Is Walter White a Bad Guy?: A Conversation

true detective /hannibal / dc movies / snl / mindhole blowers / netflix / celebrity facts / marvel

Is Walter White a Bad Guy?: A Conversation

By Sarah Carlson and Daniel Carlson | Think Pieces | September 28, 2013 | Comments ()


I spent the first 25 days of August watching the first 5 1/2 seasons — 54 episodes — of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” I’m sure many have beaten that in terms of time, but for me, the marathon viewing of one of the better TV dramas to ever air was fairly consuming. I can’t stop thinking about the show and what it says about morality and human nature. Fortunately, my brother is always game for a bit of analysis, so I emailed him out of the blue with a prompt. Here’s the exchange. — Sarah Carlson

Sarah: Theory: Walt and Skyler White are not monsters. They aren’t evil. In fact, most if not all of the decisions they have made are understandable given their circumstances. Of course, it isn’t a question that Walt chose most of his circumstances by getting into the drug game, but now that he’s in it, he is playing the one way it can be played — kill or be killed. Skyler is joining the game because she wants to survive, too. Makes sense.

Write me back.

Daniel Carlson: I don’t buy it. That would mean that there are no individual moral consequences for actions, and that murder and deceit become acceptable at a certain level based on rationalization. They’re fighting to survive, sure, but they’re not waging a just war here. They did dirt, and now they’re paying for it.

jpink.pngSarah: Individual moral consequences, sure, because they aren’t mentally unhealthy and will have to live with what they’ve done. Walt certainly is on the track of being able to rationalize most anything, which has me thinking a lot about the codes we set for ourselves and our communities. I don’t think he’s religious, but that isn’t necessary to have morals. I don’t think Walt is without morals, either. I think he’s too human to live up to them.

Most people aren’t self-sacrificing enough to choose death or surrender (and a ruined life, which they may see as worse than death) instead of doing something immoral. So you kill the drug dealer chained in your basement because you want to live. You kill the drug dealers about to kill your partner, because you want him to live. (And I still believe Walt cares abut Jesse.) You ramp up your plot for vengeance once someone threatens your family. In that way, Walt really reminds me of Michael Corleone and what brought him into the family business — family. It’s fascinating, though, that characters such as Corleone don’t receive the same level of anger and condemnation that characters like Walt and Skyler do. (Or maybe he did in the ’70s, or would have had the Internet been around then?) Is it the oh-so-normal setting? That these “bad guys” look and live just like us?

Daniel: I think what’s absent from Walt’s life now, and what would give weight to his rationalizations, is regret. He doesn’t regret killing people; he regrets the trouble it’s currently causing him. The weirdly cold way he talked about how poisoning Brock was something that “needed to be done” says a lot about where he is and what he’s prioritizing. There’s definitely a continuum here, though, which is why Walt’s journey has worked as well as it has. He started out middle class and broke and scared, and he wanted to see what would happen if he broke a certain number of rules to try and get some money. (Leaving aside for the moment that he wanted to get that money by distributing a drug.) But as he kept returning to the game, as he kept telling himself he needed just a little more, that just a little more was worth doing, his reasoning sounded less rational and more like justification. Walt’s got an addict’s personality. The addict never thinks he has a problem. He thinks he’s one step away from a problem, but that he’s got his monkey under control.

Walt might be too human to live up to his morals, but he’s also determined to keep moving those morals to fit his desires. He doesn’t want to live up to anything; he wants what he wants, and his m.o. is to find ways to square his wants with his ethics.

I think Michael Corleone eventually becomes a sick and awful human being, too, but his story and Walt’s are riveting precisely because they let us play out the thought experiment of how far we’d go in their shoes while also telling ourselves we’d never be that bad. But maybe one of the points is that we would be that bad. We just don’t have to face the decision.

Sarah: You’re exactly right — we don’t know what we’d do because thankfully and hopefully, we’re not facing the same decisions. “Breaking Bad” is a great thought experiment/morality play. I feel that viewers who easily judge these characters aren’t thinking things through, or really, aren’t taking in and processing the art in a beneficial way.

