My favorites from “Breaking Bad”

Given that this is my last passion blog of the semester, and due to the fact that “Breaking Bad” ended nearly two months ago, I will forego my usual character or theme analysis in exchange for a review of some of my favorite moments, episodes, and the like. So, without further ado:

Favorite character other than Walter White:

Badger: no one can not like this lovable, yet entirely incompetent, drug peddler. Whether he’s messing up a new batch of meth, getting shot by a ten year old on a bike, or being arrested for the umpteenth time, Badger is always doing something wrong. However, we applaud his effort and humility in face of failure. Further, these shortcomings often serve as dramatically effective comic relief in between important sets.

Favorite episode:

Dead Freight: This episode more closely resembled a high-drama action movie than a television show. In it, the usual cast assembles to steal tons of methlyamine off of a moving freight change. Unlike other episodes, the entire 45 minutes is essentially one scene, that maintains its tension throughout. It’s an impressive feat of directing, cinematography, and acting combined to form my favorite episode.

Best moment:

Without question, the death of Gustavo Fring was not only the most intense, harrowing moment in the show’s run, but, in my opinion, it was one of the most gripping moments in television history. Here’s the YouTube clip:

I think one thing that often got overlooked in “Breaking Bad” was its cinematography. The show’s dramatic storytelling would be nothing if the show wasn’t shot the way it was. This clip is a perfect example. Right before he dies, Fring looks composed and stiff, as he always does. However, as the camera pans across his body, we quickly see the right half of his face is completely decimated. It’s a dramatic, memorable moment, aided drastically by the way it was shot.

Favorite Quote:

“I am the one who knocks,” Walter White. I appreciate this quote not for its meaning within the plot, but because of the deep, philosophical influence it connotes. On its surface, the quote shows Walt is a man in total control, aware of the danger around him, but totally unfazed. On a deeper level, however, this quote puts White in the realms of other great, historical philosophers. In fact, there’s this cool website that shows how other famous authors, thinkers, and scholars would have delivered this speech (

In all, I’ve enjoyed writing about “Breaking Bad”. While my interest in this blog has waned the past weeks, I believe it has been a good experience as I’ve come to more fully appreciate such an impressive television series.

Let’s not forget about Jesse!

As my “Breaking Bad” blog has transcended the socially accepted length of time to write about a television show proceeding its final episode, and as, accordingly, my substantive topics about which to analyze have dwindled, I dawned upon the fact that I really only write about one character, the main character, the esteemed chemistry instructor Walter White.

However, nary one television show amounts to anything without its supportive supporting cast. And, as I have neglected them for the past two months, I feel that Walter’s right-hand man, his (meth) cooking buddy, his “rescue dog” (as Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz labeled him), Jesse Pinkman deserves the esteemed honor of being blogged about by yours truly.

I have compared White to countless literary and film heroes – Raskolnikov, Gordon Gekko, Frankenstein – but Jesse’s case is arguably more interesting. Jesse is a constant loser. Nothing goes right for him. While top meth producers are scouting Walt due to his highly potent blue product, Jesse’s ice posses a hazy transparency, doesn’t sell to even the most strung out meth heads, and can’t even eclipse eighty percent purity — loser. And while Walt makes off with millions of dollars, fresh cars, and pretty woman (only the former two are true), Jesse is stuck grieving the death of his girlfriend, his friend, and ultimately his dead girlfriend’s friend.

A few weeks ago, I suggested that Walter White was comparable to Meursault, the protagonist from Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”. Though the two do share parallels, I have since realized that Meursault is more like Jesse. I’ve come to this conclusion for two reasons. First, everything ends up going poorly for the two of them, more on that in a second. And secondly, I’ve read “The Stranger” four times, in two languages, and at least once in each of the past three years – I can find Meursault qualities in everyone.

Yes, everything goes terribly wrong for Meursault and Jesse. “The Stranger” begins with Meursault being informed that his mother has died. His mother’s funeral is in North Africa in August, so Meursault suffers from the heat. To escape, he takes a walk on the beach, where two Arabs approach him. Ever the gentleman, Meursault kills them, and is consequently executed by the guillotine. It’s a rough week for an unlucky man.

