Breaking Bad – “Buried”: Skyler’s moment of truth

Breaking Bad: Season 5

“Buried”

Aired: August 19, 2013

Writer: Thomas Schnauz

Director: Michelle MacLaren

“Hank knows, that’s not exactly nothing.”

– Walter White

Skyler White has often been vilified by fans throughout Breaking Bad‘s run. (The “Fuck Skyler White” Facebook page currently has just shy of 30,000 likes.) Some of that has to do with Walt being the hero of our story, so any time Skyler stood up to him or wasn’t supportive of him early on made some viewers see her as a de facto villain. Some of it has to do with the whole Ted Beneke story arc, which didn’t really paint Skyler in the best light. And, if we’re all being totally honest here, some of it is something a bit more unsettling, like misogyny or societal double standards or a predisposition to not liking Anna Gunn or whatever baggage individual viewers are bringing with them into the show.

But however you felt about her in the past, this week we found out who Skyler truly is.

We’ve seen the toll all of this has taken on her. The horror she has felt watching a man she loved become someone she no longer even recognizes. The fear that at any moment the other shoe will drop and either Walt will be arrested or killed and the lives of her and her children will be thrown into chaos. She’s tried to kick Walt out, tried to save the kids and ultimately given in and just tried to help him navigate the land mines laid out before them as best she can.

That phone call from Hank was her salvation. It was her one “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Her one chance to rid herself of Walt and to save herself and her children. And, in that moment, she asked for a lawyer.

Hank was baffled. Walt, under Saul’s advice, was avoiding Skyler’s calls like the plague. And even as he lay barely conscious on the bathroom floor with Skyler there, dabbing his forehead with a cool washcloth and draping him in a quilt, he was convinced she had made a deal to save herself and the kids. But instead she surprised him by telling him that Hank has nothing on them and that the only option now is to stay the course and to say nothing. After five seasons, Skyler White has finally, without hesitation, broken bad.

I’ve had some issues with Skyler myself (mostly involving the aforementioned Ted Beneke stuff), but I, for one, am ridiculously excited to see what she does next. She’s had some really great ideas about funneling the cash through the car wash and giving the family a convincing cover story. Walt is a force of nature at this point, but he is often more reactive than proactive in protecting himself, so having Skyler there to help him figure out the next step could be invaluable.

Of course, we know that in nine months, the house will be abandoned, Walt will be outed as Heisenberg and he’ll be driving around with an assault rifle and a fake ID, so things are bound not to end well, Skyler or no Skyler.

Right now though, Skyler’s assessment of Hank’s case is dead on. He knows Walt is Heisenberg, but he doesn’t have enough to prove it. And as he tells Marie in a truly heartbreaking scene, when he brings this case into the office, he is done professionally. It will be the last thing he ever does for the DEA.

What struck me about that diner scene with Hank and Skyler was just how untactfully he handled it. Obviously, he has two opposing agendas, one is to take down Walt at any cost and the other is to protect his sister-in-law and her kids. But he can’t get himself out of DEA mode. He wants her to go on the record immediately. And he wrongfully assumes that Skyler is a terrified victim in all of this and that she’s helped Walt because she had no other choice. He comes at her like a cop instead of a concerned family member, which leads to her asking for a lawyer and shouting “Am I under arrest?” to get out of there.

And Skyler’s assessment of Hank having nothing concrete on Walt is dead on, but the final scene reveals one loose end still out there – Jesse Pinkman. I have trouble seeing Jesse turn rat – he’s (rightfully) afraid of Walt and he is too much of a criminal to break the unwritten code of silence. But he’s obviously at a very emotionally-vulnerable place. He’s got a heavy conscience and his eyes are finally open about what a monster his old partner truly is, so if he was ever going to crack, now would be the time.

Whatever happens next, the show continues to do a great job keeping the momentum going as we go through this final stretch of episodes.

And another thing …

  • The other loose end out there? Walter Jr. Obviously, he is completely clueless about his dad’s meth operation, but with him MIA this week, that gives Hank and Marie a chance to find him before Walt and Skyler do and to try to keep him at their place. I wonder whose breakfast table he’ll end up at next week.
  • I love that the show keeps picking up episodes right where the last one left off. Last week, we saw Hank exit the bathroom after his epiphany to start off the episode. This week, we see the aftermath of Jesse Pinkman’s money-flinging joy ride and we see Walt exit Hank’s garage. Obviously, with the episode ending with Hank in the interrogation room with Jesse, I expect this trend to continue into next week.
  • Oddly enough, holding Lydia’s hand and walking her through a sea of dead bodies while she covered her eyes was the sweetest thing Todd has ever done on the show.
  • This week’s reoccurring visual motif: overhead shots of characters lying on strange surfaces. We had Jesse lying on the merry-go-round, Walt lying on his bathroom floor and, my absolute favorite, Huell and Kuby laid out on top of Walt’s pile o’ money.

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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