Breaking Bad #512: "Rabid Dog"

This morning I found my Twitter feed full of excited Tweets about the contents of the Schraeders' bookshelves, glimpsed behind Jesse and Hank in last night's episode. (They are apparently Deadwood fans, for example, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.) What did it mean that Jesse picked up a copy of Dutch? And, more importantly, what does it say about this show and the expectations it has set that fans are hyper-alert for every little detail? The craftsmanship has been so painstaking, the writing has been so tight and so carefully planned, that we are all now assuming there will be some significance in the books the set dressers rented to fill Hank's living room.

My friend Kate (who used to work on the show) tweeted that this season of Breaking Bad "is like an Advent calendar full of delicious details. Tonight: Dave!" That is, we finally met Marie's therapist: the sort of thing only an obsessive fan would be excited about. And that's the only kind of fan Breaking Bad has. More thoughts on the details after the jump...

I must say I'm feeling vindicated for having questioned the notion of "Skyler-as-heroine" last week. After she saw through Walt's gasoline-spill coverup, it was clear that not only is it useless for Walt to lie to her -- it's unnecessary. She is all in. And that led to a fascinating reversal, where Walt was trying to hold the line on killing Jesse, while everyone else was practically begging him to.

The scene in the plaza where Walt wanted to meet Jesse was fraught with ambiguity and irony. Apparently Walt didn't plan to kill Jesse then, which means Jesse might have been able to get an incriminating statement out of him. But now he missed that opportunity, and Walt apparently does intend to have Jesse killed. Meanwhile, we were reminded that Hank, however much he may be wearing the white hat these days, is still Hank, and still disdainful of the lowlife drug addicts who come between him and another victory for the DEA. The moment when Hank reached over to put Jesse's seat belt on for him was almost touching. It seemed like Jesse had transfered to a more reliable father figure, and might really be safe now. But Hank is no more concerned about "Pinkman" than he ever was. And Hank was also right that Walt has gone out of his way to protect Jesse, even when it went against his ruthless empire-building instincts. Are those days over?

So: what is Jesse's plan? He told Walt that, instead of burning down his house, he would get him where he "really lives." Where is that? At one point I might have thought he was referring to Walt's pride in his meth craftsmanship, or his image as Heisenberg. But he's left that behind now, and he's not concerned about the substandard meth on the market. Jesse doesn't know where the money is. What weakness can he exploit? I'm thinking it must be Walt's family. Either he will threaten baby Holly -- but that would require knowing her daily caregiving schedule, and I'm pretty sure she doesn't really have one -- or he'll threaten to reveal all to Walt Jr. Which got me thinking: has Jesse ever met Walt Jr.? Have we been building to a meetup between them all along: the surrogate son and the real-life heir? (The other big question is, how can whatever Jesse has in mind involve Hank, or benefit him?)

Also, does Jesse know that Walt will definitely try to have him killed now? Is that part of his plan? Saul compared Jesse to Old Yeller, and gave the episode its title. But could we have a more noble literary comparison in operation here? If Walt is, as Jesse put it, "the Devil," and if Jesse plans to sacrifice himself to bring the Devil down, then does that make Jesse...a Christ figure? Crazy? Maybe. But admit it -- you were looking at those bookshelves too.

Other notes: we must be building up to some sort of role for Marie in Walt's downfall, right? Because otherwise it seems to me we are spending an awful lot of time with depressed Marie. Not that it's not fun to meet Dave and all, but -- I really don't care how she's handling all this. That whole scene I was impatient to get back to the action.

We know Todd will come back, too -- not just as a conduit to his uncle, but also as a drug lord setting up shop back in New Mexico. And I am running out of hope that the Gomez-is-a-dirty-cop counternarrative I've been building in my head is going to come to light. But when he spends yet another episode shaking his head and saying "I don't KNOW, Hank..." I have to keep hoping there's some payoff to his consistent blandness.


Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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