Also, thinking about my own reactions to fan reactions, I’m reminded of getting defensive about “Girls,” because I can relate to it. I relate to parts of Walt — his desire to not only be great at something, but to be recognized for being great at something, and recognized in a manner in which others will give him a wide berth to maneuver. It’s his ego that is his undoing — Mike laid it out for him right before Walt shot him — and Walt made his biggest mistake by bragging to Hank that Heisenberg was probably still out there. Based on his personality and life circumstances — he didn’t get the big career and glory that he wanted and arguably deserved, he’s working two thankless jobs, and it seems like he didn’t get the girl he wanted, either — he was perfectly conditioned to become addicted to power and notoriety once he got a taste of it. The easy money is addicting, too, but power is his ultimate master. He’s a cautionary tale. It’s a tragedy.

Daniel: Total tragedy. And I relate to his addictive personality. The thinking that, hey, one step isn’t that bad, and it’s not like I’m doing something really bad, just this thing, and what’s even the harm? I heard a great quote and used it in a “Breaking Bad” review last season about how nobody starts out in the room where you commit murder; you walk through a series of doorways until you find yourself there. And it’s all about how many doors are between you and that moment.

I’d like to think I don’t judge Walt as harshly as some of the people you mentioned, though my earlier comments might make it seem otherwise. That is, I don’t look at him and wonder how he got there. I know exactly how he got there. I’m not rooting for him, but I am pulling for him. I guess it’s a fine line between condemnation and hoping for redemption.

Sarah: Agreed. I don’t think he’s a lost cause yet, but we’ll see.

Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a member of the Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. You can also find him on Twitter.

"Breaking Bad," Skyler White, and Unspoken Double Standard We Place on Female Anti-Heroes | The Heisenberg Masculinity Principle

Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Every time you do, Bill Murray crashes a wedding.

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • DeltaJuliet

    I had to skip the majority of this article because I am currently trying to do what you did. I have 2 episodes left of Season 2 to go and I am getting through 2-3 episodes per night after the kiddos go to bed. (I'm sure my office is thrilled with all of the sleep deprivation.) I am desperately trying to be caught up so I can watch the finale in real time with my husband, who has been watching since the last season.
    I feel the same obsession with this damn show, but everything I want to read is full of spoilers so I guess I just have to wait!

  • johnny

    I think many men can relate to Walt.

    It's a "lead lives of quiet desperation" sort of thing. Most of us are like Walt when he started out.

    We all think we're smarter than people give us credit for, deserve more than what we've got, wish for more. We're bored, we owe, we're dying, it's bleak.

    Walt, on some level, is just me. Much smarter, immensely ruthless , huge-balled murderous version of me. Begrudgingly rooting for him until he eats his own ricin.

    Needless to say, my wife hates Walt - and cannot begin to understand how I can whisper the name "Breaking Bad" in the company of "The Sopranos" and "The Wire".

  • googergieger

    Anyways, good and bad are subjective terms/thoughts/etc. Again this is about right and wrong for Walt. Not good and bad. He didn't take the money from his old partners, because it was wrong. In his mind it was. It was more right for him to make the money by any means necessary. It was more right for him to make a kid look deadly poisoned than to just go after Gus and handle Jesse later. The moments he hates himself the most are when he makes mistakes. Mistakes he didn't see coming or think about.

    As far as Skyler goes, her and Walt are the same type of monster in that they both need to be the ones in control. Both got involved in something and can easily rationalize most of it, so long as they feel they are in control of it.

    Also it seems you two are judging Walt based on what you all believe. Who you all are. Less you than your brother, but still. I think that is where most of the arguments I have with people over Breaking Bad stem from.

  • $6950553

    I never liked Walter White. He seemed like a jerk from the start, using his illness as an excuse to do whatever he wanted. As early as the episode where he said FU to Gretchen I was done rooting for him. And then of course as his crimes piled up that only made it worse.

    But he is a fascinating character to watch, a great engine for the show. Somewhat like the William H Macy character in Fargo only more fascinating. You don't root for Macy, and I didn't root for Walt, but his journey is still interesting.

    I think not liking Walt made watching the show easier, because I wasn't feeling dread at every moment about what happened to him. If at any point he'd been killed, well he certainly made his own bed.

    Having said that about Walter, I don't view Jesse as a lot better. Jesse is a grown man who made his own bad decisions. Even before he teamed up with Walter, Jesse was ruining lives (including no doubt many children of addicts) as a meth maker and dealer. I totally relate to Hank's "so what if he dies" attitude about Jesse in the current season. Jesse is more sympathetic than Walt, but he hasn't earned a happy ending.

  • googergieger

    I can respect this type of post at least. Not one sniff of hypocrisy on it.

