|Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Hank (Dean Norris) AMC
Oh, Skyler. You’ve gotten so much unwarranted hate on the Internet over the past few years, of no fault of your own. All you’ve tried to do was protect your family against the person who’s supposed to protect your family, and thus far you’ve succeeded. Unfortunately, you’ve decided it best to break bad like your sociopathic husband and his partner-in-crime. The Skyler we see in this episode is not entirely out of character, but her behavior is shockingly disappointing. Early in “Buried,” the second of the final eight episodes in Breaking Bad‘s final season, Hank calls Skyler and informs her that they need to talk. Paralyzed with fear, she enters a diner and sits down with Hank to hear what he has to say. He tells her to speak into a microphone and reveal everything she knows about Walt’s criminal life, starting from the very beginning. Many emotions flash across Skyler’s face as she contemplates her next move. She chooses to remain silent before boastfully shouting, “Am I under arrest?!” over and over to provide a distraction as she exits the diner. From this action, Skyler has decided to protect Walt, but she has also chosen to protect herself above all else. With this, Skyler has joined Walt in breaking bad, feeling that there is no way of turning back.
“Buried” is a very Skyler-centric episode as it finds Walt spending the greater part of the episode burying his abundant wads of cash. Skyler lets it be known to Hank that she can’t remember the last time he was happy, and it’s clear that she’s the character referred to in the “Buried” title. She feels completely buried by harboring all of Walt’s lies and dirty transactions. All Skyler really wants to do is go back to living a normal life, before the money laundering, before the lies, before the cancer. Yet she feels like she and Walt cannot possibly go back, even if she were to turn him in to the police. Skyler spends much of the episode in silence and Anna Gunn is brilliant at conveying a multitude of emotions just by the expressions on her face. The scene in the middle of the episode, featuring Marie confronting Skyler about all the lies, exemplifies how empty she has become since the beginning of the series. It is an incredibly uncomfortable scene to watch from the start, and it becomes horrifying by the end as Marie tries to take little Holly away from Skyler. The scene gradually rises from a whisper to a scream, through Holly’s crying, the sisters screaming and Hank overpowering all three.
Skyler’s intentions become clear after Walt is finished burying his immense stash of money in the middle of the desert and collapses on the bathroom floor. Walt himself has become so buried from all the pressure of keeping his criminal life quiet and literally exhausting himself that he almost breathlessly gives up. He essentially tells Skyler that it’s okay if she wants to turn him in, in exchange for money for her and the kids. Believing that they would be able to possess the money either way, Skyler suggests that they keep quiet for now, considering Hank only has suspicions. This is a far cry from the Skyler in “Fifty-One” who had a breakdown in their pool and told Walt that she was waiting for his cancer to come back. She has gotten so used to the criminal life that it has become part of her reality now. More importantly, though, she wishes to protect herself at all costs, knowing that she would be considered an accessory after the fact to Walt’s numerous crimes.
The other big plot development from this episode comes in the form of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle and Todd the child killer. Lydia visits Declan’s meth lab in the middle of the desert to confront him about the poor quality of his meth. She manages to con him into showing her his meth lab, which is buried underground. Lydia has been a relatively weak character since her introduction in season 5, compared to the series other characters, but her fish-out-of-water status in relating to these meth pushers is entertaining stuff. Walking down the hatch in her Louboutin shoes, she is an awkward presence in this world, but she knows how to manipulate the men around her. Todd and his white supremacist uncle’s gang come and shoot Declan and his entire gang, and it is revealed that Lydia called Todd to do the deed. I’m interested to see the mismatched partnership going forward and inevitably facing Walt.
Curiously, the episode is bookended by Jesse, despite not appearing in any other part of the episode. “Buried” begins with Jesse literally spiraling on a playground roundabout, visibly high on drugs. The episode ends with him detained in an interrogation room, awaiting an inevitable brow-beating from Hank. Jesse is another character that feels completely overwhelmed and buried from his partnership with Walt, and it shows in his non-existant energy level. Unlike Skyler, though, Jesse may have reached the point where he doesn’t even care about keeping his criminal life quiet, which could spell the end for Walt.
As soon as “Buried” ended, I was feeling similarly buried after such an overwhelming experience. Director Michelle MacLaren uses silence to such a powerful effect in this episode, proving that TV shows do not need to fill every scene with music. Additionally, so many shots in the episode (Walt arriving home with Skyler in background, the entire Lydia-Todd sequence) could seriously compete with those of film’s expert cinematographers. The best type of Breaking Bad episode is able to combine brilliant, exciting character moments with artistic, original shots and editing and “Buried” is one of those episodes.
MVP: Anna Gunn
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Betsy Brandt
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Anna Gunn
Directing for a Drama Series: Michelle MacLaren