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Vinny Ginardi: For me, this was the first episode this season that I would consider good but not great (which is what separates Breaking Bad from other shows, even down episodes are of a high quality).
This episode, entitled “Buyout”, still had some great moments. The entire opening scene, where we see our gang dismantle and dispose of the dirtbike and then the young body in a familiar fashion (the use of hydroflouric acid), set a chill-inducing dark tone. We knew Jesse wasn’t happy with what resulted in the desert, but Aaron Paul’s spot on delivery in both the opening scene and in a later scene when Jesse was watching the news made it even more heartbreaking. Jesse has become the heart of the show because we’ve seen how much he’s grown over these five seasons as he has developed into the character that reacts to serious situations the same way most of us feel we would. The death of a young boy would trouble us, as it does Jesse, so it hurts to see him in pain.
Which is why my big problem with this episode was how quickly Jesse seemed to get over the boy’s death. Yes, I know we’ve been down this road with Jesse before and that there were other pressing matters, but I expected this to hover over him like a dark cloud for numerous episodes. By the end of the episode, the death of the boy seemed to be an afterthought.
This was sort of a transition episode for Breaking Bad, but it appears to have set up for an exciting finish to Season 5, Act I.
Mike Aurigemma: The opening scene was perfection and something that has become a regular occurrence for Breaking Bad. To watch that whole interaction between all four of them was amazing and was a situation where Walt was able to get his way over what Jesse wanted. This has clearly become a common theme in the show and once again showed how much power Walt had.
I do think that Jesse did get over it a little too quickly as things started to shift towards him worrying about getting out of the business. But I think him trying to get out of the business was still because of what he saw happen to the little kid so it was not as if he completely got over it by the end of the episode.
One of my favorite scenes of this episode and maybe one of favorite for Breaking Bad in general was the dinner scene between Walt, Jesse and Skylar. It was so awkward, but so perfect all at the same time that I just could not look away from the television at all. This also came right after the amazing exchange between Walt and Jesse when we clearly saw that Walt is looking to make this a huge business and empire as he called it. I think this once again will show where he is vulnerable and might lead to his eventual fall as his ego will get in the way.
Michael Cresci: I’m going to go the other way, Vinny. I thought this was one of the season’s best episodes right up there with last week’s “Dead Freight” and “Madrigal.” After last week’s catastrophically brilliant ending this week may have felt slower but I thought it was brilliant. On top of starting with that great cold open (I love how early in the show the acid in the tub highlighted how bad they were at this and now it’s a routine) we were treated to yet another scene to add to Breaking Bad‘s canon of amazing moments, the dinner. It also gave Skyler her best line ever, “Did you also tell him about my affair.”
First, though, I think we need to back up and discuss the Todd’s wonderful first few minutes. His logic was pretty flawless (look, you shouldn’t kill kids but if I were a murderous criminal I’d say that pulling the trigger was the right call) when arguing with them and he backed up the statement I made immediately after he shot Tarantula kid. “Todd is a company man.” You’ve gotta respect that right? Even if he is a little too happy about getting a new pet. Still it’s not worse than whistling “Lily of the Valley” immediately after lying to your partner and saying you can’t sleep. Either way it looks like Walt’s not the only crazy person, he may have someone to go into the “empire business” with.
VG: I’m right there with you on Todd. You mentioned last week how he’s exactly the type of person that Walt wants. He’s a “Yes” man who will be doing to take his orders and contribute in any way that his superiors see fit without any sort of an argument. Walt also realizes this, which is why he argued with the first two options considering Todd as he presented them (killing him and kicking him out of the group). As for Todd himself, there is still so much we don’t know about him. He was carrying a pistol to the heist and didn’t seem troubled at all about killing someone, especially about killing a young boy. That makes me think that he might have experience killing people. Also, why keep the tarantula? It reminded me of how Dexter (from Showtime’s Dexter) keeps drops of his victims blood as his trophies.
I want to throw a question for you guys now. Some people have complained that this season has contained too many unrealistic moments from the magnet scene in the premiere, to the idea of the train heist, to Walt escaping from the handcuffs. For me, the magnet scene was the only time I thought Breaking Bad might have crossed the line, as the other two played out realistically given the situations and characters involved. What are you guys’ thoughts?
MA: Breaking Bad may have tried a few things differently this year as far as pushing the line on what can actually be done, but I do not think it has gone too far. The main reason that I feel this way is Walt. He is a brainiac who knows how to handle so many different things and put them together to make exactly what he wants. He is after all the reason their business has a chance to become an empire. To me a lot of the things that have occurred in this show seem unbelievable to me, but that is because I do not know the first thing about chemicals. But Walt makes it all believable and I think it is actually a good thing that shows how he can use the knowledge he has and it will help him out in real world experiences. This is why even with the magnet instance I do not think that the show has gone over the top and into LOST territory by any means.
MC: I want to disagree to keep things interesting but I’m still worshiping at Vince Gilligan’s altar. I found the train heist to be thrilling partly because it felt so damn plausible.
Breaking Bad has never been a strictly “real” show like, say, The Wire. Part of what makes the show so great is that it embraces a slight magical realism which hangs over the whole show. The show crafts more memorable moments than any other because it’s willing to push the narrative to beautiful extremes that border on surreal. Think Walt running over the two drug dealers or Gus poisoning an entire cartel or even smaller moments like that episode that opened with a song. These moments are rooted in reality but they are the extremes of a storyteller who knows how to build towards dramatic moments and tinge them with a dash of epicness, even at the expense of pure reality. Maybe I’m just drinking the kool aid but if you ask me the writers have, once again, managed to build a season up slowly and brilliantly towards a disastrous finale. Breaking Bad is like a gourmet meal, no scabby microwave lasagna here.