  • Kate

    Definitely a bad guy. I don't know how that could even be up for debate at this point. Even if you ignore ALL the drug stuff, the way he's treated Skylar, the way he manipulates his son...that alone shows he's not a good guy. When Skylar wants him out of the house, he has to force his way in to show his dominance, even though his family would be safer if he was living elsewhere (remember the day he breaks back into the family home is the day the twins come to kill him with an axe). Later he won't let her leave, tries to stop his children leaving, even though at that point it's more than obvious no one is safe around him. And the worst of his interactions with Walt Jr. have nothing to do with protecting his secret, and everything to do with feeding his ego. Even with family, the people he's supposedly doing all this for, he's emotionally abusive. Now he's planning on killing Jesse, who he's usually put in the same box as family.

    In Season 2 we get hints that he up and left Gray Matter in a fit of ego induced rage, and given that almost two decades later Gretchen doesn't understand what that was about, we can assume it was over some perceived slight or minor disagreement. He was always like this. Getting in the meth business just gave him an excuse to get violent, but he's always been like this. Had things gone very differently, had he taken up the offer to come back to Gray Matter, he would have stormed right out the minute he realized he wasn't going to be the top dog in a room full of more accomplished scientists.

    Throughout the series his main objective is power. When he feels he has it, he's fine, and the facade of a decent human being feels more real. When he doesn't have power, he's almost out of his mind with rage. Just think of the way he's reacted to small things, like Gus putting a camera in the lab. Walt had already assumed he was being watched or at least listened to in the lab. But when Gus puts an obvious camera up, Walt's shaking with rage. It drives him crazy that someone has the audacity to think they can make a point like that to him. Killing Mike showed just how out of control he's gotten. He's a danger to everyone, because he completely loses it when he feels disrespected. It wouldn't be beyond him to kill Skylar, or Hank or Marie at this point. His children are only safe from him because he's obsessed by the thought of a legacy.

  • martin carlosena

    Wow, great post

  • apsutter

    I absolutely love your analysis of what happened with Gray Matter and I think that you're spot on! It's all ego and power with this man and he can't tolerate even the smallest of slights.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I want to marry this post.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Walter White thinks he is Michael Corleone, when in reality he is Scarface. Discuss.

    Stringer Bell is Michael Corleone, e.g. he stole a badminton set. Avon Barksdale is Scarface, e.g. he just wants his corners. Discuss.

    The Wire is Shakespearian tragedy, Breaking Bad Greek tragedy. Discuss.

    Stopping now.

  • Frank

    I don't believe that anyone is "Good" or "Bad." People with the proper motivation do "good" things or "bad" things. I try to live my life in a way that I won't affect anyone else in a negative way. If anything, I attempt to positively affect others. That said, there is a short list of people whom I would do ANYTHING for. I would be Walter White if I had to. I don't care if that makes me "bad." I'm willing to take on the moniker if it saves the people I care about.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Issue being that Walter isn't doing "ANYTHING" for his family. He's doing what he wants. If he were worried about that and only that, about providing for his family and surviving cancer to be with them, the answer is the job at Gray Matter, end of story.

  • Frank

    Walt wasn't deciding between taking the charity job and killing a bunch of dudes and poisoning kids, he was choosing between charity and cooking a few batches of meth before he died. He let his pride cloud his judgement there (and everywhere else). Since he was dying anyway, he wasn't going to go crawling back to his partners when there was another way. I'm almost certain he would have taken the charity had he known where he was going to end up. At least that version of Walt would. Heisenberg-Walt might do it anyway to prove he could win.

  • Meghan

    Interesting discussion. I think that one of the reasons this show continues to be so compelling is that Walt is not a straightforward villain. We aren't watching the almost cartoonish descent into evil/power lust of a character like Al Pacino's in Scarface, for example. Good and evil are not static, self-evident qualities in this show. We see Walt make choices that are understandable for some people and reprehensible for others, but either way, it's difficult to effectively argue that he is outright and irredeemably "bad" like some villain from a Disney movie.
    Maybe this is a stretch, but could the show's title be a play on its theme (I.e breaking down "bad")?

  • He hasn't visited his mother in two years. He may not be a bad guy, but he's a bad son.

  • chanohack

    ... OR she's a bad mom. Maybe a really bad mom.

  • Fredo

    I don't think the question is "is Walter White a bad guy?" Because the answer is categorically "Yes." I think the question is "Is Walter White so bad that we cannot empathize/root for him?" Which goes to what others have said about characters like Michael Corleone or Tony Soprano. We as an audience have a complex relationship with characters like this -- doing evil for good reasons until they're just doing evil.

