TV Episode Review: “Breaking Bad” “Rabid Dog” (05.12, 2013)

Written by Sam Catlin (Previous Episodes: “Down,” “4 Days Out,” “Green Light,” “Fly,” “Half Measures,” “Open House,” “Hermanos,” “Crawl Space,” and “Fifty-One”)

Directed by Sam Catlin (No Previous Episodes)

After last episode’s cliffhanger, I really wasn’t sure what to expect here. As I said last week, I was not sure whether the White home showed signs of burn damage, so I wasn’t sure that Jesse was going to be stopped, though I thought it was likely. And I thought it might well mean the end of Jesse Pinkman. In retrospect, what happened makes perfect sense and seems it should have been predictable. Jesse was indeed stopped, but not by Heisenberg. Instead, he was stopped by Hank, who had tailed Jesse from Saul’s office and saw this as an opportunity to get Jesse to flip.

The reveal of what happened was not immediate. Instead, we got a typically Breaking Bad tense, taut sequence as Heisenberg arrived in front of his house and saw Saul’s car then crept in, investigating what Jesse had done and where he was, finding his living room carpet soaked with gasoline but no sign of Jesse. And then, in usual Walt/Heisenberg fashion, his first reaction is apparently not to ensure his own or his family’s safety, but to call carpet cleaners and hide the entire episode from Skyler. Saul’s guys are out searching for Jesse, but he finally thinks to have Hule check on Junior at school only after the cleaners have apparently already long been at work.

Maybe our most long-term lesson from this episode is just how angry Hank and Marie really are. Hank is perfectly willing to cold-heartedly sacrifice Jesse (A coldheartedness that we saw in him back in season 2 resurfacing for the first time since a tortoise exploded around him.) in order to get some evidence against Heisenberg, which wouldn’t exactly be iron-clad evidence anyway since he would essentially be claiming that these criminal activities are the only possible motivation for Walt to murder Jesse without any evidence of the actual criminal activity beyond the Leaves of Grass book that has no chain of custody and Walt’s “confession.” Marie, meanwhile, responds to the news that a drug addict is sleeping in her house by saying that she’s okay with it as long as it’s bad for Walt and fantasizes to her therapist about poisoning Heisenberg, not knowing how ironic it is to talk about poisoning a man who has spent the last year looking for someone to poison with a vial of ricin and who poisoned a child in order to keep himself safe.

Heisenberg takes his family to a fancy hotel while the carpet gets replaced (And will it ever get replaced or just removed? The carpet is gone in the future.), a sequence which allows R.J. Mitte to show off some acting chops for the first time in the show’s history. He calls Walt on his bullshit just as he did back in season one when he said, “Why don’t you just die already then?” and even gets a beautifully-shot scene discussing Walt’s illness with him in front of the hotel pool. He’s brilliant in these scenes and it really makes me wonder if this show hasn’t squandered him a bit. The scene in front of the pool also highlights just how hubristic Heisenberg has become at this point, as he says, “You think I came all this way just to let something as silly as lung cancer take me down?” The man who didn’t even want treatment because he had already given up is now calling lung cancer “silly” and saying that it couldn’t bring someone of his stature down. It’s a pretty powerful callback to the way he reacted to that initial diagnosis that shows just how far this character has gone.

Visually, Sam Catlin’s directorial debut proves itself to be on par with Breaking Bad’s usual look. He even gets one of the most beautiful scenes in the show’s history with Heisenberg and Junior discussing his illness in front of the pool, a scene filled with dramatic shadows and strong colors. It’s the type of scene that no other television show attempts visually, and first-time director Sam Catlin pulls it off.

Overall this was another excellent episode, if something of a dropoff from what we’ve seen this season before.

