Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 71

Ever notice how much Breaking Bad references movies?  It happens in nearly every episode and the references are worth paying attention to.  From Scarface to last week's mention of Hooper, this is a show that doesn't mind name-dropping.  So when Old Yeller came up in this week's episode (aptly titled "Rabid Dog"), I sat up straight.

So please - read on, but be aware that there are spoilers ahead.

Really - I just want to talk.
Everyone seems to be speculating that "Old Yeller" refers to Jesse, but I'm not convinced.  See, Old Yeller is one of those movies that most people know, even if they haven't seen it - that's how deeply ingrained this tragedy of shouldering the weight of adult responsibility has become in the American psyche.  Old Yeller is a faithful dog that worms his way into the hearts of his adopted family with his devotion and tricks.  Eventually, that loyalty and desire to defend the family earns him rabies when he tangles with a wolf and (just to remind you) rabies is incurable.  Yeller's family hopes against hope that he won't develop the disease, but he does, at which point the dog, who has done absolutely nothing wrong and has defended his family in the tradition of all the Best Dogs, must be put down by the not-yet-adult oldest son of the family.

Reading that, Jesse's not Old Yeller.

But Walt is.

Think about it.  Walt's desire to provide for his family drove him to the drug trade and, once bitten, he decided to live with the sting.  Gradually, he's become sicker and sicker, going from making a sandwich for a captive Krazy-8 to coldly planning the mass murder of witnesses.  If Jesse is read as Walt's adopted son - well, I think Jesse might be headed to the corn crib with a rifle.

Then again, Breaking Bad almost never does what I expect it to do.  Maybe the M-60 in the trunk is Walt's putting-down-the-dog rifle.  Maybe Skyler's the sick dog ("What's one more?" chilled me.)  Maybe it's Hank, who's turned sharply from the bluff, hale-fellow-well-met agent we met in the pilot.  At this point, none of the main characters (with the exception of Jr., who's always had more of a supporting role) can claim innocence.  But who's actually rabid?  And who's the heartbroken Travis Coates?

Oh, and Old Yeller will break your heart.  Watch the clip, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Four to go.

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