  • Mrs. Julien

    YES! The complexity is fascinating, but ultimately damning. Do you know what my favourite scene in Godfather II is? When Michael is with Tom testifying before Congress. Michael looks like the seedy thug he is. All of his elegance and the bullshit patina of honour and so-called code are stripped away and Michael is revealed as a well-dressed bottom feeder wielding terrifying power and thumbing his nose at "conventional" morality. The fact that those he testifies before are often similarly dirty is a discussion for another time. I positively tingle when he says, " I hope they will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which they now have besmirched it."

    I feel the same about the scene of Luca Brazzi in his crappy little apartment getting ready to go to his meeting and then sleep with the fishes. The life of a criminal is just as rundown and small as everyone else's. His sense of honour and devotion to the Family is rewarded in small ways, but he is an instrument to be wielded as they see fit.

    I seem to have gotten off track. I can't help it. I adore the first two Godfather movies and can always talk about them.

    Next up: The look on Neri's face when Michael gives the silent kill order for Fredo at their mother's wake.

    DIVERSION IDEA FOR ONE OF THE REVIEWERS: Films we never get tired of talking about and analysing.

  • My favorite scene(s) in Part II are Michael sitting by himself at the table when they surprise Vito for his birthday and sitting by himself on the family estate in Tahoe in the final shot. The one with him at the birthday is why we feel sympathy for him. He was thrown into this crime family and tried to get out. The last shot shows the consequence of deciding not to get out. He made horrible decisions and now has to live with them, alone and full of guilt.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Always separate but in different ways.

    I have a recollection that Coppola said he would only do a sequel if he could kill Michael. The scene at the end conveys that living death.

    I love it when he threatens Connie with his disappointment when she wants to marry the wastrel. Such power.

  • I'm skeptical that the "I need to help my family" justification is even a slightly nobel one to begin with, especially with Walt (possibly less so with Michael Corleone). Walt always had the option of Skyler working or just taking the money from his old business partners. But he didn't take those two options because of pride. He was "The Provider". He was supposed to put food on the table and a roof over his family's head while Skyler stayed home to cook and take care of the kids (I think this is part of the hate for Skyler. She rejects this role and sexists don't like when women reject gender norms). And he didn't want their pity money because he was the smartest guy in the room regardless of his past business decisions.

    "I need to help my family" is code for "I need to take back the power that my ego lost long ago". This is apparent from the very first episode. Walt's personality starts to change right away. Once he decides to start cooking meth he feels empowered. The last scene of the first episode is him using that new sense of pride to initiate what appears to be a unique sexual experience with Skyler. These types of power-exertion scenes happen throughout, notably when he kills Mike for basically a childish insult that Walt took way too personally. Walt's actions have always been selfish in nature. The fact that some of them might have helped his family don't mean he isn't a bad person.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I completely agree with you. Walt had an out, a job and medical insurance that would have "taken care of his family". He chose pride.

    I'm convinced it's the reason he doesn't want to kill Jesse: not that he genuinely cares for the boy, but that he needs someone that is totally under his control. He needs to be able to constantly manipulate Jesse and have him under his thumb because it's a direct measurement of his power and prowess.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Jesse is a bad person, too, but he knows it and that is what is destroying him. I want Jesse to survive just as many people do, but whether he has a seemingly pure soul or not, he has made terrible choices. He cooked meth as a lark to begin with. He got subsumed by the forces around him. His inability to act may kill him.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Oh, I have no illusions that Jesse is a good guy. No one that cooks meth/sells it is objectively good - with the exception of Mike, who was obviously the best grandpa ever.

    I'm just arguing that many people point to Walt's relationship with Jesse as his big redeeming quality. I think that, at this point, it's more about ego than genuine love for Jesse.
    I don't think it's even a question if Walt is bad - he is. So is Jesse. The difference, at least in my mind is that Jesse is wracked with guilt (which doesn't excuse murder), while Walt is just enraged that life doesn't go exactly as he wants it to.

    I doubt that Walt ever thinks about the people he's killed, unless he's stroking his own ego about how powerful he is. Walt is more dangerous than Jesse because Walt is delusional and capable of excusing any action he takes.
    Wow. I can really over think this when I give myself half a chance.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I like the cut of your jib and should like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Awesome! That gets me up to...One subscriber! Just a few thousand more and I can quit pretending to work here...

