I didn’t want to write about Breaking Bad until I’d watched this week’s episode a second time, which I did last night. And even after that, I wasn’t ready. I’m still not, really.
And that’s not because it was so overwhelming, but more because I just don’t know what to think. Yet. The pressing question is, of course, who lived and who died. But that leads to a greater question of justice, doesn’t it? And the lack of resolution of that question leaves me on edge.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Breaking Bad to me has always been that we’ve never really – really – gotten deep inside Walter White’s soul. Compare Walt to Tony Soprano, who had a psychiatrist, for example. There have been times when Walt has explained what he is about, but it’s always in short, usually enraged bursts about empire and family. Never have we seen or heard Walt really work through the moral calculus of his actions – not only in terms of the lives he has taken directly in pursuit of his goal, but (more importantly, to me), the damage his “product” does. I think it’s a feature, not a bug. I’m glad it hasn’t been spelled out and I think the work has been all the stronger for the absence of direct address and exposition. It’s respectful of the viewer and stimulating.
That said, Breaking Bad viewers are waiting for a lot of things to happen, some to explain, and others to resolve. They were waiting for the Hank – Walt confrontation. Waiting for Jesse to break free. Waiting for Walt, Jr to discover the truth. Waiting for Walt to be exposed.
But what I’ve been waiting for is Walt to explain why his family’s financial needs justify profoundly damaging the lives of thousands of other human beings. Yes, Walt has directly killed some people in pursuit of his goal, and I want to see him confront that wrong, but even that is less important to me at this point than some acknowledgement of the really incredible human damage his beautiful, pure, blue meth has wrought. To me, this has always been the central point: Walt’s pride blinded him. Blinded him to other ways to deal with his situation, and most of all, blinded him to the humanity of other human beings – from the direct victims of his violence to Jesse Pinkman to the users of his product. I don’t care if he’s punished or killed or whatever. I don’t care if he feels guilty. I just want some sense of how he understood and justified his actions.
The tricks and twists and turns grab me and make me gasp and then stand up and cry with millions of others, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” at the television when the screen goes to “Created by Vince Gilligan” at the end of these episodes, and it’s a fantastic ride. And although (almost) everything I’ve seen over the past few years assures me that Gilligan and his team are keyed into the reality that they are portraying: that the fruit of pride is dehumanization and death, at this point, I’m just not sure, and it’s giving me one more reason to hold my breath during these last three episodes of Breaking Bad.