Life and Death on Basic Cable
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad (AMC)


Untethered from traditional morality, he’s set adrift, believing that he can chart his own course through raw intellect alone. Now that he’s cancer-free, the money is meaningless to him save as a measure of his ability and superiority. Gilligan and the other writers brilliantly draw out how envy of the success of others fuels a sense of superiority and entitlement. In one telling scene, White tells his students the (true) story of how the inventor of the synthetic diamond was rewarded by GE with a $10 savings bond. The subtext is that Walter never got the recognition he deserved as a scientist, and he yearns to correct that as a meth cooker.

By the first half of the fifth season, Walter’s transformation is near total. When offered millions to simply cash out of the drug business entirely, he rejects the offer. He explains to his partner: “You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.”

August 19, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 15

Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .