Quick Take: Breaking Bad, "Problem Dog"
"All that's left is to wait." - Walt
Review: Breaking Bad, "Problem Dog"
(S0407) Aside from one or two notable exceptions, Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) has been virtually bulletproof. From the moment he entered the Breaking Bad universe he has been two steps ahead of any would-be adversary brave (or stupid) enough to challenge his grip on power. However, this show has proven time and time again that nothing is forever and tables can turn on a dime. "Problem Dog," the fourth season's median episode, puts the wheels in motion for what appears to be the inevitable track of the season's back half: Gus' downfall.
"Problem Dog" was by no means the best episode of the season. It lacked many of the stylistic flourishes that we have come to expect from Breaking Bad and the episode mostly avoided any really memorable "I'm the man who knocks"-esque monologues (unless you consider Jesse's breakdown at his NA meeting a memorable monologue). But what "Problem Dog" lacked in style and verbosity, it made up for in plot development.
By "plot development", I don't necessarily mean a lot happened in the episode. But "Problem Dog" changed the dynamic and crystallized the major conflict that the rest of the season will almost certainly deal with heavily. As I stated before, that major conflict will revolve around Gus and the multi-pronged assault on his methamphetamine empire.
It's no secret that Walt (Bryan Cranston) has had his sights set on taking Gus out, but it's been difficult to take the threat seriously given how expertly Gus has avoided contact with him. When Walt broaches the subject with Saul (Bob Odenkirk), the latter bristles at the idea of bringing in an outside hitman to do the job. Saul is smart enough to realize that if he knows someone, chances are Mike knows that someone as well. "You can't get near him? Why don't you ask your partner?" he suggests, in reference to Jesse's newfound position within the Fring organization hierarchy.
At first blush, it would seem unlikely that Jesse (Aaron Paul) would want to upset the apple cart, given the newfound purpose his life has taken on since his "promotion." But after further examination, it makes sense that he would hop on board with Walt's plan. "Drop the sales pitch, I'll do it... I'll kill him the first chance I get," he says matter of factly when Walt brings the idea up. After all, Jesse's a loyal guy, and ultimately his loyalty lies with Mr. White. Even Mike (Jonathon Banks) recognizes the trait. When Jesse asks what Gus sees in him, Mike says, "If I had to put it into a word, I'd guess, 'loyalty'."
Gus' "cold war" with the Mexican cartel has been a lingering issue all season long. The show hasn't really dealt with it directly, instead using the cold opens to keep us abreast of the ongoing tit for tat. In "Problem Dog," Gus is finally forced to sit face-to-face with his South of The Border overlords. Gus offers to give the cartel a lump-sum payment of $50,000,000 to get them to leave him alone for good, but they balk at the idea. The cartel is interested in one thing and thing only, and that thing is... well I'm exactly sure. No one comes out and says it, but I have to assume that the cartel wants Gus to hand over Walt.
We've seen how effective Gus can be at dealing with problems he can see. He knows Walt is out to get him and he has successfully evaded him at every turn. What remains to be seen is how effective Gus will be at solving problems that aren't quite so evident: namely the re-invigorated Hank (Dean Norris).