Monday, September 2, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 12 - Rabid Dog

With precious few hours left until we learn Walter White’s fate, Rabid Dog reminded viewers of the complicated dynamics between fathers and sons, be they of the blood or surrogate variety. More broadly, it appears that Vince Gilligan has put the chess pieces in place for his final act. At the center of last night’s episode was Jesse Pinkman, who is now emotionally broken and seeking vengeance on Walt, yes, for the poisoning of poor innocent Brock, but also for the accumulated toll of dead bodies that were left in his wake. Jesse's sense of moral justice dates to his wrestling with the Kafka-esque (yo) nature of the life he had chosen but also to the universe's seeming lack of punishment against him for, among other things, killing Gale. 

Through all this, the one constant has been how others - men, primarily - have manipulated Jesse for their own gain. While we have yet to learn Jesse’s final fate, the yearning for acceptance and succor from an adult male role model is tragic in its own right. Having essentially been abandoned by his actual parents, Walt long held sway over Jesse, but the relationship was symbiotic; even as Gus tried to ingratiate himself into Jesse’s life in order to get Walt out of it, Jesse’s one edict was firm – you do not kill Mr. White. As Walt morphed ever deeper into his Heisenberg alter ego, Mike actually did look out for Jesse but in doing so, ran afoul of Walt and ended up down by the river with a bullet in his side. Jesse’s new father figure is Hank Schrader, who, like Walt before him, and even Gus, does not care one iota about Jesse’s well-being, but is instead simply using him as a pawn to get what he wants. That Jesse is now turning to the man who beat the ever-loving hell out of him a few short months ago (in show time) speaks to the depth of his hatred for Walt and his desire to gain revenge but if he does not help Hank put Walt away, he will be discarded, just as others did when he no longer served their purposes..  

An actual father-son relationship, the one between Walt and Flynn, played out poignantly against the backdrop of a pool at a luxury hotel. You see, Flynn has always provided Walt his unquestioned love, and Walt knows that if the truth gets out, it will be his son who is most devastated by the news. Flynn is the last one to believe his father’s lies, the last one incapable of seeing past the dizzying amount of bullshit and gross manipulation Walt uses, to less and less avail, with the rest of the world. That scene, shot so wonderfully, closed with a hug between father and son, one pregnant with emotion, for Flynn, fearing for his father's health, for Walt, the devastation that discovery of his secret will unleash on his son. 

Flynn is worried about his dad’s cancer and the weighty matters of buying a second car wash, but he is that fantasy world’s sole inhabitant, everyone else has now caught on to Walt’s game with his wife leading the charge to snuff out young Jesse and sever the final link that might connect Walt back to Heisenberg. And here, Walt's weakness for "family," that bright line that led him to have Saul tip off the DEA just before the Salamancas attempted to assassinate Hank, to icily reject Saul's recent suggestion that Hank be "sent on a trip to Belize," or to send Jesse on a similar one-way voyage, may end up being his undoing. In the calculus of half-measures versus full-measures, Walt has clearly miscalculated, for if he understood the jeopardy he is now in, he would realize he is no longer the danger or the one who knocks, but instead, the one waiting to be popped.

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