Breaking Bad Review: Down the Rabid Hole

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Forget the lumps on Walter White's lungs. It's clear where the true malignancy lies on Breaking Bad:

All around this former chemistry teacher, whose decision long ago to break bad in order to do good (in his mind) came full, dangerous circle on "Rabid Dog," as those within his inner circle were infected by the same disease that has consumed their loved one for a year now.

No, not cancer. A stubborn, laser focus on what needs to be done. A belief that they are in the right and, when it comes to the man formerly known as Heisenberg, they will be the ones who knock him off his pedestal.

Walt by the Pool

Skyler and Saul are both pushing for Jesse to be Old Yellered. Marie is Googling ways in which she could poison her brother-in-law. Hank is willing to sacrifice Jesse to get to Walt. And Jesse?

He just wants to burn Walt's life down.

Every main character has been touched by Walt's darkness. Their motivations may differ (for Saul its self-protection; for Skyler, it's family; for Marie, it's vengeance; for Hank, it's justice; for Jesse, it's pretty much everything), but their means are the same: someone has to die.

There is no problem, no matter how difficult, or painful, or seemingly unsolvable, that violence won't make worse, intoned Marie's therapist. But call me crazy for thinking not everyone will heed this advice. It's not a question of when, it's a question of who and how. And the tension that continues to build every Sunday toward that first huge death is unlike anything I've witnessed on television before.

That said, this was clearly the worst episode of Breaking Bad Season 5. It was sloppy and it played a lot like filler in many places.

We spent a lot of time on Hank interrogating Jesse... just for him and Gomez to realize the tape was useless. We then watched the plaza meet nearly take place... only for Jesse to literally call it off. And we were really meant to believe that Jesse would believe Walt would hire an assassin to stand directly across from him?

Aside from making it clear just how far down the rabid hole everyone surrounding Walt has fallen, the hour didn't accomplish much. It simply moved pieces in to place, with Jesse and Hank uneasy partners and Walt seemingly calling Todd to plan a hit on his former protege.

The episode itself even seemed to realize this. It featured more humor than usual (Walt in his underwear again, Saul and his dojo classes, Badger and his love for Babylon 5), while playing with time a bit in order to raise the suspense of just why Jesse didn't light that gasoline on fire.

The opening three return episode scarcely paused for a breath, of course. An installment such as this was necessary for both the viewers and the characters. Everyone has to take stock of what's going on, of who is aligning with whom, of what the next best course of action actually is. And for Walt, this means truly confronting his feelings for Jesse.

Does he love him like a son? Has he always manipulated him for personal gain and protection? Did he immediately shoot down Saul's Old Yeller-like plan out of concern for Jesse... or due to an ego that once again assumes he can convince Jesse to believe whatever he needs him to believe? Walt himself may not know the answers to these questions.

So call it a filler episode, call it a needed vacation (on Labor Day weekend, involving a hotel, no less) from the utter craziness of the last three weeks, but don't call me next Sunday night. I'll be glued to AMC, wondering whose darkness will be extinguished for good.

Rabid Dog Review

Editor Rating: 3.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (72 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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