I read an interesting, but seriously flawed piece on Breaking Bad today. Kind of made me laugh at first. In trying to “critique” the award-winning fan favorite show, this person just focused on all the right and wrong things Walter White did. But this is just someone not understanding the complexity of the character and human nature to begin with.
First let me state that I do not believe what Walter does is right or justifiable, but that there is more to it than just he’s a bad man. At the beginning of the Breaking Bad series, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), is a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Immediately we start to feel bad for him. Here is a hard-working person that just wants to support his family, his wife, his handicapped son and soon to be born daughter.
One day after taking up an invite from his brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walter goes on a DEA drug bust. It is then that we are introduced to the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who Walter realizes is a former student of his. Pinkman doesn’t get caught in the DEA’s bust because he is next door to house being used to make the Meth, having an affair with the neighbor’s wife.
So in the beginning we see Walter, a hard-working man trying to survive, living by the book. Then we have Jesse, a low-life drug dealer. As the series goes on the lines are blurred, and things are no longer just black and white. As Walt talks Jesse into cooking Meth with him so he can make enough money so his family can survive when he is gone. This is an admirable reason, sure an illegal one, but one that a desperate person could see as justified.
As the series goes on, we see Walter White transform. By the end of the first season, and into the second, Heisenberg is born. This is where Walter starts to become really questionable in his actions. When Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), is introduced, we see this taken to a whole new level. Walt sees the huge financial gain and his morals stance at this point is gone, things aren’t black and white, they are gray. It is about survival, and at any means.
By the end of the fourth season, things have certainly flipped. Walter is just a bad man who has fallen down the rabbit hole so far, there is no return. Jesse however, has experience so much by now, he just wants to climb out and disappear from it all. We now see Walter for what he has become, what he has changed into and just want to see an end to it. As for Jesse, we want him to find the redemption he wants, and possibly deserves at this point after being dragged into this mess. With a flip of the coin, the sides have changed you could say.
In the finale we just wonder how will this end for Walt? Can he be redeemed? So much has taken place. He has betrayed those that have loved him, some paid with their lives. Jesse is probably at the lowest point and just wants to live. Through the 5 years the show was on the air, we see that things aren’t always black and white in life. Possibly what made so many sympathize with him in the beginning was that the show started in 2008, right around when the economy for this country was crashing. So many could relate to wanting to survive and to make ends meet, but at what cost? Walter showed what he would do.
Like popular shows such as The Sopranos, and Sons of Anarchy, where characters cross the line of morality on a daily basis just to find a means to survive, fans return each week to see where they will be taken. To see how these characters will meet their fate. Sure having morals keeps us in check, otherwise we would have an unruly and lawless society, but there are times that we can’t turn away from that train wreck and want to see where it goes knowing no good can come from it.
So if you think Breaking Bad is just about morals, the right and wrong, then you did’t get the show. The show is about change and what that does to us, and those around us that we care for. How it affects others. How far one will go to survive. How much change can one person go through before they no longer exist. Things aren’t just black and white.
Thank you Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston for creating one of the most intriguing characters on television. Never to be forgotten.
Remember his name. Walter White. Heisenberg.