There was a lot that happened this week on Breaking Bad. In the aptly titled episode Problem Dog, things really start to pick up. As we begin, Walt takes the Challenger for a test drive for the ages. After promising to return the vehicle to the dealership, Walt instead takes it to a vacant parking with very different intentions.
He peels out, conducts tire-shredding donuts, and drives with such disregard that he eventually crashes the car into the ditch. No worries, this is an easy fix. Instead of calling the local tow company, Walt instead chooses to blow up the car. Problem Solved. Walt is this car: Out of control, blind, enraged, and absolutely explosive. The man is seriously in over his head.
And he isn’t the only one, either. When Gus is confronted by an ambassador for the competing cartel and offers him, to quote a famous euphemism, “an offer he can’t refuse”, he does in fact deny Gus’ motion to cease all competition. Gus tries to pay off the competition with a hefty sum of money, but they aren’t buying it. It’s one of the first times in the series that we actually get to witness Gus at a loss, as the underdog of sorts.
It is an oversight that the confident Gus didn’t see coming, and like Walt, is at somewhat troubled by his lack of control. His stoic actions might not sell his dismay, but his deeply expressive eyes tell a very different story. It will be interesting to see how Gus’ relationship with the violent opposer will play out in future episodes.
These story lines are indubitably important to the overall progression of the show, but they paled in comparison to the main narrative that threaded its way through this episode (and through this season in general): Jesse’s search for a proper role model and his remorse over the death of Gale. This episode was all about Jesse, who is beginning to come to terms with the hand he played in Gales untimely death. Additionally, he is beginning to comprehend that this vicious business is just a machine made up of cogs, and where his piece best fits for a fluid model is something to be explored.
As Jesse is repainting his home (symbolism much?), Walt eagerly inquires him as to his current relationship with Gus: What did he say to you? Are you close with him? All the necessary details to unearth as much as he can about the enigmatic head figure, the man that Mike promised Walt would never see again. There is no way to know for sure, but Walt is not one to play games.
Walt asks that Jesse kill Gus as soon as he can, and Jesse ostensibly obliges. Despite their moral differences and petty arguments, Jesse has always heeded Walt’s demands. This time, though, it doesn’t seem that Jesse is confiding in Walt with the same level of “enthusiasm” that he has shown in the past. Maybe the side work he is doing with Mike is pushing him away from Walt, further into the hands of Gus.
In the episodes most powerful scene, Jesse attends an NA meeting where he is reunited with his old, wise sponsor. Here, he admits that he recently killed a dog. He confesses that this dog was innocent, young, and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While warding off a near torrential downpour of emotion, he buffers by saying that he initially attended NA to sell Meth. He then questions the entire room about the killing and his ulterior motive: Am I at fault, and will I be punished, he asks. No, the room responds. So Jesse storms out, saddened and angry, confused as ever. Why have my horrendous actions had so little impact on the world, and worse, why am I not being punished for this, he asks himself.
Jesse is a character impossible not to sympathize with. He might not be the brightest kid on the block, nor the straightest, but his heart is as big as New Mexico is wide. He is absolutely devastated by his actions, made even more readily apparent by his PTSD-like hallucinations he has while playing violent video games.
He almost feels betrayed by his own actions, which is only compounded further by Walt’s inability to see what is truly happening. It starts to make perfect sense why Jesse is taking up the extra work when viewed through this paradigm.
The episode ends with a nail-biter of a cliffhanger. Hank, who is finally off of his period and back into the thick of detective work, has a killer lead into the Heisenberg Case. He’s confidently and cleanly linked Gus Fring to Gale’s murder scene through the use of coyly attained fingerprints. If Gus is caught, then Walt is caught. Period, end of story.
How am I supposed to wait until next week to see what happens? Things are really coming into full swing, and though some may say that it is difficult to gauge just where this season is headed, I feel that is exactly the genius that is needed to reinvigorate the series. I am in love with this season of Breaking Bad so far!