Crystal Blue Redemption, by Travis Fishburn

28 Sep


On Sunday, Breaking Bad comes to an end. The popular theory is that the series finale of the show will also mark the end of Walter White. With the flash forward teases that we’ve seen, it looks like Walt is going to be making a grand last stand in the tradition of Scarface and The Wild Bunch. I have no doubt that we will walk away from the show with a sense of closure, but I think that most people are more interested in emotional satisfaction. If Breaking Bad‘s history is any indicator, I think we’re in for a very visceral and polarizing climax. I think that each individual’s feelings about the conclusion will be heavily informed by their personal opinion of Walter White.

In a recent episode of the podcast “The Ones Who Knock”, host David Chen stated that any act of altruism or absolution would not be enough to redeem Walter for all of the horrible things that he has done throughout the show. I think that this is an opinion that the majority of the audience shares. Is there any redemption in the final act for characters like Walter White?

I can’t help but consider Darth Vader’s/Anakin’s redemption in Return of The Jedi. I don’t hear many people who believe Vader’s final sacrificial act of saving his son wasn’t enough to redeem him from the dark side. Yet, if we consider Vader’s atrocities: including genocide, enslavement, galactic oppression, and the murder of hundreds (including quite a few terrified and defenseless children), Walt’s actions as Heisenberg look minuscule.

Tonally and thematically Star Wars and Breaking Bad are very different.  One is flashy and family oriented, with a theme of forgiveness and redemption; the other is raw and methodical, with a sometimes oppressive feeling of tragedy coursing through it. However, the story in each of them is about a man trying to do the right thing for his family and feels personally justified compromising his morals to do so. Each of them also takes on an alter-ego and public persona while in the midst of their crimes, and keep their true identity hidden.

Breaking Bad is a show that isn’t afraid to let you see the dark and personal lives of each of its flawed characters. As a show tailored for adults, the show treats Walter the way adults tend to treat each other, keeping tabs of every wrongdoing and unwilling to let go of grudges. If the story of Darth Vader was told by Vince Gilligan, I’m sure his change of heart and redemption would probably not have been widely accepted.

I think that, as children, we are more willing to forgive. Is this because children are easy to forget about wrongdoings? I think not. I think that children forgive because they value their relationships more than adults do. The bonds that we share with each other in this life are essential to survival and prosperity. The world in which we live is making it ever-easier to neglect each other and cut the relationships that we refuse to fix.

There is no fixing the damage that Walter White has done to the lives of his family and innocent bystanders. While it may be difficult to accept, I don’t think that Walter is beyond hope. Will the show even give him a shot at redemption, or will his Heisenberg persona be at the wheel during the final chapter? I believe that the show will ultimately forgive or condemn Walter through Jesse Pinkman, the audience surrogate and the person who has suffered and lost the most through his association with Heisenberg. If Jesse dies or ultimately receives the unfortunate consequences of Walt’s actions, I think the majority of the audience will have the appropriate emotional reaction. If Walt sacrifices himself for Jesse or is otherwise forgiven by him, we will at least know what we are expected to feel. Whether or not that is something I can do will challenge me to question the person I have become more so than the person Walter is.

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