Breaking Bad’s Concluding Descent of Walter White

Patrick McIntyre, Staff Writer

The inception of “Breaking Bad”, AMC’s fan hit, didn’t set a precedent but its affection has conjured and sparked far more debate and discussion than uniform cable-programming.  The series treks through two years of the post cancer-diagnosis of a high school chemistry teacher and his decision to cook meth to leave his family secure after an inevitable demise.  “Breaking Bad” has been a five-season long kamikaze nose dive of Walter White.  Witnessing Walter (Bryan Cranston) drop through the crevices of life—victim of an insufficient social safety net and the ensuing criminality and his descent into madness—is the grapple clenching and dragging us in.  With the recent mid-season break, the series’ concluding eight episodes will dissect Walter’s final plunge into darkness.

Walter’s bald dome of a head, a reminder of his impending and altering shifts in life, frightens the timid.  His law breaking and drug-kingpin alter-ego, Heisenberg, lurks behind his eyes more and more in later episodes, gradually encroaching on Walter’s family persona.  The essence of achieving Heisenberg, of realizing a burgeoning malevolence and ill will—breaking bad—and what ensues is embedded in short glimpses of Walter’s budding character(s).  Once he hides behind his black sunglasses and porkpie hat, Walter progressively appears more comfortable with his broken and bad self, as opposed to the early days of awkwardly attempting to emerge in the local drug market.

Just like the repetition of riding a bike, practice and consistency allows for more comfortable and confident utilization and progress, and the more Walter participates in death, the more it suits him.  Narrowing in and discovering the precise moment Walter loses his (mainstream) conscious may be the unspoken charm of the show. He murders, maims and manipulates, often and unabashedly, at the expense of those closest to him.  He allows Jesse’s girlfriend, the love of his partner’s young life, to choke on her own vomit.  We are not concerned with the girl’s death, though, but with Walter’s turn and progression (regression?) into comfort with death in general.  It could have been this, but it also could have been the young boy utilized by Walter as a pawn, almost killed by the effects of a lethally potent flower.  The puzzle of Walter’s mind and the endless catacombs opening up invigorate us.  New, dark and dangerous paths become White’s common roads.  What are the limits to what a person would do to survive?  Sure, Walter White would do this, but I would never do that.

The lingering consequences of the damage Walter has committed to Jesse’s loved ones, still unbeknownst to him, causes a splintering effect.  The capacity to witness Jesse’s descent into carnage has forged him as the unintended wildcard of the series.  His rage lies dormant, either subdued by drugs, Walter’s gift of manipulation, or by his own struggle with a desire for an elevated soul.  Sympathy has the ability to fuel justified retribution and violence—the ultimate debate of the show.

The series will close in the upcoming final eight episodes.  The tipping point is budding as Hank, Walter’s cop step-brother, tailing the elusive blue methamphetamine since the beginning, may have finally discovered Heisenberg’s true identity.  Does Walter deserve to be brought to justice, though?  A person’s need for justification is on display here.  Walter committed these detrimental and damaging acts of violence and deception as a result of circumstances thrust upon him.  The possibility of his own retribution and execution causes dissonance in our own unconscious rationale—did he pursue evil because he had to, or were these acts controllable?   If we see Walter and Jesse in their inevitable face-off, amidst Walter’s final descent into murder and mayhem, the show will represent a man’s complete plummet with debatable circumstances, and we may be forced to confront our own latent demons.