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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Breaking Badly

I have looked into Hell and its name is crystal meth.

Over Fall Quarter, I busted down four and a half seasons of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix. I peaked at around three to four episodes per day — it’s just SUCH a good show. I simply could not have enough … and the suspense of waiting for the rest of the fifth season is keeping me awake at night.

“Breaking Bad,” as many of you almost undoubtedly already know, follows the tale of an under-respected high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who, upon finding out that he has what may very well be terminal cancer, selflessly turns to a life of crime — the production of crystal meth — in order to support his financially woe-begotten family — his wife, Skyler; his son, Walter Jr. and his newborn baby daughter, Holly.

As the chemotherapy bills slowly become more manageable and the future of Walter’s family becomes more financially secure (baby Holly will need a college education eventually) the backstory of Walter’s life is slowly flushed out amidst countless botched drug deals in Walt’s gradual ascension to meth kingpin.

The alleged betrayal of a previous female lover — a betrayal that Walt cannot ever forgive — put Walt from being a successful co-owner of a burgeoning neuroscience company named Gray Matter to an underappreciated chemistry teacher slowly waiting to die. This lover is now married to Walt’s previous male business partner at Gray Matter.

Oh, Lord, what countless travesties have men wreaked upon their futures because they were unable to forgive themselves and their past lovers for loves that are no more?

The production of crystallized methamphetamine provides Walt’s brilliance a new outlet to shine now that his insurmountable pride has kept him from his past life. An uncanny amount of luck — or intelligence, perhaps — keeps Walt from death as he consolidates a gigantic meth empire under his rule and his rule alone.

And the question that remains to be addressed is the status of Walt’s family. Skyler is impossibly difficult for Walt — and me, personally, as a viewer — to deal with on any level. How much easier would Walt’s life be were he to not have to consider her feelings? How much easier would it be for Walt to produce meth if he was able to use his tremendous mind to manipulate absolutely everyone close to him into doing exactly what he wants them to?

Walt has the maturity level of a sophomoric 15-year-old. The quality of a man is found not in his unadulterated brilliance or his unadulterated passion. The quality of a man is found in his ability to moderate and negotiate between those around him who do not share the same goals as him.

It can be easy as a viewer to dismiss Skyler as an adulterous, naggy burden upon the very, very interesting protagonist of our show in the same ways that our society’s technological progression dismisses the environment as being superfluous. Yet what is the ultimate point of your meth empire consolidation, Walter White, if not to help your family? In the same vein, what is the ultimate point of all of your technological progress, society of 2013?

I’m getting carried away with myself — both technological progress and Walter White’s meth production both do accomplish a tremendous amount for those that they seek to help. Children do not ask the question, “do the ends justify the means,” whereas adults are at least conscious that such a question exists, regardless of whether they can answer it or not.

Walter White, you are not a man.

I have looked into Hell and its name is crystal meth.

MICHAEL FIGLOCK is not doing any blue meth until the conclusion of season five. He can be reached at mpfiglock@ucdavis.edu.



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