Like many, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the final episodes of Breaking Bad. In case you’re among the few who aren’t familiar; it’s a show about Walter White, a 50-year-old High School Chemistry Teacher who’s been a loving father, a loyal husband, and an all round highly regarded member of his community. And then he gets cancer.
Walter now faces a dilemma. He has no savings, his wife is pregnant, and he’s got a teenage son with cerebral palsy…and he has nothing to leave behind to provide for them. So Walter does what you’d expect him to do…he starts making meth! He is unwittingly led to this decision by his DEA brother-in-law Hank during a ride-along where he witnesses a drug bust and learns how profitable the drug business can be IF you have a good product. And Walter knows all about making the premo product, he’s a freaking chemistry teacher! By any measure, Walter White is a good man confronting a bad end. All he needs is enough to leave his family in good stead after his death – just one or two ‘cooks’ – he has good intentions…and it all goes downhill from there.
Walt was a miserable high-school teacher working part-time at a car wash before he starts cooking meth. He slowly evolves into a desperado who wonders if it will be the cancer or his lifestyle as an Albuquerque methamphetamine kingpin that kills him. We witness mild-mannered Mr. White transform from Mr. Deeds to Scarface!
Like chemistry, Breaking Bad is all about change – how easily the good in us can change to evil – sometimes by a simple twist of fate – sometimes by a wrong decision that, at the time, may not seem so wrong. In the character of Walter White, we witness a metamorphosis of character, but at every step there’s a dose of humanity. Walt can kill one minute and lovingly caress his baby the next. We want to root for him and are repulsed by him simultaneously. He’s not always likeable, but he’s real.
Now chances are, even if you’ve never watched it, you know about this show. It’s highly acclaimed, well-done, and horribly sinister. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is just how accurate it is in relation to the human condition.
I doubt there are many among us who doesn’t know what it’s like to discover that you’re suddenly the kind of person that you never set out to be, and wonder how you ever got there. There are times when it seems the very thing we want to do we just can’t bring ourselves to do, and the thing we don’t want to do, we do over and over again. The answer is simple: it’s the human condition that at different points in our lives, we’ve been the kind of people that we would never want others to see.
This is Vince Gilligan’s gift to the world, this dark parable that he holds up as a mirror to the world – a cautionary tale about what it’s like to choose the dark path (no matter what the reason or rationality) – a tale that warns us of the consequences that we surely already know are there; but pretend will never find us.
When it comes to good and evil, we are all Breaking Bad.
Note: Breaking Bad has 2 episodes left in its final season and I for one will be sad to see it end even as I anticipate learning HOW it ends. Breaking Bad is a series where each episode builds upon the last so you really need to see it from the beginning to fully appreciate the story line. It’s well worth the watch. Breaking Bad is on Sunday nights at 9 pm EST on AMC.