I was going to hold off on covering the next episode of Breaking Bad, “Buyout” until we were a bit closer to air time, but I just can’t contain myself. It’s simply that good.
The ending of 5.05, “Dead Freight”, was a game changer on many levels. We know that Jesse (Aaron Paul) has a weakness for children, so when Todd pulled that trigger the game changed. In true Breaking Bad fashion, though, the game does not simply change on the flick of a switch, the change comes through a converging pattern of story geometry that eventually ends in a self solving equation with only one answer: the business must end. If you think this is a spoiler, prepare yourself — things coming to an end was an eventuality from the beginning, with “Buyout” you get the first salient glimpses of the Breaking Bad endgame. I think.
The new business arrangement always felt too easy to be the beginning of the end for Walter White. Squabbles aside, Jesse, Mike, and Walt were making it happen, and navigating every obstacle like masters of their own destinies. Yes there are still some very volatile elements lurking out there, Lydia, The Nine, Skyler, and of course Hank, yet all of these present like a diffuse cloud of minor threats. Hank, of course, could be a major threat, and could be the reason Walt went underground, I’m not dismissing him at all; as a matter of fact, I think a tear in Walter’s familial cloth would be a more compelling reason for Heisenberg to vanish—but I suspect it will be a combination of a familial breakdown, and the fulfillment of Walt’s Icarus like flight towards the sun, and “Buyout” presents what I suspect is the beginnings of that flight plan.
“Buyout” truly is a game changer in every sense of the word. The season has cried out for a Gus Fring replacement, and we finally catch sight of him. We also get a compact reminder and clarification of what drives Walt’s hubris, it’s a revelation that works entirely from what we know and is scattered across the episode in bits of subtle conversational clues. It’s an explanation that will either elicit an aha, or an I knew it all along, but will most definitely no result in a ho hum.
Perhaps the best part of the episode though, is the comedy. I’ve been doing a re-watch of the series and taking note of how it began as pretty much a dark comedy, and transformed into this very heavy set and brooding drama. I’ll admit, it made me a bit nostalgic. Breaking Bad is still funny from time to time, but the more protracted comedy set pieces are virtually non-existent. One of the best of these was when Skyler confronted Jesse when she thought Walt had been buying pot from him. Part of what makes this such a classic moment in Breaking Bad is the very fact that Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn virtually never shared the screen again outside of this scene. “Buyout” ends that drought with an extended piece of comedy that is as difficult to watch as it is hilarious. A much needed respite from such dark times.
Breaking Bad “Buyout” Airs Sunday on AMC at 10PM.