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'Breaking Bad' recap, 'Buried': Girl power, activate

Sunday was ladies’ night on “Breaking Bad.”

After last week’s unforgettable suburban garage standoff between Walt and Hank, it was Skyler and Marie’s turn for an epic showdown.

The two sisters had it out after Marie realized Skyler knew about Walt’s secret for a long time — as in, long before her D.E.A. husband Hank was shot and almost axed to death midway through season three.

“You won’t talk to Hank because you think Walt is going to get away with this,” a horrified Marie says to Skyler before she storms out of the room and tries to shoplift baby Holly.

The show has taken some heat — unfairly, in my opinion — for having underdeveloped female characters, with one critic recently saying that the women on “Breaking Bad” “only exist as plot-enabling satellites to the men.”

I’ve always found Skyler to be a compelling, complicated figure (thanks in no small part to Anna Gunn’s masterful performance), and never more so than in Sunday’s intense episode, “Buried.” This is when she truly has to pick sides, and it looks like she’s committed to Team Walt.

When Hank tried to convince Skyler to spill the beans about Walt — into Hank’s tape recorder, no less — she balked. She later tells Walt that Hank is woefully short in the evidence department when it comes to proving that Walt and drug kingpin Heisenberg are one in the same.

“Maybe our best move here is to stay quiet,” she counsels Walt. It’s a far cry from the Skyler who once begged her husband to go to the police. The genius of “Breaking Bad” is that her change of heart is completely plausible. (Marie, meanwhile, is putting the pressure on Hank to go full steam ahead in outing Walt as Heisenberg.)

Skyler and Walt’s intimate bathroom pow-wow was a rare tender moment between this beleaguered husband and wife. Skyler has learned that Walt’s cancer is back — it’s a day she once told him she longed for. But there were no signs of that vitriol in “Buried.” Quite the opposite. Skyler spent hours by Walt’s side after he collapsed on the floor, exhausted from burying barrels full of cash in the desert. (Symbolism has always been big in this show, so it’s fitting that the “blood money” is stashed in these giant containers, the same kind Walt used to dissolve the bodies of people who got in his way.)

Walt tells Skyler he’s willing to turn himself in as long as she promises to keep the cash.

“Please don’t let me have done all this for nothing,” he whispers weakly, like a man on his deathbed. (Walt is clever as ever, disguising the buried treasure’s GPS coordinates in a New Mexico lottery ticket stuck to the refrigerator.)

Skyler isn’t about to let Walt surrender. It’s unclear whether her main motivation is a rekindled love for her husband or self-preservation — after all, she long ago made the transition from unwitting wife to co-conspirator. But the tenderness she showed Walt on the bathroom’s cold tile floor has me leaning towards the former.

Sunday’s episode featured another female-centric storyline as Lydia staged a bloody crystal meth coup. Her buyer in the Czech Republic hasn’t been happy with the sub-standard meth being cooked since Walt hung up his apron. She wanted the Phoenix drug lord to let Todd, who did a stint as Walt’s sous chef, run the lab. The drug lord refuses, sparking a massacre.

While Lydia isn’t a central character in the series, she’s always been intriguing as the unlikely meth maven. In “Buried,” she embodies the three wise monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. She covers her ears in the underground lab while the slaughter she ordered takes place above ground as Todd and his henchmen shoot everyone in sight. Lydia doesn’t want to witness the carnage she’s wrought, so she covers her eyes while walking through the field of fresh corpses.

This is a woman who can be as ruthless as a street thug like Tuco. But she prefers to pretend that she’s running a legitimate Fortune 500 company, even though the red soles of her Louboutin shoes might as well be that color from all the blood that’s been spilled.

“Buried” ends by setting the stage for another fascinating face-to-face, this one between long-time rivals Jesse and Hank.

Jesse has finally cracked. In the midseason opener he looked like a dead man walking — make that a dead man driving around Albuquerque throwing wads of greenbacks out his car window.

In the most recent episode, he’s landed in police custody for his Robin Hood-like ways. The final seconds have Hank walking into the interrogation room to question this man whose face he once pummeled like a punching bag.

“Breaking Bad” treats life like one big chemistry experiment. It will be interesting — and potentially explosive — to see how these two nemeses react to one another now that their hatred shares a common bond in Walter White.