Don't Say "Nothing Happened" on BrBa 5x12 "Rabid Dog"


As I mentioned last week, the curse of knowing that a big explosion is coming is in the waiting for it. And as I watched “Rabid Dog” the feeling came over me that some people were going to complain that “nothing happened” on Breaking Bad, simply because nothing blew up (and nobody was killed).

Episodes such as “Rabid Dog” have been littered throughout the great run of this series, so defending new character developments, essential storytelling structure to create a final resolution and numerous instances of excellent writing and acting against the notion that “nothing happened” is something too tedious and reductive to engage in.
Since Walt (and by extension Saul and the other working parts of Walt’s former “empire”) have themselves “an Old Yeller situation,” which, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie is akin to a trip to Belize, then an episode where We Need To Talk About Jesse as the main focus was predictable. In many ways, the how-far-will-Walt-go theory has been out there forever – part of that is the backbone of the series – and the writers of Breaking Bad handled the answer deftly. Walt wouldn’t have gone there – and we’re assuming he won’t go there with Hank or Marie – unless pushed. And by protecting himself from what he rightly feared was a trap, Jesse gave Walt the shove he needed. The episode ends with Walt calling on Todd to get his creepy relatives involved in more dirty deeds. Like killing Jesse.

The two essential shifts in this episode were Jesse waking up and taking control and, to a lesser extent, Skyler’s continued collapsing morals. (Though it was also nice to see Marie voice her desire to kill Walt and even more thrilling to have her stay home and help propel Jesse in the right direction if it will hurt Walt.)

But I’m not sure she made an “endorsement” of killing Jesse this week so much as she was shrugging her shoulders and saying “We’ve come this far, for us, what’s one more?” as an illustration to Walt that it’s all moral-less madness. She’s drinking – not nearly enough, in her estimation – to dull the senses of what’s happening. But if you only look at what’s happened on the screen – what Skyler has indicated with her actions (not what anyone else has said or written) – she’s going along with “the plan” only because she hasn’t seen an alternative and she can’t get out of the spiral. If the plan, on paper, was to have Skyler be “all in” as an accomplice, I’m not convinced that Gunn’s performance indicates that. I see doubt in all of her actions, even when she’s going along. I didn’t read that scene as “we need to kill Jesse right now.” The “what’s one more?” defeatism is telling. I still think she’s vulnerable to turning on Walt and that may eventually come with something happening to her kids (and this episode, with Walter Jr.’s concern for Walt fainting at the gas pump – even though the didn’t -- and hugging his father at the hotel pool, only makes me more certain he’s going to die, as I've stressed for ages now).

For Jesse, that’s the waking up moment. But it really crystallizes when he calls Walt and says, “This is just a head’s up to let you know I’m coming for you. See, I decided burning down your house is nothing. Next time I’m gonna get you where you really live.”
So yeah, something did happen. A lot of things happened. Hank stashing Jesse at his house. Hank involving Gomey. Hank getting Jesse to put it all on videotape. Walt’s call to Todd. Listen, it’s all going to blow up spectacularly in due time. Just don’t ever say “nothing happened” on Breaking Bad, OK? This isn't a two-hour movie with anvils and short cuts. Great television has a story to tell. The end will come. Relax.

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