“He can’t keep getting away with it!” Jesse (Aaron Paul) howls in the twelfth, riveting episode of the final season of “Breaking Bad.” And increasingly, it looks like Walt (Bryan Cranston) is on the backpedal, looking to straighten up a mess that continues to seep like so much gasoline into the carpets of his house leaving a stain he can’t get out. And indeed, that is the result of the eleventh episode capper that had an enraged, cocaine-fueled Jesse—who finally put one-and-one together in regards to Brock’s poisoning and Walt’s role in it—literally lighting the match and getting ready to drop it on the gasoline soaked house when… We’re getting ahead of ourselves for a moment…
“Rabid Dog” picks up with Walt arriving at home to find Jesse’s car on the lawn, with the front door wide open. An eerie sight. It should be mentioned that the White residence, viewed from the outside in an otherwise quiet suburb, continues to be an image the show reverts back to frequently in this second half of the season. We already know that it’s only a matter of time before it’s utterly destroyed, with the word Heisenberg written on the wall, but how we get there will remain a mystery for now as we soon find out Jesse isn’t the cause. Walt finds the house empty, gas canister in the middle of the floor, gasoline everywhere but no Jesse. Not one sign of him. Why? Because moments before, Hank (Dean Norris) arrived on the scene, having tailed the kid himself, and he manages to talk Jesse down and encourage him to cooperate, so they can both bring down Walt together. How? By Jesse turning snitch.
Naturally, Walt is completely unnerved by the incident and for the first time in a while, is a bit at a loss of what to do next. On the homefront, he tries desperately to clean things up and get the gasoline out of the carpet and the smell out of the air. But there’s only so much he can do since it’s soaked through to the sub-flooring and beyond, so he tries to concoct an elaborate lie to sell to both Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) when they arrive home. And he fails, miserably. It’s a rather significant touch by the writers, indicating rather clearly that Walt’s ability to manipulate those around him is slipping. Walt Jr. thinks his father’s story about a malfunctioning gas pump is really cover for a cancer related fainting incident, but Skyler knows the lie is covering up something even bigger. Regardless, she plays along as Walt books them into a hotel until the place is clean and safe to go back to.
Walt’s second attempt at lying also fails. Going out of the rented room to get some ice, he detours down to the parking lot to meet a Saul (Bob Odenkirk) and figure out what they’re going to do with Jesse. Huell (Lavell Crawford) and Kuby (Bill Burr) haven’t found the angry young man yet, with Walt underscoring his need to talk to his former partner in crime, explain what happened with Brock, and why it needed to be done. But Saul, noting that Jesse may not be receptive to a “nuanced discussion of the virtues of child poisoning” (one of the episode’s best lines), asks what happens when they do find him, and suggest that perhaps it’s time to go down the path of Old Yeller. But Walter makes it clear, in unequivocal terms, that no mention or suggestion of killing Jesse is to be tabled again.
Back at his hotel room, Skyler confronts Walt, admitting she saw him go to Saul’s car and demands to know what exactly is going on. Walt admits that he’s in some trouble with Jesse, but tries to console her by saying he’ll sort it out, but in another gear shift for Skyler, she effectively wants the young man taken care of. Walt is taken aback and shocked. Skyler’s reasoning is that they’ve already gone this far for their family, so what’s one more piece of collateral damage, but Walt remains appalled at the very notion of killing Jesse and won’t hear of it. It’s rather sharp turn again for Skyler whose fence-sitting has continued to lean towards Walt lawn. At the very least, they both appear to be doing everything they can to keep their family unit together, but once again going a bit Lady Macbeth, it seems Skyler is more willing to take a life than Walt. It’s another small, but interesting power shift in their dynamic and one that will be interesting to see play out.
