We are now four episodes deep into season 5B of Breaking Bad and things are starting to heat up for everyone involved. If for some reason you have not caught up with the series, do yourself a favor and watch it in a marathon fashion on Netflix and find the episodes from this season on your on-demand, because you will not regret it. If you haven’t caught up yet and do read this recap, though, you will regret it. Keep that in mind.
There is a lot of criticism aimed at this week’s episode, “Rabid Dog,” because it is in the unenviable spot that we call the middle. In the middle of a climatic season like this there are certain things that simply need to be done to move the story ahead more and more. This means that the cliffhangers are going to be left to the earlier and later episodes while this one — and possibly the next one — do a lot of the leg work for us into the home stretch. I’m okay with that, but your mileage may vary depending on your expectations.
This week’s episode was really the episode that saw Skyler White’s transformation into something more, something sinister, become complete. She is now Lady MacBeth, pulling the strings to reshape her world now that she realizes how deep she is into this rabbit hole. She is becoming everything that her online haters see in her. I think it would be crass if I didn’t include a link to Anna Gunn’s Op-Ed in the New York Times where she talks about the hate that both Skyler and herself have received and how it is, well, kind of misogynistic. I feel like whenever certain cards get played, like the race card of misogyny card, conversations and criticisms tend to start to shy away due to fear of being called a bigot. I do find this as unfortunate because there are still criticisms to be had and as long as the criticism is beyond “she is a woman.”
In a move very unlike Breaking Bad, we start off right where we left off (kind of), at the White residence, which is now covered in gasoline. Only it is Walt arriving, trying to be stealthy with his iced-over revolver in a house that smells like gasoline. It turns out that Jesse isn’t there, he for some reason opted not to raze the White residence and spraypaint “HEISENBERG” on the wall. Since Walter is a man of cunning and intellect, he calls a locksmith and a carpet cleaner to snazz up the house as if an enraged Jesse Pinkman didn’t go crazy in it. He also found a dirty old CD in Saul’s car, which comes into play later.
When the White clan returns to the homestead they find an elaborate set up by Walt; gasoline sprinkled on his clothing and in his car, a fan in the window of the car to “air it out.” Walt is inside the house on his hands and knees, scrubbing away at the carpet that those lazy carpet cleaners just couldn’t fix. This leads the White family to a marvelous staycation at the marvelous townie casino, the Sandia Resort and Casino, because Walt Jr.’s suggestion of staying at Uncle Hank and Aunt Marie’s made Walt’s skin crawl. Walt clings to his malformed lie of a gas pump malfunction, even when Walt Jr. gives him an out to blame it on the cancer.
We are pleased to find out that Huell, Kuby and Saul are on the case of finding Jesse Pinkman, only for Kuby and Saul to rendezvous with Walt in the hotel parking lot to alert him to the fact that they can’t find him and that Saul believes that Jesse is due for some “Old Yeller”ing, while confusing Old Yeller’s owner with Timmy from Lassie. Oh that Saul. Walter seems dead set against the assassination of Jesse Pinkman by the coward Saul Goodman and feels that a meeting with Mr. Pinkman will solve their problems. Explaining this to Skyler, who seems to be seeing through Walt’s lies more and more now, is another issue.
This episode makes the op-ed by Anna Gunn make all-the-more sense, as this episode is the one where Skyler implies, if not flat out states, that Walt should kill Jesse Pinkman. Jesse has become a liability to their Kingdom and Walt’s regicide on Gus Fring has brought them to this point. What is another body in the wake of the Heisenberg regime? Skyler is now Lady MacBeth. If your skin doesn’t crawl at this scene, I’m not sure when your skin would crawl. Skyler went from the sympathetic wife in a terrible situation to ordering hits on her husband’s former co-conspirators out of both fear and a power high that only someone with misbegotten power would understand; there is a very tenuous grasp on this power and any little slip up could cause the entire house of cards to crumble.
So where, exactly, is Jesse? If you were paying attention last week, you’d be able to call this one from a mile away. If not, then you’ll probably be one of those people who believes this to be overly-convenient and rushed, but everyone has their opinion. Jesse is with Hank. I mean, it is a no-brainer, right? They show Jesse with a lighter in his hand, ready to raze the White residence to ashes, only for Hank to move in, gun raised, telling Jesse to put it out and to not make a mistake. Jesse eventually gives in, tears filling his eyes as he cries out that Walter can’t just keep getting away with it. This leads for Hank to offer his figurative hand and offers for them to take Walt down together.
