By: Paul Andreacchi and Daniel Reynolds
Paul: The newest episode of Breaking Bad reinforces an idea that has been at the heart of the show for the last 3 seasons: Jesse is Walt’s last bastion of civilization and humanity. In his own twisted way, Jesse is his family. Sending him to Belize is not like shooting Old Yeller, it means much more.
Sometimes it is hard to remember the Walt of Season 2 going into an ABQ crack den alone in search of a decaying Jesse who had just lost Jane. Admittedly, Walt was the one responsible for her death, and while his devotion to his sense of self has never been in question, Walt’s commitment to Jesse endures because it reminds him of the last good elements of his soul. But, as Skyler reminds us, that person Walt sometimes clings to is long gone. What’s one more, indeed?
“He does what I tell him”. Gustavo Fring received this response when asking Walt to explain his irrational devotion to Jesse’s well being. Jesse once described his experiences as being akin to that of a “problem dog” in an AA meeting. Here, Walt describes Jesse as not being a ‘rabid dog’. As the dog metaphors get more violent and visceral, so too will the experiences of Jesse.
While most of the debate at the end of this series focuses on Walt’s survival, I have always believed that Jesse is a much more complex and compelling character. Walt has experienced a fairly straightforward descent since the murder of Crazy 8. Since then, the audience marvels at the new ways Walt becomes Scarface. Jesse, however, has done some terrible things but struggles with them. He is our true criminal with a conscience. His actions affect him so much that we have seen him become a recluse, drug addict (multiple times), silent sufferer, and often on the verge of emotional destruction. Walt experiences none of these and is at the heart of Jesse’s embittered plea: “He can’t keep getting away with it!”
So, it is Jesse’s fate we should be most interested in because the true battle between good and evil may not be Hank versus Heisenberg. Hank is developing a similar disregard for human life when he tells Gomez he doesn’t mind sending Jesse to Walt like a lamb (or dog) to the slaughter. As the conclusion of ‘Rabid Dog’ reveals, the good versus evil battle is between two men that began their criminal lives together but will end in very different places, as very different people.
Daniel: Can we take a moment, just a moment, to remember the goofy scheming side of Walt? There are some other perhaps more pressing elements of last night’s episode of Breaking Bad to discuss, but I want to talk about the semi slapstick side of Walt – you know, the one that usually involves tighty-whities – that Bryan Cranston sells so well.
After experiencing (or enduring, depending on your heart condition) an escalating number of capers and plots the last couple of seasons, it was both bizarre and strangely heartwarming to see Walt doing his dopey Father Knows Best routine to explain the sudden presence of gas all over the White home. So many of Walt’s plans as of late have involved thrilling life and death stakes and while this latest close call with Jesse was definitely backed by some fearsome emotion, it also recalled the days of Walt’s life when he really just didn’t want his wife to find out. It was a simpler time, and you can see Walt adorably trying to reach back for it. His emergence, on his hands and knees, from behind the sofa brought a smile to my face. Skyler, naturally, doesn’t believe his story; she spies on him as a matter of course, knowing full well that her husband is no longer capable of being so clumsy. Poor Walt Jr., placated by hotel amenities and worried about cancer scares, is easier to distract. Like the carpet in the White’s living room, so much of Junior’s life still appears the same, but unbeknownst (still!) to him, the rotten smell has soaked invisibly down to its base.
While it was not overly surprising to see Saul float the idea of taking the Old Yeller route with Jesse, and Skyler’s admission of “what’s one more?” was equally as shrug inducing, what do we say about Hank’s actions? I wrote him off last week as trapped and ineffectual, but he can still run a solo investigation better than anyone else, and he still has Jesse rampaging across town. Hank’s appearance in the White’s living room should not have come as a shock. Was it disheartening to see the Schraders, both Hank and Marie, throwing themselves so fully into Walt’s destruction that they to would be tainted by the spreading ooze of Walt’s evil? Lovable Marie admitting that she feels good thinking about violence while Hank mentally prepares for the possibility of filming the murder of Jesse if it gets him Walt? Is this justice served or prideful vengeance?
Walt is desperate – relatively speaking – to maintain the facade of his old life. He wants the locks to be fixed but not changed, the carpet, that ugly brown shag carpet, has to be maintained. In a way, it is the same idea that motivates his dealings with Jesse. They’ve been through so much, stood opposed and together, were an unbreakable partnership, a pseudo father/son pair, a teacher and pupil. Walt does not want to rip out and destroy that history. It means too much and has, strangely, provided a footing for so many of his actions. But still, reality. The fetid smell has gone too deep, soaked through all the layers. We know what it means when Walt calls the bad “son” Todd. He knows it is time for a different type of cleaning.