That, however, is where the similarities end, in my opinion. Meursault exhibits absurdist tendencies; by that he shows very little emotion. He doesn’t really care that his mom died, and he’s only upset about being incarcerated because he can no longer smoke his cigarettes. Meanwhile, whenever something goes wrong for poor Jesse, we’re always in store for a temper tantrum, violence streak, or an utterance of his catchphrase: “Bitch!”

I see little inference to be drawn between these two characters other than the observation that everyone deals with misfortune differently. Which is more effective? If the fates of Meursault and Jesse are any indicator, the evidence points towards anger: Jesse is the only primary character in “Breaking Bad” to walk away a free, living man while Meursault is guillotined back to the French Revolution.

Walter White vs. Nicholas Brody: Two Very Different Liars

Last week, I briefly drew a comparison between “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White and “Homeland’s” Nicholas Brody. This week I would like to further this discussion.

First, some background. “Homeland” is a Showtime series, which in its own words, “is an edge-of-your-seat sensation. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody is both a decorated hero and a serious threat. CIA officer Carrie Mathison is tops in her field despite being bipolar. The delicate dance these two complex characters perform, built on lies, suspicion, and desire, is at the heart of this gripping, emotional thriller in which nothing short of the fate of our nation is at stake.”

More than any other shared action, both White and Brody go to great lengths to deceive their respective families. Both perceived family men, their actions suggest anything but. White hides his drug monopoly from his caring others, while Brody never hints at his radical Islamist tendencies to his wife or children.

However, while White is a hero – or antihero – Brody is always the enemy. In White’s case, his ends often justify the means. As long as he has a steady stream of income, he can fund his cancer treatment, support his family, and at least temporarily placate his doubters. Brody’s lies, on the other hand, are to cover up the fact that he is a domestic terrorist, and thus his lies are not truly acceptable in an American household.

Both characters lie. So why, as a collective viewing public, do we cheer on White until his death but scorn Brody when he escapes his pursuers? I think that we appreciate the hardworking, rags to riches story that Walter White personifies. Sure, his trade is very much illegal. However, his desire to feed his family, help his community, and fight is cancer is entirely commendable. Brody, on the other hand, is simply evil, and in many ways not as developed of a character. We really didn’t know him before he was “turned” into a bad guy, and thus haven’t witnessed his entire character arc. For those reasons, I find that he is much harder to sympathize with.

From the exterior, Walter White and Nicholas Brody seem like two very similar lying losers. However, with two distinct motives, they are anything but. While Brody lies to lie, White lies to survive. As a result, we empathize with White while he suffers, and we share in his glory when he succeeds. With the much more stiffer, less-developed Brody, he does not share his sentiments with us.

How to Navigate a Post-“Breaking Bad” World

“Breaking Bad” concluded exactly twenty-four days ago. I still miss the show, Walt is still dead, Obama is still president. The world has moved on. As such, I feel that my opportunities as a “’Breaking Bad’ blogger” are rapidly diminishing, and with that my ideas about what to write are too.

So how have I possibly survived the past three weeks? How have I been able to occupy the two hours a day I used to dedicate to “BB” watching?

Well, aside from the drastically increased homework and studying that naturally comes as the semester progresses, I’ve found some new methods to occupy my time. With that, I’ll devote this week’s blog to “things you can do in a post-“Breaking Bad” society”.

1. Watch other TV shows: I’ve begun watching the third season of “Homeland”. “Homeland”, for the past two years, has been my favorite fall series. It follows CIA agent Carrie Mathison’s attempts to track down threats to national security, both across the globe and within her organization. Like “Breaking Bad”, it stars a father that hides a massive secret from his family. In this case, Nicholas Brody, formerly a marine, is suspected to be a domestic terrorist. Across the board, I see many similarities between the two shows.

2. Do a puzzle: This undeniably seems lame, but some of my floor mates purchased a 1,000-piece puzzle last week, and we have been more or less addicted to it since. We’ve come back from our respective weekend nights out at three in the morning and have found ourselves working on it until the sun was peaking through our windows. As such, it has become a part of our collective lives, like a small piece of a soul we all share. Each successful piece we place further secures this bond. Yes, we hold our puzzle in such a high regard.

