How 'Breaking Bad' Covers Up a Child Murder: With Ruthless Efficiency

This week's episode shows just how much the characters have evolved in their calculated use of science.

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AMC

When last week's Breaking Bad ended with the crew's newest member committing an unexpected murder, it felt like the catalyst that would drive the remaining three episodes of the season. How would the crew deal with loose-cannon Todd? How would they escape with their 1,000 stolen gallons of methylamine? And—most significantly—how would they get away with killing a child?

As it turns out, the answer to the final question was as ruthlessly, chillingly simple as the rest of Walter's actions throughout Breaking Bad's fifth season; this is, after all, the fifth time that Walter and company have resorted to the old "dissolve a corpse in hydrofluoric acid" trick in a single year. In Breaking Bad's first season, which marked the first time that Walter and Jesse used acid to dispose of a body, the disposal process resulted in an entire season's worth of complications. In last night's "Buyout," the task is performed in less than five on-screen minutes, by a crew that now operates with the grim efficiency of seasoned professionals. But "Buyout" offers something even more disturbing than the horror of the group's now-routine disposal process: the horror of chemical decomposition. As the opening scene of "Buyout" shows, there's absolutely no difference in the method used to dissolve a dirt bike and the method used to dissolve the corpse of a 14-year-old boy. It is—as Walter has pointed out so many times before—a simple matter of chemistry.

The dramatic ironies of Breaking Bad may imply some higher power, but as far as the series is concerned, our main characters have placed their faith in the amoral, immutable power of science. It's a power that clearly appeals to Todd, who can't even muster crocodile tears for Drew Sharp, the boy he killed. "Shit happens," he shrugs, as if Drew Sharp's death was some sort of tragic accident, and not a deliberate decision (a defense I'd have liked to hear Jesse return, after he punched Todd for offering it).

But Todd drops even the thinnest veneer of guilt in the face of his greater ambitions. "I want to be a real part of this," he says, implying that robbing a train and murdering a child are no more than speed bumps on the road to some greater end that he has in mind. Todd defends his actions as an "us vs. him" scenario—an argument that should sound very familiar to Walter. But it's clear that there's something far more dangerous about Todd than anyone but Jesse seems willing to acknowledge (note the troubling fact that Todd privately pockets the dead boy's spider in a jar, like a serial killer might keep a trophy from a victim).

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Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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