Breaking Badass Power Rankings: 'Buyout'

Breaking Bad is the greatest TV drama of all-time (THIS IS A FACT), so UPROXX is going all-out on our coverage of the show this season. Cajun Boy will be writing an episode recap (with GIFs!) every week, while I’ll be handling the Breaking Badass Power Rankings, which will, well, rank the most badass characters from every episode. Why “Badass?” Obviously, the so-not-clever-that-it’s-clever name, but also because Breaking Bad is the kind of a show that makes you want to drink an entire bottle of bourbon and/or Franch before watching it, to soothe your soon-to-be-tense nerves. That’s pretty badass.

Episode: “Buyout”

Not Ranked: Gomie, Gomie’s New Partner, Hank Schrader, Holly White, and Skyler White.

“Sh*t happens, right?” Probably not the best thing to say shortly after shooting a kid. In last week’s Power Rankings, I explained why Todd — who I can’t tell if he’s brilliant or stupid — did what he did, and in “Buyout,” he essentially mimicked Walt’s speech to Jesse on why Gale needed to go (after dissolving the kid’s body, that is). He doesn’t think he did anything wrong, or at least didn’t do anything that shouldn’t have been done. In his mind, he’s the hero. Walt and Mike aren’t overly upset at him, either (except that he brought a gun on a mission without telling Mike), so they decide not to kill him and, by proxy, that poor tarantula, still in his or her jar. By keeping him alive and having him mention his uncle’s prison connections, is the show setting up Todd to be the next Jesse, should something happen to the young apprentice? He even called Walt “Mr. White.” THAT’S JESSE’S THING!!!

It had been awhile since the last Saul Goodman appearance, so it was nice to see him and his clown college outfit (I don’t think any of us expected him to say that) in “Buyout,” even if only for a brief scene. Saul not only filed a restraining order against the DEA on behalf of Mike, who’s been tailed for weeks now, but also got some good digs at poor Hank and Gomie. After saying explaining that Mike’s “just not that into you,” because, hey, “different strokes for different folks,” Saul considers their hard-on for stalking his client to be of “Uncle Miltie proportions,” a reference to Milton Berle’s 13-inch schlong. It’s something every Jew, like myself, is proud of.

Because I’ll probably never actually discuss Marie, I’ll give props to Betsy Brandt for this Twitter exchange:

She is awesome.


Obviously the dinner table scene was an instant classic (it’s probably my third favorite pop culture dinner table scene overall, after Jurassic Park and Dexter), and it’s actually a snapshot of the way Jesse’s used throughout the entire episode: as a reactor. Todd kills a kid and acts like it’s nothing; Jesse punches him. Walt whistles a happy song shortly after seeing a news report about said Todd-killed kid; Jesse ponders why he doesn’t care more. Mike leaves the business; Jesse leaves the business (or at least tries to). Jesse sees Walt and Skyler fighting; he drinks water and talks about frozen lasagna. Jesse tries to convince Walt to stop cooking before things go to sh*t; Walt ends up making him feel like sh*t. That’s always been Jesse’s role on Breaking Bad, and it’s to his harm. He’s below Mike and Walt, at least in their minds, and oftentimes the bad things that should happen to them happen to him instead. Jesse just wants his $5 million, which he correctly points out “isn’t nothing,” and then retire. But, oh, Walt has other plans, and to paraphrase the only mob movie Breaking Bad hasn’t mentioned this season, “Just when I thought I was out…Walt pulls me back in.”

Mike is the best. Enough said.

Midway through “Buyout,” a friend texted me, “I feel like Walt is just becoming Stringer.” Though the phrasing suggests otherwise, I think he meant that as a compliment? The Stringer in question is, of course, Stringer Bell from The Wire, who, without giving too much away, attempts to legitimatize the drug business. (I realize that’s a gross understatement and Wire fanatics are already mad at my Breaking Bad > The Wire preference, so can I interest you in a picture of Idris Elba holding a puppy?) Like Walt, Stringer wasn’t interested in the drug- or money-making business, or at least not simply making money; he wanted to intelligently build an empire, based on the principles of Robert’s Rules of Order. He realized that the cops aren’t as interested in drug dealing as they are in murders, so if he and his cohorts reduce their inclination towards violence, they’ll be able to get away with, well, “murder.” Both he and Walt also demand respect and are proud of what they’ve accomplished. Walt practically goes out of his way to tell everyone that he’s the great Heisenberg, with the exception of the Schraders, Emo McGee, and Holly, who’s too busy sucking on jewelry to care about anything else.

Where Walt and Stringer differ, however, is that Stringer is in The Game because he wants to be; Walt’s involved because he’s convinced himself he has no other option. Stringer’s the businessman, Walt’s the psychopath. After Skyler and her bottle of wine depart the aforementioned most awkward dinner of all-time, leaving The King and Jesse alone, Walt says something truly heartbreaking: “This business is all I have left now.” Or at least it would be heartbreaking if he weren’t do despicable. He doesn’t have a real job, his wife wants him dead, the kids are out of the house, he has no friends, he lost out on billions by taking a $5,000 buyout, and his cancer come could back at any moment — why wouldn’t he want to cook and keep expanding Heisenberg Operations? Without meth, he’s nothing, and he’ll do anything to keep the order intact, even if it means slowly and remorselessly digging a proverbial dagger into the side of one of the few people in the world who still cares about him. “And you want to take it away from me,” he says, the “you” being Jesse. It’s one of the most cruel things Walt has ever done, and he’s putting everyone’s lives in danger, all because he’s told himself that this is his, and therefore their, only option. Where once he needed $737,000, he now wants tens of millions, and never to be screwed over by the likes of Gray Matter again. He’s out for revenge, but on no one in particular. The world had better watch out.

Also, he practically burned his hand off with some MacGyver-like sh*t. That was pretty cool.