  • The Kitastrophe

    My wife stopped watching early on because she felt the writers were trying to portray Walt as a good person making tough decisions, as opposed to someone choosing to be morally reprehensible. Myself, I've always seen it (beware, my nerd is showing) as the fascinating descent of a man from lawful neutral to chaotic evil. Walt goes from having no control in his quiet existence to becoming addicted to having power and using it. It's a dark and wonderful ride to watch, but he's Sauron with two eyes.

  • PaddyDog

    To a certain extent I will go along with the "peer to peer" argument: if you're a drug dealer who kills others in the drug trade, one can assign a certain amount of dog-eat-dog justification to their actions. They all know the score when they enter the drug business. But Walter crossed the line when he poisoned a child and was willing to risk that child's death. Yes, he's a bad guy.

  • PaddyDog

    A qualifier though, and an important one. I see Breaking Bad as an allegory for corporate America (or corporate anywhere really). We don't want Walt to be the bad guy because we, as working stiffs, relate to the guy who has a talent that is not recognized, sees an opportunity to use that talent and finds himself playing the game along with the guys in management who make things bad for the average guy. In a sense, he's just climbing the corporate ladder and making the strategic decisions necessary to get ahead no matter who has to be sacrificed to that cause. The same thing happens every day in the corporate world, with the exact same emergence of the "great manager/meth cook" myth: the cult of personality as we saw emerge around Heisenberg. Sure, no-one gets killed, but as an allegory it works perfectly, because it's the exact same ego-driven mind set.

  • emmalita

    Interesting. I guess I've been out of corporate America long enough that I didn't think about that metaphor.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I think he crossed the line when he went into the drug trade full stop. One can only make the peer-to-peer argument if he is already enmeshed. I like what Cindy said above about Walt always being the guy he is now. He just gave himself permission to show it.

  • I'm with Dan, here. To me, Walt was always the guy we see now--he was just suppressed. The hubris (his greatest downfall); that inner voice he walked around with and used to internally stroke his ego was finally given an external voice. In other words, Heisenberg was always lurking.

    Did he edge his way out carefully at first? Certainly. I agree that in the beginning, there were decisions Walt made almost purely to save his own or Jesse's life. He had to become what he is to survive. But these decisions could only have been made by a particular personality; who among us would get past the initial *idea* of making meth to the point where a dude was chained to a pole in our basement (aside from TK)?

    And I'll argue Skyler to the death--she had the opportunity to leave early on, to keep her children completely safe and be clean. She chose to stay. She has wavered back and forth on Walt so many times that even now, we can't be sure what her feelings (other than loyalty--at this moment) toward him are. The fact that she knows what she knows and has at times been terrified of Walt, for her children, and yet chooses to let them all be in danger, is despicable. Just for a moment, imagine that Jesse had gone through with what he was about to do--and Jr. was trapped in the bedroom. Things could easily have gone that way.

    This isn't about good people forced to make which is the least evil decision. This is about a man who was given an opportunity to be who he really is, and watching his evolution. Some say that his corruption envelopes those around him as well, but those people aren't innocent either.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I loved it in the last episode when Walt was now completely an act (the kitchen scene) and Heisenberg is who he is.

  • draeton

    "Walt" has always been the act.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I respectfully disagree. Walt is the man he was. Heisenberg is the man he became. We all have the potential to change into new versions of ourselves after trauma. Walt's transformation was particularly extreme.

    Although I'm sure we all have a raging bitch or bastard inside of us that we keep tamped down. Some of us closer to the surface than others.

  • draeton

    Look at the nature of their marriage at the start of the series. Look at the animosity Walt harbors towards his former business associate. Look at Walt's unwillingness to accept the offer of help, or even the partner's late acknowledgment that Walt is owed at least that much for his contributions. Look at Walt's initial willingness to make a unilateral decision about pursuing cancer treatment, without any consideration for his wife's or son's desires.

    I don't believe trauma changed Walt; I believe, in the face of trauma, he gave himself permission to drop the maladroit, simpering facade and exposed the alienated, raging, frustrated ego beneath the surface. I know I'm only a sample size of one, but I assure you that no such thing is in my character (repressed or otherwise).

  • Wigamer

    To me, Walt's weak. I don't care how many times he growls about empire building or being the one who knocks, at his core he's chickenshit. Heisenberg is a persona Walt's been trying to wear for two years, max. Prior to that he was a frustrated, depressed, passive-aggressive sad sack who was trapped by his life.

