Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

Lydia vs. Declan and Hank vs. Walt
Talking television.
Aug. 19 2013 9:00 AM

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

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Lydia’s Louboutins stand up tall against the hobnail boots of her enemies.

Skyler White (Anna Gunn) in Breaking Bad.
Anna Gunn as Skyler White in Breaking Bad

Photo by Ursula Coyote/AMC

I don’t know if Vince Gilligan wanted us to ponder the over/under on Hank achieving his dream of being the man to catch Heisenberg, but this episode, “Buried,” was all about what lies below.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

We saw Walt stashing his money in a hole in the ground, with his memory the only guardian of its location, and Declan’s underground bunker of a meth lab falling into the hands of Lydia, Todd, and his uncle’s gang. We also saw a couple of meatheads draping themselves over a block of cash, when Huell and Saul’s redheaded henchman emulated Jay Z and planked on a million. (Their failure to boost the cash seems like a dumb move, though. Sure, Walt hit 10 guys in jail within a two-minute window, but a pile of money that size—heck, even a corner of it—is a life-changing prize worth risking a run to Mexico for.)

I knew Todd’s Aryan Nation relatives would be back at some point—but I had no idea who’d open that hatch after the bullets stopped flying. Lydia impressed me. When I saw her heels and hose descend from the pickup truck, I reckoned Declan would have her for lunch. How could those dainty Louboutins take on an army in hobnail boots? (And is it just me, or does every bad guy seem to be channeling Heisenberg? So many chrome domes and Van Dykes among the bad guys of greater Albuquerque.)

But just as Skyler stood her ground in the face of desperate appeals from her federal agent brother-in-law and her emotionally wrecked sister, Lydia stood up to Declan and his gang. Her girliness is annoying—calling Declan’s lab “filthy” was sure to make him reference his mom—but she also happened to be right. The man had no standards. She brings him a method of cooking incredibly pure product, and instead of following protocol, he’s content to turn out mediocre meth because that’s all he needs to please the scabby Arizona tweakers who are his bread-and-butter. Off with his head!

I confess I don’t quite understand the economic benefit of producing primo meth. Is there really a massive markup for the supergood stuff? Are Czech tweakers really that more discerning than their American brethren? Nevertheless, I admire Lydia’s exactitude. She’s not willing to settle.

I’m not, however, impressed by Lydia’s refusal to look at the carnage she caused. There’s nothing new in that, of course. Breaking Bad has rarely focused on the blue meth’s body count. But we’re in a different phase now. For much of the episode, the camera stared into characters’ faces as they were confronted with the truths they’d long turned away from. It wasn’t just Walt’s sins and Skyler’s complicity that devastated Marie. Deep down she knew that the Whites’ stories of gambling sprees and breakups, nervous breakdowns and car-wash windfalls were fairy tales. After all, during their grim confrontation, Skyler didn’t say a word—Marie just had to open her eyes and accept what she’d always known.

Breaking Bad is always beautifully photographed, but a special round of applause for the witty shot at the top of the hour when Hank and Walt stared each other down outside Hank’s garage. They were like two twitchy-figured Wild West gunslingers dueling in the sun, but instead of six-shooters, Walt reached for his car keys and Hank for his garage-door opener.

I’ve got a bladder the size of a hot-water bottle,

June

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