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The Best of This Week’s Breaking Bad Recaps: ‘Buried’

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

This week, Breaking Bad brought Skyler to the forefront in a coffee shop confrontation with Hank. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote of the “Mamet-worthy” moment that “the writing in the Hank-Skyler coffee shop scene belongs on anyone’s list of great Breaking Bad moments; it just built and built and built to Skyler’s escalating repetitions of ‘Am I under arrest,’  keeping you on tenterhooks the whole time about whether she’d turn state’s witness or lawyer up.” Read what other critics wrote about "Buried" in our weekly recap of the recaps.

“In 'Buried,' Breaking Bad methodically sets out to answer the most crucial subset of those thousand questions: What do these characters want? And while on the surface this episode is just moving the pieces into place, its singleminded attention to motivation provides just the kind of revelations that prime the engines for the stretch run. Each character chooses a personal victory condition — a definition of 'winning' that sets their course but also traps them inside of it. If somebody doesn’t break free, there’s going to be one hell of an explosion, and a tragic periphery of collateral damage.” –AV Club

"Marie wrinkles up her Schrader brow and slaps her sister in the face. Then she tries to make off with Holly. In what is one of the most agonizing moments in the history of a show that excels at agonizing moments, they fight over the infant. You wanted another high-tension moment after last week's 'tread lightly'? Here you go. Hope you're happy. This is what the destruction of a family looks like. You don't grapple with your sibling over a screaming baby and then make nice over takeout." –Complex

"Despite his admitting to Skyler that it was his mistake that lead Hank to working out Walt is Heisenberg, Walt’s hubris is still very much in play.  It would be fitting that the person he has manipulated the most on the show would be the one to bring him down. Or will Jesse help Walt escape so that his actions up to now have meant something? All we know now is that the monkey is in the banana patch, capisce?" –Collider

"At coordinates 34 59 20 106 36 52, Walt hides the cash. He memorizes the number, smashes his coordinate-figure-outer-thing (the technical term), and heads home...On the refrigerator back at the ranch, he hangs a lottery ticket with those numbers. Maybe someone in the Breaking Bad writers room is a Lost fan. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it." –Entertainment Weekly

“For almost a year [Skyler] has carried the terrible burden of knowing who Walter really is. To keep her family whole, she has entombed the truth. Now Hank wants all at once to pry the lid off the coffin of her life. She isn't ready to face the light or air. Maybe if he'd approached her more gently, she would have agreed. But Hank was too angry, the reality of Walter's psychopathy too fresh to him, to see her Stockholm syndrome.” –Esquire

"'Buried' managed to do something that not even Heisenberg's vaunted blue could manage: It sustained a previous high and possibly even surpassed it. The hour had a few merciful splashes of lightness — Huell and Kuby's Scrooge McDucking their way to fantasyland; Walt's ingenious usage of the lottery ticket as a way to remember the GPS coordinates of his treasure — but what I admired most about it was its gathering, near-biblical darkness." –Grantland

"Now there's no doubt about which of the Lambert sisters has really screwed up. Marie's kleptomania, meltdowns and fondness for purple home furnishings are nothing compared to Skyler helping to run New Mexico's premier meth lab. 'How long have you known?' she asks. It's a simple question. And the longer Skyler can't answer, the more her silence and tears speak for her, and the more time Marie has to put it all together. Was it when Skyler walked into the swimming pool? Was it since Gus Fring? The money that Walt made? The car wash? The whole gambling story? Before Hank was shot? Skyler's apology is meaningless — and Marie's slap is just as powerful as Hank's punch.' –The Guardian

"With Breaking Bad, we have a show with a male lead, a male second lead, a wave of larger-than-life male antagonists, and a host of male concerns. The Walter White we meet in the pilot is dying, not just of the cancer, but of an emasculated lifestyle where he earns too little money, gets too little respect at work or home, and where one of his 50th birthday presents is a half-hearted hand job from Skyler while she's busy monitoring an eBay auction and hassling him about painting the nursery. By becoming Heisenberg, he's able to provide for his family in the event of his death, but he's also able to feel like a real man for the first time in his life, in a show that's an equal blend of organized crime and Western motifs, brilliantly dripping with machismo as Heisenberg gradually gets the better of each man put in front of him. Beyond Skyler and Marie (and baby Holly), there are only a handful of women of note through five seasons: Jane, Lydia, Gretchen, Andrea, Jesse's hooker friend Wendy, Saul's secretary Francesca and maybe Skank (aka Spooge's Lady). It's a male show with a male audience; last week's audience was 62% men." –HitFix

