The tragedy of Walter White
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 23:09
The great tragedy of Walter White came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday evening, bringing to an end what can easily be considered one of the greatest television dramas in the history of the medium.
But “Breaking Bad” has created a lasting legacy, one that is unlikely to be rivaled by any program in the near future. For the first time in television history, the program broke one of the cardinal rules of entertainment: you do NOT under any circumstances make your protagonist “unlikeable” to the audience.
Not only did “Breaking Bad” violate this rule, it pulled a complete 180.
Even Tony Soprano, for all intents and purposes a “bad guy,” never came to be despised by the audience in any sense of the word.
Despite the series containing some of the downright nastiest and brutal villains ever to occupy the small screen, when all is said and done, none were more cruel, cold, and calculating, than the “protagonist” of the series: Walter White.
The legend of Walter White is undoubtably the definitive modern adaptation of the ancient Greek epics.
Walter White had viewed his life as a series of shortcomings. He knew he had great potential that had never been fulfilled. An ingenious chemist, White sold out of a company he had co founded in its infancy, one that would come to be valued at over a billion dollars in the years to come. He ended up becoming a high school teacher, despite the success of his lesser-minded colleagues. And as the coup de grace, in his early fifties, and with a new child on the way to boot, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
And so when the opportunity came to excel at something better than anyone else, he jumped on it.
Initially, when White decided to enter the meth cooking business, he justified his actions under the pretense that he needed to acquire the funds to posthumously provide for his family, pending his relatively imminent expiration.
Despite this, once Walt realizes just how well-suited he is to the trade, he attempts to go far beyond his family’s needs in the pursuit of becoming the absolute best at something.
And despite numerous hurdles, Walt eventually received his empire, far more successful than he could have ever dreamed. But in the process he willingly crossed the line from moral to immoral. And after repeatedly committing horrible acts that became ever increasingly more vicious, eventually, this cost him his life, his family, and indeed his very soul.
What some interpret as greed, however, was not. As Walt states in the finale, he didn’t do it for the money or for his family. He did it for the ride alone and in his own words “I was alive,” something he had been denied of time and time again.
And in the end, Walt’s ride came to an end on his terms. He defeated all adversaries and chose to spare the one person with whom he had placed the blame for his collapse. While far from redemption, he would not have gone out any other way.
“Breaking Bad” was a fantastic work of television brilliance. Ingenious writing put the drama in a class shared by the likes of The Sopranos and Mad Men.
Walter White IS Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston’s performance will long endure as the standard for aspiring dramatic actors to live up to.
With Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and his team have painted a brilliant portrait of people coated in gray. In the end it didn’t matter who the villains and heroes were. No matter your interpretation, this was a story you wanted to stay with until the very end. And love it or hate it, the ending to this magnificent show could be described as nothing less than perfect.