Breaking Bad: The Regression of Walter White

This season of Breaking Bad is just flying by, isn’t it? And with it, the countdown to the series’ final 16 episodes.

We’ll talk about the next step, “Cornered,” after the jump.

We’ve known for some time that Breaking Bad is ultimately the story about the decline and corruption of a man. But season four has sped up Walter White’s moral descent to Dodge Challenger speeds.

Walter used to be a more traditional antihero. He started cooking meth with the intention of securing his family’s future in the likely event of his death. We believed that Walter genuinely loved his family, and believed he considered himself to be trapped by circumstance into making difficult choices. He didn’t intend to hurt anybody, at least not beyond perpetuating the effects of meth in the community.

Perhaps more importantly, we liked Walter. We rooted for him against Tuco and the Cousins and Gus. We wanted him to be a drug kingpin in the same way that we wanted Tony Soprano to effectively run his mob empire. Walter was deeply flawed, but he was ours. We delighted in seeing Heisenberg assert himself and outwit his enemies. Walter was funny and still likable on several level despite his new profession and growing ego.

The Walter White of season four is not an antihero anymore — he’s a villain.

That important distinction began to take shape when he watched Jane die rather than save her life quite easily. Jesse grew into the far more sympathetic character of the two, and Walter’s poisonous effects on the lives of his loved ones became amplified.

This year, we don’t watch with delight when Walter schemes or goes on diatribes — we wince. Walter White is just a selfish, spoiled, needy asshole at this point. He’s beyond incapable of considering the feelings of others, and he’s so self-centered that he’s committing mistakes left and right.

In “Cornered” alone, Walter:

  • Essentially told his wife that he’s a murderer
  • Pushed his partner further away from him and closer to Gus and Mike
  • Alienated his son
  • Continued doing everything he can to unintentionally attract police attention
  • Got three innocent Hondurans deported

Yep, season four has been a real winning streak for ol’ WW. He may be, to use his parlance, “the one who knocks,” but he can’t do so without knocking too loudly and then telling the whole neighborhood about what a good knocker he is.

So what is our investment in Walter at this point? Do we still want him to succeed, to break free of his emasculation and unleash his inner Heisenberg on the world? Or do we just want someone to hurry up and put him out of his misery so that Jesse can get on with what remains of his cursed life?

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1 Comment

Filed under Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

One response to “Breaking Bad: The Regression of Walter White

  1. I’m waiting for Walter to die.

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