The Anti-hero of Television
Walter White from Breaking Bad embodied the audience’s nervousness about the future, competitors, and deep technical prowess in a never-ending recession. Despite the dreams, the series emerged on the airwaves at a particularly critical time in the history of American television. Every day, society achieves future destruction by having excessive but middle-aged education. They also struggle to make ends meet with a bright but sparkling future.
On the other hand, Walter gives and brings hope, becoming an anti-hero in the 21st century. At first, he is a chemistry teacher who turns into a drug producer and cartel lord. He tries to cover up his failures on the straight path to delve deep into the dark underworld, both psychologically and physically. Walt showed his audience that a non-beta male could only be an individual, regardless of society marginalizing him who has run without him.
In essence, he became an individual who made the television stage so interesting. Being a modern morality game shows the audience a moral decline, degradation, and shame that comes from pursuing a life of crime. However, the series acts as morality without moralization. In essence, Walter remains a hero for the audience who watches the series, supporting his success and defeat in his cartel game.
Behind the great mystery’s success, Walter and the series became the attraction of the community to the meaning in the people’s minds.
A Recession of Dream
Breaking Bad focuses on one anti-hero. However, there are so many important relationships between supporting characters that the audience needs to explore. Besides Walter, Skyler appears as a one-dimensional middle-class wife. She is always nagging and appears in the third and fourth seasons as a partner in crime for her husband. On the other hand, Jesse Pinkman acts as a kind of substitute son for Walt. Even when Walter Jr. the more he dwindles into the background of Walt’s daily life, the deeper he delves into the drug business.
The relationship of each archetype embodies and evolves the background in discussing the complexity and relationships between characters. Gus Fring acts as two different sides of Walt’s coin in one dimension. He provides many opportunities to explore crime, considering and reflecting on Walt’s straight path and the values the audience admires in such a cold-blooded criminal. In essence, the series is rich in poetry to complexities about good, evil, class, and race, all of which Vince Gilligan has faced during five seasons.
The series is set in the desert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under the narrative’s guise of money and drugs. However, Walt is rebellious about how pride and purpose can undermine each individual’s identity and existence. He faces a system that defrauds him of fair rewards against a society that forbids acts of self-destruction. In short, Walt convinces himself that it is family and not ego at all that drives him. In his mind, he always thinks that he is the hero of his drama. The anti-hero is a fitting term for the dark but long recession.
After all, Breaking Bad is about the American dream lives within the protagonist.
Absurdity, Joy, and Rationality
At the beginning of Breaking Bad, Walt regrets his life, being a victim of society’s circumstances. He was a chemistry teacher of low and high education whose greedy friends cut short his promising career. Walt works part-time at a car wash to make ends meet. On the other hand, he also lives with an arrogant wife, a disabled teenager, and a new baby on the way. At the vital point, a doctor tells him that he will soon die of cancer.
From an existentialist point of view, Walt lives in bad faith. It is not good that an individual adopts false values and does not lead a rational and truly free life. In essence, he failed to see the absurdity of such everything. In his imagination, the universe is meaningless, purposeless, and desolate. Because he lacks authenticity, he also fails to hold on to responsibility and freedom. Therefore, he sees himself as someone else.
Apart from his cancer as a wake-up call to becoming a free individual, he does not leave poetry with the impression that death predestined his inauthentic frame of mind. When Walt became Heisenberg, he became an authentic individual as a drug maker and dealer. As Heisenberg, he finds a balance between defining himself and the role that others play in shaping himself. He admits the absurdity of nature.
His death makes him hold responsibility and freedom for his choices. Indeed, Heisenberg became an alter ego in Walt. However, like Heisenberg, Walt lives in good faith like a mythical character. Relentlessly, he pushed his cartel empire, filled with rebellion, to death in silent joy. At the end of the series, he accepts that his death makes him happy.
In Crazy Handful of Nothin’ of the first season, for the first time, he refers to himself as Heisenberg when he meets Tuco. He wears a black pork pie hat along with sunglasses for a drug deal with Tuco. As the audience knows, Heisenberg was born. Heisenberg would continue to master Walt’s role as a drug cook and entrepreneur. With little patience for error, Heisenberg plays an individual who is not afraid to kill someone.
On the other hand, the different two-sided coin schemes did not last long. Gradually, Heisenberg seeps into Walt’s life. Walt would often be more aggressive when arguing with Skyler, become more sadistic when meeting his friends, and always wear a black hat at his house. Walt transforms existentially, becoming both a night personality and an alter ego. When Walt became Heisenberg, he had a quiet joy in his rebellion.