Oh, remember that dirty CD in Saul’s car? Jesse is messed up, like really messed up. He’s high again, off of the wagon on a binge. Hank knows that bringing Jesse, high, into the system would only complicate things further and could possibly ruin the case for him. So, instead, he brings the kid whom almost cost him his job due to police brutality, into his home to be a house guest for a while. Hank tries to usher Marie out after a session with her counselor, her bags already packed, but when she finds out why, she’s cool with it as long as it could help to bring Walter down. Marie is also wearing black now, which we’ve only seen in the past when she is in a dark place, suffering from her kleptomania. I don’t think that she is stealing anything this time around, but she does feel that all hope is lost.
What transpires next can only be explained as incredibly frustrating, as both Jesse and Hank make a series of decisions each. Some of these decisions are smart, brilliant even, exactly what they need to do. Other decisions are spiteful, vindictive and can only lead to ruin for themselves and for Walter to get away with it. When Jesse wakes up he’s greeted by a cup of black coffee in a DEA mug to see Agent Steve Gomez and Hank preparing a camera in Hank’s living room to tape the confession of Jesse Pinkman. Gomez says very little, but the look on his face is that of a man completely mortified by the entire situation, but standing by his old partner.
Jesse aptly points out that the chances of a taped confession from him being enough to take Mr. White down are next to nil, but still goes through with it. Gomez and Hank talk on the Schrader balcony, with Gomez confirming that while an explosive confession, there is no concrete evidence just yet to take Walter down. This prompts for Hank to bring out Jesse’s Hello Kitty phone and to playback a message from Walt, asking for a meeting at “The Plaza.”
First of all, no one in Albuquerque calls that “The Plaza,” alright? Downtown is four square blocks and that is where people from the courthouse hang out while awaiting their trial. God. Anyway, Hank pushes Jesse into wearing a wire to meet with Walter, while Jesse tells them that Mr. White is smarter than them, as well as being the devil, and that this is probably just an elaborate way for Walter to murder Jesse. Hank assures Jesse that they won’t let anything happen to him, only to confide in Steve Gomez that if Walter were to kill Jesse that it would only help their case out. This is unbecoming of you, Hank.
Jesse is visibly shaken as they drop him off in the wide open meeting spot in downtown Albuquerque. Walter is waiting on a bench, alone, as Jesse is on the verge of suffering from a panic attack walking to meet him. Everything is raising his suspicions, everyone is looking at him, after him. A large man in black with a shaven head standing across from Walter causes alarms to go off in Jesse’s head; Mr. White has muscle there to protect him, or worse. Jesse runs to a payphone and dials Mr. White’s cell phone, turning into a vindictive Jesse that we don’t often see, telling him that he’s going to strike him where he “really lives.”
Hank is furious with Jesse, only for Jesse to explain to him that there is another way to get him, this method being a better, more foolproof way.
This episode was both frustrating and rewarding in a number of ways, as characters that we were supposed to like did nothing redeemable and characters like Walt that we are supposed to hate were the most level-headed of the mix. A part of me sees this as possibly being the last of “Good Walt” that we get to see. Walter is trying to put this business behind him, but he’s realizing that no matter how hard he tries he can’t contain it or escape it.
The relationship between Walter and Jesse remains a strange one, where Walter was partially a father figure to Jesse, but was undeniably an abusive one. He did help to push Jesse to get more out of him, but at what cost? The relationship with Walt mirrors Jesse’s relationship with his own father, which we got a glimpse of when Jesse returned home a few seasons ago only to see his younger brother already turning to weed to deal with the pressures of home. There is nothing that Walter can do to repair this relationship now, he’s hurt Jesse too much and lied to him too many times.
Jesse once again becomes a pawn for someone else, though, this time the pawn of Hank, who is looking for his own brand of vengeance against Walter. In the case of Hank, his pride has been wounded. Hank is now in charge of the DEA’s Albuquerque branch, all the while his white whale (you picking up what I’m laying down?) was breaking bread with him. It’s difficult to blame Skyler for not coming clean to Hank now, knowing at what costs he’s willing to take down Walter. He seems more than happy to sacrifice Jesse upon the altar to catch Walter in action now that he has a videotaped confession from Jesse. In a way, Hank has become self-destructive, looking to do anything in his power to take Walter down, resigning himself to his professional life ending as soon as Walter is behind bars.
This week’s song is from Jerry Cantrell’s first solo album, Boggy Depot, with “My Song” proving to be a rather apt description of Walter and Skyler’s relationship.
“She come, in disguise
I want to say goodbye, yeah
Every time I let it show
You didn’t want to know
By the time I had lost my soul
You had to go”