Breaking Bad: “Buried” (5.10)

So, last episode, Jesse tossed a bunch of his money out a car window. Unsurprisingly, in this episode we find that no good deed goes unpunished.

[Oh, and also, last episode Drug Enforcement Agent Hank figured out his brother-in-law Walt is meth cook/drug kingpin Heisenberg. NO BIG DEAL.]



An old dude follows the stacks of money Jesse has tossed out the window…

 Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 4.28.51 PM


…eventually finding Jesse lying prone in a children’s playground.


Yeah, Merry Go Rounds! They represent, like, childhood innocence! About which I am brooding!

[Note: Also, it’s very beautiful the way these shots are suffused with green, no? It’s hard to screencap Breaking Bad because it’s shot in a way that literally as well as metaphorically very dark. But I appreciate the muted green color palette.]  

Anyway, Jesse is upset about a kid getting killed. Emotionally, right now, this is where he’s at: 



I feel a little callous mocking Jesse for being upset about child-murder. Hey, look, I am not defending the murder of children. Obviously, it’s wrong. (Watching Breaking Bad forces you to actually out-loud say these kind of things).

But what I am saying is that I’m a little sick of “innocent child dies” as a trope that’s been used in many, many TV shows/stories/movies as “THE ONE LINE THE BAD GUY CANNOT CROSS DESPITE ALL OF THE MURDERS AND CRUELTY”. It feels cheap. It feels like a too-obvious manipulation to get the audience where you need them to be.

And I think Breaking Bad could do better than that. Yes, it’s been established over many seasons that Jesse has a soft spot for kids, so it is in character that the murder of a kid would turn him against Walt/the business. But the truth is, as a viewer, we weren’t invested in the kid that was murdered (or the kid that was harmed last season, for that matter). It feels like a INSERT MORAL REASON FOR WALT TO BE BAD/JESSE GOOD HERE. Basically, like the show is saying “PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!! and expecting the debate to end there.

Plus, if I had a penny for every tough-guy character in every genre who was “morally compromised but for a soft spot for kids” or “bad guy revealed to be ultimately so because of cruelty to kids” I’d have…many pennies. Can we for once make it something other than the death of a kid that causes the moral epiphany? Just, like…once?

All these poor children dying so that tough-guy characters can reevaluate their lives! Jeez.  THINK OF THE CHILDREN. 


Walt and Hank have had their epic “I know you’re a drug dealer” confrontation. Walt leaves, and tries to get wife-person Skyler on the phone, but in an expertly tense moment this show excels at, Hank has beaten Walt to it. 

Hanks confronts Skyler at a diner. He tells her to bring the kids to his house, because, as previously established on this show, the kids are obviously totally and completely safe from all harm all the way away on the other side of the mid-sized city of Albuquerque with Hank, an enemy of the drug trade who’s related to a drug lord and who’s already been targeted and shot. Why is Hank’s house this magical zone of protection again? 

Skyler’s evasive and then freaked out, asking over and over again the one question that’s haunted her since the beginning on this thing: “Am I under arrest?”

AM I UNDER ARREST???????????


When it’s clear she’s not yet under arrest (her primary concern), instead of telling Hank all, as he clearly expects, she leaves, freaking the fuck out. 


very upset

She’s both more canny and more selfishly concerned than Hank expects, revealing to Hank that she knows more than he’d like to believe (and that she won’t be fooled into thinking that she has to spill everything). 

Meanwhile, lovably skeezy lawyer Saul sends Friendly Ginger and Large Black Guy to pick up Walt’s money and they indulge in an Indecent Proposal moment:

money bed

Apparently, the ginger is comedian Billy Burr. One reason this show is so good, I think, is the way it deploys skilled comic actors to tell a serious story. Moments like this really make the show, though I’m glad they don’t over-do them. Weeds, for example, became essentially ALL moments like this, and that was a problem.


Walt gets the money.  He buries the money (inside plastic drums) out in the desert in a sequence I have named “Lawrence of Arabia Walt”:

 Walt of Arabida


One shot looks a great deal like Walt’s “descent into hell” (subtle show)! He’s going down, down, down…where the iguanas play (in search of mythical kings)

 Walt of Arabia in hell!!!!

 Walt of Arabia in HELL!



Marie is not happy with Skyler.

I get Marie’s sense of betrayal (duh: her sister was married to/laundering money for a drug kingpin, thus screwing over Marie’s DEA husband, and also she didn’t tell Marie about it, which is A TOTAL VIOLATION OF THE SISTER CODE), but I also kept rooting for Skyler to shout, “HEY, THE DRUG MONEY PAID FOR YOUR FREAKIN’ DEA HUSBAND HANK’S PHYSICAL THERAPY! SEE HOW HANK IS WALKING WHEN HE IS DOING ALL OF THIS ACCUSING? I PAID FOR THAT!”

I mean, paying for Hank’s medical care was the reason Skyler got involved in spending Walt’s drug money in the first place. I’m not saying this was a good call, but still…hmmmm, although when I think about it, I guess it was indirectly Walt’s fault that Hank got shot in the first place, so maybe that’s not the best argument to lead with…But, still, call me ignoble, it’s the first thing I’d point out: “Hey, I understand that you feel betrayed, but I’ve been paying your medical bills.”



Drug money paid for Hank’s therapy now GIVE ME MY BABY!

