The Conversation

Walter White: The Destroyer

In response to The course of evil:

Fascinating insights into "Breaking Bad," John.

Something else I find interesting about Walter White is that he is actually closer to a character Bill O'Reilly might be  right to worry about (though I have more faith in people than he apparently does).

Before the cancer, when Walter White was a school teacher and kind of a milquetoast, suburban  husband, he was (as you mention) seething with grievance, insecurity, fury, and disappointment. Because of one decision as a young man, he literally lost a billion dollars in the tech boom and now he can hardly afford to take care of his family.

Crime (and cancer) freed him. Not just financially, but emotionally and morally. He has lost himself and his cares and the burden of his humanity in evil. He is a man at peace now; consider him whistling while he works after lying to Jesse about how distraught he was over the death of that kid.

Walter White is now a free man. Evil has set him free. He is damned and he doesn’t care. We know this because he actually said it.

Because of that, however, we no longer feel any sympathy towards him; although we remain fascinated by his story (and where it will end up) and the devious ways his mind works.

White has morphed from the hero, to the anti-hero, to The Destroyer. He is destroying everything and everyone around him: his family (his wife is morally compromised and a virtual prisoner), his associates in the drug trade (especially Jesse), our society with his terrible product, and the innocent (that boy).

More than the One Who Knocks, White is now the One Who Throws People In a Rat-Maze in the same way he was often thrown into that maze by his early associations with drug lords. This maze is the moral quagmire you mentioned, and it always ends with someone dead and, worse, with White's realization that yet another act of evil has made his life that much easier.  

Though I have no inside information, my guess is that "Breaking Bad" ends with White finally destroying the only two things he still cares about:  his son and newborn.

Just as David Chase had the courage to do with "The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan has also chosen to do the same with White: Over the course of the series, we are watching a terrible tragedy unfold as a protagonist we once rooted for willingly loses his soul to the extraordinary benefits that can come to a capable man willing to give himself over to evil. 

Tony Soprano could never quite commit himself, which was one kind of tragedy and why he was so tortured (in this way, he reminds me of John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in "The Searchers").  White (who is smarter than Tony) gets it, and therefore is a completely different story.    

We live in an era of amazing storytelling through television. And if you look close enough, it is also shockingly moral.


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