Breaking Bad: Rabid Dog

"We've come this far for us. What's one more?"

Okay. I've always felt that Walt's partnership with and protection of Jesse represented some sort of line that Walt just would not cross. Even when last week's episode appeared to include several hints that Walt was about to take Jesse out, I couldn't quite believe Walt would do it. And it turns out he hadn't.

But he has now. Walt just crossed the last line that made him even the tiniest, minisculi-est bit redeemable. He's taken out a hit on Jesse. And yes, I get why he finally did it. Jesse has become a danger to Walt and Walt's family. But it was Walt who drove him step by step to that point, wasn't it?

It felt to me like the parental guardianship role Walt has always taken with Jesse just passed to Hank. I was very unhappy when Hank said that he'd sacrifice Jesse in a second to get Walt, but then again, Hank did take Jesse to his own home. And there was that odd and rather sweet parental moment when Hank reached over and fastened Jesse's seat belt. I hope that it was Hank's anger and desperate need to take down Walt that was talking, that Hank never thought Walt would hit Jesse at the plaza, and that Hank really wouldn't be able to just sacrifice Jesse.

And maybe I feel that way because I am emotionally invested in Jesse, even more so than Hank. I want Jesse to come out of this alive and whole, and I want him to turn his life around. I spent nearly the entire episode waiting for Jesse to get killed, and that was mostly because the title of the episode, "Rabid Dog", was much like "Problem Dog", which was how Jesse referred to killing Gale. Rabid dogs are a bit harder to kill, I suppose.

The other big move this week was Skyler finally completing her transformation into Lady Macbeth and telling Walt that Jesse had to die. I honestly never thought Skyler would get to this point, and I'm deeply disappointed that she has. She should have put a stop to all of this a long time ago, back when she first found out, back when she had the power to take Walt down. Now she's committed not just to money laundering, or lying to protect Walt, but to premeditated murder.

The real tragic figure in all this is Walter Junior. He's totally innocent, and he's the only character in the story who has no idea what's going on. When he finds out, and it's inevitable that he eventually will, it could destroy him. I thought for a moment that he had figured something out when he called Walt on that ridiculous "pump malfunction" story, but no; Junior just came up with an explanation that made Walt look better. That scene out by the hotel pool with Walt just made me so sad for Junior.

This week's tiny bit of comic relief was Marie, who is so angry that she has given up wearing purple and is fantasizing about poisoning Walt. I enjoyed the scene with her shrink, where she was trying to tell him why she was so upset but couldn't tell him why she was so upset. And we finally got a scene with Jesse and Marie, on either side of a long hallway. I'm pretty sure they've never had a scene together in the entire run of the series.

Jesse has had brilliant ideas that have worked before, and now he has a brilliant idea about how to bring Walt down. Let's go, Jesse! The series is nearly over -- only four episodes to go.


-- The opening shot was of a fire hydrant, followed by Walt parking illegally in front of it. The title of the episode is "Rabid Dog". I love how they think about every shot and every scene that they do.

-- Kids on bicycles were riding past when Walt realized that Jesse was no longer at the house.

-- So much talk about poisoning. And the dirty water imagery was everywhere: the carpet cleaning, the ice bucket. Walt was sitting next to a much bigger pool than his own.

-- When Jesse hung up on Walt after the plaza scene and Walt realized he'd have to have Jesse killed, a bell started tolling.

-- This week in color: the blue tunnel of the cleaning equipment sucking gasoline out of Walt's rug. The big red gas can, and Skyler pulling up in a big red car. The hotel room was decorated in red and green and looked like a luxurious version of the ugly White house.

-- Junior always seems to wear stripes. I've always interpreted that as his unawareness of, not what side he is on, but that sides exist at all. Come to think of it, Jesse has been wearing stripes for the past few episodes, too, instead of black and skulls.

And pieces:

-- Hank finally told his buddy Gomez the truth and enlisted his help in filming Jesse's confession.

-- It's fun that all of these life and death messages have been left on a Hello Kitty cell phone. Very Breaking Bad, a touch of the absurd combined with the heavy and tragic.

-- Maybe Walt and Skyler should take this opportunity to install hardwood floors. (Okay, we know that they're not living in the house next year, that it's abandoned, but if I had a zillion illegal bucks, I'd be taking any opportunity to improve that dark, dank house.)

-- We've been watching Talking Bad, and this week's guests were Betsy Brandt (Marie) and RJ Mitte (Junior). Mitte was only fourteen when the series began, and he just turned 21. I had no idea he was that young. The character of Walter Junior was 15 when the series began, and I think he's still only 16 now.


Skyler: "So, um, pump malfunction?"

Saul: "I never should have let my dojo membership run out."

Kuby: "I posed as a meter reader and put a bug in the tall kid's mom's place. For three hours straight, all he talked about was something called Babylon 5."

