So far, this season of Breaking Bad has presented Walt’s crumbling family life as yet another example of what he’s given up in pursuit of whatever it is that he’s hoping to accomplish. Now, there is a certain bit of disclosure regarding Walter White (Bryan Cranston) amongst his two partners Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) that, for Jesse, may be a little surprising and very depressing. Gone is the man who was in this for the future of his family, and in his place, Jesse now sees a man who is intent on building an empire no matter the cost.
This fact about Walt is most telling after he welcomes Jesse into his house, and then insists he stay over for a historically uncomfortable dinner with Skyler (Anna Gunn). During the meal, it’s clear that, in Walter’s mind, the two aspects of his life are converging into a singular personality that will fight to protect what is his at any cost.
Walter no longer thinks of his wife and kids as his anymore – he’s essentially lost everything. The family that he once sought to protect has either been taken away from him, or now rejects him outright, and the only thing Walter White has left in this world is the drug empire he’d hoped to build along with Jesse and the 1,000 gallons of stolen methylamine they’d procured during ‘Dead Frieght.’ Walt also lets Jesse in on the little fact that he’d once taken a $5k buyout on a company that is now worth billions, and the last thing he’s ever going to do is allow this burgeoning empire of his fall into the hands of a competitor. It’s as manipulative as Walt has ever been, but it also seems to come from the heart and suggests this is the sole driving factor in Walt’s life anymore.
Of course, all of this stems from Mike and Jesse wanting to sell their combined two-thirds of the methylamine to a competitor for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. Mike has been dealing with Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and the rest of the DEA sniffing around his business, and at this point, the risk far outweighs the potential benefits. Jesse, on the other hand, is dealing with the snap-decision of Todd (Jesse Plemons) to kill a 14-year-old boy who’d witnessed (but likely not understood) the actual methylamine theft. The guilt, coupled with Walt’s assurance that they’ll properly mourn the boy and do some much-needed reflection on the event when all the methylamine has been cooked, is enough to get Jesse to want to throw in the towel and take a buyout with Mike.
Not only does this potentially leave Walt without his partner and the distribution wing of the business, it severely restricts his ability to earn anywhere near the several hundred million dollars in street value of the stolen chemical. Conversely, the intended buyer of the methylamine won’t buy any of it unless he gets it all – meaning he’s wiped out his main competition in Heisenberg. Knowing Walt won’t stand for losing everything, Mike waits for him back at HQ and after the two spend the night in office chairs, Mike binds Walt’s wrist to a radiator. While Mike and Saul are hitting the DEA with a restraining order, Walt MacGyvers his way through the predicament and, by the time Mike gets back, has not only moved the methylamine, but made a convincing enough plea to Jesse to have some defense come to his aid when Mike pulls a gun on Walt.
Jesse pleads with Mike to hear Walt out and listen to his plan because that’s what Jesse normally does, and Walt has once more figured out how best to align those he sees as pawns to ensure he gets his way. Walt tells Mike, “Everybody wins,” because before anyone has to experience variables like a 14-year-old boy being killed, the team’s combined efforts sure seem like a game Walt’s has a handle on. It matters little whether Mike wants to be in on this new plan or not; he’s going to have to play for just a little while longer with Walt at the wheel if he wants to see any cash from this recent escapade.
If anything, ‘Buyout’ felt as though many of the characters (mostly Walt) were no longer pretending to be anything other than exactly who they are, and they display that with the openness of their interactions with others. The tension between Walt and Skyler is palpable, but more poignant, perhaps, is the exchange between Skyler and Marie. Clearly, Skyler is looking to shed some light on Walt to her sister, but that means declaring herself as a willing accomplice; a fact that could not only lose Skyler her freedom, but will most certainly ensure that Walt is not the sole target of scorn she’d so like him to suffer.
Most importantly, however, we see that there is no end game for Walt. In his mind his business must run in perpetuity, his kingdom must live on forever – or at least until its ruler is dethroned.
Breaking Bad continues next Sunday with ‘Say My Name’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: