Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 10 – “Buried”
This is an episode recap by Thought Pollution writers Colin Neagle and Liam Green. Spoiler alert, #dealwithit
This week’s episode, the tenth of the two-part final season, makes it clear that Walt vs. Hank is not a clear-cut case of good vs. bad, or even drug dealer vs. cop. It’s class warfare, a clash between desperate, lower-middle-class underachievers and their sensible, law-abiding, financially satisfied counterparts.
I’ve written in the past that Walt’s story is one of squandered success and the lengths some will go to reclaim it before their legacy is finalized. This explains why we justified Walt’s behavior: We wanted to see him succeed. What I hadn’t considered at the time was the flip side to Walt’s reckless, succeed-at-all-costs behavior.
There’s a special contempt for risk-takers in the American middle class, particularly for those who have families to provide for. There’s a sense that the risk takers look down on a middle-class life, that even though a 9-to-5 office job is plenty for their friends and family, it’s not good enough for them. Taking shortcuts to success means spitting in the face of everybody who doesn’t.
Walt and Skyler walked into their hard-luck, middle-class life seemingly against their will. We know Walt bailed on his startup when he ended up the odd-man-out in a love triangle with his co-founders. And when Walt and Skyler are shown in a flashback touring the house they eventually bought, Skyler mentions her aspirations as a creative writer. These are both risky ventures, commonly left behind by people who convince themselves that they’re comfortable with the job they initially took to pay the bills. After giving birth to Walter Jr., the Whites tried to put those aspirations behind them, accepting responsible local jobs with steady middle-class incomes that would ensure stability for their children.
Hank and Marie, on the other hand, approached their responsible careers intentionally. They set out to be successful in law enforcement and healthcare, they followed the rules to do so and they succeeded. They probably knew they’d never end up with a storage unit full of cash or a multi-billion-dollar biochem company, and they were fine with that. They would have enough and they would earn it by doing what they had wanted to do.
The difference is that settling for stability didn’t work out as the White family had planned. In the pilot episode, Walter Jr. complains “for the millionth, billionth time” that his parents still won’t buy a much-needed hot water heater. Later, Skyler reprimands Walt for using the wrong MasterCard to make a $15 purchase at Staples. About seventeen years later, that stability they pursued continues to evade them. Walter and Skyler gave up those dream jobs for nothing. In doing so, they failed their children. That’s why Skyler is so willing to stand by Walter, and, by extension, his massive pile of money.
In last week’s recap, I predicted Hank would turn the other cheek and let Heisenberg die with Walter. I was wrong, and that’s because I didn’t anticipate the bitterness in their new relationship. It’s interesting to note that Hank and Walter work in the same industry, and can both claim that without a high demand for street drugs, neither would have found their calling. Breaking Bad’s storyline even proves this. If Walt hadn’t ordered Jesse to murder Gale, Walt never would have suspected Gus Fring, the case that propelled Hank to his current position at the top. Hank has to realize this, and even acknowledged that his career will only last as long as he holds onto Walter’s secret.
Hank has every incentive not to turn Walt in to the DEA. But Hank has earned an honest living off the drug business, whereas Walt used it to take a shortcut. Even though he knows it’ll cost him everything he lives for, Hank tells Marie he can’t shake the prospect of being “the one who caught him.”
However, Hank still hasn’t come clean with his colleagues. He still has an important decision to make.
CRAZY-ASS THEORIES SECTION:
Colin: First and foremost, let’s talk about that amazing scene with Lydia and Todd. The timing of a murderous gang ambush was perfect in an episode weighed down in melancholy.
Why did it happen? We know Lydia was replacing Declan’s operation with Todd’s, but how is that going to fit into the storyline?
The simple guess here is that Todd doesn’t cut it as a meth cook, and Lydia, under pressure from Todd’s scary Aryan relatives, forces Walt back into the business. The Aryans are probably the most dangerous characters we’ve seen in Breaking Bad, and Walter is particularly vulnerable with Hank now trying to catch him red-handed. It’s possible that they drag Walter back into the meth business pretty much at gunpoint.
Liam: I wish I had a counter to that but it’s pretty on point. The only other enemies I could see coming at Walt are Lydia’s Czech Republic connections. But that’d be pretty unlikely – the whole point of the Czech business was keeping it as much out of Albuquerque as possible. And airfare is expensive, bruh.
Colin: We also need to talk about Jesse Pinkman. I think I laughed out loud when I saw him with the same two detectives who grilled him about the ricin. Genius.
But how will that conversation with Hank go down? Jesse is clearly fucked up. Despite that savage beating Hank laid on him months ago, he might actually be glad to see his former DEA adversary. I’m thinking Hank and Jesse decide to work together in secret. Hank clearly isn’t ready to give up his fancy new job at the DEA, and Jesse might be willing to work with him if it means he can bring Todd in for murdering Drew Sharp. Maybe it all comes together when Walt is forced to work with Todd again.
Obviously it won’t work out perfectly. This is Breaking Bad. There are theories going around that Walter kills Skyler at some point, based on Walter’s fake identity in that flash-forward scene at Denny’s, where he uses Skyler’s maiden name (Lambert). I don’t think Walt kills her, but it’s not far-fetched to think somebody else will. Maybe she gets killed by the Aryans. That would set Hank off into full-blown detective mode and simultaneously send Walt fleeing to New Hampshire.
Liam: I don’t doubt that Walt’s whole family might die, and Skyler probably has a higher chance of joining the show’s deceased than Holly or Walter Jr. It’d be reasonable fuel for a vengeful return from hiding, as would any real threat to Jesse.
Not sure how convinced I am that Jesse turns full-on rat. I know that the DEA could offer pretty intense witness protection services, but Walt could easily find him if he wanted to. Depends on who he’d be ratting, I guess – maybe just Todd? I think at end of day he has vestigial loyalties to Walt, even if they’re largely maintained by fear at this point.
Colin: You bring up a good point. Jesse probably doesn’t want to bring down Walt as much as he wants to clean his hands of the Drew Sharp murder. Maybe Hank grills him about Walt and Jesse mentions something about Drew Sharp. I bet Jesse would be willing to make a deal for Walt if it helps bring closure to the child murder he was tangentially involved in. Maybe he’ll agree to work with Walt, but back out when confronted by Walt and revert to his submissive role in that relationship. That’s probably when shit goes crazy with Walt and Hank.
Colin: We also need to acknowledge how impressive it is for Vince Gilligan to make two episodes without giving away anything close to a hint about what Walt ends up doing with that gun or the ricin. I am still baffled.
Liam: My guess is the ricin would be for Lydia, because I doubt any of the Aryans would be willing to sit down with Walt in a situation where the poison could be easily administered. Lydia is paranoid but also largely convinced that the violent end of the business won’t ever hit her directly, far as I can tell.
The gun is for anyone Walt needs to kill quickly – and, the way things are going, that might be quite a few dudes.