Monday, August 20, 2012

Breaking Bad Review - Season Five, Episode Six: Buyout

By Geddy Cahoon

Hey everybody, Geddy Cahoon here once again to prattle on for an obscene length of time about the most recent episode of AMC's drug drama Breaking Bad.

Today I'll be looking at season five, episode six - Buyout. It was what I like to call a "stepping stone" episode - It basically consisted of characters talking. There were no big scenes or fantastic set pieces. An episode like this exists pretty much to set up a new storyline. Breaking Bad often has multiple episodes similar to this per season. It's a show that paces itself.

However, this classification is by no means a bad thing. Buyout ended up being a really fantastic episode, featuring some haunting, effective, and meaningful scenes as well as furthering Vince Gilligan's quest to make the viewer loathe Walter White.

Hit the jump to hear my extended thoughts on Buyout!

This week's cold opening was almost completely silent. It featured Mike, Walter and Todd disassembling the child from Dead Freight's dirt bike and dissolving it in acid. Todd then uncovers the child's body, which had also been transported, and it is implied that the trio are then going to dissolve the corpse.

Outside, Jesse smokes a cigarette and Todd appears next to him and begins making small talk. He quips, "Shit happens, right?", causing Jesse to punch him in the face.

I hesitate to say I "liked" this cold opening. I will say that it was highly effective in that it really disturbed me. Just the idea of Walt and Mike dissolving a child's corpse... Ugh. I think the full extent of the criminality of Walter and Mike has finally been brought to light - Oh sure, we've seen Walter do some crazy stuff before, obviously. But Mike was always sort of implied to have some sort of twisted moral code. I mean it's obvious that in the past he has hurt people who could have necessarily been considered "innocent," but to actually to see him involved in covering up the death of a child... Once again, ugh. Jesse hitting Todd was beyond gratifying, but it was also upsetting because one punch doesn't fix things or make anything right - And Jesse was powerless to do anything but hit him.

As I stated, I didn't "like" this opening per se, but it was extraordinarily effective. If anybody - ANYBODY - is still "rooting" for Walter at this point, I hope they're reconsidering. I would always say that Mike is my favorite character, but I'm currently rethinking that at the moment. Killing the kid was insanely brutal, but this scene, with the implication of the corpse dissolving, may be the grisliest/most horrific thing we've ever seen on BB.

Back from commercial, Todd is attempting to defend himself to Walt, Jesse and Mike. He explains that he couldn't risk the idea of this kid telling anyone what he saw, and that he didn't want to do it. He was "thinking on his feet." Walter asks him to step out, and the trio discusses the situation. Walt basically says he agrees with what Todd did without actually saying that, and he and Mike opt to allow him to stay in the business. Mike tells Todd he's still in, and Todd returns to his car, where it is revealed that he kept the child's tarantula. The scene ends with Todd smirking at the arachnid.

I really loved this scene. Over the past week, a small part of me was worried that Todd's character was going to become "evil" or something - That he was going to have no remorse over what he did, and it was going to be really corny. Thankfully, when I worry about BB, I'm usually wrong. 

By having Todd actually try to justify himself and while not necessarily be remorseful for what he did, still acknowledge that what he did was awful, they really added a layer of intrigue and even demented understanding to the character. Of course, what he did could never be considered the right thing, but by having him say that that's what he thinks, another layer has been added to the character. He's not just some bad guy who shoots kids. He's a guy that did a deplorable thing because he thought it was the right thing to do. There's someone else on this show who's been known to do that from time to time...

Oh right, him.

The implication that Walter agrees with what Todd did says so many things - Like I keep repeating, I hope most fans are finally at a point where they can stop rooting for the guy. It's scary to think that if Todd hadn't "thought on his feet," that Walt would've jumped to the same murderous conclusion.

Last week I complained when Jesse was literally in between the arguing Mike and Walter. This week it happened again, but I thought it really worked here. Because this time, Jesse was in the middle of Mike and Walter agreeing about covering up the death of a child and moving on with their lives. It was horrific and I liked how it was a little different than the whole "Jesse in between fighting Mike and Walt" we've been seeing. I enjoyed this scene a great deal, and Mike and Walter continue to give me the skeeves. I also loved, when Jesse was complaining about Todd, that he called him "Ricky Hitler." Oh, and Todd looking at the tarantula was just... Strange. Don't really know what to think of it.

Up next, we saw Gomez and an unnamed agent trailing Mike at the park with his granddaughter. Mike writes a note and leaves it under a garbage can before leaving. I leaned over the my brother and said "The note is going to say 'Fuck you,' or something." Gomez assumes the note is for a fellow criminal later on, so he runs up and grabs it once Mike is gone. Sure enough it says "Fuck you."

Couldn't find a photo of Mike's note; here's Walter saying the same to Gretchen.

