If I had one concern about the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad before they aired, it was that the show would have to move too fast to reach its conclusion. Creator/showrunner Vince Gilligan noted in this preview that enough would happen in the final eight episodes to fill 20 episodes. His intention was likely to excite fans about just how much was in store, but it also made me wonder: would things feel rushed, and would the ending be less satisfying than it should have been?
Well, yes and no. A whole lot is, as promised, happening — so much so fast that I'm finding myself grateful for commercial breaks, otherwise I'm not sure I'd so much as catch my breath for the entire hour. That said, Sunday night's episode, "Buried," like "Blood Money" before it, was awesome. The White-Schrader war now has two more participants, Jesse's still a wreck, and there was another major development that I'm still recovering from — but the episode stops just short of feeling like too much, with just enough levity thrown in (most notably, Saul's lackeys Huell and Kuby lounging on the infamous pile of Walt's meth money). With that, the weekly question:
What was the worst thing Walter White did this week?
Honestly, Walt didn't have to crank up the sleaze meter nearly as high as he did last week when he lied to Jesse's agonizingly guilt-riddled face about not killing Mike. Given the fact that this week he buried millions upon millions of dollars in money he made from manufacturing a terrible drug in the middle of the desert (answering question No. 6 here), and then continued to cling to the idea that it would provide justification for his many unimaginably awful actions, that's saying something. Maybe the better question is ...
What was the worst thing Skyler White did this week?
She stuck by Walt. That's understandable to a degree, given how deep her involvement in Walt's crimes goes (a revelation that landed her a smack in the face from Marie — a bad couple of episodes for the White spouses' faces). Still, though, she had a chance to help Hank catch the bad guy — and quite possibly receive some legal leniency for her cooperation — and she declined. She's nowhere near as bad as Walt (despite some fans' misguided anger at everything she does), but she's bad, and she just willingly threw away what was likely her best shot at any kind of moral redemption.
It should be noted, though — Skyler might be bad, but the actress portraying her, Anna Gunn, was incredible throughout he episode, by turns achingly vulnerable and downright steely. And we haven't gotten a word in on arguably the night's most jaw-dropping sequence, which leads us to ...
Thoughts on the episode in general:
Holy crap, Lydia.
We knew this woman would stop at nothing to solve a problem (after all, killing all of Mike's guys in Season 5a was her idea), but at least then, she was looking at prison time if someone talked. Offing Declan and his crew? They weren't producing meth that met her standards, and wouldn't do what she wanted to fix it. She, essentially, killed a bunch of guys because they weren't making her enough money. That Lydia couldn't bear to look at the carnage she left in her wake doesn't change that this was as stone-cold a power move as anyone on Breaking Bad has ever pulled, and that's saying an awful lot.
Even before Todd and his neo-Nazi uncle showed up to blow everyone away, I wrote "Lydia has some serious balls" in my notes just for demanding to meet with (and then chiding) Declan. I was not prepared for what happened next. So what happens now? I assume Todd takes over the cook, just like Lydia wanted ... but I also can't imagine that Lydia's through trying to convince Walt to come back, and I wouldn't be shocked if some sort of apocalyptic showdown between the two is in the cards. And speaking of Todd: remember what a nice guy Jesse Plemons played on Friday Night Lights? Once these last eight episodes are over, I might not.
I should also mention "Buried"'s director/Breaking Bad executive producer Michelle MacLaren. Alan Sepinwall sums up her contributions on the episode here, but suffice to say: she is really, really good at what she does. And so, "Buried" reminds you over and over, is everyone else who works on this show.
Bonus: The Most Heartbreaking Jesse Pinkman Moment of the Week
Jesse was barely in this one, so I'll go with his utter despair in the park in the cold open. Honestly, though, I'm starting to wonder if I buy Jesse still being this broken up. Yeah, receiving his blood money crystallized in his mind all the awful things he's been a part of, and now he has Mike's death weighing on him too (even if he hasn't been explicitly told that it happened), but this is the worst we've ever seen Jesse suffer. Wouldn't we expect him to have been in an even worse state of mind right after Drew Sharp's murder? He was torn up, obviously, but not like this. If I have any over-arching complaint about the past two marvelous episodes, that would be it ... but there's still time to further flesh out Jesse's mental state. And even if it's not further fleshed out, if it's necessary to move the rest of the plot along, then overall, I'm okay with it.
Given, though, that Jesse had so little screen time this week, resulting in less material than usual for the heartbreaking Jesse moment, it's only fair if we have a...
Bonus Bonus: The Most Chilling Line Of The Week That Is Not At All Chilling If Presented Out Of Context
"I'll send you to Belize." No, Walt didn't say it like he really meant it, but given the number of people he's, ahem, sent to Belize throughout the show's run? Tread lightly, Saul.