Has Hank always been this short? Lately, it seems like the characters in AMC's "Breaking Bad" have been shot by a warped camera lens or projected through a distorted hall of mirrors. As the truth is slowly digested by the Schraders regarding the White side of the family, fragile Marie seems to shed precious pounds and her husband seems to dwindle under the devastation and his projected embarrassment with the DEA.
As the action resumes in Pub Schraderbrau, the bald yin and yang, still posturing and heaving from the fracas that ensued in "Blood Money," Walt and Hank stare at each other through the mechanical moan of the closing garage door. But Hank is one step ahead in this calculating rung of mental chess and he's on the phone with Skyler before her husband can reverse the length of the driveway. The realization has Walt truly panicked since his other partner has disappeared; the mute and shell-shocked Jesse Pinkman last seen twirling on a merry-go-round in a random Albuquerque park, his Toyota Tercel flashing its emergency lights like E.T.'s lost pod.
Skyler agrees to meet with Hank in a shady Southwestern-themed diner where he attempts to ply and manipulate his sister-in-law. In a voice softer than peach fuzz, Hank details separating her from Walt while he attempts to gather enough evidence to imprison him before cancer detonates its particular brand of justice. Skyler has always been pragmatic, but we start to see how firmly she's embedded herself in the collusion and the squirreled away stacks of Benjamins.
Walt might not be the only Scarface in the family as Skyler seems reluctant to go back to the money woes that formerly mired her brood in mediocrity. Hank drops the bombshell that Walt's cancer has returned, so the question becomes: can she live without the safety net of the car wash, millions blanketed away in a storage facility (enough for two stooges to bask in like Scrooge McDuck), and now a spouse with a dwindling expiration date? The bleakness of that reality, along with a tape recorder shoved in front of her nose, is enough for Skyler to demand a lawyer.
Hank might have reservations about the extent of Skyler's complicity, but throughout the episode you see his confidence and stature start to reassert itself. The bulldog personality and the intimidating brow, usually reserved for cartels like the Salamancas, starts to return with The Thing-like prominence. When Skyler refuses to leave the asylum of her home, and as she wrestles her infant daughter away from Marie like a burlap sack, the realization plants itself on his pained visage: Heisenberg is a two-headed cerberus.
I'm not intimating that Skyler is Pablo Escobar, as she seems genuinely bereaved when admitting the extent of her abetment to a slack-jawed Marie. But she does seem to swoon and coddle her fallen husband only prior to his reassurances about the hidden money. After the veritable smelling salts have taken root and Walt wakes from his fainting spell -- a much deserved one mind you; who can scratch through desert Caliche with a pickaxe, ON chemo, to bury a van full of money without ever taking off his Members Only jacket? -- he begs for her to keep the money, if only for posterity's sake. "Please, please don't let me have done this for nothing," Walt quakes.
Skyler stares over him like an unrelenting stage mom and wields her version of the goatee and pork pie hat. Channeling Walt's threat to Hank to "tread lightly," Skyler rasps: "The way Hank talks, he's got his suspicions. Not much else. You can't give yourself up without giving up the money. Maybe our best move here is to stay quiet."
What's interesting is the callous power shift from episode to episode and "Buried" is certainly no different. While Saul Goodman implies that Walt send his brother-in-law to "Belize," the same vacation spot where Mike Ehrmantraut is currently lounging on white sands, Walt balks in disgust. Also, when Walter collapses from exhaustion at the foot of the toilet, just shy of washing off the dust of the New Mexico desert, we see hints of the cancer finally weakening his stamina, whereas Skyler has caught a gale of adrenaline and is expanding like a cake-gorged Alice in the rabbit hole.
"Buried" refers to more than the pile of lies beginning to mount and suffocate the protagonists, though. I held off talking about Lydia last week, assuming she'd be back with her expensive heels and demanding levels of purity for the discerning Czech market. She literally heads underground to inspect the facilities at Declan's grimy meth lab and discloses her disappointment at his termination of Todd, Walt's only working protege.
When Declan refuses to hire him back, Lydia simply presses a few buttons on her smartphone and unleashes a hail of gunfire. So while Hank (and now Marie) plays Ahab, a new regime is burgeoning on the surface and infesting the subterranean. It appears that Todd and his neck-tatted cohorts at Vamanos Pest Control are assuming the role abandoned by Marcel Marceau -- err, Jesse -- and Lydia has embraced the Heisenberg moniker.
As Todd's Uncle Jack proclaims before shooting Declan, "fire in the hole!"
What did you think of last night's episode? What will happen next?
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsMatthew Gilbert is the Globe's TV critic.
Sarah Rodman is a staff TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.