What’s worked very well during the past two episodes is the show’s ability to let us not only see but understand and sympathize with opposing points of view.
Last week, it was Walt and Hank, in the wake of Hank’s discovery of Walt’s true identity. This week, it was Skyler’s turn – and she made a choice in the seasons-long question of what she would do when forced to make a decision. Aside from the cold opening, featuring an old man finding the stacks of cash the guilt-ridden Jesse was tossing from his car followed by Jesse himself lying on a merry-go-around, the episode began where the last one ended. It is Hank’s garage, with Walt now standing outside. But bluster aside, Walt is in a panic, especially when Hank reaches Skyler before he can and she agrees to meet him alone.
Hank’s meeting with Skyler is a classic miscalculation. He presents himself as her knight in shining armor, but instead he blunders through a conversation in which he pushes for an immediate confession without considering that Skyler might not be so eager. Hank has a selective memory, recalling Skyler’s walk into the pool and her racing to his home with the kids but failing to consider her own possible culpability in Walt’s crimes. It’s understandable, in a way, especially given that Hank is amped on the adrenaline of his confrontation with Walt and sees a chance to solve the mystery that has vexed him for more than a year. Still, I had a bit of a problem with Hank’s Good Cop approach, as he wasn’t dealing with some uneducated meth dealer but an intelligent woman who might want to talk to an attorney – even if she is as innocent as Hank imagined. His insistence on taping her statement right there in the diner was just too much. It’s not clear if a softer approach would have worked any better, but this one was doomed.
Meanwhle, Skyler is thinking something very different as the conversation continues. She is realizing, because Hank tells her, that Hank doesn’t really have much actual proof. She knows that she isn’t some damsel in distress, but a woman with plenty of her own secrets to hide. Further, Hank reveals information that Skyler does not know, that Walt told him the cancer has returned. This will take a while for her to process and assess, but Hank charges right ahead. And the panicked woman at the beginning of the conversation turns into a calculating one by its conclusion, repeatedly yelling, “Am I under arrest?” She makes her escape.
The Schrader who gets the most information out of Skyler isn’t Hank, but Marie. Hank drives her to the White home in the hopes that Marie will get her to cooperate. But Marie, asking a series of questions that go beyond the previous few months, quickly discovers that Skyler is no innocent, that she knew all about what Walt was doing even before her husband was shot and nearly killed. Marie tries to take the baby, an over-the-top reaction that Walt prevents.
Meanwhile, Walt – unable to reach Skyler and afraid to speak to her, not knowing what she has told Hank – moves the huge pile of money in the storage locker. He gets comic assistance from Huell and his buddy, who take the time to lie on the bed of cash before bringing it to Walt in a van (and grabbing a few bucks for themselves). At this point, we need to suspend disbelief a bit to buy the idea that Walt can dig a large enough hole in the New Mexico desert to bury his loot. One guesses this will be its final resting place.
The last, pivotal conversation takes place after an exhausted Walt returns home and collapses on the bathroom floor. When he wakes up, Walt promises to turn himself in if the money goes to their children (the original, ostensible reason for his meth cooking). But Skyler knows better. They can’t keep the money if he gives himself up. The only option, as she sees it, is to keep quiet and wait it out. The decision may not be irrevocable, but for now, Skyler has thrown in with Walt.
Meanwhile, Lydia is taking action, with the help of the polite killer Todd, to take out Declan and his entire gang with the help of Todd’s Aryan Nation uncle. As is usual in the show, there are clever artistic choices – Lydia’s fancy shoes in the desert, Jesse on the merry-go-round – that often seem intended to amuse the producers as much as the audience. These folks could be Walt’s most serious problem. Unless it’s Jesse, picked up after his Robin Hood act and about to be questioned by Hank at episode’s end.
But what made the episode memorable was its focus on Skyler, the show’s wild card. She is a villain now, even though it likely means a permanent break with her sister (not to mention Hank) and life on the other side of the law. But her actions are fathomable, as she follows her own logic to its own reasonable conclusion.