Breaking down “Breaking Bad”


Photo Illustration by Korbl Klimecki

Jonathan H. Ellyson and Jonathan Ellyson

AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has been said to be one of the best dramas on television. I would agree, definitely in the last five years. The final season comes to an end this month and we’ve experienced so much character development over the 62 episodes it is going to be hard to let the show go.

When you watch a show like this over a period of five years, it’s important to revisit some of it’s earlier moments. Unlike very procedural shows which have minor moments of plot between mostly repeatable circumstances like police investigations or medical mysteries,

“Breaking Bad” is not a procedural show, it had a few bottle episodes and some minutes between major events that are skippable, but it is the most compelling show I have seen in years. So let’s break it down in the same way Walter White would break down an organic compound in the lab. Abandon all protection from spoilers ye who read any further.

Look at the Main Character: Walter Hartwell White. Five years ago, he was a 50 year old high school teacher with a doctorate in chemistry working part time at a car wash. Today he is a dangerous villain with a tendency to poison children and call up his Nazi buddies to murder witnesses. Where did he go wrong? Walt was many people’s favorite character, and ever since the middle of season five, I’ve noticed a shift in people disliking him.

ARC student Bryan Ayule liked Walt, “he was originally doing bad things to help his family, a bit detached from true evil.” You understand the man has lung cancer, he has a way to provide money to his family after he dies so he was justified, but ever since he killed Mike he is the bad guy.

I have a tendency to like the villains in things I read and watch; shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad show that every villain is a hero from their own perspective. It was in season two that he made his really Machiavellian turn, but he’s been doing pretty bad stuff from the beginning.

In the first episode he poisons two people with phosphine gas; his immediate suggestion for disposing of the bodies is chemical disincorporation. When they start selling to Tuco, he walks in with 50 grams of volatile explosive fulminated mercury; this might be a bluff, or he might just be willing to cut his losses with the cancer and kill everyone in the building. Next murder he plans with the deadly poison ricin made from processed castor beans.

Those have been his methods from the beginning, whether it’s blowing up a parking garage, or nursing home. Maybe this time he will poison a child or his business partner, no matter what though, if a body is left behind he’s going to drown it in acid.

People will argue “he has cancer!” “he is doing it for his family!”

You could have cancer right now, is poisoning people and making their bodies disappear the rational humane action you would take? I didn’t think so. I’ve always been okay with Walt being the villain, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the show so much.