Walt: "Jesse is upset about the boy. I just need to explain to him why that had to happen."
Saul: "Okay, but say, just for the sake of argument, the kid's not in the mood for a nuanced discussion of the virtues of child poisoning."

Saul: "We were wondering if maybe this isn't an Old Yeller type of situation."

Walt: "I'm sorry, were you spying on me?"
Skyler: "Yes. And I feel just awful about it, too."

Shrink: "So... you're angry."
Marie: "I can't sleep, I'm not eating. Last night I was online for six hours looking up untraceable poisons."

Marie: "Just answer me this one question. Is this bad for Walt?"
Hank: "Yeah. Very."
Marie: "Good. I'm staying. I'll heat up some lasagna."

Walt: "Come on. You think I came all this way to let something as silly as lung cancer take me down? Not a chance."

Hank: "No evidence, no bodies, no working lab, just the word of one nut-job meth head against Mister-Rogers-has-a-lung-tumor."

Jesse: "Yeah, no, Mr. White's gay for me. Everybody knows that."

Jesse: "Look, you two guys are just... guys, okay? Mr. White, he's the devil."
The talk in the plaza would have gone badly if it had happened, though. Walt would have suspected a wire, wouldn't he?

Three out of four fire hydrants,

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


Anonymous said...

Poor Jesse...My heart broke for him during his breakdown in the White home. And everybody wants him dead :( Until the end of the episode Walt was the only one who didn't want to kill Jesse and now Jesse's fear pushes Walt to the point to do want Jesse feared Walt would want to do. Tragic.

I thought it funny that Skylar turned ice cold the moment Walt brought her the ice for her drink.

I did not see any parental concern in Hank's behavior. I had the impression of securing the precious cargo.

And whenever Walt sits at a pool like this it gives me the creeps. It reminded me so much of the scene with the lilly that made him poison Brock. So this time I expect something worse than that.

Jess Lynde said...

You captured a lot of the thoughts I had on this episode, Billie. I'm glad we definitively learned that the identity guy wasn't a planned hit, and that we got to actually see the moment where Walt made the decision to take out Jesse. It's so momentous and significant, that it felt like something we needed to see happen. I'm glad it wasn't played as behind-the-scenes subterfuge like the poisoning of Brock.

On other fronts, like you, I was incredibly disappointed with Skyler and Hank this week. I was hoping Skyler was coming around to seeing the light and turning on Walt. But instead she's just doubling down, deciding she's come too far to turn back now. She's really latched onto the "don't let it all be for nothing" mantra. Really, Skyler? Is this the person you've become? What Walt has turned you into? I've had many moments of disappointment with Skyler's choices over the years, but this one might take the cake.

And Hank telling Gomey that he didn't care whether Jesse lived or died, just so long as he got Walt, was a truly ugly and horrifying moment. I actually started yelling at the tv, "No Hank! No! Bad Hank!" He's the guy I've been rooting for for so long. I'm on his side. I want him to beat Walt. But now we get another horrible example of how Walt destroys everyone around him. Hank's become so bent on busting Walt that he'll do so at any cost.

And I guess we should extend the effect to Marie as well, who's now looking up untraceable poisons and reveling in the thought of using one on Walt. She says she never would, of course, but who can really say at this point? Walt pushes people to horrific places and actions they'd never have thought possible once upon a time. Give her a little more time and maybe Marie will be crossing the line, too.

I'm glad that we got to counter these numerous examples of the cancer-that-is-Walt with that look on Jesse's face at the end. Not catatonic. Not subsumed in rage and grief and guilt. Not a tool. A young man who finally felt like he had some measure of control over his situation, and a plan to put into action. What a relief! I have a strong feeling things won't end well for him --- sob! --- but hopefully this turn to acting on his own accord will at least lead him to end in a stronger place.

Ben P. Duck said...

Now that I have Hamlet in my head everything in Breaking Bad seems to make me think more of it. I would recommend care to all the characters about which cup they drink from, just way too much poison talk.

I think they have set up a really interesting triangle with Jesse, Walt and Hank. Walt has chosen to do the wrong think, the evil thing, at virtually every turn except with Jesse. With Jesse, he has been a protector, a mentor and even a substitute father. Hank OTOH has doggedly pursued the right, even when it cost him. Except with Jesse, who he beat and who he loathes, and whose life he is now willing to throw away to bet Walt. It seems like everything hinges not on Walt but on Jesse throughout the series

Suzanne said...

Like everyone else, I was disappointed when Hank was so cruel about the possibility of Jessie being killed. The only way I can explain it is to look at it from Hank's point of view. He knows nothing about the good side of Jessie we always see. All he sees is a drug addict who has just admitted to murdering Gale in cold blood and to being Walt's partner in so many other horrors. It still doesn't justify his callousness, but it makes me understand it a little better. I hope he changes his mind when he gets to know Jessie better. I still want Hank to come out of this well. The fact that he told Gomez about this gives me some hope.

