Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Breaking Bad 512: Rabid Dog

The cancer metaphor that has formed an arc over this entire show is in full swing in this episode. We all know Walt has cancer, but we figured out long ago that he himself is a cancer to those around him, and Rabid Dog made such an excellent display of that as it methodically had every character other than Walt proceed to break bad. This episode is such a brilliant and ironic turn for the show, in that for once, it's got everyone else selfishly willing to kill for their own benefit, while Walt is actually the one trying to save the rabid dog.

It's so fun, to me, that even in the very last episodes of the series, we're gifted with a new character pairing that brings a whole other dynamic to the show. Who knew Hank and Jesse's relationship could be so multi-layered?! Jesse has had a pretty good track record of choosing awful father/mentor figures - they either die (yes, I still miss Mike) and/or they horribly manipulate and abuse him, leaving Jesse even worse off than he was before. On the surface, his newest "adopted father" shares his ambition of wanting Walt to go down for his crimes, but what Jesse doesn't realize is Hank is probably even worse than Walt, as Hank suggested himself - Walt at least cares for Jesse. Hank at first acts like he cares (takes Jesse to his house, gives him food, a bed, etc....he even buckles his seat belt, which seemed kind of sweet, but was really just meant to show the transfer of Jesse's "captivity" from Walt to Hank), but he quickly reveals to Gomez that he doesn't care if Jesse dies, as long as he gets what he needs to go after Walt. Ugh, Jesse can't catch a break.

I would have loved to see more of Jesse's taped confession, though I understand it's not necessary for the viewer (and with so few episodes left, only absolutely necessary scenes will be included). There's so much weight behind such a simple line: "He was my teacher," and it obviously would have been fun to indulge in his telling of their whole story. Also very interesting to watch was Jesse describing Walt to Hank as the Devil (and Hank's facial reaction) - this is perhaps the first time we've gotten Jesse's perspective on Walt, and even when describing his evil side, Jesse puts him on a pedestal of sorts by calling him the Devil. Fair enough - Jesse, after all, is the only one who's seen Walt's full transformation and just about every bad thing he's done. But his warning to Hank and Gomez shows the real toll Walt's abuse has taken on Jesse and just how much Jesse fears him.

And on that note, Hank's "Heisenberg" transformation (Hanksenberg?) is really no less scary than Walt's transformation, because when a man of the law starts taking illegal measures to get his way, there's no telling what his limits are. Hank's actions since finding out Walt's secret have been careless and frazzled, but with Jesse, we finally see him acting firm and in control, because he has his pawn and can feel a step ahead of Walt, again. He even attempts to lie to Marie to get her out of their house, though he's apparently not as good a liar as Walt is, and Marie quickly gets the truth out of him. I think Hank's unlawful actions will be his downfall, though, just as Walt's crimes are catching up with him. It's really too bad Hank has chosen this route to catch Walt, though one could argue he didn't have many other choices.

The scenes in the Schrader house were both fun and hard to watch. Fun, because zomg, Jesse's in there, surrounded by purple, drinking from a DEA mug, and it's weird, and is Marie really making him lasagna, because maybe she can feed and hug him and he can be the son she never had?! Hard, because the "Here, let me feed you and help you sober up" situation quickly dissolves into coldness and coercion and control and manipulation on Hank's part. As many times as Jesse's been through this abuse, whether at the hands of Walt, Mike, or Hank, it never gets easier to watch, and as much as Jesse wants revenge on Walt, I really wished he'd have stood up to Hank's pushiness and walked away from the scene (though that probably isn't an option, at this point, without him being arrested).

A note about Marie, who has her own Heisenberg transformation in this episode (surely her "untraceable poison" Google searches won't come back to haunt her, will they?). It's interesting how much quicker she is to become Hank's ally than Skyler was to become Walt's. Both men are carrying out illegal activities, at this point, and risking their lives to do so, but Marie stands by her husband much more steadfastly. It speaks to the strength of their marriage; The Schraders have never appeared to be a particularly affectionate or physically close couple, compared to the Whites, and yet their relationship has always seemed more solid than Skyler and Walt's. Marie's loyalty to Hank trumps any loyalty to her own sister, and if and when Hank goes down, Marie will undoubtedly go with him.

Skyler haters got more fuel added to their fire in this episode, when she suggested putting a hit on Jesse. Her and Walt switching roles here would really be comical, you know, if they weren't talking about killing someone. Skyler even uses Walt's language, saying, "Deal with it." Her actions are completely understandable, of course. Her priority is to protect her family, and it only makes sense to her to eliminate a potential threat to her kids. It even seems like an easy fix, to her, because, like Hank, she doesn't know Jesse as anything more than a junkie drug dealer, so why should this be any different from the handful of others Walt's already killed? Walt's reply gives her a bit of a sobering glimpse into a different side of his criminal life - his fatherly affection for a "kid" who is not his son, as well as his assertion that he has enough control over Jesse to talk him out of seeking revenge. Which must leave Skyler horrified. I do feel for her - she did make the wrong choice in sticking by Walt's side through all this, but, much like Walt himself, she likely never saw the full magnitude of that decision at the time she made it, and now she's got no choice but to keep descending into this pit (grave, perhaps) with Walt.

