by: Michael Shields
In this week’s Breaking Bad, entitled “Buried”, the Lambert sisters stand by their men, and the seed to an unlikely partnership is planted….
Skyler White and Hank Schrader are in the tightest of spots. The situation that they find themselves in, the corner Walt has forced them into, is a dark hole. A surreal, unimaginable place where they are forced to puzzle over the type of moral conundrums Breaking Bad has excelled at from day one. “Buried”, written by Thomas Schnauz ((“Say My Name”, “End Times”, “Bug”, “Shotgun”, “Albiquiu”, and “One Minute”)) and directed with ingenious urgency by Michelle MacLaren, lets us know with deliberateness where Skyler and Hank will be hanging their hat the rest of the ride. Alliances have been forged, and the battle between those forces lies just ahead.
Stand by Your Man
If you, like I did, had any inkling of hope that Hank would possibly choose family over his obligation to the DEA (And more importantly, his commitment to his compulsive hunt of his white whale, Heisenberg), if you thought for a moment that he would do anything other than hunt down Walt like a dog – well, with a blessing from Marie (“You have to get him”) those ideas have now been sent on a trip to Belize (“where Mike went”) ((Yet, nothing can fully be counted out at this point. The next episode, “Confessions”, is rumored to include the White’s sitting down with the Shrader’s for a discussion, and who knows how that will change things.)).
Marie steps out of the purple-hued shadows to emerge as a force to be reckoned with, a catalyst to Hank’s actions moving forward. Blood may be thicker than water, but love just might trump all, and Skyler covering up for Walt, an act which put Hank in direct danger time and again, is just too much for Marie to handle. She, like many of us, has her feet firmly planted with Hank for the rest of the ride.
Similarly, it seems that Skyler stands in Walt’s corner, or more aptly put she still yearns to do what she thinks is best for her immediate family. In a surprisingly tender moment, she cares for Walt on their bathroom floor ((The idea of Skyler “waiting for the cancer to return” resonates here, as Walt ominously asks Skyler after he confirms the cancer is back: “Does that make you happy?”)). She advises him, letting him on to the fact that Hank “has his suspicions, but little else.” She wonders if their best course of action is simply keeping quiet, riding it out now that the money has been “Buried”. And Walt pleads with her to keep the money after he is gone, as it would all be for not if the money ended up in the hands of the DEA. For the first time since Skyler found out Walt’s ghastly secret, she seemed to be able to understand the reason that he broke bad in the first place. Before it wasn’t ((Motivations quickly morphed as Walt’s ego amplified – and it became about his “Empire Business”)), it was about her – about their kids, and making sure they were taken care of after he was gone ((“You keep the money. You never speak of it. You pass it on to our children. Give them everything. Please don’t let me have done all of this for nothing.”)). In this moment, Skyler found a way to endorse all that Walt has done.
A Family Divided
Akin to the bathroom scene between Walt and Skyler, the inevitable meeting between Skyler and Hank is now a momentous piece of Breaking Bad history. Skyler could have cracked, poured her heavy heart out to a man who was so desperately acting as the shoulder for her to cry upon. But she gave him nothing. Hank, initially, believed he was there to save Skyler. He figured she would be relieved that finally someone knew of her suffering. But, then Hank clumsily championed his own interests above all else. Hank’s lack of finesse in handling Skyler highlighted his desperation. And Skyler, channeling her unforgettable “Shut up, Shut up, Shut up” moment from “Hazard Pay”, draws a thick line in the sand echoing “Am I under arrest?” for all to hear.
Last week we were there for Hank and Walt’s showdown, and this week we winced with pain while Marie confronted Skyler. With barely any words Skyler said so much. Each head nod was another blow to Marie’s gut, which boiled to the impending counter-slap ((Paralleling Hank slugging Walt.)). Marie finding out that Skyler has been complicit during the time Hank was shot was a critical tipping point. And, after a scuffle over young, innocent Holly – the literal embodiment of Skyler’s commitment her family – the Lambert sisters are now fiercely pitted against each other.
