Follow the Season 5 TV Talk of Breaking Bad here.
Walt's not in the money business. He's not in the meth business. Walter White is in the empire business - which is to say, he's in the power business. That man craves power like a meth head craves the blue, and he will never stop cooking, killing, manipulating and intimidating until he's dead.
This week's episode opens a few hours after the train job of last week. I rather thought the episode would open immediately after Todd killed the kid - a 14-year-old named Drew Sharp, we learn - but instead we see the delayed aftermath in a gorgeously shot and edited, nearly dialogue-free cold open. Todd, Walt and Mike dispose of the body and the dirt bike while Jesse stands outside, smoking a cigarette in gunstruck silence. Until Todd walks out and makes the shockingly casual remark, "Shit happens," and Jesse hauls off and clocks him. Roll credits.
"Buyout" is an incredibly strong episode, written by Gennifer Hutchison (who also wrote episodes "I See You," "Cornered" and "Salud") and directed with an adroit hand by Colin Bucksey (director of previous episodes "Phoenix," "I See You" and "Bullet Points.") The episode begins with a bang and ends with a bang, and manages to juggle a handful of arcs effortlessly in between.
First, Walt and Mike vote to keep the morally disabled Todd close by so they can keep an eye on him, while Jesse can barely look him in the face except to punch him. It's telling that Todd calls Walt "Mr. White," as he is certain to become Walt's new surrogate son now that Jesse has expressed interest in leaving the game. Regardless of what happens with the methylamine, it's unlikely that Walt will ever forgive Jesse for wanting out, even if Jesse did save Walt's skull from Mike's bullet. We only spend a few minutes with Todd this week, but it's enough to demonstrate that he is motivated, eager and potentially insane. Todd is the tarantula in the jar - seemingly harmless when kept in check, but truly dangerous when left to his own devices.
We also spend a few minutes with Marie and Skyler this week, as Marie spills the beans that she knows about Skyler's "affair" with Ted Beneke. Marie is quite sweet about it, pointing out that "Ted is a really good-looking man. You're only human!" and while that's true, the damage is done. Skyler is livid that Walt blamed their marital problems on her relatively innocent infidelity. Poor Jesse is forced to sit through the most gloriously awkward White Family Dinner yet, as Skyler polishes off a bottle of chardonnay by herself and Walt glares silently. Not even Jesse's most polite yummy noises and small talk can cut that tension.
Walt confirms what we all suspected - he screwed himself out of the Grey Matter billions, and therefore, he will ride this meth horse until it's dead. He has suffered and bled for this business, and there is no way his original goal of $737,000 is going to satisfy him now; not even $5 million will keep Walt happy. So when Jesse and Mike try to sell off the methylamine so they can buy out of the meth business, Walt's not having it. And in a rare show of carelessness from Mike (so rare that it's actually unbelievable), he just ties Walt to a heater and heads to a meeting with Saul and the DEA. He comes back to an empty room where the tank of methylamine used to be, and he almost kills Walt - until Jesse tells him Walt's come up with a plan that will double their profits and still get them out of the business. As Walt says, "Everybody wins."
What could this plan conceivably be? What solution can Walt have reached that allows for the fact that gentle Jesse cannot stand to see one more person killed? How will he fix the fact that in between Miracle Whip bitching sessions, Hank and Gomez are hanging onto Mike's every step? What is this miraculous plan that will guarantee the safety of his family? Strange children aren't even safe around Walt - Brock, Drew, Tomás - so how much more susceptible are his own children to the danger of this business? And how can Jesse possibly still trust Walt following his carefree whistling only moments after he said he can't sleep from the guilt of Drew's death?
Well, after yet another cliffhanger in this wire-tight season, I guess we'll find out next week.