 

Notes

  • I couldn’t help but think that Mike would have already found Jesse before the cleaners could even get there. The reason Saul’s guys can’t find him is that, oh yeah, Heisenberg killed the guy who would have!
  • Having Hule check on Junior might have been a direct response to the long-running internet hypothesis that Junior exists so that someone can use him to get to Walt near the end.
  • No Lydia. No Todd. No neo-Nazis. For the first time, it felt like Heisenberg was out of the business and was just seeing his chickens come home to roost.
  • Hank and Marie’s bookshelf behind Jesse is filled with books on horses (The Body Language of Horses, Horse Sense, Basic Horsemanship), a prominently-placed book on the 1929 stock market crash, and Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris, a very controversial fictionalized biography that is noted for its blending of reality and fiction. That book’s presence may be a reference to Walt’s confession, or it may even have some other meaning that eludes me. The others don’t strike me as particularly meaningful, but hey if you wondered what was on the shelf, that’s what I could see.
  • Marie’s purple rug made me laugh.
  • Hank is smart. That scene telling Jesse to meet with Heisenberg is a perfect example—he’s figured out from what Jesse told him that Heisenberg cares about him, even though Jesse has never figured that out himself.
  • Steve really went along with Hank’s plan even after that creepy, “We get it all on tape?” I know Hank is the boss, but Steve seems to be a smart, self-assured guy normally. It seems odd to me that he goes along for the ride on this.
  • “Next time I’m gonna get you where you really live.” What does that mean? My first thought was that it means the money, but could it mean something else? After all, he does talk to Hank afterward and say, “There’s another way. A better way.”
  • The neo-Nazis were obviously more than capable of their jobs before, but can they really get to Jesse while he’s hiding with Hank now that Hank has told Steve?
  • After some down time, it’s good to see Jesse get interesting again for a couple of episodes, if nothing else just for the sake of seeing Aaron Paul at work.
  • Betsy Brandt was brilliant talking to her therapist. Marie is a character who could easily be laughably unbelievable, but Brandt always keeps her real, and doesn’t get much attention for it.
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7 thoughts on “TV Episode Review: “Breaking Bad” “Rabid Dog” (05.12, 2013)

  1. I’m not a visual scenes type of person, but I noticed you mentioning them before. I was sort of on the lookout for them in this episode, and I am glad to know that I correctly identified the pool shot as one of them!

    You wrote “it felt like Heisenberg was out of the business and was just seeing his chickens come home to roost.”

    It’s funny, because I had a similar thought, and since these two shows are on at the same time and both in their final seasons, the comparisons to Dexter are easy. I don’t know if you watch, but Dexter is a disaster right now (and used to be excellent). They’ve completely gone away from what the show used to be.

    Then as I was watching BB, I thought…. this is a show about making meth, and there was none of that last night, or in a couple of episodes. In some ways, this show has completely evolved into something different. But unlike Dexter, it’s done that in a good way. I don’t have anything more nuanced to add, but I find it interesting that they’ve been able to keep this show riveting despite doing quite a significant change in the direction of the content.

    I thought the therapist scene was really boring and a waste of time, so we disagree there. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if it somehow ends up being really important, because it seemed out of place and like filler content, otherwise.

    I think the “get you where you really live” comment was pretty much designed to spawn everyone on twitter to speculate for the next seven days!

    • I actually wouldn’t disagree about the therapist scene. It was unnecessary. “Just kill yourself” last week definitely made it clear how angry she was. I enjoyed just watching Betsy Brandt in that scene because I think she’s fantastic and gets too little to do on this show at times, but it was a bit overly on the nose and repetitive as a scene. It actually flashed through my head that it might have been something Catlin added after deciding not to show any of Jesse’s confession.

      I actually watched “Dexter” early on, but I left after season three. (I thought it was being over-the-top ridiculous but taking itself too seriously at the same time.) So, I can’t comment on the similarities between the shows. However, I rather disagree that this was ever a show about making meth. It was always about a very bad man who had been beaten into submission by life but found an outlet for the anger and viciousness within. The moment that Walt turned down the Schwartzes in “Gray Matter” (01.05, 2008), it was obvious that this wasn’t some mild-mannered chemistry teacher desperate to help his family, and to me that’s the point when the show became special. And to me it has always remained a show about a villain let loose after being held hostage by society’s bindings.

      You’re certainly not alone, though. The great Lisa de Moraes, the best writer about television in the country, has said on the Tony Kornheiser Show that she no longer enjoys the show because she liked “its original premise of being about a guy who was a victim of the health care system.”

      And I’m glad to hear that I affected your viewing of the show, as long as I don’t take away from it!

      And you’re probably right about Jesse’s line.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting, of course!

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