Warning: Don’t even consider reading this article if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Breaking Bad yet, you loon.
After about 59 minutes of causing you to vomit out your entire central nervous system, Breaking Bad set its dear viewer to a state of blissful melancholy as Walter White rode off into a silent sunset, shotgun to a faceless criminal who specializes in making people “disappear.” Not in the dead way, in the starting life anew way. But after Saul Goodman’s phantom associate whisked an all-but-defeated Heisenberg off to the Granite State (as far as we can surmise from the flash forwards), we caught glimpse of a stray dog skipping across the road, hopping swiftly aboard the curb as the screen faded to black.
What the hell was up with that?
After an episode that packed an impossibly chaotic rise and fall, plot turns that contort every theory and preconceived notion to which we might hold fast, a stampede upon all of our emotional investments in the Breaking Bad characters, we close on a dog. After what felt like a veritable sweep of each of the tall drama’s many chapters, a border collie scampers along the Albuquerque highway. After Walt watches his brother-in-law get shot in the face, knife fights his wife, gets tackled by his teenage son, kidnaps his baby daughter, and tells his best friend that he watched the love of his life choke to death on her own vomit, we fade out on f**king Lassie.
The extended canine metaphor dates back, most memorably, to the fourth season episode “Problem Dog,” in which Jesse Pinkman, crushing under the weight of his own guilt, subs in the titular moniker to identify Gale Boetticher, whom he murdered at the behest of Walt. Two years later, we revisited the theme with “Rabid Dog,” in which Saul batted around an Old Yeller analogy to suggest that Walt put a paroxysmal Jesse to certain rest. And two weeks after that, we see Jesse chained up by Todd — weird, weird Todd — after Walt chokes up from a stomach full of resentful agony an abandonment of his friend and partner and casts him off to the clutches of the neo-Nazis.
Jesse is leashed in the ad hoc meth lab by Todd, who baits the tortured young man with a snapshot of his cherished ex-girlfriend Andrea and her son Brock. Closing in this image, of Jesse itching with horror over the idea of these monsters having his family in their eyeline, we know that Jesse must find his way to freedom… we hope it, anyway. And perhaps the galloping hound is meant to all but shout this outright. Walt is out of the picture, New Hampshire bound to leave the mess he has created behind him. But this story, as we know, is not over — even if we hadn’t seen the flash forwards, there are still two more episodes to go. There are still dogs left runnin’ around.
But is this an inherently good sign for Jesse? The tone attached to the final seconds of the episode was terrifically ominous, as has been every mention of dogs this show has ever produced. Breaking Bad‘s utilization of the canine race is far more in line with The Sopranos‘ use of the dead Christopher’s cat than with Lost‘s use of life-affirming Vincent. To this viewer, the border collie sauntering across the ABQ highway didn’t quite have the feeling of a spirited pup throwing caution to the wind to make the world his oyster (or whatever a dog’s equivalent of an oyster would be… like, maybe, a rubber squeak toy shaped like an oyster? Would a dog be into that?), rather an on-the-run, cold-and-alone, doom-around-the-corner feeling. Jesse’s story might not be over yet, but it’s on its last flea-bitten legs.