Families that stick together are the best at beating the courts. That’s such a truism of mobster movies and TV shows that even Arrested Development drove storylines with it. Of course, the personal, legal, and moral antagonism between Walt and Hank immediately dispels any hope for a “we are family” scenario between the Whites and the Schraders. “Buried,” then, finds Walt and Skyler reuniting in desperation, and Skyler and Marie shirking their loyalties to each other — and rooting for their respective brother-in-laws’ failure.
The episode begins with a teaser that could have come out of any episode of The X-Files. An ordinary man finds something extraordinary: bricks of cash strewn all over his street. He follows the money trail and makes an even stranger discovery: a dead-eyed young man, Jesse, spinning on a merry-go-round, thoroughly innocent and guilty at the same time. (Of course, if this were an episode of The X-Files, Jesse would start shooting lightning bolts out of his eyes or something.)
“Buried” then picks up from last week’s episode with Walt emerging from Hank’s garage after warning him to “tread lightly.” Both scramble to their phones: Walt calls Saul (after being stonewalled), Hank rings up Skyler. With his sister-in-law, Hank plays the part of the good cop and the concerned relative: he can’t imagine how terrible it must have been for her, he’s going to help her set things right and put Walt away. “You’re done being the victim,” he says, inviting her and her children into his home.
In this scene and later in the episode, when he again tries to manipulate Skyler into turning against Walt, the episode deepens its narrative layers by playing up Hank’s bad-guy undertones. Last week, Hank was the righteous, crusading detective. This week, though, he’s the one who knocks, at least from Skyler’s vantage point, vowing to cart off her terminally ill husband and threatening her family’s hard-earned financial wellbeing — and doing it all under the guise of family.
Worst of all, Hank uses his wife Marie to further emotionally blackmail his sister-in-law into cooperating. At the diner, Skyler tremulously asks Hank whether Marie knows the truth about the Whites’ misbegotten fortune. Hank seizes upon Skyler’s love for her sister by bringing Marie to the Whites’ home. But, of course, Marie makes things worse, as she almost always does, first by literally slapping her sister with the truth – “You won’t talk to Hank because you think Walt is going to get away with this” — then by trying to kidnap baby Holly in a wholly misplaced sense of charity.
Marie’s sudden antipathy toward Walt is totally believable, though I wish we’d been privy to the probably darkly hilarious conversation that occurred when Hank tried to convince his wife that their gentle, unassuming brother-in-law was the meth king of Albuquerque. Skyler’s sudden devotion to Walt is more confusing. It’s not so long ago — maybe just a few weeks within the show’s timeline — that she was a hostage in her own home and staged a suicide in front of Hank and Marie as a plea for help. The fact that she’s now willing to risk prison in the hopes that her dying husband can outsmart the DEA as his last hurrah — even after Walt cops to slipping, leading Hank to figure out the truth about Heisenberg – feels more like a plot convenience than consistent characterization. Skyler used to be smarter.
Skyler has an unlikely parallel in the squeamish Lydia, whose black Louboutins with the scarlet soles are a perfect symbol of her blood fortune and the carnage that lays at her feet. Both women are hesitant to look directly at the violence they’ve ordered and profited from (remember Skyler’s tears at Ted’s bedside after Saul’s henchmen nearly broke his neck?). Obviously, Skyler isn’t as directly implicated in the drug business as Lydia is, but she might as well change her name to Carmela Soprano by now.
Walt, meanwhile, is being counseled by Saul not to take his wife’s calls, the consigliere cannily assuming that the feds might already have gotten to her. He suggests “sending [Hank] on a trip to Belize… where Mike went.” Walt is (surprisingly?) horrified, lecturing Saul that, “Hank is family.”
After burying his Scrooge McDuck fortune in the desert, he tells Skyler to keep the money after he’s gone, to make all his sacrifice (and mayhem) mean something. Family was Walt’s rationale for taking up meth cooking in the first place, and with so many former colleagues now dead or in despair, family is the last virtue Walt can cling to in order to rest in peace.
Skyler may have fallen in line, but Walt’s figurative house is not in order. As I predicted last week, Jesse is in hot water with the APD for throwing his Benjamins around town. That means Walt’s surrogate son, silent for now but hurting for redemption and a purpose, is vulnerable to Hank’s good-cop routine, probably even after being thrashed around by Hank’s fists. (Frankly, I’d love to see Jesse get a sarcastic “Yeah, bitch” in while being interrogated by the DEA.) Jesse’s cooperation with the federales and turning against Walt is overdue, yet might feel too pat. Plus, with Todd and his prison gang cousins now in the mix, it’s all too easy to see him getting shanked behind bars for snitching.
The family that stabs together stays together. Hopefully this is a lesson Jesse won’t have to learn.