BREAKING BAD 4.07 ‘Problem Dog’

Walt becomes increasingly irrational as Jesse gets a chance to take out Gus.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Problem Dog"

Writer: Peter Gould

Director: Peter Gould

Previously on "Breaking Bad":

The cartel took out another one of Gus' (Giancarlo Esposito) Pollos Hermanos trucks and stole the blue meth within. Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) continued his unlikely rise within Gus' organization when Mike (Jonathan Banks) took him on a stakeout to recover the stolen meth. Although Jesse was too impatient to wait, his methods proved to be effective and they recovered the meth and a message from the cartel asking Gus to meet with them. Jesse also had a brief moment alone with Gus in which he asked why he had been chosen to work with Mike. Gus simply told him that he "sees things in people."

Meanwhile, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) inadvertently scared his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) by slightly exaggerating about how dangerous he had become. To ease the feelings of his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), Walt bought him an expensive new Dodge Charger. When Skyler ultimately returned and opted to continue to use their new car wash to launder drug money as planned, she ordered Walt to return the car to the dealership because it doesn't line up with the story they had told Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt)… Especially now that Walt's arrogance had revitalized Hank's search for his Heisenberg alter-ego; which has led him to focus on a Pollos Hermanos bag in Gale's otherwise Vegan friendly apartment. 

Story:

At his home, Jesse plays the video game shooter, Rage and he flashes back to shooting Gale in the face as he attempts to desensitize himself. At the car wash, Walt Jr.'s Dodge Challenger is washed as Walt learns from Syler that the dealership will only take it back if they pay an $800 restocking fee. Angered by the whole situation, Walt takes the car on a joyride in a parking lot to blow off steam… until gets the car stuck on a concrete divider. Impulsively, he stuffs the ownership papers into the gas tank and ignites them, blowing up the car moments later.

Later at the office of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Walt learns that he'll get off relatively lightly with over $50,000 in fees, but he seems angry and distant. Walt finally tells Saul that he's tired of waiting for Gus to kill him and he wants to hire a hitman to take him out. Saul isn't necessarily against the idea, but he points out that it would take a true professional to get to Gus and they may not have access to anyone who could get close to him. A stray line from Saul makes Walt realize that Jesse has seen Gus recently and his partner later relates the encounter at the diner.

Walt then hammers home several reminders to Jesse about what Gus has done to him until Jesse tells him to stop with the sales pitch. He'll kill Gus the next chance he gets. At the car wash, Walt drops off a large sum of cash to Skyler, who is stunned by the size of it. She tells him that no car wash can make that kind of money and he simply tells her to deal with it. He also gives her a chance to back out now, but she declines to take it. At the Superlab, Walt makes a small amount of poison for Jesse to slip into Gus' food; which will make his death seem natural. Jesse hides it in one of his cigarettes.

Elsewhere, Hank has Walt Jr. drive him to Pollos Hermanos as he listens to Walt Jr.'s story about his dad buying him the Dodge on a whim. At the restaurant, Gus greets them warmly and offers Walt Jr. some part time work and Hank a free soda refill. But outside, Hank empties the soda and collects the cup to get Gus' fingerprints. Meanwhile, Jesse takes Mike to a  remote meeting place and orders him to make coffee for Gus. Jesse nervously contemplates slipping in the poison before Mike gives him a gun and warns him not to use it unless Mike pulls out his gun first.

A representative of the drug cartel arrives and Gus meets with him privately. Gus offers the cartel $50 million to leave his interests alone but the representative says that the cartel wants only one thing. He leaves after Gus seemingly refuses. Jesse has another opportunity to take out Gus, but he passes because he knows that Gus' other men would kill him instantly. Later, when Mike tells Jesse that he'll teach him how to shoot, Jesse questions their arrangement again. Mike tells him that Gus sees loyalty within Jesse, but he wonders if Jesse has loyalty to the wrong man.

Jesse goes back to rehab, presumably to help with his addiction to meth, but he relates the story of how he killed Gale (using a problem dog analogy) and he lashes out at the other rehab members. Jesse states that there are no consequences for what he's done and he tells the people there that he only sees them as meth customers. The next day, Jesse denies seeing Gus as he and Walt work in the Superlab. Later, Marie escorts Hank to the DEA's office where he lays out his findings in Gale's murder. Hank presents his conclusions to his DEA bosses and he is very close to the truth about Gale's activities.

But when Hank seems to link Gus to Heisenberg and the local drug trade, the other agents become incredulous… until Hank presents evidence that Gus had visited Gale's apartment at some point; which seems to give weight to Hank's hypothesis.

Breakdown:

The last few episodes have changed my mind about Hank. He's actually a very good detective and he's alarmingly close to the truth. I predicted that Walt may regret setting Hank on Heisenberg again in the future. But at the speed at which Hank is going, that day may come sooner than later.

If Hank really is as sharp as he's been portrayed as, then he has to be suspicious about the source of Walt's money and the odd circumstances of buying the Charger for Walt Jr. the day before. He may already suspect that Walt is involved somehow, but for now Hank's focus is on Gus as his potential Heisenberg. The moment that Hank essentially tricked Gus into giving him a sample of his fingerprints was beautifully done. Hank is allowing everyone to underestimate him in order to get what he needs. He may not be the nicest guy to his wife, but Hank is proving to be a more capable adversary for Walt than I would have guessed.

Walt's joyride at the beginning of the episode was darkly hilarious as was his continued insistence that Gus needs to die. For all of Walt's bluster to Skyler in the previous episode, he doesn't really know how to take down someone as well guarded and cautious as Gus. Saul was also amusingly earnest when he acted as the rare voice of reason. If anything, Walt is far too open about wanting Gus dead and he is too desperate to find a partner who can make that happen. There's almost no way that Mike didn't relay Walt's intent back to Gus and if Saul wasn't so frightened of Mike too, he would have probably ratted on Walt too.

If Jesse's video game binge on Rage was an example of product placement, it was one of the more effective pitches that I've seen on TV. It didn't really try to sell us on the game and instead used it as a way to illustrate Jesse's increasing detachment from his humanity. As much as he hates Gus for what he's done, Jesse seems to be genuinely grateful for the second chance he's gotten. At the same time, he seems desperate to receive either absolution for Gale's murder or to face the consequences of what he's done. His story to the rehab group was part confession and part fiction. But it's not clear if he's lashing out in frustration or if he really believes that other people don't matter to him as anything but potential customers.

The cartel storyline is also progressing nicely, even as an open drug war seems inevitable. I suspect that the cartel either wants Walt's services or they want him dead, neither of which Gus seems willing to go along with. This may actually put Walt and Gus on the same page. They may still try to get rid of each other, but it seems just as likely that they'll side with each other against the cartel rather than risk dealing with someone potentially more dangerous.

It's also telling that at the half way point of the season, "Breaking Bad" seems to be moving along like a well oiled machine. Thus far, there haven't been any major hiccups in the season and the show just continues to become more intriguing by the week.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.