Words: George Morahan
So the truth is out. All the major players in our tale now know that, upon learning of an inoperable cancer eating away at his lungs, Walter Hartwell White decided to start cooking meth amphetamine and has become the most feared and wanted man in New Mexico. We pick up where we left off, with Hank and Walt rushing to make their next move after their thrilling stand-off last week. They both phone Skyler; Hank reaches her first.
It's like they're team captains in PE, and Skyler is the best player available. And now that the cards are on the table, this game becomes a lot simpler. It's a question of which side you're on, but for Skyler it may all be too late. She agonised over her husband's monstrosity for the better part of three seasons before finally throwing her lot in with him. This opportunity Hank provides for her to take a stand has come too late.
'So much makes sense to me now: you jumping in the pool, sending us your kids - I get it, I just wished I'd seen it sooner. He's a monster', Hank declares. Skyler, of course, is deeply conflicted as ever: she has now come to terms with Walt, his wrongdoings and his money but the uneasiness remains. 'You're done being his victim.' Is she now his victim? Maybe before, but now she's a faithful accomplice.
Hank is quick to assume the best in Skyler, perhaps naively, even if she has been passed off as the show's faulty moral compass to this point. In the episode's best scene, Hank ramps up the emotional duress he puts on his sister-in-law, bringing Marie round to confront her.
Skyler squirming under her sister's inquisition is compelling viewing, and watching Marie's face drop when she asks, 'Skyler, did you know since before Hank was shot?' is just heart-breaking, but she's quick to give a fierce slap.
These two scenes with Hank and Marie really highlight how set Skyler is with this life. She admits to Walt later on that she can't remember the last time she was happy, but she is dedicated to maintaining the life she has now. She hardens upon picking up on Hank's desperation to put Heisenberg away, and her rebukes are punctuated with the seething resentment that has come to define the White family.
Later on, after Walt has moved his millions and returned home, Skyler seems almost detached from the situation, and speaks about Hank like she's a career criminal. 'The way Hank talks: he's got his suspicions, not much else', she says, and there you have it. As much as Walt is now Tony Montana, Skyler is Lady Macbeth. The character rightfully gets her share of flack, but this was just an all-out brilliant episode for Anna Gunn.
Speaking of Walt, this was a fairly light episode for him. He largely spent the episode digging holes and memorising coordinates but enabled Saul, Huwell and Bill Burr's Kuby to get some great lines in. The sight of Huwell and Kuby lying on Walt's big pile of money, dreaming of Mexico was priceless, and if Saul gets his own spin-off then they two of them should get to play out their end-of-Shawshank fantasies.
Meanwhile, Lydia, the world's nerviest would-be meth lord, has Todd and his neo-Nazi uncles take out Declan for not producing product of a high enough purity in a scene that decided to move the plot forward slightly while giving little away. It'll be interesting to see how the two newest cast members tie into Heisenberg's downfall and the show's endgame in general, but 'Buried' is another episode that takes place in the shadow of 'Gliding All Over' and Hank's realisation.
As with all early season episode it moves all the pieces into place, and it's now clear that Walt and Skyler are united on the other side of the chess board to Hank and Marie. Jesse bookends the episode, and he looks hollowed out. This is familiar territory for Aaron Paul after his post-Jane 'I'm the bad guy' phase and the sense of utter loss that came with killing Gale, but in tonight's final scene, he's just devoid of all mental function, shut down completely. It's as if the interrogation room's buzzing light bulb is the inside of his brain for all the life he shows; maybe it's easier than confronting the horror of his and his partner's.
After throwing his millions away up and down the streets of Albuquerque, Jesse is taken in for questioning, where Hank is waiting to make him his pawn. We'll see how successful he is. It's difficult to tell at this point who, if anyone, is going to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Belize, courtesy of Walter White. We'll inch close to finding out next week.
To watch Breaking Bad - Buried, click the following link: