Breaking Bad season 5 episode 6 review: Buyout

Review Paul Martinovic 21 Aug 2012 - 08:10

This week's Breaking Bad offers a chance for Walt to walk away from it all, but will he take it? Here's Paul's review of Buyout...

This review contains spoilers.

5.6 Buyout

Let’s talk about the Walter White legacy.

In many ways this is what the story of Breaking Bad is: the final legacy of Walter White, his parting gift to a world that misunderstood him. He’s known he’s been done for from the very beginning, just as much as he knows and has known that his life pre-meth trade was largely a boring slog characterized by monotony and failure, and that that, as things stand, is how he’s going to be remembered.

However, he also knows that while Walter White may die, Heisenberg can live forever – the legendary mischievous master chemist who led a DEA team run by his own brother-in-law a merry dance while he cooked a strain of meth so potent it ruffled the feathers of competitors a couple of states away. A folk anti-hero so renowned that Mexican mariachi bands write excitable ballads about him.

It’s made clear in Buyout, more explicitly than before, that the preservation of this legacy comes at the expense of absolutely everything else in his life. It explains how he finds it so easy to compartmentalize and justify the most despicable acts – acts like killing a kid, for instance.

Buyout’s cold opening was another little masterpiece, probably more disturbing than anything we’ve seen in the show so far, which obviously is saying something. Accompanied by the noise of a hazy, ambient soundtrack, Walt, Mike and Todd disassemble a junior dirt bike so it can be fit into one of Breaking Bad’s now infamous corpse-disposing barrels. As we watch them methodically go about their work, it’s difficult not to let your mind wander to the body of the child whose life they have just taken. Sure enough, once the dirt bike is dealt with, another barrel is cracked open while Todd searches for a tiny hand in the dirt. The camera mercifully cuts away, but thanks to past experience we already know what’s coming – another sad and repulsive end for a victim of Walt’s ongoing ego project.

It’s hard to see how this sordid little episode fits into Walt’s Heisenberg myth-making, but Walt’s weary reaction to Todd here suggests that he found it, at worst, distasteful. (Later, we got another hint that Jesse might possibly be slowly catching on to Walt’s bullshit, as we saw him disbelievingly listen to Walt’s cheery whistling just seconds after claiming he was having sleepless nights about the killing). Also, we found out a little bit more about Toddn – mainly, that he’s utterly bugnuts. You thought Walt lacked empathy? Compared to Todd, Walt’s like Noel Edmonds in a children’s hospital on Christmas Day.

Todd adds a new dimension to the Heisenberg operation – his creepy examination of the spider in the jar, which he appeared to take as a trophy from the killing, suggests that they might now have on board a psychopath who is also a genuine sadist. This is a different kind of evil to that of Walt’s epic hubris, or even Mike’s grim, amoral professionalism, and the introduction of such a rogue, unstable element to the team will have obvious consequences – however, if Walt needs an attack dog, Todd’s wave-first, kill-second attitude might come in handy.

As it turns out, Walt might need one very soon, as his other two allies have plans to cash out, with Jesse and Mike managing to finagle – rather conveniently at what appeared to be very short notice, it has to be said - that rarest of opportunities in the gangster world: a genuine get-out-of-jail-free card.

Selling off the methlymamine purloined from their recent highly-successful train robbery (child murder aside sshhh don’t ruin it) to a fellow meth kingpin from Phoenix will result in a cool $5 million each, and a chance for some new beginnings: Mike will be able to escape from his suffocating and dangerous DEA tail; and it’ll give Jesse a break from staring moist-eyed into a moral abyss every other week. One problem though – the draw of the blue meth is so strong that the competitor will only sell if it comes with a guarantee that Walt’s product is off the market for good. And that means Walt cashing in his chips.

Cashing in, checking out, clocking off – do these phrases remind you of anything? Quitting, sure, but what about death? As Walt reveals to Jesse in this episode, his empire – his legacy – is all he has left, and he’ll be damned if he hands it over lightly. We got some interesting details filled in on Walt’s backstory in this exchange, with some assumed things being confirmed: namely that Walt sold his stake in Gray Matter, the company he set up with ex-girlfriend Gretchen and best friend Elliott Schwarz, for $5000, after some ‘personal issues’ (still undisclosed). Gray Matter is now a billion dollar company, a fact Walt tortures himself with every week by checking their stock value religiously.

It’s clearly a key bit of character information about Walt  - a simmering regret that he can use as a crutch and/or excuse for not backing out of his criminal enterprises, and we all know how much he loves crutches/excuses.

Not only that, but it also sheds some light on why Walt seems to have given up on his family entirely. After leaving Gray Matter, Walt still managed to father two children and build a decent family life, even if he professionally flat-lined. The fact that he doesn’t view this as a success in its own right is something that becomes clearer with every episode, as he puts his family in more danger, as well as tearing them apart through his own outrageous behavior. Walt even goes as far as to pervert the most treasured family  tradition of all, the evening meal, by inviting his surrogate son Jesse over for The Most Awkward Dinner Of All Time. In a nice bit of dark humour, Jesse, who it’s been implied knows something about growing up in a dysfunctional environment, replies to Walt’s disclosure that his kids are gone with a pained, “Thank God.”

The irony is that when it first looked as though Walt would be caught, way back in the first episode, when he found himself barely dressed in the desert with a couple of hoods and a van full of meth, the first thing he did was to videotape himself apologizing to his family and distancing himself from his actions. Clearly, that was a very different Walter White from the one we see now – now, it’s hard to shake the possibility that he now actually wouldn’t mind being caught. He might even welcome it.

This is why I think that the worst possible ending for Walt personally – worse than his family getting wiped out, Hank killing him, him getting the death penalty, all the blockbuster scenarios you have in your head – would be for him to die alone and and quietly of cancer, known only to the world as an inoffensive ex-chemistry teacher, with nobody left either aware, alive or willing to identify him as the criminal mastermind he clearly wants to be recognized as.

So that legacy is all important. He tells Jesse that all he has left is his ‘empire’. He speaks of having literally bled to get the business to where it is, and Walt’s doesn’t feel that $5million made form selling methylamine would feel earned. Earlier on in the episode, Walt and Jesse watch a documentary on fake caviar, and that’s what the $5 million would be to Walt – impressive, but a meaningless facsimile of what he truly values as success.

That’s why selling for Walt isn’t an option – Heisenberg doesn’t cash out. That’s not part of his narrative. He’s still haning on for that Scarface ending, so he manages, as usual, to wrangle his way into a situation where he can launch another masterplan. It has to be said that Mike leaving Walt in a situation as easily escapable as the one that he did was unforgivably stupid, and felt like possibly a case of the writers joining the dots as quickly as possible, which is incredibly rare on a show as well-written as this. Also, was anybody else disappointed that Walt and Mike’s cosy night indoors together was reduced to a seconds-long time-lapse shot? I would have happily watched a whole episode of them pacing around the room exchanging sarcastic barbs and impassioned, tough-guy monologues with each other.

What Walt’s new masterplan will ultimately be is yet to be revealed – however, Walt’s final line (“Everybody wins”) has a grim, foreboding irony about it. Obviously, no-one’s going to win here except Walt – Mike and Jesse, who were so close to the light at the end of the tunnel, have someow been dragged back into Walt’s world once again, complete with its increasingly daring heists, escapes and near misses – the world that only he still seems to enjoy.

But they have to go along with it – there are bigger forces at work here. Like Skylar, they’ve been reduced to helpless bystanders and bit players in the legend of Heisenberg, as Walt powers on, fueled by his own raging at the dying of the light. They can and try and change his course, but ultimately they must know that resistance is futile – Walt is painting his masterpiece, and at this stage, he’s not going to let the brushes fuck it up.

Read Paul's review of last week's episode, Dead Freight, here.

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Nice review, as always.
I bet it turns out in the end that Walt is so pissed about Gretchen dumping him for Elliot that he buys a big machine gun and walks into Gray Matter with it like he's wanted to ever since he threw them the keys to his company and stormed off out of pride.
Skylar was never that important to him, probably.

Fantastic review, Paul- I look forward to these nearly as much as the episodes themselves! Very eloquent.

The scene at the dining table is one of the best scenes in the series (and that's saying a lot) predominantly for Jesse's face. Awesome work. Full credit.

I must say I was disappointed with this episode, specially after the 5 brilliant preceding episodes
First the cash-out: I just don't find Walter believable anymore. After the horror they have gone through, after shooting the kid, he still wants to go through it? even without his partners? when he can get 5million straight away? All the justifications of his empire are just not enough. What legacy? A bunch of corpses and more people addicted to the pure meth... like Jesse says, is it really something to be proud of? Ok, Walter has has lost the plot, but where is the interest in following a character that has lost rationality? And then the night with Mike and his escape. So lame, so lazy... used to the solid scripts of this series, this part of the episode was very disappointing. Boring and predictable. Still... that "everybody wins" with that crazy enigmatic grin of Walter keeps me hooked to the series as ever. Brilliant review Paul, always much appreciated.

it would have worked perfectly in first or the second season... not here, or well it didn't at all for me... I mean come on, Jesse is supposed to be on his way out of the whole business, and all shaken up by what happened to the kid and the prior events, and suddenly during the dinner scene he acts all goofy like when he was on meth? What the f...? And why does he have to comply with every request Walt makes? Jesse is heading to the door to get out, Walt goes "no, STAY!" and Jesse feels like he has to obey... Walt has turned into Tony Soprano overnight or what?
I understand the ego/power trip he's into, but after all they've been through together Jesse knows the man and where he's coming from, there's no reason why Jesse would suddenly fear him, it's not the first time Walt kills someone.
I loved every season so far, but i'm hugely disappointed with the fifth season, it used to be unpredictable and subtle, it's not anymore, the scene where he escapes from the plastic tie is ridiculous, why the hell mike would only attach ONE hand, with a plastic tie, come on, the guy is a professional... not to mention the fuses would have blown way before he could burn the plastic...

I strongly disagree. I know it's hard to believe but I really identify with Walt's yearning to leave a legacy and actually do something with his life, for good or for bad.

Perhaps Walt bought that shotgun to kill himself anonymously, like a dog, alone, in a car park somewhere. Without his family, etc.

I liked the family table scene because it's ironic that Jesse was persuading Walt to quit meth cooking a moment earlier. Skyler would totally be on his side if she knew what kind of person he was. He's, bizarrely, become the good influence on Walter. Sky and Jesse are both the voice of his conscience, which he has clearly stopped listening to.

Plus, Skyler would have recognised the moment she saw him that she had previously been deceived by Walt about their relationship (as his weed dealer, etc), but she just beyond caring, and doesn't mention it.

I was thinking that Walter's character was becoming less believable this season, but this episode brought everything together. Now after revealing his insecurities and demons following Grey Matter that has haunted him, I can appreciate the arc his character has gone through. Paul Martinovic hit it right on the spot with this analysis.
If you remember back in the first season, Walt nearly walked away after his and Jesse's botched first cook. It was such a long time ago, that I somehow thought Jesse convinced Walt to keep cooking. But after rewatching the episode, it was actually Walt who went to Jesse and convinced him to cook. Walt hadn't lost his "connection with humanity" by this point, but these were the early signs that his character was "breaking bad" more for himself than to help his family.
I believe the episode that was the "begining of the end" for Walt was when he raced home to get the cash to leave town and Skylar told him she gave the cash to Ted (the scene ending with Walt's eerie laughing under the floor boards).
The show's creator mentioned that whether or not people like Walt or cheer for him is not his concern as long as they are INTERESTED in him and keep watching. As far as the show becoming boring and predictable, I don't think ANYONE saw the ending of the previous episode going down like that.

Great review! Responding to some of the other posts, I believe Grey Matter's hq is in Santa Fe, so I'm not sure if Walt is out to kill them. Walt is in the "empire business" so I think he's out to leave a lasting impression on his environment. However, I am skeptical that even Walt has fully mapped out the direction he's going and what he plans to be. Perhaps we'll have a moment that Walt "wakes up" and gets brought back down to Earth, having an appreciation for what his actions have resulted in. Maybe it will take the death of someone close to him to snap him out of it?
As far as those who could potentially stop him, I think Hank is the only person (thus far) that has the creativity and intellectual capacity to stop Walt (at least on a detective level). Maybe he finds one of the bugs put in his office? Maybe seeing Skylar's fear of Walt (along with all that money) will light a bulb?
However, I also have a feeling we haven't seen the last of Gus Fring's posthumous influence. As I remember, the Mexican cartel was very wary of killing him (I think Don Eladio said something about knowing who "he is"). Maybe the next half of the season will give more insight into Gus and how he is so deep rooted, that even the Mexican cartel was afraid of killing him. Maybe we'll see a Chilean hit squad come after him/join sides with Mike or Jesse?
Definitely the best show out there. Rare combination of cinematographic artistry, a strong script, and a high enough budget to do all the things the writers want to do. The film industry in the US is declining, but shows like Breaking Bad are going to be the future of cinematic entertainment in this country.