Mike is then seen at his house, listening to his surveillance tapes of Hank's office. Hank basically says they'll stay on Mike until he slips up - Mike scoffs to himself at the idea.

I enjoyed this little sequence. It was a tad bit predictable - I obviously called Mike's note. But it was still pretty entertaining. The little snippets of dialogue he heard while listening to the bug in Hank's office where entertaining as well. I also liked the length of this sequence - It ran just the right amount of time. It didn't drag on, but it continued to establish that this time around, Mike might have an enemy that he just can't beat. His laugh to himself at the end was simultaneously one of sarcasm, but also defeat. Mike is against a wall.

Marie and Skyler are then seen talking at Marie's. Skyler gets very emotional and says she misses the kids, but that they aren't safe in the White residence. Marie says Skyler can talk to her, but assumes that she is upset about the affair with Ted. Marie tells her she can't keep beating herself up about the affair, and Skyler goes from upset to enraged. She can't believe that Walter told Skyler about Ted.

"Dafuq did you just say?"

I love Skyler. I noted last week that she and Walt are to a point in their fractured relationship where they kind of don't even take the situation seriously - They meet each other with little sarcastic barbs and things of that nature. Skyler's reaction to another one of Walter's emotional manipulations was pretty priceless. I mean, I'm sure it "hurt" Skyler, but she's at a point where when Walt does something ostensibly hurtful, she kind of just reacts with anger/annoyance. Walt continues to freely manipulate and bend the emotions of the members of his family to his will. Walter Jr. was conspicuously absent from this scene and the episode as a whole, oddly. This was an effective scene, but Skyler's best scene in the episode would come later.

We then cut to Walt and Jesse watching TV during a cook. They're watching TV, and a news report detailing a missing child flashes on. Upon hearing a name and the fact that his parents are looking for him, Jesse begins to break down. Walt clicks the TV off and says he'll finish the cook up and to go on home. Jesse gets a call from someone and then exits with a bewildered look on his face, as he notices Walter quite literally whistling while he works.

This scene was both heartbreaking and pretty terrifying. I've noted before the fact that Jesse loves Walter like a father in some twisted way as well as the fact that Walter may not reciprocate those feelings at this point in time. Both of those facts are astonishingly upsetting. 

But now, Jesse is starting to see the cracks in Walter's shell. The fact that he can move on so quickly and casually after being complicit in such an abhorrent thing is really shocking to Jesse. I think now he's realizing what a monster Walter is. Or at least suspecting it. And Walter whistling inside the hazmat suit was quite eerie. I feel like I'm repeating myself with my opinion of Walt at this point. Everything kind of begins coming to a head in this episode, as we see a few scenes from now.

Back at the Vamonos headquarters, Mike informs Walter that both he and Jesse are out. Mike because the cops are tailing him, and Jesse because he's sick of the death and bloodshed surrounding him. Mike wants to sell the methylamine to a buyer to the tune of 15 million dollars. Walt declines, wanting to cook up the methylamine and make closer to 300 million dollars. At one point Jesse exasperatedly asks Walter, "Are we in the meth business, or the money business?" He also notes that 5 million dollars is more money than he has ever seen. But 5 million each isn't enough for Walter.

First off, Walter's greed is absolutely flooring. 5 million dollars isn't enough. But does that really surprise anyone? He's a greedy bastard. What really got to me about this scene was Mike's reason for departure from the business - It had nothing to do with the dead kid or any of the death surrounding the trio. Again it shouldn't necessarily be surprising that the contract killer is okay with a little killing, but it really speaks volumes about the true selfishness of his character. 

What if the kid killed had been his granddaughter, Kaylee? He would've stopped at nothing to get revenge. But he didn't know that kid, and disposing of Todd would be "bad for business," so he does nothing. The selfishness of Mike isn't really dwelled on and played much more subtly than the in-your-face transformation of Walter, but it's something I really took away from the episode because I love(d?) Mike so much.

Mike and Jesse are seen meeting with a distributor, Declan, offering to sell him 665 gallons of methylamine for something to the tune of 10 million dollars. Declan refuses upon the realization that some of the methylamine is still in their partner's possession - He wants Blue Sky off the streets and out of competition. Because the sale can only go through if Walter agrees to thrown in his share of the methylamine, Jesse visits him at home to try to convince him. Walter tells him he can't do it because his selling of his share of Grey Mater still haunts him - He wants the amount of money, the empire he deserves.

Suddenly, Skyler enters, and Jesse excuses himself. Walter insists that the three share a dinner together. The dinner is as painful as predicted, with Jesse making small talk and attempting to ease the tension, and Skyler rebuffing him. Skyler then mentions the affair with Ted and leaves the table. Walter tells Jesse that his wife and family are gone, and that Skyler is literally waiting for him to die. The business is all he has left.

