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“Breaking Bad”: Moral?

September 30, 2013



A few years ago my sons told me about a popular program, “Breaking Bad.”  I rented both the first and second years of the shows from the library, and in short order watched all the episodes.  Then I got bored with it – two years was enough.  This last year however I have been watching or recording all the shows, and of course most of the world knows last night was the final episode.

In “Breaking Bad,” besides being a TV show with great actors, we see moral relativism at its peak.  Is Walter White a hero or a villain, or simply a tragic figure forced to do things for his family and their future because of his poor medical insurance?  Some have seen deep symbolism in the show, from the use of colors to the choice of names.

Some have called the show a good example of Satan and the power of evil.  The Jewish message is much simpler.  Everyone is born good, not tainted with original sin.  We all have choices to make, continual choices every day of our lives.  Walter White started to make the wrong choices and in time he grew to enjoy the choices he was making: coveting money, power, the manipulation of people, and even murder.

Besides the excellent acting one of the reasons the show might be so popular is because everyone can make the wrong choices at times, and perhaps viewers see a little of themselves in the wrong choices Walter White made.  It’s not Satan, nor the devil that made Walter White make the wrong choices, but only Walter White.  The fact the show is so very popular might give moralists reason for concern.  Sometimes as Sigmund Freud said however, a cigar is only a cigar.

This much I’m willing to bet however: someday Vince Gilligans will bring Walter White back from the brink. 

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  1. I believe that the series finale (did you catch it?) is a metaphor for redemption.

  2. Patti or D Kunstadt permalink

    Good Job!   Love, P.

  3. I watched the first two or three seasons as well. I didn’t want to watch Walter become what he was becoming after he let Kristen Ritter’s character choke to death on her own vomit. I felt that his character went past some point then that he might not of if he were real (maybe, really, that I might not of if I had been in his shoes). I think this was only confirmed by the plane crash later, a result of her death that showed up on Walter’s doorstep in a way that violated classic story telling (where you don’t force the implausible onto the viewer). The crash should have transpired in a manner where Walter and Jesse only heard about it, not had it so coincidentally occur. I think in this way the people in charge of the way the series was going were telling me something about where the characters were going. It wasn’t a direction I was going to be happy with.

    Later, I did try to watch an episode mid-season. My fears were confirmed. Walter seemed to have gone completely off the deep end. He was no longer someone I could identify with. He wasn’t a hero, for himself or anybody else. He wasn’t even an anti-hero. He had become another one of those bad guys you see so many of on television and just accept as bad guys without wanting to know where they come from. Since I hadn’t watched him for a while I was truly lost at that point. Too much of the back story was missing for me, even though I had seen him for a great part of what led him there.

    Still, the examination of falling down like Walter did, and of Jesse’s opposite track of starting out bad and through the process of life getting better is a tremendous story arc. They did so well in providing us a way to view whatever metaphors we as viewers might find to lay over what was going on, by using humor in such a clever manner in the midst of horrible things going on.

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