Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Morality of Walter White

I won.

The transformation of Walter White was quick, calculated, and most of all, complete. There was no remainder to the teacher and father whom we met 4 seasons and 1 calendar year ago. This Walter is cruel, selfish, manipulative, and above all else, morally bankrupt.

The relationship between Jesse and Walt has always been at the forefront of Breaking Bad, and when the two master cooks were standing on the parking garage at the end of the episode, we were all waiting for them to hug. It appeared that, for the first time, Jesse had not been the victim of Walt's downfall. Walt's protection of Jesse had always been an interesting dynamic of their relationship, as they flirt with the father-son roles, but very rarely catapult into it.

Now as Hank, Junior, Marie and Skyler hang out in Hank's house, and Walt goes about saving them all from the mess he created, Jesse and Walt work together in order to not only save their own lives, but effectively put an end to the cartel in the process with the death of Gus (unless Mike somehow becomes kingpin).

This was a tough season to watch for fans of Walter White, as series creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan was doing his best to make Walt altogether unlikeable and reprehensible. Walt was growing delusional in his power and importance, unable to let Gale rest in peace, even going so far as to claim that there was still an evil genius out there cooking the meth that Hank was so impressed with. He declared himself the danger at people's doors, all while being unable to protect his own life and family.

But the big question is, does Walt even have a family any more? Sure, he's still married to Skyler and father to Junior (I wish he was still calling himself Flynn), but what about Holly? Does he even remember his daughter? And more importantly, does he care if he loses them in the game that he is playing? Walter White survived Gus, but how much of him died in that fantastically shot final shot of "Crawl Space?"

The bottom line is that Walter's actions cannot be justified. Manipulating Jesse into jumping on board the killing of Gus by poisoning Brock was indeed a brilliant move, but it was also sadistic. He knocked a few years of life off his family by calling the feds in to call Gus out; he has effectively killed Saul Goodman and his poor assistant (although Saul was up to no good before Heisenberg entered his office, he was hardly caught up in this net of amoral misdeeds he finds himself now).

I always held out hope that Walt would be able to redeem himself, save everyone and ride off into the fantastic sunset. Now the only way that he can redeem himself is if he tells us that he killed Rosie Larson.

As Jesse tries and tries to get out of this life that Walt has made for him, he suffers more and more. He has seen the death of his girlfriend (Jane) at the hand of Walt himself; Brock was poisoned by Walt; his drugdealer friend was killed because of Walt's turf war; and most importantly, Jesse's soul was jeopardized by Walt's ordering of Gale's death. Jesse was right, everyone that Walt touches effectively gets crushed.

And yet he continues his quest in life to prove to everyone that he is not a dud. Going back to when he and Skyler got married, he was planning on having a bigger house, a better job, a great life. He never thought he'd be working as a high school chemistry teacher, moonlighting as a car wash attendant, and raising a family that didn't appreciate his sacrifices.

Walt's transformation has been all about getting the respect he has always deserved, and always felt entitled to. As Heisenberg, he was finally someone, and no one was going to take that from him. Not Gus, not Skyler, and certainly not his former student Jesse Pinkman.

Finally Walter had won. He had defeated the entire cartel, killing their leader. He prides himself on being smarter than anyone, with no better example than season 3 when he explains Gus' whole plan to take over the meth industry to Gus himself, the true mastermind of the plot. Walt has to be smarter than anyone else, and most importantly, everyone needs to know that he is smarter.

But in the process he has lost his entire family, the people who already did look up to him and know his intelligence.

He won the game as Heisenberg. He lost the game as Walter White.


  1. Hi, and welcome to the Catholic Blog Directory. I'd like to invite y ou to participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival, which is a weekly gathering where Catholic bloggers share their best posts with each other. This week's edition is at

  2. Hi RAnn, thanks for taking the time to read TV for Catholics. I have posted on your Catholic Carnival section, it looks like a nice conglomeration of Catholic postings. Enjoy!

  3. I never thought of looking at TV series, etc. in this way. It looks like your blog is a good resource for family discussion.

  4. Barbara,

    Like any other medium, television is designed to tell a story. That story can be as varied as the moral decline of a high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook, or the struggle between faith and science on a mysterious island, or the post-apocalyptic struggle of the last humans on a battlestar. The stories of television are no different than the stories in novels or in movies, and can all lead to genuine family discussions and bonding experiences.

    Thanks for reading.