[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 12, "Rabid Dog"

Courtesy of AMC
Because the quality of Breaking Bad is so consistent from episode to episode, it it difficult to single out particular episodes as being better then other. Certainly, there are moments that stand above the rest, but from week to week, things tend to blend together into one massive story telling event, which these writers have mastered. It makes weaker episodes all the more jarring, but those are few and far between. So to say that Rabid Dog is probably the best episode of the season so far, and in my opinion, one of the stronger episodes of the series, it speaks to how much the writers had to overcome.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers whose bookshelf also contains a Reagan biography and the complete Deadwood.


So, this episode was all about tension, and if you're an aspiring writer, go back and rewatch this episode. This is Hitchcockian in it's build-up of the inevitable bang, and the bang never comes. Perhaps the brilliance of the episode is that nothing ever pays off, for anyone, the characters or the viewer. Other shows would go for the fist fight or the shouting match, or the blazing inferno. As we have covered many times over, Breaking Bad is not other shows. That cold open, largely silent, playing on our expectations that Walter and Jesse would have it out, just kept building and building, and rather then dissipated or undercut, it just seizes up. The tension remains, and keeps getting built up in smaller ways throughout, until the end where... they do it again. This is the sort of episode that people mean when they say "it flew by." You loose all track of time watching Walter and Jesse move against each other, the clock meaning nothing until the credits role, and all you want is for it to be next week already.

The writers understood exactly how to structure the episode so that the tension never released, like a constipated colon that puckered every time it was meant to relax. The build-up of the open progressed into the gas cleaning, into Walter's lie, into Junior's worry, and into Skylar and Saul's unexpected union in the belief that Jesse has outlived his usefulness. The best device of the night though, was the splitting of the run time straight down the middle between Walter and Jesse. The episode would have fallen flat if, right from the credits, we knew that Hank had pulled Jesse out of the White home. Instead, we get the answer Walter seeks, and the writers continue to build up the tension from the other side.

Everything had the potential to go right here, and nothing did. If Jesse had just sat down with Walter, and talked things through, Walter would have inevitably convinced him to leave, saving both of them. But Jesse's paranoia, plus Walter having the same bad advice coming at him from all sides, leads to a conclusion that spells bad for everyone. Walter is now convinced that killing Jesse is the only recourse. And Jesse and Hank are preparing an even bigger trap for Walter to fall into. It's nice to see, after last week's Sherlock style epiphany, that Jesse's brain isn't atrophying again. He's starting to think more and more like Walter, and has enough confidence in himself to think he can best the man that he, just scenes before, stated is smarter and luckier then everyone. I don't know if that is wise, and he should probably reexamine some of his prior life decisions before going head to head with his mentor.

Hank has made his bed, despite Walter's threat. He clearly confident enough in his own detectiving skills that he can present enough evidence to counter act any claims made by Walter, and getting Jesse to turn on Mr. White is as solid a piece of evidence as there is. Bringing Gomez into the operation is also a sign that he as resigned himself to whatever fate awaits him. He's also showing some of the signs that Walter did, as he was climbing the branch. The "all in the name of" mentality that lead to Walter killing for the first time. Hank flat out says, if Jesse gets Walter to talk, they win. And if Walter kills Jesse, they'll have that as evidence, and they still win. Hank has begun to sacrifice his morality, just as Walter did, to protect himself and get the end result that he wants. I'm beginning to reevaluate my belief that Hank will survive all this. I'm wondering if his obsession with taking down Walter will kill him.

It was a night where death was discussed at length by several characters, and considering the tendency towards foreshadowing on this show, you have to wonder what it's all lead towards. Marie has been doing research  into invisible poisons, a path that Walter himself has travelled, and I can't see ending well for anyone. Both Saul and Skylar have marked Jesse for death, and give reasonable arguments towards that end, with Walter blinded by a loyalty that seems to encompass Jesse and his own children. But perhaps the most telling line was Walter's belief that his cancer would not kill him. I think this was the writer's biggest hint at what is to come. That the great Walter White won't be taken out by something small and ridiculous as cancer. Of course he won't, he'll go out in a blaze of glory.

I guessed a few weeks ago that he's planning on taking the ricin himself, to go out on his terms, after he has laid waste to his enemies. And I'm sticking with that. Because I also don't see a gun shot taking him down. I don't see Walter's death being something quick. I don't see him going out in an explosion, a la Fring. I see his death mirroring Mike's. A gradual sort of peace descending over him as he slowly leaves. Perhaps surveying all that he has destroyed. Probably alone. Maybe in the desert, sitting on his buried trove of cash.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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