Thy Will Be Done, by Reed Lackey

27 Aug


Do you remember that scene where Jesse, at one of his most bitter and harsh moments, is playing a first-person shooter video game? The screen holds on an image with two words: “Quit” and “Restart”. For a lengthy moment, Jesse’s cursor hovers over the word “Quit” before ultimately flicking over and selecting to “Restart”.

Oh, and do you remember when Skyler was at the Four Corners (the single intersection of four different states), holding her newborn little baby and flipping a coin to decide which state she should escape to? After multiple coin flips (all of which told her to head to Colorado), she finally takes her foot and slides the coin over to New Mexico, finally deciding to stay right where she is.

And man, that scene where Walter walks in on Jesse and Jane sleeping and when Jane starts choking in her own vomit, he decides while fighting back tears to… Well, you remember what he did.

People who haven’t seen Breaking Bad aren’t going to know what we’re talking about, of course, but it would be almost impossible to talk about this show with any depth with people who haven’t seen it yet. They’re welcome to read the blogs, of course, but it would be much easier if they’d seen the show. And let’s face it, this show is very worth seeing.

I can’t recall in recent memory a show with more clarity of focus and consistency in its creative voice than Breaking Bad. Episodes from the second season feel just as immediate and compelling as episodes from the fourth season and you could say the same thing about the entire series run.

But one of the most fascinating aspects of the show to me, as exampled in those three scenes I mentioned earlier, is how the fictional universe in which these characters exist seems to constantly be telling them to stop what they’re doing and alter their behavior. At each juncture, though, their behavior continues.

In this way, the show almost takes on the mantle of Greek tragedy, where characters have tragic flaws which inevitably bring about their downfall. In the case of the Breaking Bad universe, however, the tragic flaws seem to be elements of their own stubborn will (whether that be fueled by greed, pride, or basic elemental fear).

How many times do we, as human beings, recognize the detriment of the path we’re taking, yet something drives us to continue anyway? The need we are fulfilling is more important to us than our own souls. I believe this is the basic nature of addiction, and in that sense its quite fitting that Breaking Bad is about drug dealers. However, there are more things in life to be addicted to than substances.

Perhaps, like Jesse, we are desperate for the validation or approval of a mentor or parental figure (even when we know that figure to be as corrupt as Walter White is). Perhaps, like Skyler, we are secretly seduced by the power and the money and the illusions that these bad decisions offer us and we are more afraid of losing the benefits than of suffering the consequences.

Or perhaps, like Walter, we lost ourselves a long time ago with a thousand tiny compromises. And when those compromises sum up to a discontented life, we rebel and say “To hell with what it costs.” There is no room for regret for our destructive behavior because we’ve used up all our regrets living the life that brought us here.

But we don’t have to worry about any of those tendencies. None of us are capable of that kind of desperation or seduction or destruction. We’re far too mature and ethical and humane to ever stoop to the level of self-destructive behavior on display in Breaking Bad. At worst, we may compromise in small ways that don’t hurt anybody. And even if they did hurt somebody else, we haven’t been given fair breaks either and we’ve often been hurt by the decisions of others, so why is a little selfishness so bad? And ok, so maybe we have been guilty of small matters of unethical behavior but we’ve never been caught and even if we are, we’re smart enough to work or talk our way around it.

We’re not capable of that kind of stuff. I know it.

P.S. C. S. Lewis famously wrote that there are those people who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, in the end, “THY will be done.”

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