Breaking Bad Review: Empire State of Mind

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What "Buyout" lacked in momentum, it made up for with a few memorable moments.

Perhaps the slowest episode of Breaking Bad Season 5, the installment didn't shock or present the viewer with anything new: as expected, Jesse took the 14-year old's murder very hard, while Walt merely acted affected by it for the sake of his colleague.

Skyler is still a confused, crying mess; Walt a manipulator; Mike a genius DEA tail shaker who is growing more and more tired of the drug game.

We were treated to some serious upheaval within this trio's business world, along with Walt finding yet another unique way out of a seemingly impossible situation. And we were left wondering just what he has in mind to ensure that "everybody wins." But, overall, the episode really just drove home the point that Walt is in this for ego above all else. It did little to advance the overall plot... yet it left us with a few terrific scenes.

Mentor and Protege

There was Todd in the car, staring creepily/smugly/contently at the spider.

There was Marie thinking she was comforting her sister, only for Skyler to realize just how helpless of a situation she is in. An affair? Marie really has no idea.

There was Walt whistling a happy tune, minutes after claiming to Jesse that he hasn't been able to sleep at night following the death of the young boy.

There was Jesse at the White's dinner table, one of the funnier few minutes in series history, thanks to his awkward rambling about green beans and car washes.

There was Walt admitting to Jesse that he has nothing in life except the meth business, likely as honest as Walt has ever been with his protege, while still coming across as a) entirely self-centered; b) totally delusional in blaming Skyler for taking the kids away; and c) manipulative in angling to earn Jesse's sympathy.

Still, he was sincere in his reasoning for wanting to build this empire. It's about ego and bitterness and spite and regret. Even if Walt wouldn't couch it in those terms, he essentially admitted as much when he told Jesse about Gray Matter Technologies. That saga initially created the feeble, sorrowful Walter White we met on Season 1, and it's contributed greatly to the kingpin who that science teacher has morphed into since.

It's safe to say Walt isn't selling for anything under 2.16 billion. Or whatever Gray Matter is worth that week.

You often hear an episode is considered "filler," that it's mostly just serving as a slow build-up for whatever chaos is about to ensure. That's generally been the case for the duration of this modified eight-episode season.

Thanks to the acting and the cinematography and the tone and the story and the opening scene of the season and the good will Vince Gilligan has built up - we know some major, machine gun-related craziness will eventually go down - it's hard to really complain about an installment such as this, which is planting the seeds for a lot more suspense down the line.

Still, taken on its own, "Buyout" wasn't an especially tense or intriguing episode of Breaking Bad. Even with the impressive scenes listed above. Which says a lot about the show and its awesomeness, really.

What did everyone else think?


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (64 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


I agree with Che Che on Declan. He's undercover DEA. His behavior didn't make good sense. Why not waste these guys in the desert and keep selling tepid off-brand Coke with no more competition? Why agree to a paltry 35% cut? Declan was intrigued by Walt, not intimidated or outmaneuvered. Once Declan pegged Walter as "Heisenberg" I think Dec realized the motherlode he'd stumbled upon. Especially after Walter boasted about being the cook and killing Gus. The DEA may get Walt on Declan's end as opposed to Hank's.


The buyer Mike lined up reeks of an undercover agent or informant. Mike have had gone over to the light side himself in exchange for his funds, etc. If so he's playing it really smart, in front of Saul Goodman, the DEA, Jesse and Walt.


I agree with everyone it is getting harder and harder for me to like Walt, and tbh i think in a way that was the intention of the show. However i never thought i could become a bigger fan on Jesse but i am. The dinner scene was by far the best part of this episode


I agree with others that the dinner scene was vintage Breaking Bad brilliance. The humor on this show is so multi-layered. I want to cringe, cover my ears and eyes, yell, cry, and laugh all at the same time. The other scene that I thought was excellent was the opening. Breaking Bad does some of its best work in scenes without any dialogue. The detail with which they depicted the breaking down of the motorcycle was painfully prolonged. Cutting all the pieces up; dropping them each in the plastic barrels; pouring the acid--all this set up that (literally) unspeakable moment when the dead boy's hand was dug up from the dirt. Really disturbing illustration of the collateral damage to Walt's "career choice."


I thought: SHOOOOT HIM!! aah but he didnt do it.. I hate Walt soo much.
But now im at the point where i wanna punch jesse aswell. Come on boy, i love u, but Jesus think! Really by now he should notice that Walt is a crazy man, a manipulator.. but nooo..
Aww when Jesse nearly cried - sad.
I loved the idea of Mike and Jesse leaving the business, could have been so easy, but no Walt has other planes. When he said: she took my children away i nearly got sick - he doesnt care anyway!!
I loved the scene at the dinner table - Jesse big eyes ;)


I thought it was an excellent episode, with good pacing. True, it was primarily moving things along, but it provoked a lot of questions and gave all the principals a chance to show range. Even Skyler didn't bother me quite as much this episode - you could really feel how deeply trapped she feels. I kept finding myself wondering who is going to survive to the final episode.


This was a slow episode if you desire a shooting, murder, car chase, etc. It wasn't slow in terms of plot. I'll be honest. This was the first episode to myself where I said, "I welcome and look forward to Walt's downfall." In the first four seasons, I was rooting for Walt. I think it is safe to say most fans of the show. (Or rooting as much as one can for a meth maker that destroys lives, but this is fiction). Now, I can honestly say I don't like Walt. He's worse that Gus. There is no action that is beyond him now. He's rationalized away all morality. It's plan to see that Walt is going to put Jesse and Mike in a situation where they have to kill him or they themselves will be arrested or killed. Mike saw this early on but didn't have a choice. He needed the money for "legacy costs". I think Jesse has finally seen it and that was evidenced in this show. On a side note, I've been searching for clues that might explain the opening scene in episode one. The new meth dealer introducted this episode was from Phoenix and the opening scene takes place in California, where Walt assures the gun dealer that it's never going to leave the state. This leads me to believe that Walt's final confrontation won't be with the rival dealer, but will be with Jesse and Mike in some fashion.


Meant addresses "Walt as Mr. White", obviously, not Jesse.


Didn't shock or present the viewer with anything new? Is that trolling intentional? Perhaps nothing shocking, but plenty that was new. To name just a few: We see both of Walt's partners planning to quit. We see foreshadowings of Todd's character ending up as Walt's new sidekick - i.e., Jesse's replacement - with his rationalization of shooting the kid in language nearly identical to what Walt has previously used, not to mention that Todd also addresses Jesse as "Mr. White". We're introduced to Declan, the Phoenix meth dealer who seems likely to be Walt's rival at some point (and possibly the person intended to be on the receiving end of the M-60 that we know Walt is going to buy on his 52nd birthday). Yes, nothing about Walt's behavior was shocking, because we know that the series is the story of his downfall. That said, it's still a stark contrast to his behavior dealing with Tomas's murder to see that he truly doesn't care about killing a 14-year old to continue his rise to power.


Have to disagree with you saying it was the slowest episode yet of season 5.

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