Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Concerning Breaking Bad's Walter White

If you're a writer and have yet to watch Breaking Bad, do yourself a favor and check it out.  You want to know how to write the perfect antagonist/villain?  Sink your teeth into this excellent t.v. series.  You can thank me later--after you've managed to climb out of the butt hole molded into your couch.

My purpose of this post isn't to review the show.  It's (Breaking Bad, that is) perfect--the best piece of television I have ever seen.  And that's saying something, when you consider how much I like Sherlock, 24, Everybody Loves Raymond, and The Walking Dead. (Yes, I just managed to sneak in my favorite shows in a post that has nothing to do with them--and I know you can't really consider anything about comparing them, since I've yet to review each on the blog.  Shut up.  Attempting to discover logic in my ramblings is futile.)  What I want to spit out is the reason why watching a high school chemistry teacher-turned-methamphetamine master chef is worth your time.  Walter White isn't a shining example of anything.  Do not do the things that he does!  However, if you want to learn how to write a villain watch (from the beginning of season 1) Walter's steep descent into evil.

I was trying to explain to my wife why I love Breaking Bad the other day. (I had just turned off the t.v. after a bleary-eyed ten episode marathon.)  This is what I came up with: I am able to sympathize (and the ability to sympathize with is the all-important key to a character's success) with Walter because of two things: 1. He is bad at being bad.  Walter White tries so hard to be the baddest dude around, but no matter what he does, he is always one-uped by the real bad guys. (One-baded doesn't quite make sense.) 2. He tries so hard to be bad yet still cares for his family, and so has some remaining ounces of humanity.  I despise everything else about Walter's character.  I won't give anything away, but he gets bad.  Evil.  Totally insane.  My wife isn't aware of this, but I was in tears (from shock, not empathy) at the end of a certain episode.  It is painful to see a man fall so far.  If it weren't for Walter's being such a terrible bad guy, I'd tell everyone to avoid the show.  The writers are brilliant, however.  They create perfect believability in Walter's journey into darkness.  It's pathetic, it's irrational, it's terrifying.  He is a character viewers and writers will not forget.

Seasons 1-4 are available on Netflix, and the fifth and final season is currently airing on AMC.  Another thing the people behind Breaking Bad are doing right is ending it.  All great stories have to end, and they are doing it at the perfect time--when the show is at its peak.


  1. I love this show. I am watching the current season and went back and am watching it from the beginning to see the transformation from the other end. The more I watch the more I think the writers were geniuses; you see snippets of White's worst traits (violence, jumping into things too quickly, frustration when other people screw up even the smallest of his plans) buried at the beginning of the show, and then the events he brings himself into keeps bringing them out until he's really a horrible person. He was keeping all his vices somewhat in check to start, but now it's out of control.
    Also, I don't know if you are watching the first season so I won't spoil anything, but last Sunday's episode was the one where I finally lost all sympathy for Walter. The two before it where the hardest to watch, though. Some really, REALLY messed up stuff happens in this most recent season.
    Amazing show. I watched the whole fourth season in a day, straight. The year break in this last season is going to kill me.

    1. I am current with the show, and I agree that the year break in the middle of the last season is death-inducing. No idea why they decided to split it.