As for Skyler, I thought she was lost a long time ago. I feel no sympathy for her any more. Hank and Marie would have helped her from the beginning if she had talked to them. Instead, she helped Walt make that horrible tape about Hank. How could she allow him to do that to her own sister, especially after they cared for her children for so long. She is despicable in my book now. I didn't always feel that way about her either.

As for Walt, I hope Jessie and Hank take GM down, but I fear this will end badly for all involved.

I am loving these episodes and your reviews!

Joshua Hayes said...

Suzanne- exactly! You can't judge the writing and character motivations on what you- the viewer- think should happen. It has to be based vicariously on where the characters would be/are. Hank sensibly tries to show Jesse care to earn his trust and loyalty, but deep down he doesn't understand Jesse as a human being enough to care a damn about what happens to him. In fact, it makes PERFECT sense that he wouldn't care if Jesse were the sitting duck for a sting. He's the small fish crackpot in Hank's investigation. He stopped him from burning Walt's house not out of care for anyone, but out of both strategy and law and order. Now, he has a willing pawn from within the game to exact his plans toward a Walter White endgame. Will he succeed and do so with Jesse unscathed? One thing's for sure...Hank cares far more about the former than the latter.

Wishing for OBJECTIVITY said... have to think about things OBJECTIVELY! Hank is a good man and absolutely does not prefer Jesse to die nor do I think he'd truly sit by idly to wait for it to happen. You have to remember...he has no reason to see Jesse as anything but a murderous, scheming, and ultimately SCHEMED game player. It's like Omar in "The Wire," who epitomizes fairness in the law and order game: "NO GUN TURNED ON ANYONE NOT IN THE GAME." Hank doesn't see Jesse's humanity. And, frankly, he's proven in the past to having an angry and ugly blind spot when it comes to decision-making and morality with Jesse.

Your Modest Guru said...

My choice for Most Obvious Symbolism: Jesse holding Hank's DEA coffee mug with both hands. Think this could mean
a) Jesse's only hope for survival now rests with the law, who he sees as good compared to Walter, but the black lettering within the white mug implies that they aren't as good as he thinks, i.e., Hank's willingness to use and sacrifice him.
b) a call forward to Jesse's secure future with the DEA due to his experience in the criminal underworld contrasted with Hank's ruined career by the end of the show. This is what I'm hoping.
c) or it means nothing.

Josie Kafka said...

Modest Guru, I love the idea of Jesse as a future consultant for the DEA. At least, that's how I'm choosing to read your comment. :-)

I agree with both sides of this thread about Hank and Jesse: Hank hasn't had years (or in my case, 2+ weeks) to learn to love Jesse. He sees a meth-cooking killer. But it is sad when two characters (that we all like) don't like each other, since we know Hank is missing the backstory that makes Jesse's actions understandable and tragic.

Plus, we know that Jesse's Big Life Goal is family (e.g. "It's like an instant family. It doesn't get better than that," re: Brock). Hank never got anything out of Jesse with the whole bad-cop act. But now that Jesse has parted from Walter, he has a new opening in the surrogate-father-figure department. Hank finally figured out how to get Jesse to open up to him. His paternalism is sadly more pragmatic than kind, I think.

I see the Hello Kitty phone as the series' last nod to the importance of pink as symbol of innocence and the loss of innocence. That horrific pink stuffed creature (was it a bear? the world's ugliest bear?). The baby's room, half pink and half green (innocence corrupted by the desire for money). A few items of clothing in the second and third seasons, and at least one other important object that I can't think of right now. In this episode and the previous one, Jesse's innocence has been corrupted. He has realized that his "dad" doesn't love him at all.

Billie, I love your reading of Junior's striped shirts! That's absolutely perfect, and I'd never thought of it before.

I got into an interesting discussion the other day with a colleague who is also a father. He said he understand the urge to keep kids innocent of a parent's worst deeds. I said that I wasn't sure what I'd do as a parent (being thus far childless), but that as a daughter, I'd want to know if one of my parents were secretly evil. Especially at age 16. That's awfully close to adulthood.

I'd be interested to know what other people think, parents and not-parents.

Josie Kafka said...

Oh, forgot to add:

I've loved the callbacks to Season One that have occurred throughout this split final season. Walt on the bathroom floor, sitting by the pool (in this episode), and so many others, like the bacon that you pointed out in your review of the split-season premiere. It's felt like things are really coming full circle.

Other thing I forgot to add: I agree with Marie that the kids are perhaps not in the best housing situation right now. However, her desire to get them at all costs keeps reminding me of her kleptomania.

