Last week on Breaking Bad, Todd told a story, Walt made a confession, and Jesse got some gasoline. This week, Saul invoked Old Yeller, Walt had a total pump malfunction, and Hank got to know Jesse. Check out some thoughts about the newest episode, "Rabid Dog," below.
"Rabid Dog": Back in season four there was an episode called "Problem Dog," in which a guilt-stricken Jesse briefly tried to open up about killing Gale by telling his support group the story of killing an innocent dog. In last night's episode Walt spends the bulk of his time agonizing over what to do about his "rabid dog" problem. And something kind of remarkable happens: for the first time in a long while (perhaps since season three!), we see Walt wrestle with a moral decision, one that he knows is wrong, one that he can't justify at all (well, until Jesse tells him he's coming after him). Despite becoming more ruthless as the seasons have passed, Walt has always had a soft spot toward Jesse, as Hank points out later in the episode.
Because Jesse didn't go through with torching his house, Walt sincerely thinks he can "make him see reason," that their bond (which started to be re-established with that creepy hug last episode) is familial—he still believes there's some way he can explain why he poisoned a child. It's like we're seeing the Walt of season three episode "Fly," the one who wrestled with explaining his meth career to Skyler: "I truly believe there exists some combination of words. There must exist certain words in a certain specific order that can explain all of this, but with her I just can't ever seem to find them."
Then again, look at how he describes Jesse to Skyler: he has emotional issues, personal issues, he's more liable to hurt himself than others. That's the person Walt has had enabling him for the last five seasons; even if Walt has developed a paternal relationship with him, even if he does consider him family, he's also taken advantage of Jesse's sensitivity whenever he needed to. They've been in an abusive relationship—as Walt once explained to Gus, "he does what I say."
"We've Come This Far. What's One More?": But Skyler makes things very clear to him in one of the most startling scenes. Every episode this season we've seen Skyler embrace her husband despite herself; she seems to have absorbed trace elements of his personality, even. Her voice chokes up as she talks about "where we are now," but there's no hesitancy in her request: "You need to deal with this." Last season, Skyler submerged into the backyard pool on Walt's birthday because she had no power to do anything else—but it seems she emerged a very different person.
Old Yeller Type Situation: First Belize, and now Old Yeller. Saul really is brimming with colorful metaphors! (And a dog one, no less.) Walt may not want to hear it, but Saul is just being a realist. Unlike Walt, Saul has always been a person who is completely honest about who he is and what he's willing to do without needing to garnish it in utter bullshit.
Hank's Vendetta: Once the truth about Walt comes out, Hank's career is over. So it's understandable that he is driven with Ahab-like conviction to bring Walt to justice. But the obsession may also be clouding his vision. After he made his own home movie with Jesse, Hank knows everything that Jesse knows—not just Gus and Hector Salamanca and the Cousins, but Drew Sharpe and Brock and a lot about Walt and Jesse's relationship. He's plumbed Jesse's depths, and yet Hank is ready to sacrifice him in a second if it'll give him hard evidence against Mr. Rogers Has A Tumor. He's completely devoid of empathy for him: "The kid? Oh, you mean the junkie murderer who is dribbling all over my bathroom floor." It seems Jesse isn't the only rabid dog lashing out right now.
Hank can clearly see that Walt cares about Jesse as more than just a junkie murderer. And we are given every indication that Walt was being sincere about wanting to meet to talk to Jesse without any murderous backup plans. This is the sad irony of the situation: at his lowest moment, Walt is more concerned about Jesse and what happens to him than anybody else (Skyler, Saul and Hank all suggest Jesse can just disappear).
But Hank's downfall may be that he thinks he can play at Walt's level and beat him (shades of Forest Whitaker's character Jon Kavanaugh taking on Vic Mackey in the later season of The Shield). It's just too bad Hank didn't heed Jesse's warning: "Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I'm telling you that the exact opposite of that will happen."
Parallel Relationships: Walt and Hank try putting on dopey, "good husband" personas in the episode to get their wives out of the house and away from any imminent danger, but it's completely transparent (Walt's total pump malfunction is particularly pathetic). More importantly, both make an error in judgment: Skyler and Marie have their eyes wide open. They aren't putting their heads in the sand anymore. And in the case of Marie, that includes fantasizing about untraceable poisons with her therapist Dave: "It just feels good to think about it."
One other parallel: the hug between Walt and Flynn at the pool was a warped version of last week's Walt/Jesse embrace, which was filled with much more emotion from Walt's end. That interaction with his real son is what inspired Walt to sincerely reach out to his other son in good faith.
Weird Camera Angles Of The Night: This episode was a bit light on the strange shots—we got a neon blue Inner Air Duct Shot, Carpet Cam, and an Ice Machine Cam, but none of them were Shovel Cam/Roomba Cam worthy—but it made up for it with an excellent, eerie soundtrack, and an even more brilliant structure.
The first 20 minutes were devoted to Walt dealing with his "pump malfunction" before we caught up with Jesse and Hank. The episode did a brilliant job of withholding little bits of information—why did Jesse change his mind about burning down the house, where did he go? What did Walt say in his poolside phone call to Jesse, was he planning to kill him at the meeting?—and then revealing it. It made everything a bit more suspenseful without artificially drawing out any plotlines over several weeks, without feeling like it was stalling. So in the end, the season continues to gallop along, and with Walt's final phone call, it feels like we may finally be seeing how everything is going to spectacularly denigrate into murder and mayhem before Mr. Lambert drives to New Hampshire.
Can Anyone Really Be Rooting For Walt At This Point?: And so the episode ends with Walt's fateful call to Todd (note the ominous church bells ringing in the background after Jesse calls Walt on the payphone, ostensibly at the moment Walt decides to make a move), telling him he has another job for his neo-Nazi uncle. I'm convinced that Walt's decision to bring that murderous crew into this mess will be the thing that leads to Heisenberg getting outed. Instead of making videotapes and trying to put a wire on Jesse, perhaps Hank should have been asking who was responsible for those prison murders, and working the case that way.
And shit: Walt put a hit out on Jesse!
Next Week: The episode is titled "To'hajiilee," which has two significant meanings—it's the location where Walt and Jesse did their first cook (in the pilot of the show), and where Walt buried all his money this season. Is Jesse's promise to Hank going to go after him by burning his money (or by finding the money and giving it to Hank as evidence)?