Meanwhile, Jesse has found refuge in Hank’s house. Marie (Betsy Brandt) has been suffering through some extreme emotional turmoil in the wake of the revelations about her brother-in-law and sister, and admits to her psychologist that she’s been looking up untraceable poisons. Not because she intends to do anything, but simply because it’s “fun” to imagine the biggest betrayer in her life meeting his end by her hands. (It’s interesting how much more willing she is to let Skyler off the hook). But when she learns Hank is stashing the young witness at his house as he works with Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) to build a case on the sly before bringing it into the authorities, all Marie wants to know is how bad it is for Walt. “Very bad,” Hank replies. And that’s good enough for Marie as she does what she can around the house to help. Whether or not this turn in Hank’s fortune will bring her back to wearing purple—she’s been wearing black since “Confessions“—we’ll have to see.
After coming down from his high thanks to a decent sleep courtesy of some sleeping pills provided by Hank, Jesse wakes up and is greeted by a videocamera, and coffee in a DEA mug (a pretty hilarious sight gag). He warns Hank that: a) Walt is retired and b) he has no physical evidence. It’s just his word as a junkie, petty criminal versus that of an upstanding citizen and cancer sufferer. Nevertheless, Hank presses on and Jesse spills it all. Afterward, Gomez admits he believes Jesse, but also agrees with him… they have nothing to go on. But Hank has an ace up his sleeve—Jesse’s phone. He’s listened to a message on the cell with Walt asking to meet with Jesse in public so they can talk, and Hank wants him to wear a wire. Jesse is naturally terrified, and knows that nothing is ever what it seems with Walt and naturally believes he’s going to get killed. Hank counters that for all the evil Walt has done, he has by and large looked out for Jesse, has a blind spot for him and more importantly—Jesse doesn’t have a choice. (And in a separate chat with Gomez, Hank coldly reveals that he doesn’t give a fuck if Jesse—a drug-slinging murderer—dies if it means getting Walt. It’s a cold admission by Hank but underscores his absolute determination to nail Walt. And it’s also a reminder to the audience that the supposed protagonists of the show have done some horrible, horrible things.)
So the plan is reluctantly put into action but as Jesse approaches the meeting spot from behind Walt, who is sitting on a bench, he’s suspicious of everything around him. Could one of these people in the pedestrian plaza be here to kill him? And one particularly menacing man has him convinced Walt has something nefarious plotted. Instead, Jesse doubles back to a payphone, and calls Walt directly, telling him not only that he wasn’t fooled but that he’s coming after him and, “Next time, I’m going to get you where you really live.” The irony? Of all the lies Walt told this episode, he was being honest about just wanted to talk to Jesse. That menacing man? A regular citizen just meeting his daughter. But it’s enough to spook Walt, and while Jesse tells Hank he has another plan to get Heisenberg, his ex-partner is making a call to Todd. It looks like the uncles have a new job…
To call this episode white-knuckle would be an understatement, and there aren’t enough superlatives to throw at this episode except to say it’s another knockout. The writers are in top form, the actors are killing it and the storyline to the finale remains as breathless as it is completely unpredictable. Jesse teaming with Hank is totally out of left field, and perhaps shocking as it was only not so long ago that the punk dealer was telling the cop to essentially, fuck off. But Jesse’s back is against the wall, and he has a purpose now, so there’s common ground with Hank. But one has to wonder if Jesse is really going to to let himself end up in prison, even with a reduced sentence. Or more importantly, whether Hank will sell him up the river to get what he wants.
Last note: is anyone already feeling that the biggest emotional fallout of the final season may just land on Walt Jr.? Granted, his scenes have been few, but they’ve been key, particularly the moving scene by the hotel pool, in which he reaches out to his father to give him a simple hug. And of all the characters on the show, he’s the last that’s wholly, completely innocent of anything that’s going on. If Hank succeeds and Heisenberg is brought to justice, the result on Walt Jr. is going to be devastating. He’s already fearing his father dying of cancer, but having him being revealed as a liar, murderer, drug dealer and more? And that his mother was roped into the scheme? He might just wish his father had died instead. [A-]