Breaking Bad – “Problem Dog” – review

August 29, 2011
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Seems like everyone but Jesse gets a little wiser this week in “Problem Dog,” an episode that pretty much guarantees Aaron Paul another Emmy.  But before we get to his struggles over what he did to the metaphorical canine of this week’s title, let’s talk Walt and Hank.

Walt is still being fairly reckless, for sure, as he opens the episode taking Jr’s Dodge Challenger for a joy ride (“This episode brought to you by Dodge, in case you’re fucking blind”) only to crash it.  Instead of having it repaired he blows it up (thank god they didn’t do the “Cool guys don’t look at explosions” shot again) and has Saul clean it up, Saul claiming it only cost him a mere fifty thousand to keep it hushed up.  But while that was more self-destructive behavior from Walt, his despairing in Saul’s office does lead him toward the idea of having Jesse kill Fring.

I fucking loved the following scene, where Jesse’s trying to whitewash over his bad days while Walt shits out Fring and Jesse’s laundry list of crimes, taunting him with “How naive does he think you are?”  But Jesse is apparently not as naive as I, personally, thought he was, as he agrees to take the gig, has apparently known all along that this “assistant gunman” stint was fishy.  So Walt fixes up some of the magic Tuco dust and now it’s all in his boy’s hands.

But while Walt’s plan for getting them out from under Fring is sound (far as I can see at the moment, anyway – call bullshit if you see the cracks) and he actually seems to be hitting back for the first time in a long time instead of just digging his own hole deeper, the Dodge fires were not entirely baptismal.  His handling of the front business with Skyler is very immature, for one.  She only knows how much he’ll be bringing in once they’ve already taken over the car wash?  Bad form.  His very first payment to be laundered would only make sense after nine months of business according to her, but they’ll be getting similar amounts every two weeks?  Maybe if the guy hadn’t been playing like none of this car wash shit mattered for the last few weeks (granted, he figured he’d be dead by now) they wouldn’t be stuck with exponentially more money than they can launder.  Then again, he’s clearly trying to butt Skyler out of the business, even offering her a chance not to take the money (but of course she does take it, for this is Breaking Bad).  Not a great way to handle the situation, true, but he’s got money to burn and face to save so a failed spite laundering business to keep Skyler out?  Wouldn’t put it past him.

But going less passive-aggressive and more straight-up aggressive is Hank, who not even Marie can really complain about these days, if what she says to Skyler is to be believed.  We see Hank take Jr to Pollos Hermanos, Jr telling Hank dead-away about his old man buying him the Challenger, but Hank too fixated on nailing Fring even get a whiff of weird from it.  He bags Fring prints off his cup and that seems like all we’ll get for Hank’s case progress in “Problem Dog.”

But, you know, that is not the case in the slightest.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I assumed after last week’s episode-ending hook of “why does a vegan get takeout from a chicken shack?” that we’d have a few weeks of Hank connecting the dots.  Turns out he’s got a pretty good-looking case to show off to Gomez and the boss at the end of the episode, and show off he fucking does.  This is the good-ol’-boy charming and confident Hank that we knew a couple seasons ago, doing good police work and proud of it.  But now that Fring’s in the crosshairs (or, brilliantly, Hank’s crutch legs), Jesse better do some killifying toot-sweet.

He already had one opportunity in “Problem Dog” at the Cartel meet-up, a very nicely done suspense sequence that also hints at maybe Hank and Jesse both needn’t bother, that Fring’s days are numbered regardless.  (I could’ve sworn it was gonna happen right there at the table, that the reason the Cartel guy came alone was to kamikaze himself into Fring.)  But then Jesse’s apparently still got the guilties something awful, as this episode brutally hammers home, and may not be working at %100 at the moment.

Though he seemed to get some purpose and drive out of his new gig with Mike, as I said before, he knows it’s probably bullshit.  But then again, he still has his doubts.  He certainly seems to take to Mike’s explanation of Jesse’s “loyalty” being his key characteristic, misplaced though it may be, and he just tells Walt at the end of the episode that he’s yet to see Fring instead of that he blew his shot.

But the real showstopper tonight, even more so than Hank’s A-plus presentation to Gomey and the boss, was Jesse’s brilliantly handled “confession” at the NA meeting.  Jesse sees the value of guilt, consequences, punishment, wants to know how to deal when you do something bad and then there’s no opposite reaction thrown back at him.  Naturally, his counselor (Jere Burns, aka Wynn Duffy from Justified) doesn’t think he should beat himself up about it (though Jesse’s right: the guy ran over his kid – how does he keep his shit together?) but Jesse begs for the group’s hate, even tells them that he came to the meeting to deal meth, promptly earning the disgust, even from easy-going counselor-guy.

But when is the punishment going to come not just from within but from someone else’s handcuffs or gun?  Seems to me that for Fring it’s gonna happen awful soon, most likely from the Cartel but maybe Jesse.  For Hank I’m guessing it’ll be another case of day late, dollar short – though I’m open to surprises, naturally.  Any of you guys have a theory on how shit’s gonna play out?

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3 Responses to Breaking Bad – “Problem Dog” – review

  1. Sandra Ruttan on August 30, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I think I see Jesse’s inaction differently. In mulling it over, I wonder if this was the turning point for Jesse on multiple levels. After weeks of self-destructive behavior, Jesse actually wants to live. And killing Fring in the opportunity he had would have pretty much ensured he ended up dead himself. The ‘Tuco dust’ wasn’t an option when he was making coffee, because it would be so diluted he’d have no guarantee Fring would get enough, or control over who else would be mildly poisoned. The only real opportunity he had was to shoot Fring in the back, with a bunch of armed guys who worked for Fring standing behind him.

    I am on the fence, though. I do find myself wondering just what Jesse thinks about the situation overall. And I also find myself wondering if part of his reluctance to act may be connected to his guilt. After all, if he hadn’t killed Gale, Mike would have killed them. No question. He acted out of self preservation and he still feels guilty. That lovely flash during the video game play shows how it’s weighing on him. They pretty much have to kill Fring to survive, but he already feels the weight of guilt over one murder that he could rationalize.

    Of course, the other reality with a Cartel move is that Jesse and Walt would not likely be free and clear if they took Fring out. The Cartel already approved going after Walt once. And wouldn’t they want to clear out the competition? I mean, the ultimate end reality is that this is a business you don’t really walk away from.

    As far as all that extra money goes, to me, save it, stash it, because it’s only a matter of time before Walt isn’t earning it anymore – whether he’s dead or actually gets out of the game. Surely Skylar can launder it over the next twenty years as she’s left with her kids and car wash – assuming she survives all this as well.

    I was too caught up in Skylar’s martyrdom during the laundering scene. She didn’t ask for any of this. Walt opens the door out but she chooses to stay in. If Walt found his balls his might have actually said, “Now you have, so stop your bitching and finger-pointing and do you f’ing job.”

    Please. Somebody talk to Skylar that way and shut her up.

  2. Brian Lindenmuth on August 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

    From Nathan Pettigrew:

    I agree. Skylar’s doing what Walt used to do, telling herself that she’s doing this all “for the family” or for reasons that are bigger than her and removing herself from the reality of it all.

    And man, what a kick ass episode. Tons of that Breaking Bad Humor toward the beginning with the whole car situation -lots of tension too throughout. What I loved most was seeing Hank back in fine form. It was Episode 7 in Season 3 that Hank was taken out, and now in Episode 7 of Season 4, Hank gets his mojo back. Watch out Gus Fring!

    Yeah a lot happened this week, without much action too if you think about it. I did not see that coming at all with Hank figuring Gus out so quickly. Reminds you of what a good cop he is. I think as far as theories, I agree that Hank won’t get him and still say it’s going to be Walt who takes him out (Gus). It’s Walt vs. Gus all the way and Jesse’s obviously going to play a huge part in whatever goes down, but ultimately, I don’t see Jesse turning against Walt. They’ve been down this road together before, where they attempted to split up their partnership, or where Jesse gets fed up with him, but I don’t know. Ultimately, Jesse doesn’t like being a killer. That’s the bottom line and what Season 4′s been making clear. Jesse doesn’t like being killer. He may resent the shit out of Walter because of Walter turning him into one, and maybe they will go their separate ways because of it, but think about it: If he isn’t going to kill for Walt, then he’s certainly not going to kill for Gus.

  3. Alec Cizak on August 31, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I offered to bribe the cable company to hook my apartment up ahead of schedule. Goddamn small town ethics. They didn’t even think it was funny.