Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Midway through this week’s episode, Jesse asks Walt if they’re in the meth business or the money business. I would argue that, among other things, they’re in the “making problems disappear” business.
And what a problem they had to make disappear, after Todd, the new recruit, shot that kid in the desert in the closing seconds of last week’s episode. The opening scene in “Buyout” was tough to watch, as they prepared to dissolve first the kid’s dirt bike and then the kid himself.
After the job is finished, Todd seems remorseless, tossing out a casual “shit happens,” and Jesse clocks him. Despite Jesse’s protests, Mike and Walt decide that keeping Todd, child-murderer, on the payroll is the best decision for the group — it certainly beats adding him to the hazard-pay list or increasing the trio’s body count.
But being partly responsible for the death of a child is too much for Jesse to handle. Walt basically justifies it this way: Hey, at least they’re self-sufficient now, so why worry about dead kids? They can do some soul-searching in a year, after they turn all that methylamine into methamphetamine and make a gazillion dollars!
Walt then returns to his work, happily whistling, completely oblivious to what a jerk he is. This is the final straw for Jesse, who can no longer participate in the business of making problems disappear and then pretending as if nothing happened.
It comes as a surprise to Walt when Mike reveals that he’s out of the business because of that pesky tail the DEA has had on him recently. Walt is fine with this — after all, with no Mike, Walt is the only one in charge, right? But when Jesse says he’s out, too, Walt snaps. He gets desperate, pleading with Jesse to stay. Here we see the old Walt, except instead of thinking his way out of a sticky situation with people much more powerful than he, he’s sliming his way through a pitch to keep Jesse involved — which ultimately leads to Jesse asking exactly what kind of business they’re in.
Jesse and Mike seem set to sell their two-thirds of the stolen methylamine and cash out their end of the business, but they hit a snag: Mike’s contact wants to buy the entire supply of methylamine, all 1,000 gallons, to get the blue ice off the street. Walt, of course, is unwilling to give up his share, even if he will receive a guaranteed $5 million, and get to walk away from the drug business for good. Because why have $5 million when you could eventually have $300 million? Why cash out now and secure your family’s future and, hey, I don’t know, make money at your totally legit carwash and maybe regain your wife’s love and have a freaking soul, when you can continue your illegal business-with-a-body-count and rake in more money and power than you ever thought was possible? Walt’s greed is unreal.
Jesse visits Walt at home to try to convince him to take the money and run, but Walt isn’t biting; he wants more. He wants the whole world, and even that isn’t enough. To paraphrase Mike, “I’ve never seen anyone try so hard to get out of earning $5 million.”
Mike decides Walter has no choice in the matter: The deal is going down, even if Mike has to tie Walt up to make it happen. But Walt is so dead-set against giving up his share of the methylamine that he gives himself third-degree burns while MacGyvering his way out of captivity. Of course, after Walt escapes and moves the methylamine somewhere (we don’t know where yet), he tells Mike he has a plan.
Whatever it is, it better be good, because Mike is definitely done. Did you see how serious he looked holding that gun to Walt’s head after discovering the methylamine was gone? And Jesse is done, too — he doesn’t want to dissolve any more bodies in barrels full of hydrofluoric acid.
It’s interesting how Jesse, perpetual screw-up and drug addict, has now become the heart and moral center of the show, one step away from being the protagonist, while Walt continues to devolve into full-on villainy. We want to see Walt die as much as Skyler does, don’t we? Aren’t we hoping the cancer returns, or that Jesse puts a bullet between Walt’s eyes?
In perhaps the most awkward dinner scene ever, Skyler pours herself laughably huge glasses of wine and shoots hate looks at Walt while Jesse nervously makes small talk about those delicious homemade green beans (Albertson’s deli, Skyler informs him). When Skyler sarcastically asks if she may be excused, Walt shoots her a look so vitriolic that I believe he may just kill her before the series is over.
Because I don’t believe anything is going to stand in Walt’s way. As he tells Jesse, he isn’t in the meth business or the money business, he’s in the empire business.