Breaking Bad: “Problem Dog” (Episode 4.07)

TV Reviews
Breaking Bad: “Problem Dog” (Episode 4.07)

“How close were you to him?” “Closer than me and you right now,” replies Jesse after being pressed by Walt. A lot of this season of Breaking Bad has been about the relationship between Walt and Jesse—both as friends and as partners. And while in past seasons their relationship has seen its fair share of up and downs, never before has there been so much at stake in their partnership. The dynamic in this relationship began to shift in season three when each shed blood for the other, and we still aren’t sure what the full impact of that decision will have on the relationship. Jesse could either blame Walt for making him kill another man or realize that Walt was willing to kill to protect him and that Gus probably wouldn’t do the same. But that is the point we are at with this character, and in a lot of ways he has become the most important factor in this season’s story.

When Jesse pulled the trigger and killed Gale last season, we had no idea that it would thrust him into such an important role. As I mentioned in last week’s review, Jesse and Walt have really switched places this season. It’s now Walt that is on the outside, being a screw-up. But understanding Walt’s intentions is really key to figuring out this partnership and where it might go. Walt is a very complex person, and he has moments where it seems like he’s just using people to get what he wants. In this week’s episode he presses Jesse about his side job with Mike and Gus and quickly reminds him of all the terrible things Gus has done. While Walt is within sound reason to bring all of these things up, it came off a little desperate and disingenuous. I asked myself if he actually cared about Jesse in this particular instance or if he was just saying what he needed to say to make sure Jesse stays on his side. Jesse turns around and says, “OK, you don’t need to continue with the sales pitch.” His reaction was exactly how I felt.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way about Walter and the things he does. Let’s not forget all the times in past seasons where he would treat Jesse like crap and have no patience whatsoever for him. It goes to show a fundamental characteristic of Walter White: He’s a very ego-driven man. I mean, hell, he would rather blow up the Charger and risk being put on the radar than swallow his pride by having to take the car back. In fact, his pride and ego will most certainly be his downfall. et, Walt went back to Jesse’s place to get him off the drugs in season two. He killed two men in cold blood so that Jesse wouldn’t be killed, so for all the self-centered things Walt does, he certainly does care about others. He cares about Jesse.

All of this has to be mentioned, because Gus’ big plan is to turn Jesse against Walt. Conversely, Walt hatches a plan to have Jesse slip in the poison he made into Gus’ food next time he is around him. Jesse has now become the key figure in both these megalomaniacs’ plans. For Jesse, it’s trying to figure out if Walt is just using him as a means for survival or if he actually sees him as an equal.

In “Problem Dog” the writers deal with the impending Cartel problem that branched off from last season—the repercussions from Gus betraying his Cartel partners. Jesse shows up to Gus’ workplace, and it’s swarmed with bodyguards. Mike gives Jesse a gun and tells him to keep his mouth shut and just watch. The Cartel pulls up, and it’s only one man, much to Gus’ surprise. This was not a meeting of negotiation, but rather a message. We don’t get the answer, as they don’t reveal what Gus’ options are about. It’s boiled down to a “yes or no” question. A part of me wonders if this is about Walt. We do know the twins of Tuco were looking to kill Walt, as they blamed him for his death. While they eventually switched their target to Hank, we have no idea if they ever communicated that to the family across the border. And even more than that, I would assume they actually want Walt alive because they know he’s the one making the blue meth in high quantity. With Gus trying to cut off all dealings with them, it would make sense if they wanted Walter in their custody.

After the meeting comes to an abrupt end, Mike takes Jesse back to his house. On the drive back, he says he plans on teaching Jesse how to shoot it. Jesse, annoyed, finally asks what Gus really sees in him. Mike says, “If I had to choose words, I would say loyalty. Just maybe, your loyalty is to the wrong man.” Jesse then fiddles with the cigarette that has the poison in it. He’s going to have to evaluate his loyalty to Walt, and really define what his relationship is to him. For all Walt’s faults, he’s still willing to kill for Jesse. That’s more than can be said for Gus. Aaron Paul has a riveting scene later in the episode where he revisits his drug rehab group. Breaking down, he tells them the story about Gale, only referring to him as a dog—or more precisely, a “Problem Dog.” As one of the rehab participants calls him disgusting for putting down a helpless dog, Jesse agrees with her. Recalling the beginning of season three where Jesse says he accepts he is the villain, he comes to the conclusion he’s not a very good person, despite what he does.

My favorite scene was when Hank and Walter Jr. were sitting in the Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus greets them as the manager of the place and treats them like royalty. He asks Walt Jr. how his father and mother are doing and offers them free food. This scene is just another example of what a great villain Gus is. Knowing his current relationship with Walt, he still has the balls to offer Walter Jr. a part-time job at the restaurant after school. The entire exchange was enjoyable, as we know who Gus really is and who he pretends to be to blend in. Hank, taking it in stride, takes Gus up on his offer to get him a refill on his drink. He later bags the cup and checks Gale’s apartment for matching prints on the soda cup.

Walt’s position is about to change dramatically. The episode ends with Hank launching an investigation into Gus. He does this by presenting all the evidence to his old DEA partners and even provides them with a fingerprint match of Gus’ in Gale’s apartment. It’s hard to guess what Walt’s position will be in all of this. Walt of course is going to be concerned, because if Gus goes down, he goes down as well. But it also puts Gus under pressure, and with this shake-up, it could be the time for Walt to finally strike and make his move. As the pieces are all starting fall in to place, season four of Breaking Bad is starting to finally take shape. Sure, Walt’s constant floundering and ridiculous behavior is starting to become tiresome. But it allowed us to see the shortcomings of our main character and perhaps even an insight into what might ultimately be his downfall. But that can wait for later. I’m just ready for Heisenberg to finally come back and, as Walt put it, “be the one that knocks.”

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