One of the biggest plus points of Breaking Bad lies in the effectiveness with which the series has managed to propose a protagonist, supported for a long time by many spectators, who is actually simply an authentic criminal. A criminal who commits very few shareable actions and who very often does not have the typical gangster criminal charm: his crimes are presented for what they are, in all their cruelty, without lightening the drama in the slightest. Vince Gilligan, thanks to his great writing talent, has achieved this starting from an ordinary person, who has led a life full of misfortunes and disappointments. It is gradually revealed to us that this is a man who could have (and deserved) much more from life. Things didn’t go as he expected, ending up living a rather complicated life, torn between two jobs to support a family with a disabled son and a new daughter on the way.
Thanks to this portrait, the viewer is gradually convinced that the protagonist of Breaking Bad deserves due recognition and adequate compensation. Even producing meth seems like an understandable choice to get what he deserves.
From the outset, by identifying with the protagonist, the viewer is led to justify his choices, to understand them and always side with him. For years Skyler was (and still is) one of the most hated characters in the world of TV series despite the fact that, net of some certainly questionable decisions, he had to live with a murderous husband who put his family in constant danger.
It’s not easy to pinpoint the exact moment when something broke permanently. That moment in which even the most short-sighted viewer, the one most fond of Walt, gave in and realized that the protagonist had become a real villain. Vince Gilligan has tried to achieve exactly this effect by starting with an almost totally positive character and ending with a fully-fledged anti-hero. In the middle of this path there are many shades of gray that gradually become blacker. The moment in which the spectator understands that he could no longer, in any way, trust Walter White is therefore variable. For many, the detention and murder of Krazy-8 already represent a watershed moment, yet it was certainly not the most striking moment. The period spent doing business with Tuco leads to many questions, in particular the conclusion of the relationship with the drug trafficker highlights how much Walter is endangering his innocent family. Some staunch supporters of the protagonist need really strong moments to change their minds; for example the occasion in which Walt convinces Jesse to kill Gabe or when he poisons a child to blame Gus. In the last season, and especially in the last few episodes, from Mike’s murder to his daughter’s kidnapping, Walter White reveals his true nature. Even he, in his last dialogue with Skyler, will have to admit that he did everything just for himself.
For many, however, the revealing moment comes much earlier. Him deciding to let Jane die, watching her as she agonizes horribly, testifies that Walt only wants to try to keep Jesse for himself, for his own interests. He does not act for the boy’s good: in order to keep him, he is willing to let the girl he loves die.
This is the first scene in which we really see a Walter White who knowingly and without any need for alleged self-defense does a terrible act. An act that will unleash a chain of equally serious consequences, especially affecting the father of Jane and Jesse, who will never be the same again. Jane had downsides, her influence definitely wasn’t entirely positive: but she and Jesse were really in love with each other and she certainly didn’t deserve to die. This moment definitely fits into the list of worst things the Breaking Bad lead has done to poor Jesse. The boy will never come back the same and Walter will definitely lose a piece of humanity. Before him he had already committed other violent and despicable acts, but this is the first to be totally gratuitous, the first in which he deliberately chooses to let a person die who had not threatened his life. In order to get the boy back for himself, as he is essential for the trade in him, Heisenberg takes the life of an innocent girl.
It’s hard to keep watching Breaking Bad with the same look as before. Walt’s rise to power continues to fascinate the viewer, who will still side with him in the clash with Gus and with the other enemies who will appear in front of him. The fact remains that the awareness of who the former chemistry professor really is will no longer be lacking. In particular, there will no longer be any doubts about his relationship with Jesse, a relationship of convenience and exploitation. There is no real affection, this is completely missing. Jesse, not being able to see the moment of Jane’s death, doesn’t know how things really went, and will realize only later that he doesn’t have to trust his partner. For us viewers, however, this is the exact moment in which we realized that we could no longer trust Walter White.