Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Did Breaking Bad's Walter White redeem himself?

Two religious takes on the series' finale of Breaking Bad:

  • Sonny Bunch: Walter White: Jesus Christ, Superstar:
    So how did Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad’s showrunner, close it out? He trolled them all as hard as he possibly could.

    He made Walter White Jesus Christ.

    Walter White spent the entirety of that episode sacrificing himself to save the people he loved: his wife, his kids, his surrogate son Jesse. He rid himself of his earthly possessions and made peace with those who had wronged him and those he had wronged (one way or another) so as to prepare himself for the afterlife. His business complete, he was ready to ascend.

    I wonder if Gilligan was sitting there laughing to himself, watching all the critics talk about how irredeemably awful Walter White is. I wonder if he was sitting there, laughing, because of his Catholic sensibility. I wonder if he was sitting there, laughing, because he feels everyone is redeemable.

    While I was hoping for a bit of Catholic epiphany-penitence-redemption myself, I find Bunch's interpretation to be something of a stretch, and Amy Welborn's to be more credible:

  • Amy Welborn: Kinda Shady, Morality-Wise (Charlotte Was Both):
    Walter White had, as Gilligan referred to it in the after show, his “Precious,” and that’s where he died. That was what he was about – creating a product that no one else could duplicate, this pure result of a process he had perfected. He did it, and doing so was what made a dying man feel alive. You could also argue that the satisfaction that we see is also about his “success” as a teacher, for the lab in the desert is Jesse’s work.

    At what price?

    Well, he doesn’t care. Walter White says a few things in this episode and even makes a confession of sorts to Skylar, but the one thing he never says is, “I’m sorry.”

    And that’s okay, because he’s not. If he were sorry, he should say it, but since he’s obviously not really …then for him to do so would be false.

As Vince Gilligan himself mused:
“I’m pretty much agnostic at this point in my life. But I find atheism just as hard to get my head around as I find fundamental Christianity. Because if there is no such thing as cosmic justice, what is the point of being good? That’s the one thing that no one has ever explained to me. Why shouldn’t I go rob a bank, especially if I’m smart enough to get away with it? What’s stopping me?”
The series stands as one of the best meditations on this philosophical question. One might also say Walter White died in true Heideggerian fashion, being the realization of an "authentic" life.

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