    Cancer may have been the catalyst for a last grab at recovering some of his own agency, but he's fundamentally a weak, insecure man with an ego that needs to be fed at all costs. That was driven home to me when he killed Mike. He killed Mike because Mike saw through Heisenberg. He never trusted or respected Walt for a minute. Walt killed him for that, not for anything else.

  • googergieger

    No, Walt's cancer gave him an excuse to finally let go. Be who he always thought he was, who he always was. I mean again, he didn't need to turn to drugs to pay for his cancer. Everything needed to be on his terms. Everything outside of the cancer has been done on his terms all said and done. Even when things didn't go his way, i.e. the falling out with Gus because of Jesse, was more or less done on his terms.

  • Artemis

    You can argue about whether he's evil or irredeemable, sure. But the only answer to "Is Walter White a bad guy?" is "yes, obviously."

  • Mrs. Julien

    Walt sacrificed his morality on the altar of pride. The second he chose to "make poison for people who don't care" he crossed into an unethical life. The second he rejected the opportunity to get his life back on track by accepting good-intentioned generosity, he became a creature ruled by hubris. I don't understand the people who rooted for Walt until he (fill in the blank). For me, his behaviour became unacceptable when he took on the cook. There are desperate people everywhere. They don't participate in the destruction of others to meet their own needs. You know who does? Bad people.

    One could argue that Walt's survival instinct was kicked into high gear and never kicked off, but we all know that they could have escaped many times and chose not to. It's why the money is in the desert. It's not about the money. It's about people giving themselves permission to be base and venal.

    None of this means that the show and character have not been endlessly compelling. Watching their lives be torn apart by bad decisions is fascinating. Watching them twist and rationalize their actions shows that none of us are as pure or justified in our bad behaviour as we tell ourselves.

  • googergieger

    S'called empathy. I could see how someone like Walt could exist and do what he does. Same as I could see someone like Jesse exist and do what he does. Jesse has done plenty bad himself. He actually had no excuse to get into drugs and then start selling them. What makes it acceptable to root and like him and completely hate Walt? Jesse is completely and utterly ignorant?

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Well. He has the, "Preyed upon as a child by drug dealers who've been doing this for years and know exactly how to hook you," excuse. But yes, apart from that Jesse has no excuses.

  • googergieger

    Yeah, must of been tough to avoid that life with his awful suburb parents and life going against him. Plenty of kids turn to drugs out of sheer stupidity. Seeing as Jesse's MO is to act without thinking, constantly, I could see how you could come to the conclusion that it was those lousy drug dealers that targeted him, but I see another picture.

  • emmalita

    I do hold Jesse accountable for his actions. He's a junkie, a drug maker, a drug dealer, and a murderer. I found it reprehensible when he went to 12 step meetings to find new clients. I always felt like Jesse bore a little more culpability because he had an up close view of the damage drugs do, but he chose to keep cooking with Walt. I think the difference is that he started to become more self aware and see the damage that was being done. That growing self awareness is what differentiates him from Walter White. He has the potential to become a better person. He has the possibility of redemption. I don't think Walt would take redemption if it were handed to him on a silver platter. The hope that Jesse is able to redeem himself and has the opportunity to live a better life is what keeps me rooting for him. I am not rooting for Walt. I am invested in Walt, but I have no hope for him. I just hope he doesn't take his kids down with him.

  • googergieger

    Walt confronted Jesse with it matter of fact, I'm protecting you from this dirty money. Jesse wants his cake and wants to eat it too. He wants the benefits of the lifestyle with none of the guilt. Difference between Walt and Jesse, well there are a few, but Walt is upfront about who and what he is. At least to himself. Jesse wants to be innocent but still take no responsibility over what he has done, or think about the consequences his actions will have. For all this Walt could have turned himself in nonsense, Jesse could have as well. And unlike Walt nothing would have come from it. His fate isn't tied to anyone. Now if Walt goes down? You are essentially rooting for Walt Jr. and baby girl White to go down too. Seriously. Jesse almost burnt the house down of a crippled kid and a newborn baby. He threw away dirty money in a bad neighborhood. Did drugs. Couldn't handle what he had done? That was his redemption? Then basically either helping Hank and get off lightly or go to jail and let Walt die in a few months anyway. His family would benefit. As far as Jesse knows, they are all innocent in this. Including Skyler. Again, Walt knows his shit stinks. Jesse doesn't.