One can only hope their kids aren't dragged in with them. I wonder if Walt Jr. will find out the truth about his parents, but even if he doesn't, I imagine him discovering Walt and Jesse's relationship would be devastating enough. Walt has never appeared to have a particularly close relationship with his son, and their hug by the pool didn't leave him as emotional as I wanted. It's a sad revelation and even more sad to consider that Walt's shown more affection for Jesse than for Walt Jr., spent more time with Jesse, taught him more (meanwhile, he can barely teach Walt Jr. how to drive), etc. Sure, Jesse arguably needs more guidance than Walt Jr., but Walt's presence in his son's formative years is still valuable. Everyone's goal on this show is to shield the kids from all this (and man, thank god Holly is too young to remember it all, should she survive), but part of me doesn't see that happening in the end.

Most of Walt's actions in this episode show his continued unraveling. We're used to seeing him get away with everything (as Jesse said to Hank), but we all knew that gasoline smell wasn't coming out of the carpet, no matter how much money he offered the cleaners. He then concocts probably his stupidest lie ever that both Skyler and Walt Jr. see through (for different reasons - and Walt Jr.'s lie ends up being better than his father's, go figure). Walt's always used money and lies to get out of his messes, and for the first time, neither of those work for him, thus making it look more probable that he's going down for his crimes.

I enjoy the continued ambiguity of Walt's feelings for Jesse. He's done a lot of things to save Jesse and a lot to hurt him, but it's always been in Jesse's best interest, and we're kept guessing on the extent of his love even when Walt tells Skyler he can't have Jesse killed. There doesn't appear to be much reason for Walt to spare Jesse, now, but he still insists on it, and I suppose we're to believe it's because Walt loves him. But maybe there's also a pride issue driving him - that killing his protege marks a failure for him. Or maybe Walt just can't bear to lose his pawn (he does, after all, think that Jesse's had a change of heart, since he didn't burn down the White house). Walt learns this isn't the case by the end of the episode, but we should probably keep in mind that we don't know exactly what he was asking Todd - we're led to believe he's putting a hit on Jesse, but maybe it's for Hank instead? Maybe he's just asking them to capture Jesse and not kill him, so Walt can swoop in and reason with him as he still believes he has the ability to do?

As for Jesse, he's very much the rabid dog Saul suggests he is, and he's ready to use his teeth (it's too bad he jumped to the wrong conclusion in the plaza - damn creepy man looking like a killer!). Who knows what on earth his alternate plan is, but I imagine it has something to do with either tracking down Skyler or bringing in Lydia to somehow threaten Walt's empire. Whatever it is, it's nice to see Jesse forming his own plan - not just because he's sort of figuratively coming back to life, but also because he's starting to stand on his own and refuse the manipulations of others.


- I love the "flash forward, then backtrack" ordering of the first half of the episode; instead of picking up where the last one left off, with Jesse about to torch the White house, we see Walt arriving at the house and taking a suspenseful search of the place before realizing Jesse isn't even there. We're left to guess for a bit what happened to him, until the scene flashes back to where the last episode left off and we discover Hank beat Walt to the house and took Jesse away (there's a great little "cheap trick" here of Hank driving away literally seconds before Walt pulls up, but I'm just so along for the ride at this point that it totally worked for me).

- I don't know why Walt had to specifically list his genitals when telling Skyler where the gasoline spilled, but it was so god damn hilarious, and I love the writers for again managing to sneak some humor into all this darkness.

- Another tighty whities scene! I'll take every last one they want to give us in these last few episodes.

- Not even gonna lie, when Jesse started his confession video explaining that Walt was his teacher, I was holding my breath for a high school flashback of Jesse in his class. It's something I've wanted this whole damn series, but I know there's no reason for it at this point, other than to indulge viewers like me. :)

- There's been a lot of "jail bar" imagery in the more recent seasons, mostly on Walt using shadows from window blinds, so it was awesome to see the quick shot of Hank through the bars on the back of his kitchen chair. Perhaps a sign of what's to come of his character. Yet another detail I so appreciate this show for taking the time to include.

- So many pool scenes on this show (usually at the White house, but at the hotel in this episode), but no one ever gets in the water (Skyler being the exception). I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to go into all the religious imagery/metaphor this show has, but one can clearly see there's always a lot of water and no one's getting cleansed.

- Um, was anyone else reminded of Mike and his granddaughter when they saw the little girl run up to the man in the plaza Jesse suspected was a hit man? Jesus, guys, we miss him enough, already!

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