“Mister White’s gay for me, everyone knows that.”
Parents. Who needs, ‘em, right? Always telling you to “apply yourself,” disapproving of your girlfriends, interfering in your life choices—and yet, there comes a time when you realize that all of those manipulations, all of those lies, have been them acting in your best interest, have been them trying to save you from your own stupid, self-destructive impulses.
It’s easy to forget, because of how different Aaron Paul looks from the early episodes of the series, that Jesse Pinkman the character is still barely into his twenties, but seeing him sacked out in Hank and Marie’s guest room or sipping coffee from Hank’s DEA mug (yes, internet, we get it—the handle makes it look like it’s saying “DEAD”) brings that reality home to us. It adds another layer of tragedy to Jesse’s struggle, but it also brings new light onto Walt’s feelings for Jesse.
Just as in Season Three, everybody around Walter White is telling him the same thing—Jesse Pinkman must die. He’s too big a liability, a wild-card, a rabid dog (“Old Yeller”, as Saul calls him). To everybody else, Jesse is a problem with a simple solution. Skyler sees Jesse as the incarnation of her fears that someday someone would be knocking on (or in this case kicking down) the White’s door—and in fact, she’s absolutely right. During the infamous “one who knocks” speech, Walt is taking credit for Jesse’s act. “A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me?” he said, towering over her. But Walt didn’t knock. Jesse knocked. Jesse is the chaotic element that Walt has never been able to control. Now he’s committed an act of vengeance so specific and personal that—in spite of Walt’s best efforts to bullshit his family—he can’t hide it anymore.
It’s all too much for Skyler. Sitting on the bed of the hotel room the family stays in the escape the gasoline fumes in the house, she cradles a drink and tells Walt that he needs to “ deal with this,” adding with a ruthless glare, “we’ve come this far … for us … what’s one more?” ( barring any stunning performances in episodes yet unseen, this will be the clip they play right before Anna Gunn wins her Emmy next year). Keep in mind—this isn’t a complete stranger to Skyler. She met him, she spoke to him—he praised her goddamn lasagna. But there’s a threat to Mama Bear’s family, and Papa Bear better do something about it.
So Saul wants Jesse dead. Skyler wants Jesse dead. Hank? Well, that seems to be a bit more complicated. Hank, as it turns out, is the reason that Jesse didn’t finish the job, arriving at the White home just as Jesse goes to light the gas. Hank takes the boy home, locking his seatbelt on with paternal care, giving him a room and the aforementioned coffee. Marie even makes him some lasagna of her own (what is with this family and lasagna?), but after Jesse does what Hank needs him to do—after he confesses on tape everything that Hank needs him to say—Hank still confides in Gomey that Jesse is nothing more than a “junkie murderer”, and if he were to get killed while under surveillance, all the better for their case against Walt. In one line, Hank becomes as indifferent to life as his enemy Heisenberg. It’s an ice-cold turn, and a sharp maneuver by Gilligan and the writers to cause us to question our allegiance. Are we rooting for Walt, or are we rooting for Hank? The one person we can be sure we’re rooting for is Jesse—so now what?
By the episode’s end, Jesse—scared off of his meeting with Walt by a bald-enforcer looking dude who ::sad trombone:: is actually just there to pick up his daughter—is openly threatening Walt, which finally gets Walt to pick up the phone and order what appears to be a hit on Jesse. There’s always a chance that this is a dodge (every cliffhanger this season has been), but if it is that would stunt the emotions in the scene. What we need to take away is that Michael is finally ready to move against Fredo.
But unlike Fredo, who insisted that he was smart against all evidence to the contrary, Jesse actually does have a pretty good tactical mind—at least when it comes to magnets and train robberies. Whatever Jesse has determined is “where [Walt] really lives” is likely to create a real impact, whether that’s his family or his money. And more importantly, the decision that Walt has just made is likely to reverberate in ways that he—and certainly all of us watching—can’t possibly predict.
Season Five, Episode Twelve
“Rabid Dog”: A-