  • chanohack

    But Jesse doesn't want to have his cake and eat it too-- and he doesn't want none of the guilt. Jesse's done some bad shit, and he's been a party to bad shit, and the person least likely to forgive him is himself. That's why he gets out. That's why he doesn't want the money when Walt brings it to him. That's why he refuses to let himself be happy and talk about geeky tv shows with his friends. Jesse feels like an underserving piece of shit, and THAT is what distinguishes him from Walt. Walt has thought for a long time that he deserves to win, whether that means money, survival, reputation, empire, whatever. The guilt of the crimes he's committed roll off his back like no big deal (excepting perhaps Jane), while every crime Jesse's committed or witnessed just adds to his torment. He's disgusted with himself.

    Which is why, I think, he won't survive. Because even if he did, he's nowhere near the person he used to be.

  • googergieger

    Nope. Walt just trumped Jesse's bullshit with his logic. Jesse wanted the money until Walt matter of factly told Jesse, "I'm protecting you from this dirty money". And Jesse had no choice but to bow down to Walt's logic. He couldn't ignorant his way out of his stinky shit anymore. He had no choice but to see and say, what he has done is wrong and hurt others. He is just as bad as Walt. Jesse however has an idea of right and wrong and has gone against it. Constantly. Walt again is above that. He hasn't gone against his rules. His morals. Jesse has. And when finally confronted with it, he had no choice but to go down the path he is going down now. He can't hide from it anymore. Which he always did thanks to his ignorance. However now he is in the same pattern again. Walt Jr and baby girl White are innocents. As far as he knows Skyler is as well. He has given absolutely no thought as to how hurting Walt will hurt them. Which was always his problem. Walt did what he did out of his cold logic and scary pride. Jesse did what he did and does what he does, out of sheer ignorance. Walt can sleep at night for a reason. Jesse can't.

  • chanohack

    What is Jesse's bullshit? Jesse didn't want the money bad enough to stick around for it. He asked Walt for his share, and when Walt said no, Jesse walked away anyway. By the time Walt gave it to him, Jesse wasn't interested anymore, not, I believe because he'd come around to Walt's logic, but because he'd been stewing in his own guilt. Not arguing that Jesse is "less bad" than Walt, but he's certainly got more of a conscience, and for better or worse it makes him easier for the audience to root for, especially since we've seen Walt heartlessly manipulate him.

    I'm very confused as to what you mean by Jesse's ignorance. Do you mean he could hide from certain things Walt did (like poisoning Brock) because he didn't know about them? But you also suggest that Jesse makes moral decisions out of ignorance, meaning he's inexperienced or foolish.

    Your replies are very passionate. I have to admit I'm halfway coming around to your Skyler-is-a-control-freak theory. Do you get this way for lots of shows, or is Breaking Bad an exception?

  • googergieger

    Jesse wanted the money though. Walt told him no. Jesse said he still wanted it and Walt said, I'm protecting you from this dirty money. Only when confronted with the FACT it was dirty money did Jesse leave. Then when given the money, he didn't throw it back in Walt's face. He just kept it. All the while Walt telling Jesse matter of factly it was dirty money was eating away at Jesse. Seriously watch it again if you have to. Jesse wanted the money. Walt is the one that had to point out to Jesse it was dirty. Also only reason Walt has had to manipulate Jesse is because Jesse fucked so much shit up for Walt. He fucked up the first meeting with Gus. Him and Kate tried to blackmail Walt. After Jesse got Kate back into drugs. Jesse is the reason Walt had to kill some of Gus's guys and have a falling out there. Etc.

    I mean seriously let us look at Jesse's shit. Goes into addicts anonymous meetings to sell his shit. See's nothing wrong with it. Got Jane back into drugs. Doesn't see that as a bad thing. Tries to blackmail Walt with Jane. Tries to kill some of Gus's men despite the fact this is going to make him a target, and Walt and his family a target. Fucks over his mom and dad out of a house they fixed up after he made a mess of it. Now is going after Walt despite the fact Walt is a dead man and the only people he can really hurt in all of this is Walt's family. All the while making and selling drugs. I'm sure there are other examples, but this is Jesse to a tee. Emotional? Short sighted? I just call it ignorant. What Walt does out of his stubborn pride at least he can rationalize. At least he can follow his code. Jesse has his morals and all that bullshit, but he never once sees or even stops to think about how his actions has consequences. That is what I mean about his ignorance.

