Breaking Bad – Are you still rooting for Walter White?

There is only one episode of Breaking Bad left. Good luck to you, spoiler-phobes who can’t manage to stay up to date on their TV watching. Because I have a feeling people will be talking about this, well, everywhere.

If you have seen the penultimate episode, click through.

A lot of recent writing on Breaking Bad has revolved around whether you are still rooting for Walter White and, if you’re not, what kind of conclusion could possibly satisfy you. Here’s my answer: I have not been rooting for Walt for a long time, and the thing that will satisfy me is to be left unsatisfied.

By that I mean, Walter White has been a person so destructive to those around him that there is no punishment that would feel just. There is no amount of pain or loss that one man could possibly endure that would equalize the pain and loss he has personally caused. I expect to be satisfied, from a storytelling perspective, by the Breaking Bad series finale. Vince Gilligan, he’s got this. This final half-a-season has been expertly executed. I’m not worried.

But on a personal level, on a “This is an ending that would make me happy because it’s right, not just because it’s good storytelling”, there is nothing. Obviously, we all know that Breaking Bad would not, and cannot, have a “happily ever after” ending. But I think many of us, for a long time, thought there might be a “just desserts” ending. That window has closed.

It’s depressing to think about. But that’s the show. I don’t think the show is about  searching for a glimpse of humanity in a monster, the way Dexter was, back when Dexter was good. I think the show is about a terrible person doing terrible things, and the consequences of that. The consequences are that many, many, many lives have been ruined – and that fact that Walt’s is one of them does very little to make that better.

Jesse. Poor Jesse. If he had successfully escaped from his new life as a meth-cooking slave for Nazis (there’s a sentence I can’t believe I’m typing), there might have been a shred of hope for him. But that is not this show. Instead, he was caught. And his punishment was worse than  death. An innocent woman, a woman he loves, was killed in cold blood in front of his very eyes. And if he ever tries to escape again, they’ll kill her child. This is so much worse than what Walter did when he poisoned Brock, yet it is still entirely Walt’s fault. Walt didn’t fire the guns that killed Hank and Andrea, but he is the one who murdered them. He is the one who got mixed up with Todd and his ruthless, maniacal family. He is the one who, like Todd, could never have enough drug money.

Flynn (who can blame him for abandoning Walt Jr. now?) breaks my heart. That phone call with Walt was excruciating. Walt is so focused on getting his money – some of it, or all of it – to his family that he doesn’t care whether he destroys his family in the process, or how much destruction he’s already caused. Those looking for a reason to still root for Walt will say he is still doing this for his family. Those looking to prove Walt’s evilness will say he’s just trying to win. But does it matter? Whatever his reason, Walt is causing the same amount of hurt.

It’s interesting how much things have spiraled out of Walt’s control. Todd’s decisions are mostly being driven by his feelings for Lydia, and his family is outside the bounds of Walt’s control. Walt couldn’t save Hank, he couldn’t save Jesse even if he wanted to, and he can’t stop the goons from breaking into his home, masked, at night to linger creepily over his daughter and scare his wife.

It’s interesting that Gretchen, Elliott and Grey Matter have been brought back into the picture at this point. Their comments, about how little Walt contributed to the company, played perfectly to Walt’s narcissism and inspired him to, I assume, try and take out the Nazis himself.

If Walt took out all the Nazis, decided to rescue Jesse after all, killed Lydia and/or the Grey Matter people with the Ricin, and got all the money to his family, would that be a satisfying ending? For me, it would be the worst ending. If Walt dies in a gutter from cancer, will that be a satisfying ending? Like I said, for me there is no such thing.

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