It’s a fairly quiet week on Breaking Bad. After a few powerhouse hours brought the series roaring back to life, ‘Rabid Dog’ tones things down to deliver the drama in a series of menacing conversations.
Let’s bitch it out…Your regular reviewer, TVAngie is taking the week off, so you’re stuck with me for this Labour Day edition. Rest assured that the deep analysis will return when TVAngie is back next week.
I’ll admit that initially I found this episode a little underwhelming. My awareness of the finality of these final episodes is so acute that ‘Rabid Dog’ at times feels like it’s moving underwater <so slow!>. Perhaps it’s because last week ended on such a dramatic note, with the promise of Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) coming to blows. After all, haven’t we been waiting for five seasons to see what happens when these two finally take on one another?
When it becomes clear that that won’t happen, I’ll admit that I was disappointed. As the episode heads into the final scene at the plaza I knew that the confrontation I’d been hoping wasn’t in the cards this week. And yet, in retrospect I feel like ‘Rabid Dog’ is exactly the episode we need at this junction; I just didn’t know it while I was watching it.
Essentially this is an episode meant to give us (and the characters) a bit of breathing room. Unlike last week, this is intimate: we spend the hour with a handful of characters and they spend the majority of their time talking to one another in close quarters. Granted, this is Breaking Bad, so although there’s a lot of conversation, most of it (and subsequently the atmosphere) is filled with the ever-present threat of violence and impending doom that coats the series like a fine coating of meth dust. And this is the calm before the storm – the reflexive moments before the hell breaks loose!
A lot of ‘Rabid Dog’ feels like father/son drama to me. Between Walt steadfastly refusing to acknowledge Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) suggestion that Jesse is Old Yeller/Belize, to the way that Hank (Dean Norris) protectively buckles him in in the SUV, there’s a sense that these men want to protect the troubled young man…albeit for their own twisted gains.
If nothing else this episode shows us just how valuable Jesse Pinkman is (for now): he’s simultaneously the key to Walt’s destruction and Hank’s salvation. The problem is that both seem to forget that Jesse is his own active agent. Although he is frequently (maddeningly?) malleable, Jesse’s not on the outside looking in like Marie (Betsy Brandt) and Skyler (Anna Gunn), two characters who so often react to their husbands’ actions as opposed to contributing to them.
But if the two adversaries are fighting for Jesse’s soul, Walt and Hank clearly haven’t been watching the same show as us. Jesse’s inevitable abandonment of the plan to entrap Walt at the plaza with a wire-tapped confession is quintessentially Pinkman. We know that Jesse frequently acts on his emotions, and not his head. So even though he supposedly has a plan, he’s still pulled the trigger and metaphorically declared war on his former father figure because of something he thought he saw*. Perhaps Jesse will prove me wrong, but for now it seems likely that Alan Sepinwall’s observation that violence on this show begets more violence will prove itself true in the very near future.
*Admittedly I find the irony that Jesse confuses a father waiting for his child for a hitman a little obvious.
Of course Jesse’s not the only one out for blood. Marie is quietly fantasizing about poisoned revenge, Skyler is complacent with the idea of adding another body to the myriad number of crimes she has helped cover up and by the end of the hour Walt is calling on the Neo Nazis to deal with his former partner. And so although this is an episode in which no blood is shed, and no physical fights are fought, by the end of the hour both seem inevitable.
And so the battle lines are drawn…At this time, all we know is that Walt will live to see another birthday. What becomes of everyone else is still anyone’s guess…
- Walt seems particularly off his game when Jesse’s involved. His lie about the gas station accident is easily one of his least convincing fabrications. Even Junior (RJ Mitte) doesn’t buy it!
- I liked the doubling of Hank’s movements: the fatherly affection when he straps Jesse in is nicely contrasted when he leans over Jesse to shove him into the plaza (and a potentially fatal encounter)
- Perhaps Walt should have dove into the pool for some deep thinking? It certainly worked for Skyler earlier in the season…
- Marie giving Jesse the DEA mug is a bit too on-the-nose for my liking. Were the “NARC” and “SNITCH” mugs in the dishwasher?
- Walt’s rationale for wanting to keep the same locks after the break-in: is this just because he thinks he can fool Skyler into believing nothing happened? Or is there something I’ve forgotten?
- Finally, going back to 5×09 ‘Blood Money’s opening flashforward: the carpet has indeed been torn up in the White household, confirming that the gasoline did soak through. There are no signs of fire, though, so we shouldn’t expect any fireballs in the house in the near future
- Saul (after Walt comments on his bruised face): “Yeah, but you gotta understand: deep down he loves me”
- Skyler (deadpan, when Walt asks if she was spying on him): “Yes, and I feel just awful about it.”
- Therapist (after Marie asks to change the subject): “How’s work? Last week you were upset about the new parking rules.”
What are your thoughts? Were you unhappy that the conflict didn’t come to a head? What is Jesse’s big plan? Will he get to execute it before he himself is executed? Were you surprised at Skyler’s dark sentiments? Will Walt Jr ever find out about his father? Sound off below
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC