In TV critic Brett Martin’s new book “Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’” the writer makes a pugnacious argument for the tectonic shift in the increasing character assassination that has turned our TV hero into an anti-hero, and made him an endearing part of our couch potato lives. Like the chief protagonist of a Greek Tragedy or a Shakesperian “Macbeth.” He points out how characters like the wily Walter White (Bryan Cranston) are “difficult men” who owe the first man of their kind Tony Soprano (essayed by the late James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos”) their deprecating nature of being “unhappy, morally compromised, complicated, deeply human.” As we pointed out in our earlier review, creator Vince Gilligan, Martin also notes over their countless conversations, that the ideas of White’s character development over the show’s five seasons, is to trace the transformation of a “Mr Chips into Scarface.”
Scarface in “Rabid Dog,” is facing his moral and existential crisis. His surrogate son/former partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) attempted to torch his place down and upon being accosted by betrayed DEA Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), has turned on his former teacher, saviour and deserter. Another tape is made, this time by Schrader and his pal Gomez, whom he lets in on his big secret, go the witness way. A red-eyed, rage-fueled Pinkman is raring for blood and also fearful of his life. All he can give the DEA is his version of the story, there is no proof and there are no witnesses (cue to Season Five’s episode where White orders the killing of 10 witnesses in DEA custody in two minutes). The fear of White’s Scarface and his ire scares Jesse. He knows he could be a target, but he still wears the wire.
Meanwhile, White is facing his own moral demons. His gun-toting, sneaking in into his own in the opening scenes of the episode focus on finding Jesse and shooting him down. He enters his house, drenched in the stench of freshly poured gasoline and no Jesse. No light. He has faith in his partner. He “changed his mind,” he goes on and on to convince himself and those around him (Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) who floats the idea of putting him down like a “rabid dog,” and wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) who pushes Walt to “take care of it. We have come so far for us. What’s one more.”) The concept of deceit from Jesse, whom he mentored, protected, killed with, killed for (Brock had to be killed “for his own good”) is something that is unfathomable to White, the father and the chemist who dared to dream big. It’s in this moment of compassion and pain that Walt reaches out to Jesse twice - leaving him fatherly messages, seeking him out to have a conversation. For White, Jesse is like family - a rudderless teenager, who will stray and threaten but never act upon his rage. Little does he know, that Jesse is convinced that it won’t take long before White will put him down, and that Jesse didn’t change his mind after all. Hank saved the day. Ironic.
Marie (Betsy Brandt) is meanwhile searching for ways online to kill White through untraceable poisons, as she discusses with her therapist without “giving out specifics. Hank could get into trouble.” Let alone the irony of the ricin butt that got White in this uncomfortable position in the first place, Marie is coming undone as her robotic frame welcomes Jesse in her and Hank’s house. She won’t leave home, she’ll play host because her question “Is this bad for Walt?” has been answered in an affirmative. She’s a woman on the brink of a lash out, she’s containing it in. That’s her own personal moral breakdown of wishing ill upon her sister’s family.
These literal passages are necessary to appease to the humanity of the otherwise grey characters of “Breaking Bad.” In these final episodes, we can expect the predictable from the writers, maybe. Perhaps the end is nigh for Ozymandias (as a recent promo and the title of an upcoming episode would suggest). The “King Of Kings” is pivoted on his own paranoia and control for his ultimate fall. Heisenberg will fall. Jesse will die. Skyler will take the mercy plea. Hank and Marie will win their redemption. Perhaps.
But it’s in dialogues like, “You think I came all this way to get something as silly as lung cancer get me down! Not a chance. I am not going anywhere,” that make you wonder what if White does win the day? What if he does get away with it? He does make that call in the end, assigning a “job” to the man who shut down the underground meth lab for Lydia (Laura Fraser) in a previous episode. Can he stop the cancer from spreading? Can he really put down the rabid dog? What do you think? Let us know your thoughts on the episode.
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