"Right about now, I think Skyler is running a long con on both Walt and Hank, which is delicious on all kinds of levels. I think her play is to let both of them think that she's confused or conflicted or otherwise unwilling to call the shots. Don't get me wrong — I don't think she's planned anything out in advance; she is quite often scrambling to keep up with the shitty developments that keep on coming. But ultimately, I think there's going to be a gorgeous reversal of the White family dynamics. Skyler's going to do what she needs to do to save her kids (and ideally, herself), and if she needs to deceive and endanger Walter White while doing so, well, that's just too damn bad." –Huffington Post

"Skyler’s always been a pragmatic woman. Indeed, Vince Gilligan has described her as the most pragmatic character on the show several times. It’s obvious when she meets with Hank at the diner, where he pushes too far, too fast, in trying to get a confession on his recorder, that there’s a huge part of her that would love to give her husband up, to end this whole charade and return to whatever she can salvage of her old life. […] Yet to do that is to lose everything. The money and the car wash and the stability. Walt might have become a monster. He might have become something she hated, deep down. But there are other aspects to her new life that she obviously enjoys. Her clothes are nicer, and she drives a better car. She’s becoming adapted to her new habitat, and even worse, she should go to jail for laundering that money, for knowing about her husband’s actions and telling no one, for so many things. She’s trapped, as buried as the money Walter sticks beneath the desert sands." –Los Angeles Times

"Skyler White towers over Hank Schrader. It's just a quirk of the casting, of course, a byproduct of Anna Gunn and Dean Norris's respective bodies, but there it is. Called to a diner meet-up by her brother-in-law to discuss the crimes of her husband, Skyler enters into an embrace with a man offering comfort she doesn't need and knowledge she already has. The height discrepancy makes him look superfluous, even parasitical — and, when coupled with his utter sincerity, pathetic. It telegraphs her coming rejection of his offer to help, and his request for her help in turn. 'You're done being his victim,' Hank tells her at one point. If he only knew." –Rolling Stone

"From the minute Jesse Plemons showed up on Breaking Bad and forced us to think of him as someone other than Landry Clarke from Friday Night Lights, Todd has been set up as the heir apparent to Walt, the protege who took over for Jesse and who has come closest to recreating the purity of Walt’s product. Todd clearly has no qualms about doing what must be done to keep the blue crystal moving. And given how harshly Walt and Skyler rebuffed Lydia in last week’s episode, she needs to make a go of things with Todd, even, perhaps, to the point where she might want people to think that Todd’s work is actually the work of Walter White. In other words: we may have another guy who starts to call himself Heisenberg. If that happens — and if Walt realizes that the brand he built for himself is being demeaned by less than top-quality craftsmanship — it may be impossible for our Mr. White to 'stay quiet' for very long." –Salon

"In Skyler’s at once lowest and most fabulous moment, when she walked into her own swimming pool, the volume of disappointment rose and nearly overwhelmed her. She had our sympathy. We’ve watched her bend bad without breaking bad, as William Brennan put it in arguing that Skyler 'is the best character on the show because she’s the one who reminds us that it’s necessary to loathe Walt. She is our moral grounding.' […] No longer. For me, that was the central thrill of this episode. Skyler chose. She chose Walt over Hank and Marie. She chose asking for a lawyer over confessing like a good girl. She chose sin over remorse. Can she still be the show’s moral fulcrum? I don’t think so." –Slate

"One thing that distinguishes Breaking Bad’s narrative is the elasticity of time. Scarcely a year has passed in the series — two, if you count flash-forwards — but the narrative can make it seem as if much more, or much less, time has passed. It can hold on to tension like a suspended breath, as it’s doing right now with Jesse. (I’d need to re-watch to be sure, but I’m not sure he speaks a single word this episode, yet his silence is compelling.) It can blow through weeks of Walt’s meth-making career in one one sequence, and it can slow down one excruciating day, as it does here, to linger on the emotional minutiae so that you can’t look away." –Time

* "If art’s value, or a character’s value, is judged on morality then we all should have stopped watching the moment Walt cooked his first batch (to raise money for his family). Or when he poisoned the two drug dealers (who first tried to kill him). Or when he and Jesse melted a body through a bathtub (it was accidental). Or when Walt murders Krazy-8 (in self defense, really).  Breaking Bad sustains its audience through an Immoral Mission Creep. Early on, Walt’s moral lapses seem sensible enough in context that an audience can reconcile them.  The same goes for Skyler: Cooking the books at work, intimidating Ted Beneke at the hospital, using a car wash to launder Walt’s money, all incremental decisions that, given the context, seem understandable.” –Wall Street Journal

It's no great surprise that 'Buried' is an accomplished hour of television — this is Breaking Bad we're talking about, after all. But for all its strengths, 'Buried' also illustrated the biggest problem I've had with Breaking Bad's otherwise airtight plotting: The denouement to last year's midseason finale, which offered an uncharacteristically rushed version of Walter's decision to retire from the meth empire that he'd told Jesse was his end goal just two episodes earlier.” –the Week

Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC