immediately delivering a whistling concerto just moments after consoling Jesse. It’s very clear that Walt doesn’t much care for anything but dominating the drug business anymore. Jesse may finally be opening up to that possibility after catching him doing his best seven dwarfs impression.
And then things got really, really rushed. Mike and Jesse arrive early to the weekly meeting of the partners and when Walt gets there they tell him they’re retiring. They have a buyer in Arizona who will pay $15 million for their methylamine. This is the kind of decision that usually would take episodes and episodes to build up but here it happens matter-of-factly in a couple of seconds. Walt isn’t pleased but tells them they can do what they want but he will push on with his third of the stolen chemicals.
Mike later has Saul pull off what might be his last funny stunt of the series. While there is no doubt that we all love the crooked lawyer, there might not be a place for his relief and humor in Walt’s personal vision of hell. Saul provides Mike with a 24-hour window to avoid tails by actually filing a restraining order against the DEA on behalf of his client. It’s then when we meet the meth king of Phoenix, named Declan. He proves to be wise in making it very clear that he isn’t just buying the methylamine, he’s buying to have Heisenberg’s blue off the streets. One condition is made though: it’s all the methylamine or no deal.
The best extended scene of this particular episode takes place when Jesse goes over to Walt’s house to try to convince him to take the buyout. As is mentioned many times in the last weeks, the lighting (or: lack of) at the house is beyond ridiculous at this point and is becoming so blatant that it’s worth exploring. Breaking Bad might have made it very clear that they intend to create a suburban New Mexico version of Scarface, but the lighting at the house is a very clear tribute to a very different organized crime drama. I’m of course talking about The Godfather trilogy. Take a moment and watch this brief interview clip where the cinematographer Gordon Willis explains his use of lighting in the movies:
Further research reveals that the lighting is clear nod to the darkness of the characters. Michael and Vito in particular are almost always shot in dark settings when discussing matters of the family business. And thus the inspiration for the White household’s lack of interior lighting. You may remember in the movies that Michael was once a dapper war hero full of optimism about life and marriage with Kay. He originally made a point of saying he would never join his father’s business. He eventually turned to the dark side though just like Walt. And hell, why not even throw in a Scarface reference while they’re at it by having Walt sinking deep into his chair and a glass of Whiskey while explaining himself. It’s very reminiscent of a coked out Tony Montana sitting behind his desk as everything crumbles around him.
Jesse is shocked when Skyler then returns home and Walt refuses to allow him to leave without eating dinner. There are so many ulterior meanings going on at the dinner scene, it’s hard to keep track. First you have Jesse standing in as a surrogate son. Next you have Walt and Skyler seated on opposite ends of the table, clearly at odds with one another. And on and on it goes. Jesse, helpless in the uncomfortable silence of the married couple, attempts to mumble his way through the experience before Skyler ends the dinner by putting Walt in his place and retiring with her wine. Only after her departure does Walt reveal to Jesse that he really has nothing left besides the meth empire. His wife hates him and willingly admits she is waiting for cancer to come back and kill him.
Armed with the knowledge that his potential future business is about to be cut by two-thirds, Walt attempts a heist of the methylamine from partnership HQ. Mike of course is way too smart for such a misguided attempt and catches him in the act. He then forces him to sit there all night and uses an industrial tie to chain Walt to the radiator while he steps out to take care of something. Walt then shows his most animalistic side in a daring escape. He uses an electrical cord to melt the tie, severely burning and scarring (!) the flesh on his wrist in the process. He seems unfazed by it all though and proceeds to steal the goods.
The episode culminates with Mike having to be convinced not to kill Walt upon discovery of the theft. Walt makes a daring promise to him and Jesse that: “everybody wins.” It’s hard not to believe that “everybody loses” when dealing with something as cancerous as Walt though. The next episode should be outstanding now that the rest of these plot points were dealt with, but it definitely came at a cost to this episode.
1. “Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” -Jesse to Walt (in trying to convince Walt to take the buyout)
2. “Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” – Walt to Jesse (in explaining his rational for refusing the buyout)
3. “My wife is waiting for me to die. This business is all I have left now … And you want to take it away from me.” -Walt to Jesse (telling the truth)
1. The dinner
2. Walt’s escape from the industrial tie
3. The evidence disposal in the beginning sequence