Breaking Bad: The Felina Four

*Warning: Spoilers aplenty*

We're halfway home. Or three-quarters home, depending on how you choose to perceive the so-far excellent Season 5.

The past two weeks' episodes confirmed that Jesse transformed into the rabid dog I was expecting he'd become. Though not one that Walt was so willing to put down, despite that very advice coming at him from every angle. Saul's Old Yeller reference was too perfect, especially given the "colorful metaphors" that are so relevant to the series.

I heard more often than not, that people were disappointed in 5.12 "Rabid Dog". I thought it was as important and well-crafted as any other episode. To suggest any scene is "filler" at this point, is ridiculous given the faith we should have in Vince and the storytellers who create BB. While I'd like to see some bodies as much as the next person, I appreciate the pacing, taking the audience down to more of a simmer, while also advancing the story in the direction of boiling.

I think some of the disappointment comes from relativity and expectations anyway. The first three episodes were intense. "Confessions" was one of the best in the series, in my opinion; and then left us with the image of the suddenly ferocious Jesse, high as a kite and doing something howyousayyy spontaneous.
How refreshing it was to see Aaron Paul wake up from his sad-sackery long enough to foam at the mouth, spill some major beans (oops, a little gasoline too!), and ironically help his now-nemesis avoid a death trap in the same breath that he genuinely threatens to get him where it counts.

"Rabid Dog" wasn't as explosive as most of us probably built up in our heads, I agree. But so much of what will make these last episodes momentous, is how thoroughly and deliberately they are unraveling the characters' sanity, and how carefully they are isolating each one. You can almost visualize each character drifting apart on their individual islands, succumbing to some degree of darkness, and seeking ways to harness it to take revenge on the man responsible.

For example, I feel like the scene with Marie and her long-referenced shrink Dave, is incredibly important. We've never seen Marie with Dave because only now is he officially the last person that she can turn to somewhat candidly, the only person who can talk her off a ledge full of murderous thoughts.

Meanwhile, Hank revealed his true colors in his handling of Jesse. Hank blew it episodes ago, and seems to only be digging himself deeper. He's clinging to invisible straws now, still bringing checkers to a chess game. Operating on a disastrously vengeful and pride-fluffing fantasy that HE will be the one responsible for bringing down The Man, The Myth, the... dorky brother-in-law whom he used to run masculine circles around.

Then there's Skyler (Anna Gunn is killing it by the way), now stripped of her family, her hope, and seemingly aligned with Walt out of fearful necessity. Skyler's face somehow gets more tragically hopeless as the episodes go on. And with her explicit instructions for Walt to rid the world of just "one more" threat to their family, it's clear that Skyler is deeper mired in his darkness than anyone. She's his perceived ally, but I guarantee if she loses anyone in the crossfires, Walt better look out. After going through her motions in relative silence for a while now, that woman is liable to snap any day.

That is what I'm finding most fascinating about these recent episodes - how Heisenberg's lingering influence is affecting the people around him. Now that the cat's out of the bag - both the Schraders' discovery and Jesse's - all of these characters are responding in their own bad ways, and slipping into some corresponding evil. They are all standing at a brink, and every one of them is susceptible to act irrationally if even slightly provoked.

When pushed to unforeseen limits, is anyone really safe from breaking bad?

Further amusing to consider, this is all happening at the same time that Walt has been grasping to get good and put the past behind them. At least as far as appearances go. He refuses to kill family when Saul suggested sending Hank to Belize. And I actually believe that he wanted to make things right with Jesse. But we know that Jesse is done listening to Walt's speeches.

The call to Todd at the end of the episode was a last resort. And I'm not so sure that Walt will let that hit play out after all. Jesse is still more like a son to him than the poor kid who bears his name. And the ongoing reference of this father/son relationship between them, has me worried that the reckless Nazi hitmen will get the wrong skinny kid.

Another thing that "Rabid Dog" accomplished, was taking us along with Walt in the Where's Jesse mystery that began the episode; and then put us, the audience, in the position of knowing more than Walt. It's rare that the audience is separated from Walt in insight. So I'm convinced that his ignorance to Jesse being with Hank, is going to lead to something devastating for him.

Perhaps Walt's described luck officially ran out the moment that Jesse didn't take a seat next to him at the plaza.

Some other fun things to note before the airing of "To'hajiilee" (where the money is buried) -

When Jesse goes to the bathroom and Hank tells Gomez how expendable Jesse is, this brief shot through the back of a wooden chair, is no accident. Hank is "behind bars" and the painting of Marie is visible on the mantel to the left (next to a bucket - which can be interpreted in several unkind ways).


The bookshelf at the Schraders is full of interesting titles. I commented in the last post that I paused it and carefully perused them during my second viewing.
Among them are several equestrian reads, financial advice, and two copies of Who Moved My Cheese. Perhaps when Jesse says he's going after Walt where he really lives, he's referring to Walt's beloved money pit.
Also, Jesse humorously drinks from a DEA mug that also coincidentally looks like the word DEAD with the handle.

The pink bear returned in "Rabid Dog" - a symbol that has shown up since S2 - usually surrounding deaths. Look carefully in the tree behind Jesse.

And even creepier - my friend reminded me of this nod to the pink bear in S4:

I hope everyone enjoyed possibly the very last lull before the storm. The last four episodes are going to be a ride.

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