3. Study: While I have always expertly managed my time to allow for “leisure time”, I have found myself devoting more hours to my studies. This still remains a last ditch effort: only if the door where the sacred puzzle is held is locked, and I’ve exhausted my television watching desires for the time being.

There you have it. In this post-“Breaking Bad” apocalypse you really only have three options to pass your time with: watch another show, do a puzzle, and if all else fails, study.

I hope all will find this to be a fruitful guide.

An historically bad idea?: “Breaking Bad”‘s potential spinoff

There have been many bad ideas throughout history. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has been trying to ban large sodas for the better part of a year, the Detroit Pistons selection of Darko Milicic as the number two pick in the 2003 NBA draft in front of Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James, and this.

However, a new contender is threatening the zenith of poor choices: Vince Giligan’s – Breaking Bad’s creator – decision to create a spinoff show featuring Walter White’s lawyer Saul Goodman as its main character.

To me, this seems like a bad idea for a few reasons. First and foremost, there comes a point when enough is enough. Just as “Fast and Furious” movies passed its prime after the seemingly twentieth installment, “Breaking Bad” is over, and it shouldn’t come back. After the emotional rollercoaster that the final season took its viewers on, attempting to bring back the characters in a new series, but in the same location, would spoil the bittersweet taste the finale left in our collective mouths.

Secondly, Saul Goodman is a super annoying character. There’s a reason that he was never the prime person on “Breaking Bad”: his role was to provide comic relief after dramatic standoffs between Walt and Jesse. He plays the same role that the Clown assumes in Shakespeare’s Othello – he’s essentially a fool, thrown in to break the tension. While it’s certainly fair to say Saul plays a more integral role in the plot, I believe his primary function in the six seasons of “Breaking Bad” was for a touch of comedy.

Finally, I can’t possibly imagine how this series, aptly named “Better Call Saul”, would sustain itself. Gilligan said White and Jesse Pinkman would ideally make cameos, but beyond that there seems to be little follow up of the strong seasons of “Breaking Bad.” This, however, may be the silver lining. I believe if this show is to succeed, it will have to separate itself from its predecessor, taking Saul to new characters with different stories.

Gilligan has overcome hurdles in the past: from little funding to plot issues. If he has proven one thing, it’s that he can turn a shortcoming into an advantage. With skepticism, I look forward to seeing what he’ll do with Saul.

Heisenberg vs. Frankenstein: Two Outsiders in an Internal World

In recent posts, I’ve compared Walter White – the high school chemistry teacher turned drug dealer turned drug lord turned murderer – to Meursault from Albert Camus’ The Stranger, to Raskolnikov from Theodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and even to Gordon Gekko from the filmWall Street”. In each of these comparisons, White has shared a similar philosophical theme with the antagonist, or protagonist, in the respective novels and film. In this post, I want to discuss another theme, and relate that to yet another literary character.

In my humble opinion, Walter White reminds me very much of the monster in Frankenstein, from Mary Shelley’s historic self-titled novel. While White may be slightly more handsome than the monster from Frankenstein, the two share many emotional and habitual similarities.

First, both Walter White and Frankenstein are creations, or alter egos of someone else. White cooks under the pseudonym Heisenberg. While assuming this role, he ruthlessly kills, steals, and lies to his family. White and Heisenberg, though technically still the same person, act like two complete opposites. Similarly, the monster in Frankenstein is formed from the science and determination of his creator, Victor. Like Heisenberg, he was never intended to become a horrible monster or killer, it simply happened.

I believe it simply happened because both feel alienated with their surroundings. For Frankenstein, this is easily observed: he doesn’t speak the language of his peers, he has grotesque physical attributes, and he cannot find his place in the world. For White, this sentiment is slightly more hidden. However, we can tell he’s unsatisfied with the monotony of working an under-paying job for which he’s over-qualified through his drive for excitement, money, and power that the drug game provides.

And, as a result of this alienation or lack of satisfaction with their respective surroundings, both ultimately remove themselves from their worlds. Frankenstein disappears from Victor in the vast ice fields of the Artic, while White flees to an equally frigid New Hampshire to also hide from his pursuers – the police.

