Is Walt wavering? After all this time, all those lines crossed and bodies left in his wake, is Heisenberg holding himself back? As Hank points out in this riveting and tense episode, Rabid Dog, (written and directed by Sam Catlin) Walt has always looked out for Jesse, and their relationship – essentially father and son – has been one of the strongest on the show. Now, even in the wake of Jesse almost burning down his family home, Walt can't accede to the advice of others and have Jesse killed.
To be clear: Saul's “guy” from last week really was an identity change expert who could have given a spooked Jesse a new life. This week Saul tells Walt that they only had one chance to engage this specialist and that it's been used. It wasn't a hit, but that's not to say that one isn't coming.
As has been the case previously, the tension was ratcheted up from the first scene, which picked up near where Confessions left off seven days ago. Walt arrived at his house, with Jesse's car out the front, and had to investigate – gun in hand, climbing over the back fence. It was a telling reminder that Walt's prowess has never been in physical acts: he can't fight and he looked clumsy grasping a revolver. It's what he could instigate – bombs, deceptions, the grounds to circumvent his own morality – that made him dangerous.
Serious Michael Mann vibe (circa Man-hunter) to Walt's room-to-room search, but Jesse was gone even if the sloshed petrol was apparent. Steam cleaners, locksmiths and even Huell were soon at the house, but the carpets were soaked and Walt had to offer up a ludicrous excuse to Jnr and Skyler about a malfunctioning pump at the service station that neither bought. Jnr thought Walt was lying about the effects of his cancer and chemo and had passed out while pumping petrol, while Skyler simply knew something very bad was up. Again.
What was fascinating about this episode was the dynamic between Walt and Skyler. He is uncertain and she is the one with dead eyes, demanding that the unthinkable must be done lest the family be threatened. There is not a speck of joy left in Skyler. Once the family was installed at a luxury hotel – check the travel cot for baby Holly – Walt was outside conferring with Saul, who cracked open the thesaurus to discuss strategy (have we ever seen Saul in court – how would a jury take to him?).
“But say, just for the sake of argument, that the kid's not in the mood for a nuanced discussion of the virtues of child poisoning, and his plans are running more towards stabbing you to death with a pointed stick. In that scenario, then what?” Saul asked Walt, and if the inference wasn't clear enough, then he pretty much came out and suggested Walt needed to order that Jesse be killed.
Walt shut him down, but upstairs with a coldly disapproving Skyler it was a different matter. Walt tried to explain Jesse's importance, emphasising that despite the petrol ladled across the White family home he was more of a danger to himself than others. Walt even told Skyler that Jesse had never hurt anyone else, and that sound you briefly heard was Gale rolling over in his grave. Skyler wanted a plan, which meant she wanted a response. With her jaw set she was the Lady Macbeth of Albuquerque, but her reasoning was heartbreaking: “We've come this far,” she told Walt. “For us, what's one more?”
This is the recurring tragedy of Breaking Bad. Those Walt justifies his actions for are ultimately destroyed by them. But Walt was more concerned about Jesse's fate than Skyler urging homicide. Perhaps he is going to be a liability to her?
So what stopped Jesse? The episode cut back to his rampage and revealed that it was an armed Hank who made him put down his lighter. “He can't keep getting away with it!” Jesse yelled, and Hank replied: “He won't.” This was the DEA agent's desperately needed in, and he grabbed it with both hands after Jesse's previous rejection. Hank didn't have a plan, as became clear when Jesse pointed out that going into police custody to testify against Walt was a death sentence.
So Hank took Jesse home – Marie finally got a child in the house – where his wife was just back from a spooky session with her shrink (instantly defined by his chunky cardigan) where she admitted she'd spent six hours online looking for untraceable poisons. Violence solved nothing, her psychiatrist pointed out, but “it just feels good to think about it” was her reply, and once she learnt that Hank had a houseguest who could damage Walt she wasn't leaving (plus she heated up some lasagna).
Jesse woke in Hank and Marie's guest room, with framed family snaps of Walt as Santa Claus with Skyler sitting on his knee looking at him, and when he ventured out Marie got him coffee (note the DEA mug) and Hank and his DEA comrade Steve Gomez were waiting to record his confession. Hank explaining all this to “Gomie” was a conversation I would have liked to hear, but then again the watchful Gomez didn't make a decision on the scenario's validity until after he listened to Jesse explain how his high school chemistry teacher became “the devil”.
Gomez believed Jesse, but he also agreed that they had no evidence and that Jesse's confession wouldn't hold up to the details of an upstanding citizen (with cancer) such as Walt. Hank suggested Jesse take up Walt's offer of a meeting in a busy public plaza while wearing a wire, casually telling Gomez that if Walt did kill Jesse they'd have only lost a “junkie murderer” and they'd have something great on tape. Hank has essentially gone rogue at this point.
I did do it. But I did it for very good reasons
A paranoid Jesse took the meeting, but pulled out of committing himself for the second week running after a suspicious looking man scared him away (he wasn't involved). He did call Walt and told him he was coming for him, then pacified Hank by declaring he had a “better way” to get Walt. Jesse had a sense of purpose once more, Hank had a second chance at victory, Skyler had lost her humanity and Walt was putting in a call to Todd, telling him he had another job for his neo-Nazi uncle.
But he didn't say it was killing Jesse.
– “I never should have let my dojo membership run out.” Even in the darkest of hours you can always rely on (a battered) Saul for some black humour.
– How many readings were there in Jesse's anguished admission about Walt that “he was my teacher”? He'd taught Jesse, and then he'd really taught Jesse.
– Saul's other henchman, Kuby, bugged Badger in the hope of getting info on Jesse's locale. All he got was a three-hour monologue about Babylon 5. After his Star Trek episode and this, Badger is just a Buck Rogers reference away from total sci-fi geekdom.
Four episodes to go – Yet again there was a scene of emotional affirmation between Walt and his son. The amount of love between the pair may not bode well for Jnr.
What do you think? How will Jesse get Walt “where you really live”? Are Marie and Skyler destined to become murderous adversaries? How long until Todd and his uncle decide they don't want to be freelance hires? Can Walt really order Jesse's death?