Saturday, July 27, 2013

BREAKING BAD and the End of Walter White

Breaking Bad returns for its final episodes August 11 on AMC Cable. After all that has taken place in this violent, addictive series, one truth is certain: Walter White cannot simply walk away from it all free and clear at the end.

We've watched Walter's corrosive transformation from high school chemistry teacher to meth lab cook to ruthless drug kingpin. Early on, Walter learned there are only two basic values in the brutal world of the meth business: Power and Survival. Walter began only wanting to survive, soon making ever harsher moral choices in order to do so. He has finally achieved a position of power himself, a role which he sadististically relishes. But by now he has descended into such a swamp of criminal corruption that there seems no way back for him at the series end.

Walter's ultimate fate is similar to that faced by another ruthless criminal character, Tony Soprano at the end of the great Sopranos series. For all of his past violent deeds, Tony got a suitable payback: a sudden bullet to the back of the head in a Jersey dinner booth. The abrupt black-out ending was a shocker, but a brilliant metaphor for Tony's own end in the amoral blackness he existed in.

That stunning series finale set a high bar for Breaking Bad to follow. Whatever is waiting for Walter White could be the result of his own new found arrogance, an innocuous error that he makes, or a sheer, random disastrous event. But whatever happens to Walter must be an inevitable outgrowth from this contradictory character and the moral complexities of this outstanding crime series.

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