    Breaking Bad is an exception. Aren't too many shows or even movies up to its caliber. Most things I watch are for fluff. Breaking Bad is, Walt is from mine and most people's point of view the worst thing on that show. From a moral/good and bad/etc perspective. But I find it fascinating that he is the most honest and least hypocritical person on that show. Beyond Mike and Gus at least. But there was a reason both were constantly shown as Walt's equals. Not saying that makes me respect Walt, but at least I can see where the guy is coming from. Everyone else? Choose a fucking path and follow it already. Cause you can't have it both ways. You can't say Mr. White is a bad guy that manipulates people, while you purposely went to meetings with recovering addicts to get them hooked on the drugs you were making. You can't say Mr. White is a bad guy who kills people, while he has killed people because of you and the guy you killed needed to happen because of you.

  • emmalita

    I don't think Walt does think his shit stinks. I think he sees himself as a bad and dangerous man, but I don't think he really sees the damage he inflicts. I don't think Jesse is a hero either. I think he has the potential.

    I am not rooting for Walt Jr. and Holly to go down. Walt and Skyler are not their only options. Walt Jr. is going to suffer. It's clear from the abandoned house that his world gets wrecked, and I hang that mostly on Walt. Jesse and Hank probably bear some responsibility as well, but we don't know yet. Walt Jr. and Holly have other people (Hank and Marie) who love them and are willing to care for them. Walt's decision to start cooking meth and then keep cooking meth burned Walt Jr's house down even if no one else knew it had happened. I hope that Walt goes down before he does more damage to his children. They are already collateral damage, I just hope they don't die.

    I disagree with a lot of the conclusions you come to, but I do enjoy reading them.

  • googergieger

    Walt brings up the dirty money. Walt brings up this can't be for nothing. Walt brings up doing bad things that needed to be done. Etc. He knows his shit stinks. However again he is above that. He doesn't think good and bad. Good and evil. He thinks right and wrong. Walt doesn't see the damage he inflicts? What damage hasn't he seen? He knows what he has done and he logics it all so he doesn't give it a second thought.

    How do you hang that on Walt? Hank wants Walt at any cost. Showing his pride right now. He'll sacrifice Jesse. He'll sacrifice his niece's and nephew's idea of perfect parents as well. They have other options? They are innocent kids who have an idea of who their parents are. The daughter doesn't, but when she grows up she could have had perfect parents, or at least a perfect mom and a valiant dad that fought cancer to the end. Instead of a drug dealer and an enabling mother. What damage has he done to his children? Seriously enough with this sanctimonious bullshit. He was out. Never once were his children harmed as a result of his drug making/dealing.

    Seriously, Jesse and Hank can walk away. Can say, Walt is going to die anyway. At least his kids/MY NIECE AND NEPHEW can get something out of what he has done. But they aren't. For all this shit of Walt could walk away, which he eventually did. And he could turn himself in, effectively making everything he did be for literally fuck all, so hooray logic on that...

    Jesse and Hank, can walk away from this too. Jesse can turn himself in and get his guilt off his chest. However they aren't doing that are they?! No! They need to take Walt down. Because of their bullshit pride and their not taking one moment to think of the consequences of what happens when we take Walt down. Not to their own well being. But to everyone around them and around Walt.

  • BrokenWindows

    You nailed it. Whatever kind of person Walt was before he started cooking doesn't much matter at this point. Remember what the show is called. Walt broke bad. And he did it when he really didn't have to.

    He's a bad guy, because he chose to be.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    He's a bad guy because he's a bad guy. He's just a murderer and an outright monster because he chose to be. The only time he wasn't ridiculously bad for everyone in his life was the 20-ish years he spent stewing after Gray Matter. And even then he was never good for them.

  • Wigamer

    You have soothed my soul. I get so het up every time I try to comment about this that it all comes out wrong. Thank you, Mrs. J!

  • emmalita

    Beautifully articulated. Great story telling, whatever the form, gives us a different lens with which to look at the world and ourselves within it. As a viewer we have a choice. We can see Walter White as he sees himself, a man with few choices driven to extreme actions in order to protect himself and his family, or we can see him as a man who has had many options and usually chooses the option that makes his situation worse.

  • Mrs. Julien

    He has more money than God and still he insists that instead of leaving he needs to stay as the best solution for his family and to live entirely on his own terms.

blog comments powered by Disqus