Breaking Bad Episode 407 “Problem Dog”

407imagesThis episode is the halfway point for Season Four–six episodes came before, six will come after–and it feels like a tipping point of sorts. Skyler, Walt and Jesse all wrestle with decisions, and a lot of plot turns happen in this episode.

But before we get to any of that, how freakin’ AMAZING is Jesse’s monologue at his rehab meeting? One of the best moments in the entire series, in my opinion. So tortured. So moving. So raw. You’re right there with him, in that intensity. To me, this speech is a bit like Walt in “Fly” last season. Jesse’s reckoning with what he did at the end of the last season, and it’s an outburst filled with guilt and it doesn’t happen right away. The fallout takes time, which is so real. It also feels true to Jesse’s character that he’d still be in turmoil this long after. He’s also newly sober, four days, so perfect time to be wrestling with his soul, especially now as Walt’s asked him to murder again.

Walt and Jesse are such fundamentally different men, and this is where I think Jesse as moral compass starts to emerge, though pieces have always been there all along (just like Walt’s darker side existed in him from early on). Walt and Jesse have both done terrible things–they’ve cooked and sold a whole lotta meth, they’ve lied and lied and lied some more, they’ve covered up crimes, and now they both have killed–but the fact that Jesse is a mess over it, still grappling with it episodes later, so much so that he makes up this metaphor of the “problem dog” he killed so as to try to purge and get some catharsis just makes you think there is still some morality in there. He wants to confess. He wants to be judged. He wants, in some way, to be punished. He thinks that he should pay for what he did, on a karmic level.

Sure he’s not going to go to the APD and announce that he shot Gale, but still. He did something horrible, that in many ways he had good reason to do, to save Walt, and he could justify it that way, but he still knows it was a terrible thing to do. Whereas Walt, it seems, often stops at the justification and doesn’t add that extra layer of knowing it was wrong, wanting on some psychic level to be punished.

It all goes back to that Season Three premiere, where Jesse admits to being the bad guy and Walt blames the government. One of them can look at things straight on and take full responsibility and the other can’t. What these two do with the bad things they’ve done is different. That’s not to say Walt has never felt any guilt. You can see it on his face when he watches Jane die and later when he apologizes to Jesse (without truly confessing of course). Of all the things he’s done, I think he’s felt worst about that. But a lot of times, the rationalization (which everyone has for every bad thing they’ve done, myself included, probably yourself too, unless a person is just downright crazycakes) is often enough for Walt. I like that Jesse is different, a little more human here, he really suffers.

407bindexSkyler made her decision in the previous episode when she went to Four Corners and dragged the coin back into New Mexico even though it kept landing in Colorado. But apparently she didn’t really know the magnitude of it all. Walt brings his first cash installment to the carwash and it turns out his $7.5 million a year is way too much for her launder realistically. You know she’s worked it all out, probably to the penny, how much can be laundered without raising suspicion. In fact there’s a deleted scene that is Skyler talking aloud to fake customers and ringing them up and Walt asks her about it and she describes everything, how all the money will be totally legit should they ever be audited.

Walt gives her the option of getting out. But can she really? She already decided last week, so it seems unlikely she would now decide to leave. She answers by not saying anything. She’s still in. Decision made, again. And again, Walt isn’t really thinking about the details, about the fact that some of the money that can’t go through the carwash will be hard to use without rousing suspicion. Skyler is set on a path now.

Walt makes his second little batch of ricin in this episode. Did you notice that in Jesse’s Rage game in the teaser, there’s a reference to poison? There is some poetic justice to Walt making the ricin in Gus’s superlab.

407indexWalt’s pretty down in this episode. He’s been trying all season to kill Gus and getting nowhere. He’s really wanted to be Heisenberg. This isn’t like last season when Walt seemed okay with being under Gus’s thumb. Back then, he owed Gus his life, he saw Gus as the powerful master manipulator, but once all that went to shit over Jesse and the dealers, and once Walt got his Heisenberg mojo back by running them down, he’s really wanted to embody that Heisenberg persona. “He will see me dead,” Walt tells Saul. He’s gotta get Gus but he can’t get anywhere near the guy. On top of that, his wife is telling him to return the car he bought his son. For good reason and all, but still. When Walt does all the donuts and drives all around in the car and blows it up, there’s something very “hell yeah!” about it, but it’s also a scene that’s seething with Walt’s frustration.

So Walt takes a turn in this episode, with the prompting of Saul. He decides to rely on Jesse to do what needs to be done. To trust Jesse, put his fate in Jesse’s hands to some extent.

