“Buyout” (05.06, 2012)
Written by Gennifer Hutchison (Previous Episodes: “I See You,” “Cornered,” and “Salud”)
Directed by Colin Bucksey (Previous Episodes: “Phoenix,” “I See You,” and “Bullet Points”)
Colin Bucksey, another veteran Breaking Bad director, follows first-timer George Mastras here, and the difference is stark. It’s a beautiful episode, filled with thoughtful, careful textures and colors. The opening scene, watching Heisenberg, Mike, Todd, and Jesse clean up after its mess with another set of hydrofluoric acid barrels, is a masterpiece of direction. It’s done in silence, with only a score, and with a dusty, dry look in the low-key high contrast lighting. Everything emphasizes how much this scene is something these people have all gotten used to and how often we’ve all seen it before. Heisenberg keeps telling Jesse, “This time it will be different,” and yet every time they end up melting bodies down in hydrofluoric acid again, and it’s Bucksey’s choices that really emphasize this point so strongly. The rest of the episode remains in the Breaking Bad tradition, absolutely beautiful.
This half season’s largest plot has been the battle between Heisenberg and Mike for control of the partnership and of Jesse. It’s been a cold war to this point, but now we have an actual skirmish, even if it’s not the violent final altercation we still have to expect is coming. In the aftermath of Todd’s shooting the child witness to the train heist, we see Jesse unsurprisingly angry and disgusted at Todd and filled with the self-loathing that has so often overtaken him until Mike offers him a life raft by saying, “I’m out” and negotiating a sale of his and Jesse’s portion of the methylamine.
Heisenberg of course doesn’t want out, drawing an analogy between selling the methylamine and the buyout he accepted from Gray Matter when Jesse calls him on it. While it makes some logical and narrative sense for him to explain this to Jesse, it’s also a rather heavy-handed moment by this show’s standards. Unsurprisingly, the writers throw a monkey wrench into Mike’s plans, but Mike and Jesse appear to be able to get out of it anyway when Mike locks a reluctant Heisenberg in the Vamonos Pest office while he and Jesse go to negotiate the deal. But, in a scene reminiscent of many of the science-based solutions Walt found to problems back in the first season, he MacGyvers his way out and hides the methylamine.
Mike is about to kill Heisenberg in response when Jesse talks him out of it, having heard Heisenberg’s “good plan” that goes unexplained for this episode. It looks like, in the end, Heisenberg’s ability to manipulate Jesse is going to win out again. One wonders when we will see their partnership break, which I expect must happen soon in order to set up the series ending standoff between them.
There isn’t a lot to say about this episode because it’s rather straightforward. Even the awkward Heisenberg/Skyler/Jesse dinner is exactly what one would expect from a dinner among these three (though it’s also a comic showcase for Aaron Paul). It’s not really a bad episode, but it’s unsurprising and not very deep.
- The confrontation between Saul and Hank was great—it was pretty much the only time this season we’ve gotten to see Saul work his magic properly.
- I like how the buyer seems to think it’s impossible for the third partner to get more methylamine and cook more.
- “You asked whether we’re in the money business or the meth business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” What on earth is that supposed to mean? Isn’t that really just another way of saying, “The meth business?”
- Even the consummate professional Mike cannot escape Heisenberg. He said that he could see that Heisenberg was a ticking time bomb, and yet here he is.