What is family? The idea of family has been warped illegible by Gilligan and the gang. “Hank is family,” Walt proclaimed to Saul. “Do you understand that?” But, the events of this episode proved that these family lines are blurred to the point that both the White’s and the Schrader’s are not fully sure what the word even means anymore.
Hiding in Plain Sight
I can still hear Gus’s delivery. His subdued, straight to the point, even-tone, as he tells Walt in the hospital Hank fights for his life in, that he “hides in plain sight, as you do.” Now, in a clever turn of events, all the money Walt has earned as an international kingpin too hides in the most mundane of places. The keys to millions just posted on the kitchen fridge like a child’s drawing. A lottery ticket with the numbers “34 59 20 106 36 52” ((The GPS coordinators that all those in the ABQ vicinity are searching out as we speak! And they would find themselves at Q Studios – where Breaking Bad is filmed.)), another pertinent example of a simple object meaning so much in Breaking Bad, is the treasure map to all that Walt has worked for. Genius ((The producers decided to shoot this scene in the exact location that the pilot episode occurred, bringing things full circle. Walt buried his money to the sounds of Jose Larralde’s “Quimey Neuquen.”)).
Who knew that when we were introduced to the conscience-less creep that is the overly polite ((Todd esscorting Lydia through the minefield of corpses was a sight to see. What an odd couple!)) Todd, he would have had such a grand role in the coming events? And who knew that when he mentioned his uncle’s connections in passing, to attempt to save his job, that they would soon enough be accompanying Lydia, rocking Christian Louboutin heels, to a “Buried” meth lab to send Declan and his crew on a trip to Belize ((A tip of the hat to Michelle MacLaren’s direction in this scene. Presenting the massacre that unfolded through Lydia’s perspective, and only sonically, was brilliant.))? Lydia is neurotic. She is unpredictable, and she is a self-preservationist to the core. This makes her dangerous. And as expected her, along with Todd ((Who we found out has already cooked for Declan. Declan wasn’t impressed.)) and Co., are going to be major players in this final act. While this episode was centered upon an impassioned family feud, it was what happened in an undisclosed location in the desert that could have the largest impact on what unfolds next.
An Unlikely Partnership
Jesse doesn’t give a fuck. In fact, much more than not just caring, he apparently welcomes with open arms any punishment levied upon him no matter the costs. He seeks atonement for his sins, in any form, which makes him the ultimate wild card, and the ultimate asset to Hank.
When Jesse is arrested for littering ($), reckless driving, and loitering on a merry-go-round he is appropriately arrested. He is then interrogated by the two officers that are also the possible namesake’s of Saul’s anal polyps ((From “Face Off.”)), opening up a door of opportunity to Hank as he now another option than to disclose his findings to his superiors with hat in hand. Of course Hank and Jesse have a past, one rife with troubling moments. But they both now know the truth; that the problems that plagued them for the last few years were because of one man. They have a common enemy now ((Like Walt and Tio Salamanca once did!)). And they are both desperate. Hank needs to find a way to Walt. He needs evidence so that when he presents his case with the egg of his brother-in-law running a gargantuan meth business all over his face, he can at least be the man who caught him ((It is at this point that I chose to mention Huell and Kuby’s Scrooge McDuck moment Much like last week’s Star Trek rant, this hilarious scene perfectly broke the whirling tension of the weighty episode. Comic relief at its finest.)).
The unraveling is proving to be as intriguing, and as uncomfortable as promised ((I can almost still hear Holly wailing as she is wrestled from Marie’s arms.)). Through all the momentous, unforgettable, and sometimes gruesome moments that the show bestows upon us, it is the underlying layers of humanity that are so gripping. This week we struggled two sets of couples confronting their flaws, and their erroneous decisions, ones that were based on the love of those they care about most. These type of decisions, albeit made with the best of intentions, can lead us down the rabbit hole. And as the saying goes – The best laid plans, of mice and men, often go awry. It’s heavy stuff, and with only six episodes left, things are poised to get even heavier.