by: Michael Shields
This week’s Breaking Bad episode, “Rabid Dog”, accentuates the toll Walt’s duplicity has taken on those he holds dear, and sets us up for the final showdown. “Walt’s a bastard, secrets out.”
When all the dust finally settled after last week’s barn-burner of an episode “Confessions”, falling to the ground like the remains of Wayfarer Flight 515, it began to become clear what had really happened. The entire offseason we waited nervously trying to figure out what Hank was going to do. He was now equipped with the knowledge – we thought – to bring down the great Heisenberg. But with one devilishly calculated swoop, Hank’s potential impact was mitigated, and the more prominent threat to Walt became none other than his former partner Jesse.
And now, after last evening’s episode “Rabid Dog” written and directed by Sam Catlin ((“Down”, “4 Days Out”, “Hermanos”, “Crawl Space”, “Half Measures”, “Fly”)), we find ourselves in an unfathomable place. One where two bitter rivals must reluctantly work together against a mutual foe. With words that sent chills down the spine of all watching – “You really want to burn him down, Let’s do it together!” – Jesse and Hank’s unimaginable partnership highlights the lengths they will go to bite back at the true rabid dog run afoul who “can’t keep getting away with it.” Who would have ever imagined these two together? ((Hank buckling Jesse’s seat-belt was my favorite singular moment from the episode.)) And we thought Walt and Jesse were an odd couple! The largest difference here is that Walt, as we found out this week, indisputably cares about Jesse ((“Mr. White is gay for me, everyone knows that.” – a very sarcastic Jesse Pinkman)), while Hank doesn’t give a fuck about the “”junkie murderer that’s dribbling all over my guest bathroom floor.” ((The word murderer is one to take note of here – he was told about Gale.))
With a shed of a tear Walt is finally in tune with what he has done to Skyler ((We saw him begin to come to grips with this last week when he found her in the car washes darkened office staring into space, yearning for her lost soul.)). Like the Kafka-esque transformation of Walt into Heisenberg, Skyler has gone to the dark side as well, appealing to Walt during their Albuquerque staycation for the sake of their family’s safety, “We’ve gone this far, what’s one more.” Skyler’s approval of the Old Yeller Solution for Jesse is a true testament to how broken she has become ((Ladies & Gentlemen – Introducing: Mrs. Heisenberg!)). She is damned to hell and fully aware of it ((Take a moment and think of what Walt has done to Marie. She is now dwelling on evil thoughts and hell bent on revenge. “Is this bad for Walt?” -Marie “Yeah. Very.” – Hank “Good. I’m staying. I’ll heat up lasagna.” – Marie)).
Like Skyler has been irreparably affected by Walt, Jesse has been transformed into what in his underworld is reprehensible, the scum of the earth. He has now, in a desperate effort to finally make Walt pay for dragging him into the darkest of holes, broken the ultimate cardinal sin: He talked to the cops. Taking it a step further he begrudgingly agrees to wear a wire. The sting of its application must have felt like being showered in hydrofluoric acid, a literal symbol of the decision he has made to narc. Walt has quite an effect on people ((Take a moment here and also think about Saul’s condition right now – “I never should have let my dojo membership run out.”)).
It becomes increasingly hard to watch Walt lie to his family. His attempt to explain Jesse’s gasoline rampage was the definition of pathetic, especially in light of last week’s flawlessly executed “confession” implicating Hank as Heisenberg. Walt Jr. begs his father to “please, just tell the truth.” If he only knew ((At least Walt Jr. can now easily tell when Walt is full of shit.)). The hotel pool conversation ((A shimmering blue waterfall – reminiscent of the lab’s meth dispensing device in “Hazard Pay.”)) between Walt and Walt Jr. was devastating, and poignant in that it drives home Junior’s desire to believe his father is a good person ((The hug was tear-jerking, echoing Walt’s hug of Jesse a week prior.)). This scene acts as the ultimate set up, and when it gets knocked down with Junior’s realization of his father’s monstrosity, it is going to hurt. Badly. A sting like we haven’t felt before – and we all know we have been through a whole lot at this point. Walt Jr., the lone soldier in the dark about Walt’s crimes, eventually stumbling upon the truth is going to be the mother of all revelations, as the pain it will cause will trump all ((Besides Jesse finding out about Walt’s role in Jane’s death of course….)). Walt Jr. truly loves his father, and defends him at every turn. He is in for it. We all are.
Harnessing all the power of Jesse’s tension-filled walk in “Half Measures” (also written by Sam Catlin), we are witness to Jesse’s anxiety filled excursion across Civic Plaza. Walt has forgotten Mike’s lesson about half measures and is patiently waiting to simply talk to his former partner. Jesse, rightfully terrified of Walt and to the chagrin of the two renegade DEA agents, bails on the meeting. A phone call from Jesse to Walt briskly leads to a phone call from Walt to Todd and now, Walt has set upon a path to cross that final line. He has sold his soul little by little, piece by piece, but protecting Jesse has always meant something to him. He has acted against his own best business interests on multiple occasions in order to protect his surrogate son, the “best most loyal dog there ever was.” ((The episode gets its title “Rabid Dog” from the idea Saul had about Jesse being much like Old Yeller, a good loyal dog – but now he has turned rabid and must be dealt with. It also serves to recall the great episode from Season 4, “Problem Dog”)) Although Saul was most likely correct in that a “nuanced discussion about the virtues of child poisoning” wouldn’t go over well, Walt does have a well-documented proficiency in handling Jesse. But, Jesse’s abrupt turn – a true almost moment for Hank as that could have obtained all he needed to bring Heisenberg down – changes everything once again. Now Jesse has a plan, another way to get him, where “he really lives.” ((This has my wheels spinning! Where he really lives? I tend to believe Jesse is speaking about that mountain of money buried in the desert.))
This episode, which brings us to the midway point of the final half-season, had the feeling of a steep cranking incline of a roller coaster bringing us up to its peak before it drops of us off the cliff ((I’d like to take a moment and declare that it pains me that I didn’t fit the words ‘Babylon’ and ‘Five’ into this recap. Even when Badger is not in an episode he is still making us laugh. Also, I failed to dig into Marie’s therapy session. Something appears to be brewing with her. Stay tuned….)). It’s the ultimate gear-up for the final battle. An hour spent laying the true foundations of where we will ultimately be going. Ripe with abrupt turns and tense unthinkable moments ((Jesse catching some Zzz’s at Hank & Marie’s home – WOW!)), “Rabid Dog” has us chomping at the bit for next Sunday, cursing every day from now until then. Anticipation is at an all time high. “This is as good as it gets.”