I thought the dinner scene was great! You have to remember that even though these characters have been through a lot, it has been a year. Jesse is still Jesse (when he isn't glossy eyed and depressed).
Also remember he listens to Walt for a number of reasons. Walt got him into this business, has saved his life on multiple occasions, mastermined the killing of Gus Fring, and has consistantly pulled off high risk operation after high risk operation. In Jesse's perspective, Mike and Walt are the two "parental figures" in his life.
As far as Mike attaching one hand, they were apparently up all night. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for being exhausted and stressed ;)

You should remember the scene where Jesse breaks down when he finds the Ricin cigarette. I think it was a big turning point in his view of walt. I dont think jesse stayed because he was afraid.

@SM but the dinner scene happens *after* Jesse sees Walt whistling, when 2 minutes before he served him the sleepless nights BS.
I'm also annoyed at the way it's shoved down our throat that Walt is now BAAAAAD and EVIL at each and every episode... and in such unsubtle ways (i.e the scene where Walt meets Jesse's gf and sit next to the kid he poisoned, giving him the dark eye).

@jatap maybe, but to me it rang exactly the same way as it did when Saul wanted to pull out and Walt goes "you will when i decide so" and Saul almost pisses his pants... and don't get me started on Skylar going all terrorized ala Shelley Duvall in The shining when she used to be such a strong character.
And about that cigarette search scene... it found it completely incongruous, Walt offers to help him search for it, he's the one who points at the roomba, yet Jessie doesn't find it strange?

I don't have any problem with Walt being a bad guy, it's been headed that way since the series beginning, but imo the writing was significantly better in the previous seasons.
Oh well just my opinion :) (if they didn't raise the bar so high in the past seasons maybe i wouldn't be so picky :p)

I was wondering what Walt's idea of achieving success would be. What I got from his disclosure about Grey Matter is that he aims to be as successful as Gretchen and Elliot. That is, he aims to make 2bn...from a Meth empire. I'm not sure he's doing it primarily for fame, for his legacy: I think first and foremost it's a personal goal. But just take a moment to consider how utterly CRAZY that goal is! In fact, I'm inclined to think that Walt is no longer sane. And considering how long he's been brooding on this...he's not been sane for a while!

Maybe Gus was Chilean aristocracy or even perhaps attached to Pinochet, which would make him the equivalent of Adolph Eichmann hiding in South America after the war.

@mitrax I think the scene worked perfectly. Jesse has matured a lot and he is still distraught over the murder of the kid, but he has always been super awkward. Jesse isn't necessarily a strong person when you are comparing him to Walt or Skylar or Mike, and this is acted perfectly through his lack of eye contact in so many of the scenes. For him to not say anything at the table wouldn't have made sense for his character.

I liked this review and have read each of your reviews after I have watched each episode. The one thing I do disagree with in this particular review is the bit about bad writing in regards to Walters escape from being zip-tied to the radiator by Mike. Mike is at a breaking point by this episode: he has had the DEA following him since the death of Gustavo and has his mind on paying back the guys who took the fall for the fring empire, making sure he himself does not get caught, and taking care of the new meth business to top it off. Mike's sweating on the inside. He had to once again be put in the same room as Hank & Gomez, knowing full well that what he was doing would make them even more suspicious. I think he had probably done the zip-tying bit to many others before with great success and figured that Walter wouldn't be the first to escape it. But, as we have seen before, Mike has underestimated Walter before, the biggest mistake being the killing of Gus Fring, so its not out of character for Mike.

I totally agree with your insight on the "Chilean hit squad". After watching Season 4 again I wondered the same thing... why wouldn't the Mexican cartel kill Gus? Who was he, really? I hope they tie this in somehow. Maybe that's why we see Walt fleeing in episode 1 of season 5?

