The end of Sunday’s (Sept. 1) “Breaking Bad” marks the halfway point in the final eight episodes, and it also marks the first time in this batch that it’s been possible to take a breath.
“Rabid Dog” didn’t deliver the non-stop tension and big swerves of the previous three episodes, so it may go down as a lesser episode in the post-game analysis. It was a necessary one, however, positioning its characters for the final run and showing a possibly tightening noose around Walt’s neck — provided whatever Jesse’s “better way” is doesn’t go completely sideways.
So where does everyone stand with four episodes to go?
Jesse and Hank: The two men who most want to see Walt go down are in an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend sort of situation now. We learn it’s Hank who stops Jesse from setting fire to Walt’s house, then takes him into his own home so Jesse’s name isn’t anywhere in an official file for Walt or Saul to find. After taking a statement from Jesse — which, based on a few things he read back to Jesse, was pretty much all true — Hank and Gomez (who’s been brought up to speed) tell Jesse to wear a wire to his meeting with Walt. The hope is their conversation will yield something concrete on which Hank can build his case.
Jesse balks, calling Walt “the devil” and saying whatever they think will happen, the opposite, and far worse for them, outcome is more likely. Yet a few scenes later, after he’s spooked by the not-hitman, Jesse calls an audible, telling Walt over the phone that he’s coming for him “where you really live.” A furious Hank can hardly stop himself from smacking his would-be informant, but Jesse suddenly seems confident in whatever plan he’s just hatched.
Either Jesse has come up with a brainstorm on the level of his magnet plan in the Season 5 opener, or he’s so much at a loss for how to proceed that all he can do is talk tough. His demeanor in the phone call is as calm and focused as we’ve seen the past four episodes, so it could be the former. Even if his idea is brilliant, though, it better work to perfection in the execution.
Walt: Walt is typically quick on his feet after coming home to his gasoline-soaked house, spinning a story about how a gas pump malfunctioned. Skyler doesn’t buy it but goes along for Walt Jr.’s sake. Junior sniffs out the lie, but figures his dad is trying to cover up how sick he is now that the cancer has returned, but a late-night chat poolside at the hotel where they’re staying while the carpet is being ripped out reassures him. (Here, Bryan Cranston pulls off the estimable feat of convincing the audience how much he really does love his son — it’s maybe the only decent part of him left — while continuing to lie and lie and lie to Junior.)
With Jesse gone rogue and Hank on his tail, though, Walt seems to be getting a little more nervous. He no longer seems to be thinking a couple of moves ahead but instead is reacting to events. The fake confession video may have been a smart move, but it was a desperate one as well. Whatever he planned to say or do to Jesse in such a public place was likely to be something similar — and calling Todd in the episode’s final scene, while portending badly for Jesse, also feels like something of a hail Mary.
Skyler: She wasn’t as prominent in this episode as in the past few, but Skyler made a big impression in her primary scene, a hotel conversation with Walt about Jesse and Walt’s “course of action” in light of the gasoline incident. Anna Gunn gets to deliver the night’s best line — “Not nearly enough,” in response to Walt asking her how much she’s had to drink. She also manages to convey that Skyler has both completely bought into the the criminal enterprise — she all but tells Walt to have Jesse bumped off — and all but given up on the idea of getting out safely. “What’s one more?” she wearily asks Walt about the possibility of killing Jesse.
Marie: Like Hank, Marie has internalized a lot of the shock and anger she feels over discovering what her sister and brother-in-law have been doing. She goes to her therapist to talk things out, but she (wisely, for her and for Hank’s sake) won’t share the specifics of Walt’s actions. She does, however, confess to spending hours researching undetectable poisons online (perhaps she should look into the lily of the valley?) and note that while she could never hurt someone, it feels awfully good to think about it.
Marie does not seem like the kind of person you’d want on your bad side, and she is as hell-bent on seeing Walt pay as her husband is. It’s not hard to wonder if she’ll end up acting on that anger — and what the fallout might be if she does.
Saul: He’s in just one scene here, but helps give the episode its title, by referring to the Jesse problem as an “Old Yeller-type situation” — i.e., Jesse is the rabid dog that needs to be put down. Walt angrily dismisses the idea again. Still, Saul has brought the idea of removing Jesse twice in two episodes. “Breaking Bad” rarely wastes a word of dialogue, so the possibility of movement on that front feels like it’s still hanging in the air.
What did you think of “Breaking Bad” this week?