Also, my prediction for the happiest ending we could get: Walt dies of cancer, and Skylar (who "can't remember the last time [she] was happy") is sadly, tragically, but heroically killed protecting her children from something awful. Hank and Marie adopt Junior and Holly. They hire Jesse to be Holly's nanny. They all get a dog, and move to a place with more humidity. Junior goes to college and majors in anything but chemistry. He also makes a second friend.

Billie Doux said...

I liked your happy ending prediction, Josie. Except for the nanny part, I feel much the same way. It seems inevitable that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth will die, or end up in prison. I avoid spoilers, so I have absolutely no idea how BB will end.

The author of the article that Jess sent me said that they thought Junior's stripes symbolized that he was torn between his parents or something, which is also a good theory. Probably only Vince Gilligan knows for sure.

Josie Kafka said...

Let's file this under "Wow, Josie, how did you miss that?"

This is an episode directly inspired by The Usual Suspects.

1. The gasoline.

2. The flashback (to Hank finding Jesse.)

3. Heisenberg's hat.

4. The confession, complete with coffee.

5. The DEA agents at the confession who think they're using Jesse.

(5b. Is Jesse just using them?)

6. "Mr. White is the devil." ("The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is making the world think he didn't exist." "I'm not afraid the devil...but I am afraid of Keyser Soze."

7. Giancarlo Esposito was in The Usual Suspects, although he and Verbal Kint never interact.

Josie Kafka said...

I guess Breaking Bad is having an impact on me; I keep having realizations about this episode when I'm in the middle of doing something else.

Latest revelation: Walter offering money to the carpet cleaners (who are "happy to take more of [his]money" but can't get gasoline all the way out of carpet) is a callback to his line from an earlier season about how there's no problem that can't be solved with money.

Obviously, Walter, there are quite a few problems that can't be solved with money. Like the problem of betrayal.

Your Modest Guru said...

You read my comment right, Josie.

And wow, I didn't catch any of those Usual Suspect nods. Cool cool.

Josie Kafka said...

Does that mean we get to see Aaron Paul in a suit? :-)

Anne said...

I loved the sound of water running (maybe an outside waterfall?) when Marie was talking to her shrink.

Did anyone ever comment on Skyler's "blue" name?

Speaking of striped tops (Walt, Jr.), doesn't Huell always wear striped tops too?

TJ said...

I knew it! The moment Hank stopped Jesse torching Walt's house I was screaming. That's it! The ONE place where Jesse is safe is at Hank & Marie's. Loved it.

I never cared much for Marie, but that "I'm staying. I'll heat up some Lasagna" was just one big LOL!:)

Isn't Junior the sweetest teenager ever?

I didn't think it was possible, but this was a new low for Skyler. She is now so deep in the abyss the pressure must have damaged her brain.

Steve S. said...

It's interesting how many comment are who you're "rooting for" and "invested in" or for whom you most want a happy ending. As I'm watching this for the first time, I see each character as tragically and fatally flawed -- trapped by their personality and doomed to reap the inevitable consequences of their previous actions.

Each main character is being pushed to the extreme: Walt will kill everyone who gets in his way (now even Jesse); Skylar will commit any act to protect her family (now all the way to murder), Hank will do anything to get his man (now including sacrificing an innocent young man), and Marie will steal anything (even another human). I can't root for any of these people -- they are all horrid.

As for Jesse, I'm curious to see how his arc completes. He started out an addicted kid who couldn't get straight but then was taken in by Walt and for his graduate school education, he was taught to do good work, manipulate everyone to get what you need, don't trust anyone, and destroy everything in his way. That's pretty messed up, so you'd expect Jesse to be messed up. And he is. He has passed up opportunities to straighten his life in part because he can't trust anyone. We will see how that works for him.

Junior is the one character who doesn't do it for me. Speaking as a father of two sons about his age, Junior's behavior seems simplistic, shallow and naive. I don't think the writers got that quite right. But it's a minor nit; the show is awesome, and so are these reviews and subsequent comments. Good points on the similarities to Hamlet and Macbeth, and I totally missed the Usual Suspects homage, which is crazy because that's one of my all time favorite movies.

And one last thing -- loved the shout out to Babylon 5-- it's an awesome arc of character development, people growing, changing and dealing with the consequences of their actions. There is foreshadowing and references back and forth all the way to the end, and incredible continuity all through the five seasons. If you haven't watched it, do it. The first few shows are rough as the writers tried to find the voices for the characters and the actors tried to inhabit the roles, but it gets cooking half way through the first season and the next three seasons are fantastic. Pretty tame by today's standards (no sex or gore), and it isn't in HD. But the story is worth the time.

Billie Doux said...

Steve S., what a terrific comment.

I think it's just a normal fan thing to want to have someone to root for. And Babylon 5 was my absolute favorite show while it was running. :)