Walt always rebelled against death, the laws, and the norms of society. Besides being an anti-hero, he becomes an absurd hero. Walt accepted all the absurdities in and around his life as Heisenberg. For him, he accepted his cancer diagnosis and the fact that treatment could not help him in the long term. He knew that everything he did before his last breath would be extinguished once he died.
The Struggle, Rebellion
At first, Walt became a drug cook to be able to leave his family’s money and survive after his death. However, quickly, it became more than that. He found great satisfaction, pride, and power in cooking drugs. He has control and authority over the lab and his products. In addition, many underground people appreciate his high-quality products and skills. He will always get more requests and large amounts of cash.
Cooking drugs is not a thankless job teaching high school chemistry. Therefore, it is always intense and exciting for him. Becoming Heisenberg also became less about making money and more about ownership of his shortened life. However, he does not forget that a sense of control over what he does will take away everything. While Walt’s cooking of drugs was a rebellion against the life, Walt had lived. In the first episode, he was just a man following the rules.
At first, he will always do everything he is supposed to do. In another way, Heisenberg is the exact opposite of Walt’s identity. He lives by his own rules, engages in illegal activities, and is not afraid to kill others to get what he wants. Being a drug cook and entrepreneur in the drug world has been an uphill battle. With every setback, Walt has learned, adapted, and kept fighting. Cooking drugs is rebellion in every sense of the word.
In essence, the audience must imagine he is happy as he struggles forward, creating more meaning that he does for the rest of his life.
A Series of Reaction
From the first impression, Breaking Bad is a series about the reaction. The theme of the series takes scientific terms, especially chemistry. In the series, red phosphorus and crystalline iodine mix with pseudoephedrine, reacting to form crystals of methamphetamine. They can be physical, such as when the cells in the human body are out of control. The body will metastasize to become cancer due to reactions with toxins in the community environment.
Such reactions can also be human. Nature is the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that follows after the death will tell the individual. In the series, all reactions and interactions between humans, physics, and chemicals get mixed up in one way or another with the anti-hero character. Walt, a highly qualified high school chemistry teacher, is told he suffers from a deadly and rare form of lung cancer.
After seeing a news story about the cartels’ arrests, he formulated a plan of action that would protect his pregnant wife, Skyler’s financial security. The drama presents to the audience a prison that throws a man into a hopeless situation, and Walt must accept his death. He must also accept the knowledge that he will leave the people he loves in a potentially critical situation. Walt realized that he would soon die of cancer.
God has shortened his lifespan drastically, emphasizing that death for him is neither abstract nor distant from life. It is rather an extraordinary presence in every waking moment of existence.
Flashback: Time and Existence
When it comes to existence, a flashback is one of the philosophical themes in Breaking Bad. It shows audiences moments in Walt’s life before he became a drug maker, a fictional myth, and Heisenberg. If people look at it from such a point of view, it becomes more than just a means for telling stories. The philosophical significance of the flashback stems from the fact that a glimpse of the man Walt once aspired to give audiences.
He is a well-known chemist who can provide for Walt Jr. and Skyler while enjoying all the material ornamentation that the American dream has to offer. Flashbacks play an important role in the series’ essential storytelling tools. Audiences can use it to explain ideas from the philosophy of time and existence. From a philosophical point of view, existence arises from past, present, and future unions. With such an action, the individual establishes many possible futures in the past.
The human past is never truly left behind but remains alive and influences who society is today and in the future. People are living inauthentically by organizing or planning life like a flashback. It is because people passively long for a point in the future. People can see in Walt’s thinking that he believes in his happiness and that the future status of his family is secure. Flashbacks in the series remind the audience that Walt’s past has affected his condition.
However, he is still practicing chemistry. He also strives to maintain the welfare of his family and legacy.
The Lack of Control
Walt became more meditative in his thoughts after knowing his death and cancer were impending. He always thinks about what is closest and most to his attention. In the episode Fly of the third season, Walt and Jesse work in Gus’ high-tech lab. At such a moment, Walt saw a fly towards the end of the cooking session. It leads him to embark on a mission to kill the fly because he sees it as a contaminant risk.
Quickly, Walt became obsessed. He generates several slapsticks but hilarious situations between Jesse and Walt, drug-induced by Walt about his life. It also reveals to Jesse that he will not be dead for long. When Jesse spikes Walt’s coffee with sleeping pills to try to calm him down, the audience sees him opening up to Jesse with incredible clarity and honesty. In a poignant monologue, he describes his lack of control over his life.
He talks about how it was not meant to be like this, how the right time for him to die was months ago. In such a case, the audience can analyze that Walt realized his calculative thinking had failed him. When he tried to behave like a scientific but rational person, he always believed that the best outcome would be to make money for his family and die without revealing to his family what he should be.
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