If I’ve noticed one thing from these quick analyses/comparisons over the past few weeks, it’s that Walter White is a tremendously layered, developed, and complex character. He embodies the philosophical themes of many great literary characters and can be examined through multiple lenses. In fact, in many ways, he demonstrates traits from every book I read in twelfth grade English.

My Two Cents on the “Felina”

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Breaking Bad” series finale, “Felina”. The build up was unlike that of any T.V. event I’d ever witnessed, and once the show concluded, thousands of reviews hit the Internet in a matter of minutes. For the most part, this concluding episode, along with the series as a whole, was deemed “ideal” (Hank Steuver, Washington Post) and “perfect” (Brian Merchant, Vice).

I, however, disagree.

First, let me preface with the fact that this was the first “Breaking Bad” episode I was able to watch live. In its own right, this is an accomplishment. I achieved the goal that this blog initially was meant to document: my attempt to catch up before the finale. I spent long, hard hours in front of my computer streaming on Netflix the first 61 episodes. Finally, with mere hours to spare before the finale, I completed the penultimate episode “Granite State.” Invigorated yet physically and emotionally fatigued from this sixty-day marathon to catch up, I took a nap, and then settled into the Simmons T.V. lounge for the finale.

Thus, I was sick of “Breaking Bad” before the final episode even started. I had come to see individual episodes solely as blocks of time with high opportunity costs that should have been spent doing something more productive. Watching the show is fun, but it’s a lot more stressful when you feel that you need to watch before time runs out. So, as I readied myself for “Felina”, I was already eager for it to end.

There’s been a multitude of reviews from those infinitely more qualified than me explaining why the finale was a perfect ending to a perfect show, or why Walt’s exit and death further demonstrated how much smarter he is than everyone in Albuquerque. I’m not here to agree or disagree. To me, the finale consisted of a rushed and defeated Walt partially finishing his unfinished business: he threatened some people, killed some more, and poisoned one other; the end.

By the final scene, Walt lay motionless in a meth lab. My peers around me shuttered in awe of the cinematography, some shed tears, while others mourned the death of a beloved character and T.V. show. Unmoved, I felt like an outsider.

I took a very different approach than most while watching “Breaking Bad”. I watched in hurried and distracted increments. I was never as invested as those who had been with the show for years. Therefore, I think this demonstrates an interesting commentary about our modern society: we get really, really invested in cultural phenomena that don’t matter at all.

Greed is Good, But also Bad: Walter White vs. Gordon Gekko

Last week, I drew comparisons between Breaking Bad’s protagonist Walter White, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov and Albert Camus’ Meursault. This week, to touch on a different theme present in AMC’s hit drama, I want to examine Walt in relation to another one of my favorite fictional characters: Gordon Gekko.

Gekko is the antagonist of the film Wall Street, a vicious stockbroker known for his famous quote, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” In a manner similar to Walter White, Gordon Gekko instills fear in his enemies through his wealth, power, and confidence.

Both Gekko and White began their careers with some sort of setback- nothing was given to them; they had little money and little experience in the craft they would soon master. However, both through spurious and questionable morals, they became kings of their respective domains: White as a meth drug lord through robbery and murder, Gekko as a Wall Street king through insider trading.

Both men, once at the top, were never satisfied. They always wanted more. In one episode, Walt tells his assistant Jesse, “You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” Similarly, Gekko tells his assistant, Bud Fox, “It’s all about bucks, kid.”

Yes, both alpha males are struck by man’s two biggest curses: greed and the need for power. In the beginning of Breaking Bad, Walt justifies his meth cooking as a way to pay for his cancer treatment- a comparably petty sum of 700,000 dollars. By the fifth season, with fifty million dollars stored away in a safe house, Walt wants more, and more, and more. He acknowledges that there is no way to either spend or launder so much money, and thus the cash is rendered essentially useless. Still, the sense of power and control that money brings Walt is too much to turn down.

In one pivotal scene, he drives a truck full of millions of dollars into the desert- seemingly to be buried. The cinematography of Walt covering his money with dirt in the middle of nowhere suggests this act is comparable to a funeral. As such, the symbolism asserts that by burying his money, Walt is in fact throwing away his life, or saying goodbye to one he once had. While the truth of that statement is debatable, it effectively demonstrates the extent to which greed controls one’s life.

