There are things in this post you may not want to read, especially if the full arc of Breaking Bad has not yet been revealed to you.
But you’ve read the rest of this story before. In the news, actually.
What was once a failing superpower struck out in a desperate ploy for security through adventure, dismissing danger, thinking it was smarter. Along the way, it enlisted an ally who the superpower believed had like-intentions, and along the way pushed the ally into increasingly dark and dangerous corners, taking from it without its knowledge, hurting it for its own good.
Then a man, a single opposing superpower, offered them a deal of the lifetime: their secured futures for their compromised morals. In the process of fighting each compromise, the superpower trusts and then betrays this opposition, and must take morally reprehensible, increasingly suicidal steps to stop them.
Finally, with major opposition removed, the superpower must take the functional place of this opposition in both the dark and light worlds, managing the fates and interests of its allies and its enemies both in an environment where one misstep puts them at odds with both.
This story is Breaking Bad‘s, and American neoconservativism’s. The hapless ally is Jesse, beaten, compromised and ruined. The opposing superpower is Gustavo Fring, a functional and effective figure able to navigate this underbelly best because he can best understand it.
Eventually for the United States superpower, legitimate war criminals–politicians who demand torture on either side–receive no justice and their lone pursuers are eliminated at the hands of extremists. Whatever the superpower’s original intentions, sprinting down the road of illegality and death ends with its destruction.
Deaths compound, from what would appear as righteous, with 8-Ball, Tuco, the Salamaca twins; to the deaths of the completely innocent: the tragic child murderer, the innocent biker boy. In the process, greater evil as represented by the Mexican Cartel leadership and Fring himself are managed at the greater expense of our champions and those otherwise innocent who are simply caught in the crossfire: Gale, Combo, Jane, her father and all those on the flights, Ted, Mike’s men, Mike himself. Until finally two sets of justice are killed at once: Gomez, the man who does not give up on justice, and Hank, the man who is justice itself.
Now everything Walter White wanted to protect hates and distrusts him. Now the devil-deals made within the quiet White Household lay bare to frighten the world. Hubris shunned the peaceful help of the willing, Gretchen and Elliot; but enlisted the help of violent Neo-Nazi’s. Fear of chaos made Walt and Jesse multi-millionaires, enlisted Lydia and Mike to their cause, killed Jane, poisoned young Brock. The need for control murdered Gustavo Fring, Mike, Gomez and then Hank. What the audience once cheered it now abhors. A once exciting and illegal decision was now a wasted opportunity for Walt and America’s salvation.
The mechanics of death can propel any cause to the furthest distance of immorality. Is this only a horizon, a reach, or will we all eventually come to a cliff?
Vince Gilligan gave his story away with Walter’s first droplets of dialog in the show’s pilot episode:
“Best case scenario, with chemo, I’ll live maybe another couple years…”
Now, we know the worst.