As I am sitting here in my room, enveloped by the cluster of Walter White posters staring down at me from my walls, I wonder what makes this 50 something, meth making villain a hero to many of us. It sure is a good day to contemplate that question the day the devious Kingpin came into existence.
“He’s kind of a bad dude. I don’t like him so much,” retorted Vince Gilligan, creator and producer of the drug mastermind in an interview. Of course he is a bad dude. The man is directly or indirectly responsible for over a massive 200 deaths( yes, this includes the Wayfarer 515 air crash), he almost poisoned six year old Brock, led the next thing he has to son( Jesse) to misery and the biggie- cooked methamphetamine completely oblivious to his family’s woes. But still, there is that vile voice in us, telling us to root for Walt, praying for him to somehow be alive at the stake of others. But why? When the creator of the show himself ponders as to how people can still like Walt, why does our heart still shout ‘Team Walter’? Why do we defend his reckless wrongdoings? And why do we still weep at the end of Felina? I think that is where we have to dig deep into the Breaking Bad ruins.
In the first few minutes of the pilot, Walter White explains that Chemistry is a study of change to an apathetic bunch of students in front of him. “Decay, Growth and Transformation,” a smiling Walter declares, unaware of the impact that phrase was going to have on him. Gilligan based the entire show covertly on that phrase and I think that is where he won.
Think back to the day you started watching the show. The first episode. Walt painted a sober picture of his life for us, being an over-qualified chemistry teacher, leading an exhausted middle class life, burdened with the news of a baby on the way. He was dragged down by his monotonous life and the very first episode filled us with this compassion that made us empathise with this man. It appealed to the bored, colourless self in us, and I think that is the second, Walter caught a place in our hearts that was incapable of being tarnished.
When he let Jane, the love of Jesse’s (his son like ‘business’ partner) life choke to death, we were appalled with disgust. Nevertheless we told ourselves Jesse would be fine and they both were never meant to be, as the show moved on. When he made Jesse kill an innocent man (Gale), we defended him saying that he was finding a way to provide for his family. When he played coy and made Skyler seem the ‘bad one’ to her own son, we let that slide. But when he heartlessly put a bullet through Mike’s chest, we were lost for words, thinking it’d be our last straw, officially branding him as ‘evil’. We wished to not root for the monster that he had turned into anymore. Our relationship hanging by a thread. But could we? No. We still wanted him to somehow live and cursed at Jesse when he furiously confessed to Hank.
It marvels me as to how much more of ‘Walter’, we could take. We hated Skyler for him. Looked past it, when he almost killed Brock and blamed Jesse for Hank’s death. It makes me think that my brain is wired different for being ‘Team Walt’ sometimes. But I think it all goes back to the very first episode I was talking about. Walter Hartwell White carved a place in our minds as the dorky underdog, so deep that we don’t really mind the gazillion ways he has been a villain. We will always be in search of that one reason to call him our hero.
Also Read: Breaking Bad : Why It Ended How It Ended