Magazine article The Christian Century

Walter White's Many Sins

Magazine article The Christian Century

Walter White's Many Sins

Article excerpt

In the nearly six-year run of AMC's Breaking Bad, Walter White (portrayed by Bryan Cranston) has amassed a long catalog of sins. Where to start?

Walt is a high school chemistry teacher who has lured and cajoled a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), into a life of high crime. Jesse was already a junkie and a ne'er-do-well, but Mr. White --as he is always addressed by Jesse--turns Jesse into a fellow cooker of methamphetamine. Before long Walt has talked Jesse into committing murder.

Walt has also had occasion to watch Jesse's girlfriend choking due to a drug overdose. He could have saved her easily enough, but it would not have served his purposes of more easily manipulating Jesse, so he watched her die. He has never mentioned this to Jesse. What Jesse and Walt both do know is that the girlfriend's father was an air traffic controller who went to work in the midst of his shock and grief--which led to the collision of two airliners. So Walt is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of airplane passengers.

In addition, Walt has run down and shot two drug dealers, cold-bloodedly ordered the assassinations of nine prison inmates, bombed a nursing home and killed one of his main competitors, and shot to death a former colleague in crime. He has robbed a train and poisoned to sickness, if not death, a young boy (the son of another one of Jesse's girlfriends).

Along the way Walt has shamelessly and habitually lied to his wife and teenaged son. Making Machiavelli look like an amateur, he has repeatedly manipulated his wife--drawing her into his drug business--and son, who suffers from cerebral palsy. There are no human connections that Walt will not use in his criminal pursuits. Adding to the suspense, and to Walt's perfidy, is the duplicity he practices on his loving in-laws, Marie and Hank (and Hank happens to be an agent of the Drug Enforcement

Administration). Other television shows have featured antiheroes, not least the infamous Tony Soprano. But no other show has started out with a basically good guy and so vividly shown his devolution into a truly evil character.

Breaking Bad began with Walter White teaching high school and doting over his wife and son (later a newborn, Holly, is added to the family). …

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