'Breaking Bad': How Do You Solve the Jesse Problem?

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad Rabid Dog

Breaking Bad has proven that Walter White may be the devil, but Hank Schrader is certainly no saint, not when it comes to someone like Jesse Pinkman - and definitely not when it comes to something as imperative as nailing his brother-in-law's derriere to the wall. Both men are willing to do whatever it takes in order to ensure their respective operations are seen completely through to the end - and for Hank, if that means sacrificing a junkie who just so happens to be the former associate of the notorious Heisenberg, well, then, that's the way the crystal meth crumbles.

You see, when it comes to the aspect of control, Walt and Hank are actually very similar individuals: neither one can help themselves. The mere notion of control, the need to obtain and hold on to it is one of the driving factors in their current predicament. It's what continues to push each man to insist on handling things themselves, to lie about things like faulty gas pumps and book a weekend getaway for the wife who's well beyond such passive involvement at this point.

Walt's need for control shaped his future long before his cancer diagnosis, longer still before he decided to cook meth and before he was ever in the empire building business – though you'd probably be right to argue an empire was exactly what Walt always dreamed of running in one way or another. For these two combatants, control is tied directly to their sense of self worth; without it, they're nothing. In fact, neither one was willing to have his ticket punched by someone or something else. Not cancer, not cartel assassins, not Gustavo Fring. These two are so obsessed with control; it seems inevitable they will be the ones who decide their own end.

Betsy Brandt in Breaking Bad Rabid Dog

So how do two extreme control freaks handle a variable as volatile and impulsive as Jesse Pinkman? If you're Hank then your move is to ply the young man with food (in the form of Marie's lasagna), a little hospitality, and then have him drink (literally and figuratively) from the DEA's cup. If you're Walt, you're still convinced talking it out will solve everything, despite the clamor of voices (i.e., Saul and Skyler) suggesting the only way to solve a problem like Jesse is to go with the Old Yeller treatment – which is much the same as a vacation to Belize, but this time the Disney crowd will get the reference much faster.

This was another breathless hour of television from the fine folks at Breaking Bad, but more importantly, the end of 'Rabid Dog' suggests a firmer connection between the present and future storylines waiting to converge on the series finale. Like Jesse said, he's the only one who could come close to cooking a product as pure as Mr. White, and there just so happens to be someone in the market for a new cook. Sure, Todd's capable and he's ready, but he's no Jesse Pinkman.

Maybe Walter and Hank are right: it is best to always be in control. Because as hard as it is to believe, there are people worse than those who believe they can make a compelling argument for "the virtues child poisoning." People who think that robbing a train car of methylamine equals the adventure of a lifetime; people like Todd and his neo-Nazi uncle.


Breaking Bad continues next Sunday with 'To'hajiilee' @9pm on AMC.

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