I thought the dinner scene itself was brilliant and jessie just came across as a nice guy who was in an awkward situation versus goofy or "on meth". Completely agree though that jessie could have just said "no im not staying" and also agree about mike tying up walt. Mike is too thorough to not do that right

If I may respond to some of your analysis:

- The shooting of the kid might have been "horror" to Jesse, but Walt had become virtually immune. After all, he is the one who poisoned Brock. By this point, he's found a way to justify everything for the sake of his business.
- The legacy that Walt desires is based around recognition of something extraordinary. Despite any of his monetary successes in the meth trade, he has yet to develop the kind of legacy that he wants. Heisenberg has the potential to be someone who will be remembered for many years to come, for better or worse. Money is meaningless to someone in Walt's position.
- I do agree with both you and the author about the hostage/escape scene. I suppose there was just too much to fit in one episode to spend more time with Walt and Mike together, but the tie-up situation is pretty unforgivable. Mike would have never been that careless. Yet, Walt's MacGyver-esque escape is still impressive, in true BB fashion.

Once again you have astounded me from the sheer quality of your reviews. I look forward only to the Den of Geek analysis, continually providing brilliant insight and giving me a further appreciation of the show and it's genius I wouldn't be able to do on my own. Your eye for detail is incredible, i don't know how you do it, this isn't merely a recap and review, its an examination of the inner intricacies and detail the show leaves for those smart enough to notice. Thank you for continually sharing this eye with us, week in and week out.

I think some of you are being a little too hard on Mike's faux pas in how he tied Walt and left him. Mike's got a lot on his mind in knowing the DEA is tailing his ass and knowing he's involved in the cold blooded murder of a child (Mike has a soft spot for kids and women). He was also up all night with Walt, and I'm assuming he didnt sleep, so that could have affected his judgement right there. And Hank did call it when he said sooner or later Mike was going to mess up, and that possibly wormed his way into Mike's head and stayed their subconsciously and maybe this was his "mess-up". Even so he should have used handcuffs at least; but who's to say Walt wouldnt have figured a way out of that scenario just the same, Walt being the clever science wiz that he is? Even so, the whole scene of his escape smacked of "Macguyver" to me. Hey people make mistakes, even Mike. It's not a deal breaker by any stretch as some people here seem to imply. I forgive Mike...and wild horses couldnt drag me away from getting off the ride because of his one slip-up in containing Walt. I mean really...

Would it be so hard to proofread these reviews?

Excellent review. Todd as a psychopath will indeed be interesting to watch. Will Heinsenberg have to pick between Abel and Cain?

That's why ego is a big hurdle in being truly successul and not merely have the trappings of success. I would like to see Walt understand this at one point. And then crash.

And Jesse keeps saying "Mr White" all along. Protection barrier?

Your review is well written, and imaginative. There is also mine, a bit shorter, but mine

Kudos on the review, as always. You do so much more than a mere re-cap of the facts. The walt-dying-alone thing is something I hadnt thought of but it really is fitting...although I can't imagine for a second that the show would end without Hank finding out...That just simply has to happen. But amazing review, really look forward to these each week.

I really felt the frustration watching this episode- if Walter takes the buyout he can walk away and everything is solved, but we quickly see that making Skyler happy and walking away is the last thing he cares about. he's going to rise up or go down in a blaze of glory. this is important- when we see that Walt no longer cares about anyone, we no longer care about him.

The murder of the boy opens a loose end that will be very important- the parents of that boy will need closure- and I think the moral beacon of the show- Jesse will give it to them, just as he will give closure to every loose end.

gotta say that bug in hank's office and them having the laptop where they can hear what hes saying is a bit of an annoying plot device and a bit unrealistic- would he always be saying the most importnat things in earshot of that bug? the hank tie-up to the heater was a touch weak too i agree but ike couldn't have really predicted that macgyver move from walt i suppose.

Noel Edmonds! HAHAHAHAHA

I was also totally disappointed that Walt and Mike’s cosy night indoors together was reduced to a seconds-long time-lapse shot. I would definitely have happily watched a whole episode of them pacing around the room with each other.

no way walt gonna take 5 million, whats he gonna do with 5milion. He has lost his wife, his kids. mind you he could buy speed boat

I just recently stumbled onto this review site and i got to say , hands down to the author of this review , this kind of show deserves an analysis of this magnitude.

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