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This week’s installment of Breaking Bad, aptly entitled “Rabid Dog,” is yet another tightly wound hour that continues the show’s breakneck race to the upcoming series finale. With only four more episodes remaining, the show continues to briskly move the plot forward, allowing each character a chance to shine, while simultaneously ratcheting up the tension to nearly unbearable levels.
I’ve spent the past few reviews ruminating on Walt’s need for control (which is once again on display this week in his lies to both Walt, Jr. and Skyler - more on that later), as well as how Jesse serves as a constant source of unpredictability that Walt should have taken care of several seasons back. Why, after all the trouble Jesse can (and, finally, does) cause for Walt, has Walt let Jesse live?
Outwardly, and certainly inwardly as well, Walt still believes that Jesse can be controlled. When Skyler suggests that Walt “take care” of Jesse, rightly pointing out that he is clearly unstable and a danger to the entire White family, Walt is quick to assure Skyler that Jesse has never hurt anyone (yet another blatant lie, as poor Gale can attest to). Jesse, Walt tells Skyler, is much more of a danger to himself than he is to anyone else. Skyler is rightly unconvinced, but Walt is sincere in his assertions that if he can just talk to Jesse, this will all go away. After all, he managed to tap dance he way out of the ricin situation before. It’s hardly a stretch to believe that Walt has such an inflated sense of self that he honestly thinks Jesse is still capable of trusting him again.
While Walt may be able to find a number of reasons why Jesse should live, the real reason is exactly what Hank tells Jesse - deep down, Walt cares for him. Walt sees Jesse as another son, one with whom he can share the darker side of who he has become. Walt trusts Jesse. Walt has spent five seasons protecting Jesse. But his protection of Jesse has turned into a need to possess and control him as well (which is a common theme with all of Walt’s relationships). Jesse has been the one character in the series who's seen Walt at his worst and most ruthless. They share a bond that Walt doesn’t have with any other character on the show. And that has made Jesse a necessity to Walt’s existence. So long as he has Jesse, he has someone that knows the depths of his darkness. Without that lifeline, he will be alone and may drown (although I’m sure some would argue he’s already under water and sinking fast).
This is why Walt won’t let Jesse go. This is why Walt reacts so vehemently when Saul suggests that it’s time to put the rabid dog down for good. It’s why Walt can’t even contemplate killing Jesse, even when his actual son (whose life is in jeopardy every moment Jesse is out from under Walt’s thumb) comes to Walt in tears over the prospect of his father dying and wanting more time with him. Instead, Walt reaches out to Jesse and tries to bring him back to the fold.
Unfortunately for Walt, Jesse has finally found the strength to walk away from his deepest addiction: the need for Walt’s approval and guidance. While Jesse has certainly been manipulated something awful by Walt throughout the series, Jesse has been responsible for using the relationship as a chance to finally have the father-son dynamic he never had with his own father. Yes, Walt has read that desperate need and twisted it to suit his own goals, but Jesse certainly used it to feed his own desires as well.
The only way for the series to churn toward its ultimate conclusion is to sever the tenuous ties still holding Jesse and Walt together. Jesse’s choice to walk away with Hank rather than burn down the White house, which Walt interprets as an act of mercy, continues to weaken the hold Walt has over Jesse. Teaming up with Hank and the DEA continues to tear at the last thread holding Walt and Jesse together. But it is Jesse’s own paranoia regarding Walt (that his offer for a safe chat in the open is really an attempt to lure Jesse to his death) that leads Jesse to cut the last string and set up the series’ true endgame: Walt versus Jesse.
Jesse has to be the one to take the final step in severing the relationship between himself and Walt. By doing so, Jesse finally removes the last of Mr. White’s control and structure from his life. However, it’s both tragic and telling that this act of independence (something Jesse has lacked for several seasons when it comes to Walt) may in fact lead to his own death. It turns out that in an episode filled with lies told by Walt, his offer to meet with Jesse is in fact genuine.
The episode ends with two ominous phone calls. Jesse, discovering the strength that has been missing for several seasons, threatens to hurt Walt where he really lives (what that means is left up to our interpretation, at least for now). And, now that it is clear that no amount of verbal razzle dazzle by Walt can convince Jesse to return to the fold, Walt makes the one phone call he never thought he would have to make. It looks like Uncle Jack has a new target to take out.
-- While this episode may not be as action packed as the previous three, the story’s chess pieces move far more than in they have until now. We now have clear lines in the sand, with Jesse taking up residence with Hank and Marie against Walt and Skyler (and, judging from his suggestions, Saul).
-- I thought for sure the talk with Walt, Jr. would convince Walt that it is time to take Jesse out of the game. I’d really love to see Jesse and Walt, Jr. meet before the show ends. I also want to see Junior find out the truth about Walt’s real life. After all, he’s starting to see through Walt’s lies.
-- Speaking of Walt’s lies, why doesn’t he just latch onto the explanation Junior came up with? It is way more plausible than his original story.
-- Skyler has suddenly become excellent at detecting Walt’s B.S. After being a non-entity (and looking like she might be having a crisis of conscience) last week, tough and focused Skyler returns again this week. She may not know everything Walt has done, but she certainly has a good idea it involved more than just the death of Gus. I really think she and Walt could have been an unstoppable team if they had gotten on the same page earlier.
-- I am surprised that Walt actually admits to Skyler he did what Jesse thinks he did. I am less surprised that he doesn’t say what this “thing” was, or that he seems to realize what he has told Skyler and immediately tries to down play the small confession.
-- I have to admit, I feel a bit gypped that we didn’t get to see Badger and Skinny Pete’s Babylon 5 conversation. After hearing their thoughts on potential Star Trek storylines, I’d love to see what they could come up with for Captain Sheridan and company.
-- Marie is still dressed all in black. And she’s researching untraceable poisons. Sounds like she and Walt might have some similar interests.
-- So, Hank has told Gomez and he’s on board. I really hope Jesse has a good plan, or else both Hank and Gomez’s careers might be in serious trouble.