Mersault, Raskolnikov….Walter White: Nihilism and Utilitarianism to Justify Heinous Acts

Last year, I read Albert Camus’ The Stranger. It’s a haunting novel demonstrating the philosophies of absurdism and nihilism through its main character Meursault. Meursault begins as a law-abiding citizen, but when his mother dies we witness his transformation into a man who kills, steals and lies with no second thoughts. However, he’s not a hardened criminal. In fact, far from it: he simply does as he pleases, with no second thoughts. By the climax of the novel, he sees no point or purpose in the world- he solely exists to exist.

I have witnessed many parallels between The Stranger and “Breaking Bad”, namely in Walt’s evolution from a passive high school chemistry teacher to a hardened meth kingpin. In both The Stranger and “Breaking Bad”, a singular event triggered this change. In Camus’ novel, Meursault’s mother died, leading him to question the purpose of his existence in the world. And in “Breaking Bad”, Walt is diagnosed with cancer and immediately begins cooking meth. But while Meursault’s evolution is fueled primarily by nihilistic sentiments- he feels that the laws of society are absurd, and simply fails to follow them- Walter White’s actions are driven by pragmatism, as he begins his drug operation to provide money for his family.

Still, both White and Meursault do exhibit nihilistic tendencies. In one instance Walt agrees when his coworker states that there are two types of crimes, those that break the law and those that hurt someone. Because cooking meth doesn’t directly hurt someone- though that could certainly be argued against- it’s not really breaking the law. He employs a utilitarian technique by reasoning that by “breaking” one law, he’s helping his entire family with financial support. With that justification, he finds himself above the law.

Similarly, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the protagonist, Raskolnikov, warrants slaying his pawnbroker for a similar reason: she was unpopular, and thus he committed the murder for the greater good. Therefore, like the great literary heroes before him, Walter White demonstrates both nihilistic and utilitarian propensities in order to rationalize his highly illegal acts.

Meth: perception versus reality in “Breaking Bad”

Lets talk about meth.

So far, I’ve watched almost three seasons of “Breaking Bad” in the past three weeks. If I continue, I should be able to catch up by the time of the season five – and series – finale.

My most profound observation through these first three seasons, other than the fact that this is a great show, is that drugs, particularly Crystal Meth, are not just popularized, but glorified.

Methamphetamine, or Crystal Meth, is a very dangerous drug. It can rapidly cause weight loss, brain damage, and even death. Meth is often produced in shady, makeshift “labs” using industrial and pharmaceutical products, the majority of which can be bought over the counter at your local CVS. Meth is a cheap drug, and thus appeals to lower income individuals and often correlates with high crime.

However, in the world of “Breaking Bad”, meth is presented entirely differently. The drug, especially that created by Walter White’s magical formula, seems to have no negative side effects- only a euphoric, sometimes weeklong high. By the half waypoint of season three, Walt is “cooking” from a technologically advanced, pristine, and state of the art lab- hardly the run down trailer park workrooms the drug frequently connotes.

The popularity of meth is also vastly overstated in the show. Only 502,000 Americans were using crystal in 2009, a number that is on the decline each year. In “Breaking Bad”, everyone in the greater Albuquerque area wants a piece of Walt’s product – from strung out addicts to teenage gas station clerks.

Because of these discrepancies, I feel that “Breaking Bad”, despite its secure spot as television’s most popular show, may be detrimental to the way society views harmful drugs, especially our youth. Meth is not pot: it’s an extremely dangerous, unnatural and proven killer. But, according to the show, it’s simply a way to make a lot of money. Walt’s lab assistant, Gale, even says, “there are crimes, and then there are crimes,” suggesting that cooking meth is simply a harmless pursuit of his libertarian lifestyle.

I don’t think “Breaking Bad” is giving the American people the wrong idea about drugs. The show is, after all, just that: a fictional show. But, to the uneducated and ignorant few, it seems possible that “Breaking Bad” paints an eerily inaccurate picture of a destructive product.