Watching AMC’s Breaking Bad has been quite the emotional roller-coaster ride.I don’t watch a ton of TV, let alone get sucked into watching a five-season TV series, but it has happened. And I am thankful for it.
If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet or haven’t seen up to the finale then perhaps you should stop reading. Even though I have yet to see the finale, I’ll be giving my thoughts on the series as a whole.
Breaking Bad is a show about a run-of-the-mill guy named Walter White who decides to enter into a life of crime to provide for his family after being given the news that he has terminal cancer. Walt has a pregnant wife named Skyler and a son Walter Jr. His sister in law Marie (Skyler’s sister) is married to Hank who’s an overly passionate yet immensely talented DEA agent.
Walter White is a brilliant man. He is a profoundly gifted chemist who lost out on millions of dollars after leaving a company that ended up becoming a hugely successful enterprise. After leaving the company, Walter becomes an overqualified and underpaid high-school chemistry teacher. After learning about his cancer, Walter realizes he needs to leave some kind of great contribution to his family before he dies. It is obvious that Walt feels unfulfilled and decides that money will be his gift to his family before he dies. This is where things get interesting: with his chemistry background, Walt decides to become a producer of methamphetamine. Death becomes the impetus for his life of crime. With nothing to lose, he gets involved with a former student and small-time drug dealer named Jesse Pinkman. Colors play an integral role of Breaking Bad. The names of the characters, their outfits and the imagery of the scenes are all color-themed.
Despite his brilliance, Walt foolishly chooses crime as his option to provide for his family. Walter White is a man who never felt fulfilled in his life. He never really felt like he was in control. It is clear that behind this seemingly nice guy is an angry and bitter man. You get the sense that this nerdy Willy Loman-esque character never truly felt like he lived or accomplished what he set out to do. Walt only realizes this when cancer gives him his death sentence.
Despite the genius of Bryan Cranston as Walter White and actors like Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris and others, the starring role in this series is money. It is the good old-fashioned dollar that entices Walt into a life of crime. It is what makes Walt jealous of his former business partners. It is what made Skyler ultimately tolerant of Walt. It is what brought Jesse into business with Mr. White.
Money is what makes every man or woman work longer hours. Money gains respect. Money gives people social status and money gives people power. For many men trying to provide for their family, money is what gives them satisfaction and pride. Money intricately weaves its way in and out of the characters and themes of each show in some way, shape or form.
To me, the real crime wasn’t getting into the meth business. The real crime was Walt’s love for money. Here is an overall good man with no prior criminal history who desperately attempts to leave something for his family. It doesn’t matter if it was legal or illegal. This is a story about how people put great importance on money.
Walt didn’t decide to end his final days as a great father. He didn’t decide to be a great husband. He chose to leave money for his family, a choice many families make today in various ways. “Make money”. Get nicer things. Bigger home. Nicer cars. He is an “everyday guy” who descends into a criminal mastermind. Walter White is you and me. We all have the ability to become a victim of greed.
Money became more important than anything else. He justified every crime he did by saying it was for his family. The reality is that Walt enjoyed the high of being a powerful and wealthy man. Crime itself was also responsible for dragging Walt in deeper and deeper.
Mr. White was a damn good criminal and outsmarted some of the most dangerous men in the country. At the same time, he was able to use his chemistry background to produce the most pure form of meth in the world. This criminal underworld was dangerously giving him the worth he sought as a husband, as a father and as a man. This is abundantly clear after his experience with the dangerous drug dealer Tuco. After experiencing a murder and having accomplished his first big drug deal, he comes home to his wife Skyler. At first it seems he is tortured by what he has seen and that he can’t share his torment with her. Moments later, it then becomes very apparent that he was completely “turned on” by his dangerous run-in with Tuco.
Many murders and drug deals later, Walter White establishes himself as a supreme criminal who stays one step ahead of everyone for much of the series. Pretty quickly into Season 5, Walt’s world all comes crumbling down due to the tireless investigation by his brother-in-law DEA agent, Hank. Crime sucks Walt in so deep that he can’t escape the world that he created for himself despite being the alpha criminal. Law enforcement and rival criminals made Walt more sinister than he could ever imagine. Season after season, the small-time criminal Jesse Pinkman is appalled by Walt’s decisions and is brought along on a dark path that he could never have imagined from his former high school chemistry teacher.
It is the penultimate episode where Walter White finally comes out of denial. His son Walt Jr. reveals that he never wants to see his father again. This is when Walter realizes money wasn’t the answer. Walt Jr. simply wanted his dad’s attention and love. He wanted Walt’s time while Walt was off making meth. Walt was in denial about everything and didn’t understand that his family didn’t want money. It is then and only then that Walt realizes all of his work was for nothing. Stricken with cancer yet again, abandoned by his family, on the run from law enforcement and without most of his money, Walt is destroyed. It is also evident that he is desperate. One thing we learn about Walt is that when he is desperate, he makes extreme and dangerous moves. Going into the final episode of the series, Walt is an injured and cornered animal staring death in the face. In the final episode, Walt composes himself and once again devises a plan and executes moves that would make chess giant Garry Kasparov proud. It is rare that a final episode truly delivers. Many a great TV series final episodes have been failures. Not the case with “Breaking Bad” my friends. Vince Gilligan knows how to end a series and make the fans of the show feel complete.
I have experienced every emotion you can imagine while watching Breaking Bad. This show has provided so much entertainment and so many lessons. Breaking Bad has won many awards year after year for its writing and acting. Several magazines and newspapers have named it “the best television series of all time”. I agree, and unfortunately, it has all come to an end. Then again, I can always watch it and relive it all over again.