Be warned, there are spoilers ahead for the series finally.
I came to Breaking Bad late in the game. I knew about the show, but I wasn’t really that interested. That was until the amazing Koneko-Chan started to tell me about the show. Her enthusiasm for it got me intrigued and so I watched the pilot episode. Then I watched episode two and by the third I was completely hooked. I waded through the entire run in the space of two weeks and caught up in time to watch the explosive finale.
The success of the show is in equal parts down to the quality of the writing and the fantastic actors involved. I knew Vince Gilligan’s name from back in the good old days of Mulder and Scully and of course Bryan Cranston from Malcolm in the Middle. And the show never failed to deliver, there was always something happening and none of the episodes felt like filler. It delivered time after time in surprising ways.
Of course a lot of that success falls squarely on Walter White. An average man, plagued by a life where he never felt he got a break. The cancer that propels a mild mannered chemistry teacher down the path of darkness that Walt treads is just another example of life not giving him a chance to really succeed.
His main motivation for all the terrible things that follow is a simple one that anyone can understand; wanting to see that his family is provided for when Walt is gone. Of course this backfires spectacularly over the course of the next five seasons. Right up to the very end though, Walt tries to ensure that his family won’t suffer because of him. Skylar bears a lot of the burden of Walt’s mistakes, and the guilt of what she has become a part of is a heavy one. Walt manages to make sure she is no longer implicated in his crimes, however she still carries the weight of knowing that Walt did it all for her and their children.
There is a telling moment during Walt’s last meeting with Skylar after he has made sure his son will received the remains of his ill gotten gains. Walt knows his family is provided for but he still has one last thing to do before he ensures their future safety; he has to give his wife absolution from the guilt of his crimes.
“I did it for me,” Walt says. “I liked it. I was good at it…and I was really….I was alive.”
The reviews I have seen all view this as Walt finally admitting that he enjoyed being Heisenberg. I don’t see it that way though, I regard it as Walt finally giving Skylar what she needs. Her relief, gratitude, and even love when Walt takes full responsibility for his actions is heartbreaking. It serves its purpose; Skylar no longer needs to feel the guilt of Walt’s actions. It is another step on his path to ensuring that his family will be okay when he is dead. Of course he follows up with the total obliteration of the Nazis, the only other real threat to his family.
Walter White leaves this life with a clean slate for his family and his original goal achieved. It has cost him everything; friends, self-respect, the love of his family and ultimately his own life. He has the blood of a lot of people, both good and bad on his hands. Walter White is no hero, he is ultimately a man who has been frustrated his whole life and is driven by circumstances to commit evil acts for what he feels are a good reason. Walt proves undeniably that he would do anything for his family, and in that way is he any different to you or me?
I’m going to miss Breaking Bad, which I guess is why I have already started to re-visit Walt’s misadventures from the start.