Eli reviews the latest, and the best, episode of this season's Breaking Bad.
In a recent interview, Breaking Bad costar Aaron Paul explained, "We just aired episode six of season four, and from episode one to six it was a slow burn. It is about to get really, really, really crazy."
Episode 7, The Problem Dog, delivers on craziness, as well as intensity, paranoia, and really great dialogue and acting. The episode's title comes from a scene in a drug-recovery meeting. Paul's character, Jesse, wanders back to the old support group that he abandoned last season. In this session, he confesses to committing acts of pointless violence, including shooting a dog. The dog, metaphorically speaking, is Gale Boetticher—the meth cook that Jesse gunned down in the Season 3 finale. The group is both disturbed and disgusted by Jesse's confession. The people in recovery would be willing to accept Jesse's sins if he had committed them while high. But, as Jesse explains, he killed the problem dog sober and can no longer hide behind the excuse of drug addiction. It's a powerful scene, flawlessly acted by Paul. For most of this season, and even much of last season, Paul has had to play Jesse as a semi-comatose character, plagued by the guilt of multiple deaths—a lover, a friend, Gale, and others. In episode 7, Jesse finally comes back to life. The guilt still haunts him, yes, but he is beyond guilt, beyond any hope of redemption. He condemns himself in the recovery meeting, admitting to the group that he's become a purely evil man for whom only Hell awaits.
Gale, it turns out, is more than just Jesse's problem dog; he is also Gus's. Hank, escorted by Walter Jr., has lunch at Gus's restaurant, Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus visits their table and makes small talk with Hank, offering Hank more soda and Walter Jr. a part-time job. The scene, at first, seems to be part of the slow-burning plot of this season, something that builds the overall tension and will, at a later point, provide a payoff. Instead, this scene leads directly to the episode's very intense cliffhanger. Hank, after his chicken dinner, visits his pals at the DEA to discuss Gale's recent shooting. The DEA agents are initially interested. But when Hank suggests that Gus is likely Heisenberg and that he's likely involved in Gale's murder, the DEA colleagues dismiss this theory out of hand and point out that a Pollos Hermanos menu is hardly proof of anything. Hank agrees and then shows them fingerprint evidence. He has lifted Gus's prints from the soda cup and has found matching prints in Gale's apartment. Hank has finally nailed his man. It's over for Gus.
These two scenes, by themselves, would have made for an outstanding episode. But this episode also has Walter plotting Gus's murder with Jesse, and features an intense confrontation between Gus and the cartel. This episode is the best of the season so far, and promises to push the show in a dark, nasty, nail-biting direction. The show's slow burning pace has not yet turned into a full blaze, but the flames are growing faster and beginning to surround certain characters—Gus in particular. Of course, if Gus is arrested, Walter's arrest is likely inevitable. And if Gus is killed, and his right-hand man Mike is left standing, then Walter's chances of long-term survival are probably nil. Heck, it's even conceivable at this point that Jesse, embracing the growing evil within him, will end up trying to take out Walter.
Whatever happens, it's clear from this episode that the coming break ups in Breaking Bad will be wrenching.
Written or Contributed by: Eli Katz
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