But Jesse, he doesn’t want to kill. He says he’ll do it. He’s definitely getting smarter than he used to be back in the early days. He realizes exactly what Walt is trying to pitch. Does he realize though, that Walt is sort of right, that Gus and Mike are in some way using him? It’s hard to tell. As always on Breaking Bad, Jesse doesn’t go tell someone that he doesn’t want to kill Gus, but shows it through several different conversations and actions. One is that he has the coffee opportunity and doesn’t slip in the ricin. Later, he sees Gus and does nothing. There are also all the questions he asks Walt, like what if he gets searched, asking what if Mike figures out, asking if it’s enough. I don’t know if others saw it this way, but I read those questions as hesitation, almost looking for a way out. And then of course is the fact that he goes to the rehab meeting and has that amazing monologue.

And his turmoil is foreshadowed with the Rage videogame in the beginning. Two things I noticed: Some shots are at the same angle as Jesse when he shot Gale. The name “Gale” is written in mirror backwards something writing on the wall in the game. And of course, Jesse is hallucinating Gale’s face in the game. He is not over killing Gale. He may never be.

Jesse rails against just accepting the bad things he’s done without judgment. He can’t admit to killing Gale so he makes up the dog thing, and then he admits to selling meth to the people in rehab. The whole thing is sooo powerful. I know I said it already, but for real. The way it slowly builds to Jesse bringing up the “dog.” Interesting that Mr. Rehab Coach (don’t think we ever learn his name) immediately asks, “Did you hit him with your car?” because he hit his own daughter with his car (episode 301). I also love that Jesse keeps going, says that he was looking at the “dog” straight in the eye. He refuses any excuses the others offer, like the crystal made him do it, or the “dog” was suffering or had bitten someone.

“If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what’s it all mean?”

And there’s something to that. I don’t think acceptance is total horseshit because eventually you DO have to live with whatever you’ve done or has been done to you, but blanket acceptance, immediately, all the time? That doesn’t really lead to “true change,” either. There’s definitely some amount of horseshit in the whole acceptance thing, but that is my own soapbox for another post, or not.

The best was, “You know why I’m here in the first place? To sell ya meth! You’re nothing to me but customers! I made you my bitch! You okay with that? You accept that?”

Rehab Coach Guy, “No.”

Jesse says, “About time.”

It’s one of those scenes that I could watch over and over. A lot has been said about this scene being akin to a stage play. One of the most dramatic moments, again, BrBa trademark practically, in this show of guns and drugs (and there’s plenty of that in this same episode), is just a bunch of people sitting in a room. So powerful. SO compelling. And the fact that, as amazing as this was, Aaron Paul actually submitted an upcoming episode, not this one, for the Emmys tells you there is more gold to come.

Hank has also taken his suspicions of Gus to a new level in this episode. That scene with Jr and Hank getting out of the car and walking towards Los Pollos? Just awesome. “Ain’t we a pair.” And Gus offering Jr a job, that could’ve been a really good twist. But Hank, he’s smooth, he gets Gus’s fingerprints. And why would Gus think twice about it? He’s so meticulous, so good at hiding in plain sight, that it would never occur to him that Hank might be suspicious of this friend to the DEA.

And Hank actually takes his evidence to the DEA. For the first time all season, the investigation has gone beyond just Hank and his own detective work and his hunches. He may have hooked Merkert and Gomez with his last piece of the puzzle, Gus’s fingerprints in Gale’s apartment, so this could be bad.

And Gus clearly has other problems. This is another tipping point of sorts in this episode. Friction with the cartel has been heating up all season, but now it’s at a new level. Gus is being insulted in a few different ways–just one guy coming (love the veggie platter just sitting there), and then his refusal to negotiate or consider Gus’s offer. You can sorta guess that Gus and the cartel will only have more friction now. To paraphrase Gus in an earlier episode this season, will this war stay cold, or has that time passed?

Problem dogs abound.

407aindexInteresting that Mike is giving Jesse a gun and wants to teach him to shoot. This will only make it harder for Jesse to kill Gus. And Jesse lies to Walt about it, says he hasn’t seen Gus. Gus and Mike are making him part of the team now, but to what end and for how long? And why? Loyalty. They have seen how far Jesse will go out of loyalty.

“But maybe to the wrong guy.”

Walt was pretty assy this episode, cold to Skyler about the money laundering, throwing little digs towards Jesse during his sales pitch for killing Gus like “your little girlfriend,” and putting Jesse down to point out that Gus is probably playing him. Is he the wrong guy? I love the Walt and Jesse loyalty, and it’s definitely being stretched and then stretched some more this season.

~Emilia J

Next Episode: Hermanos

One thought on “Breaking Bad Episode 407 “Problem Dog”

  1. Pingback: Breaking Bad Mania: looking back at Problem Dog | Fino's Weblog

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