My unfiltered thoughts about everything.
(Note: This a spoiler free review of the entire series)
I’m a self confessed flaw addict when it comes to TV. The bulk of my favorite television shows revolve around anti-heroes, characters who don’t deserve to be liked, who go out of their way to make us hate them, yet we still find ourselves holding out a modicum of hope for their personal redemption. We wrestle, episode to episode, with how much we like them. We ask ourselves where the lines are. How much is too much? That was the case with Walter White. Breaking Bad’s evil genius was all kinds of wrong, a sad, spiritually castrated example of incremental sins leading to wreckless abandon. It was a slow burning descent into depravity.
I watched, with the rest of America, as a Fred Rogers archetype, a mild mannered, middle aged suburban Dad, transformed, over the course of five harrowing seasons, into a confident, cold hearted sociopath. To say it happened organically would be a gross understatement. For once, a television show convincingly portrayed the downward spiral. Vince Gilligan handed us the unassuming, fragile Walt White, a guy you’d trust with your life. He built up sympathy for a man diagnosed with terminal cancer. When this man decided to use his skills as a chemistry teacher to make pure, high grade meth, we understood it to be a last ditch effort to help his family after he died. We might not have agreed with it on a personal level, but the motivation made sense.
The beginning of the end came early on in the show, when White and his former student, Jessie, decided to go through with the endeavor beyond the first flush of cash. What seemed like a temporary, get rich quick scheme, morphed into an obsession, one mans desire to be in control for the last years of his life. That control would be his undoing, the catalyst for the eventual ruin of his family, of all the love he’d ever known. As an audience, we watched as the need to control snuffed out any sense of ethical purpose, leaving only an unquenched thirst for more, more, more.
In the end, we were left with the much repeated mantra that “crime doesn’t pay”. Breaking Bad took the flawed protagonist idea to places no one wanted to imagine, giving us the full birth of consequence. Love was lost, tears were shed. A man ate himself alive from the inside out systematically, in the process leaving a trail of corpses and meth barrels too long to follow. If we could take any one lesson away from the show, I think it might be that love should take president over all other needs, that without family and friends, there’s nothing, nothing but aloneness.