Breaking Bad: A Season In Review
Anyone who’s been watching AMC’s hit drama Breaking Bad can agree that the evolution of Walter White in such a short period of time is astounding– to say the least.
Over the course of a year, many people may have a new love in their life or have completed another year of school. As for Walt? He’s not only been diagnosed with cancer, he’s endured a transformation from being the trustworthy, lovable high school chemistry teacher who occasionally has to get nasty with handing out Fs to becoming the most menacing drug lord in the Southwestern United States: a job that requires always being nasty. All of which occurred in the span of the year.
If one was to re-watch Walt’s chemistry lessons in the first season, he or she would notice something immensely fascinating: all of the now blatant foreshadowing that’s thrown around each episode. The most noteworthy of these lessons is when Walt tells his class that “the faster a reactant…the faster they undergo change…the more violent the explosion.” In less than a year, Walt has gone from having internalized moral dilemmas with harming another individual to killing Gus Fring, among others, without as much of a hesitation. Chemistry, as Walt put it, is not necessarily the study of matter but the “study of change.” A man who was originally a snowflake, delicately floating around, has–pardon the cliche–snowballed into something large and unstoppable, headed straight for the gates of hell itself. As we all know, heat and snow don’t mix well, that’s chemistry 101.
Initially, Walt entered the meth-cooking industry to provide for his family. A loving husband and father, he didn’t want to leave his family in the debt of his cancer treatment–cancer treatment he didn’t want in the first place. A man of principle, he was fine dying from cancer as opposed to withering away in a hospital bed, too weak to be depended on. After Skyler eventually talked him into it for the sake of their family, he agreed to chemotherapy and radiation treatment despite their knowing that they could hardly afford any of it. Had Skyler known what would have resulted from his cancer treatment, what a monster she had inadvertently created, perhaps she would have just let him die–after all, that seems to be her game plan nowadays. But to appease Skyler, Walt did something he rarely does now–he gave in and did something he didn’t want to do, partaking in the cancer treatment, cooking meth as a way to afford it and keeping everyone happy. Meth-heads, his son, his wife, everybody loves Walt. Or at least they used to. Cooking meth was a means to an end for Mr. White.
Now it’s a matter of pride for Walt. One could argue that until the start of season four, arguably even until the end of season four, he was an extreme version of a family-man. Cooking the blue, killing rival dealers, blowing up the man who threatened to kill his baby daughter, all to keep his family safe. But now? As previously stated, it’s become a matter of pride. Viewers have now witnessed Walt succumb to the evil ways of Heisenberg, a persona he adapted to separate his work life (as a chemistry teacher), his “work life” (as a methamphetamine chef) and his family life from one another. Previously, it was up to Walt to supply the entire Southwestern region of the United States with his iconic, pure blue meth while simultaneously supplying for his family. With more money currently in his possession than he knows what to do with, cooking is no longer about the money–it’s about being the best. He defeated Gus, he defeated the DEA, there’s nothing and nobody that can stand in his way now…or is there? That remains to be seen, now that his brother-in-law knows he’s the king of blue meth.
The beauty of Breaking Bad is not how the story unfolds but how viewers can witness it retroactively once it’s all done unfolding. Come the end of summer 2013, the audience will be able to look back and ask a series of questions. The second half of season five will likely be almost entirely be about the repercussions of Walt’s last year of his life and the year leading up to the big 5-2, the 52nd birthday breakfast he enjoyed at the start of season five.
In the final half of the final season a series of things will likely have to occur and many questions will have to be answered.
Hank has to come to terms that he and his brother-in-law are quite possibly the biggest rivals in the country. How could he, a man who prides himself on being one of the best detectives in New Mexico, have not noticed that his brother-in-law–a man who is very adept at chemistry–at the very least could have been a suspect in the mystery of who’s below the little black Heisenberg hat? Or, an even more likely scenario, did he know all along? Was he ignoring the suspicion? Was he just waiting for the cancer to take over and kill Walt, so he wouldn’t have to apprehend a man who is not only a very respectable person but a great father? A better question is will he even do that? After all, Walt was getting an MRI in the final moments of the first half of season five. The placement of that scene along with the fact that Walt quit cooking immediately after hints that the cancer is no longer in remission; he may have been given an ultimatum of how long he has left to live.
This leads to the next set of questions: how will Walt cope with the inevitable return of the cancer? On his 52nd birthday he had a full head of hair. But that could lead to another point: that he doesn’t get the chance to address his cancer situation. Is it possible that Hank will, in fact, take Walt in and attempt to convict him, forcing Walt to take Saul up on his “start over” offer?
Speaking of confrontations, one of the more crucial things that needs to happen in the final eight episodes is Jesse confronting Walt about every way he’s been mistreated in the past year. Not only has Walt watched Jesse’s girlfriend die without attempting to save her (leading to extreme internal struggles on Jesse’s part and a lot of hatred between the two partners), he has poisoned a boy who was as much a son to Jesse as he may ever have and he has goaded Jesse into killing more people than Jesse’s conscience can handle–the most notorious of all being Gale. Jesse is still coping with Gale’s death, months after the death of Fring, having shot him point blank just for doing his job. Gale was as harmless as the fly that annoyed Walt and Jesse for an entire episode in season three. He was just there; he was a nuisance without meaning to be and he had to go. While it’s never been stated, the fly was foreshadowing of Gale’s death.
Lastly, Walter Jr. needs to move onto dinner, or lunch at the very least. A growing high school student needs his nutrients.
Short story long, these conclusive eight episodes of Breaking Bad–arguably one of the greatest series to air in a very, very golden age of television–have a lot of ground to cover in such a short amount to time. Here’s to an extra long two-hour series finale! Ironic how the show is more addicting than it’s subject matter, isn’t it?
Until then–we wait.