But Skyler doesn’t say this; Marie is appalled and tells Hank to “get” Walt.

Of course, Hank realizes it’s not that simple: the moment he tells the DEA that a drug kingpin is his brother-in-law is the day his career dies.

I call this “infinite Hank pity and fear and raaaaaaaage”:


All of the best acting

Good acting is good 

Skyler and Walt confront each other at home. In a nice callback to the first season, Walt is in his underwear as he collapses while arguing with her:

 underwear walt

When he comes to, there is a strange moment of sort-of-tenderness from Skyler. Though he confirms that the cancer has come back and asks “Does that make you happy?”, he also seizes on the moment of her sympathy to make her promise that she’ll keep the money. He’ll turn himself in, as long as she keeps the money and shuts her mouth — making his actions mean something, or something

There are a lot of layers going in the scene, and I have to give Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn mucho credit (as always, duh): they play up all the conflicting emotional motivations.

I think that Walt, who has essentially been permanently playing various role this season, is a least almost being sincere here. I don’t think anyone buys anymore that he “did all this for his family” but at least there is some vestige of concern for leaving his family provided for now the jig might be up.

Skyler wonders if Hank can prove anything and if perhaps they could all just keep their mouths shut. Hmmmmm…


So, Cat from the awesome Scottish Lesbian show Lip Service, who is supposedly now some chick called “Lydia,” and totally blowing me away with her American accent…turns up at Walt’s Lame-o Competitor’s operation. She runs things now, and she’s got some complaints.


I guess Cat was really bummed about her lesbian relationship with Frankie not working out because she’s dissatisfied with Lame-o Competitor’s product (NOT AS GOOD AS WALT’S BEST METH EVER) and hires CHILD KILLER Todd (who I think of as “Guy From Friday Night Lights” — these crossover episodes are stellar!) to kill these inefficient dudes.

However, she covers her ears during the killings…

Hear no evil

Hear no evil


…and asks “not to see” the results, a whim that Todd CHILD KILLER (aka Guy From Friday Night Lights) indulges:



See no evil

I dunno. This whole scene makes me itch a little. On the one hand, I get that this character’s deal is she wants to feel “removed” or “above” the killing parts of the operation — to not think about it. On the other hand, it feels oddly a little sexist — we get a girl player and she can’t even bear to look at a dead body? Instead of struggling with it the way that male characters do, she just avoids the issue? “What a girl!”

But then I wonder if that’s part of the whole point…the men still treat her with a certain degree of circumspection (Dearly Departed Mike flat out called his reluctance to kill her “sexism”) because she’s a lady. But that circumspection is stupid, because she’s ambitious and has arranged for a lot of murders and should have to deal with that the same way any man should. Todd Guy CHILD KILLER aka Guy from Friday Night Light’s protection is silly and sexist, and I think maybe the show is pointing that out.


Jesse has apparently been missing the whole episode because he got dragged in to chat with the FBI about that tossing-lots-of-money-out-his-car-window because of course that’s what happens when you try and do something nice.

Hank persuades the FBI-powers-that-be to let him have a chat with Jesse ’cause they…have history. Yeah, an I-tried-to-beat-him-to-death kind of history. But we end with the suggestions of a Hank/Jesse alliance or at the very least confrontation, which is Super Intriguing.


I almost killed him once…we have a bond.

Then, of course, IT’S OVER BOO MORE PLEASE. The magic of Breaking Bad is no matter how many caveats I might have with the individual episode, the overall narrative is so strong and well-paced (and the performances so well-pitched), that I always end up wanting more.

And soon…it will be over forever, which is hard to contemplate.




Final thoughts

  • In many ways, this episode wasn’t about Walt or Jesse, the “main” characters. Jesse was barely in it, and Walt was largely reacting instead of taking action. Instead, it was more about Lydia, Skyler, Hank and Marie. I didn’t mind that so much — it’s necessary — but perhaps by necessity I wasn’t as invested.
  • The idea of a Hank/Jesse confrontation or alliance makes me salivate for the next episode, though. Excellent!
  • The episode seems to be hinting that Hank won’t go the route of owning up to what he knows and prosecuting straightforwardly (he admits it would end his DEA career; Walt’s assertion that Walt himself will be dead of cancer within six months has clearly resonated with Hank). Also, Skyler and Walt seem to be leaning towards not confessing and instead trying to get away with it. I understand why the show and the characters would make these choices, but I wonder more generally why shows that have characters do illegal stuff always go this way — towards the characters seeking “extra-legal” revenge on the one hand or avoiding jail time on the other. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a developed character face trial and jail? There’s plenty of opportunities for drama there. Why would Dexter, say, lose all its oomph if Dexter went on trial for murder and his former coworkers had to prosecute?  Shit like that fills up channels of Court TV  and true-life crime shows. Why not transport it to a drama where we already know the characters  — where their developed fictional life brutally intersects with the public world of justice and the media? It would be interesting to see Hank face his co-workers and see the state assemble a case against Walt and to see what the outside world made of the situation. At least to me. But…clearly not to a lot of people, and that’s not what this show is doing, so I should just let it go.
  • Many, many props to Laura Fraser (ie., Cat from Lip Service) on her American accent. Chick is from Glasgow, you guys.

  • As always, this episode sped by, but I can’t help impatiently looking forward to what’s coming…more “Flashforward” narrative, more Jesse, more Walt, more Saul.

Overall grade: B+