Why I’m Breaking Bad

9 05 2012

Bryan Cranston said in an interview that the show tests morality to the extreme across a spectrum, where Walter starts as “good”, achieves the audience’s sympathy, then veers into bad, still maintaining sympathy and audience support though, and this will be pushed to breaking point in season 5. That’s something I’ve always loved about television series that films don’t always have the time or ways of achieving, in series your perceptions of a character can change throughout, characters you dislike can be redeemed, characters you empathise with or relate to can change and cause you to question your feelings, maybe even your life.

I like that Breaking Bad doesn’t tell you what to think, there’s no right or wrong way to feel when you watch it. Isn’t that the whole point? Walter discovers that right and wrong are arbitrary, he tells his DEA Agent brother in law that the alcohol they  are drinking at that moment would have gotten them thrown in jail during prohibition. Walter’s morality does not orbit around the law anymore, instead adjusting to what he feels is right for his family. When he discovers he has terminal cancer, he starts to “cook” meth and save money for his family.

But then he realises it is not just about his family anymore. “Get out of my territory” Walter growls to some would-be meth dealers in a supermarket parking lot. You can see the satisfaction and acceptance on his face, that this is a part of him now. Being the “cook”, being Heisenberg, doesn’t just grant him money for his family, it gives him the control which he previously lacked in his life. He now has control over his actions, perhaps even over other people (he has been known to manipulate Jesse), being the provider for his family, control over his life, the danger of the job giving him a way out that even the cancer can’t beat, releasing frustration and feelings that are buried in the constricting polite facade of his everyday, mundane, underachieving life as a high school chemistry teacher.

Don’t we all secretly want to Break Bad?




5 responses

10 05 2012

Great post. You are right that the show does explore different forms of morality and Walt does reinvent and empower himself as Heisenberg. There is a definite appeal to “breaking bad” in this way but as Walt discovers, there can also be serious consequences (as he states in Season 4).

10 05 2012

I liked season 4, how it spins out of control, so the control he previously gained trying to be Heisenberg instead of “cancer man” actually means he loses himself for a while “I’m not in danger, I AM the danger”. That’s my take on it anyway, Thanks for commenting

10 05 2012

The interesting thing is that chemists do help make drugs. Just look at meth cooking – an organic synthesis. All those synthetic drugs with just a little bit different ligands. I’ve heard about certain chemists who work for the cartels down in South America, making the trip several times per year.

10 05 2012

Of course, chemists play a large role in drugs be they legal or not, and hold the power to manipulate combinations. It’s interesting how widely chemistry applies

3 06 2012
Mark Foreman

I have seen season one of breaking bad, while it might be hard for some people to dislike Walter White. It is important to bear in mind that if caught he would end up in jail and in the UK he would be very likely to be ejected from the Royal Society of Chemistry. I suspect that the ACS would take a similar dim view of a chemistry teacher who makes amphetamines.

I hold the view that the chemistry of illegal drug production might be a shock horror thing which can excite some people for a moment, but I am sure that the novelty will wear off quickly.

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