Wow. What a scene. I'm almost speechless. First off, Walt's speech to Jesse was fantastic. We still don't know the full story behind the Grey Matter fallout (I suspect it had something to do with Gretchen and Elliot's relationship), and the fact that Walter check the company's net worth each week is something of a zenith for Walt's pathetic-ness. I also loved how Walt's story mimicked Mike's tale from Half Measures - "I took a buyout, Jesse." Walt was sitting in the same way, the camera was angled in a similar way, the episode is even titled in a similar way. As Mike's speech is arguably my favorite scene from the series, I really loved the parallels between the two.

As great/pathetic as Walt's speech was, the dinner scene was insane. It was the final mixing of five years worth of storylines. Five years worth of Walter leading two double lives. Well it isn't a double life anymore, and what better way to show it than dinner? I always forget that Skyler and Jesse have met before. But to see them meet again, after everything that's happened, was special in a twisted way. This scene exuded tension and importance.

Finally, we got to see Walt play the victim once again to the caring Jesse. The business is all Walt has because he's backed himself into that situation. But Jesse still cares about him regardless of what he does, and of course respects him enough to take his version of events at face value.

At first, I thought Walt was angry about his situation and trying to hurt Skyler with this dinner out of spite. But then it became apparent that this scene was one last power play for Jesse's fragile emotional being. Walt sees Jesse as someone that can be used to further his goals, and everyone else is a means to an end as well. This was a powerful, devastating scene. As I said, both of Walt's lives finally mingled and the results were as tense and heartbreaking as you would think.

Walter then rushes to Vamonos Pest, hoping to steal the methylamine before Mike can sell it. Mike has anticipated his arrival, and is waiting with a gun in hand. He literally sits with Walter all night, but then notes that he has an appointment to make. He ties Walter to a radiator and makes his exit. Walter attempts to break open a coffee pot to cut himself loose with the glass, but instead opts to rip apart an extension cord, and then turn it back on, creating enough heat to melt the plastic while severely burning his wrist. Walter escapes, and we end scene.

Well that was fucking crazy. I mean, his wrist was literally on fire. Seriously I don't have much else to say here. It was a great scene, but it pretty much spoke for itself. Oh I also loved Mike's line "I have never seen someone work so hard NOT to make 5 million dollars." One last thing: The way Mike told Walter "Sorry" after tying him up sounded highly genuine. It didn't sound sarcastic or spiteful - It was as if Mike really did feel bad about tying Walter up, which makes no sense if you look at the relationship of the two characters. Maybe I heard it wrong or something, but it seemed a tad off to me. 

Afterwards, we see Mike is at the DEA headquarters with his lawyer, and the final few minutes of this episode mark the return of Saul!


Anyways, Saul and Mike are at the DEA office basically filing for a restraining order due to the surveillance on Mike. Since the surveillance is off the books, Saul can argue that it's technically stalking. After a pretty funny dialogue exchange, Mike and Saul leave the station, then sit in Saul's car listening on Mike's laptop to Hank and Gomez agree to lay off Mike for a while. Saul notes that his restraining order won't hold up, and that Mike has 24 hours to do whatever he needs to do.

Mike returns to Vamonos to see the methylamine gone, and immediately stick a gun in Walter's face. Jesse says that Walt has a plan of action and that if this plan works, Mike will still get his money. Mike asks Walter if this is true. Walt simply says "Everybody wins." and the episode ends.

What a hook. It was nice to see Saul back, and it'll be nice to not have to worry about the DEA trailing Mike in the next episode. There's not a ton to say about this ending because it served mostly to set up next week's episode. It was a pretty fantastic ending regardless.


This episode was fantastic. There's really not a ton else to say here. It consisted mostly of dialogue, and all of that dialogue was fantastic. It raised some frightening implications about Mike, as well as really raising awareness of what a bastard Walt is. The dinner scene with Jesse and Skyler was absolutely amazing, one of the high points of the season so far, no doubt. The cold open and first scene of the episode were effective and highly disturbing, with the cold open possibly being the most disturbing scene we've ever witnessed on BB. I also loved the similarities between the speeches of Mike and Walter. Lydia was conspicuously absent from this episode, as was Walter Jr. But I don't think I have a single bad thing to say about this week's offering.

The cinematography was great, the visual symbolism used didn't bother me in the least, every actor was on the top of their game, and it gave us several candidates for best scene of the season, with Walter whistling to himself during the cook as well as the dinner scene. Plus, that hook at the end. Like I said, everything kind of began to come to a head in this episode. The story is picking up, and with two episodes left, I'm highly eager to see what's going to go wrong for Walter and company this time. I can't wait for next week's episode, and this week was a home run through and through. It's honestly worth a second watch.

That's it for this week! Be sure to leave a comment or like the NWC Facebook page to let us know what you thought. Also check out my weekly action figure reviewing column, The Figure Fraction, which is upated Tuesdays. Thanks for reading, and check back next week for more overly-verbose analyses of Breaking Bad!

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