After what seems like an eternity, the fourth season of AMC’s award winning drama “Breaking Bad” is underway, and the action picked up right where the show left off. As the show starts, Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) are having to deal with their actions at the end of the last season, and viewers are left wondering, who are we supposed to root for in this show?
Don’t get me wrong, the series is one of the best shows on television with some of the more creative writing and talented acting in the busines. One of the aspects that makes the show so unique is the lack of any traditional protagonist. When the series began, Walter White was a married high-school chemistry teacher, working a second job at a car wash, and trying to raise a disabled teenage son with a baby on the way. White was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and chose to use his professional skills to make and sell crystal meth as a means of leaving his family a nest egg. While his actions seemed unconventional, there was something admirable about a guy who would do anything for his family.
As the show has progressed, we have seen a fundamental shift in Walter’s character. With Walt’s cancer currently in remission, he has continued to pursue his new found “career” even escalating his role from drug-making chemist, to murder committing underboss. He has stolen and laundered money, ruined his marriage with lies, and jeopardized his family’s safety. One has to wonder- is the family worse off now then when he was first diagnosed? His willingness to do anything to become a drug kingpin paints him not so much as a man protecting his family, but a sociopath who used illness as an excuse to let out his dark side.
This season, Walt’s character has already made his intentions to murder drug boss Gus and take over the business clear. Although he continues to rationalize his actions, it’s hard to believe him when he is buying guns with filed off serial numbers! A very telling scene happens outside Gus’ house, when Walt puts on his fedora, almost transforming himself into his alter-ego “Heisenberg” in what can best be described as a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ homage. Looking back at the entire series, it seems much more likely that Walt entered the meth business not to raise money for his family, but to cure his life of boredom and regret. If Walt isn’t the hero of the series, then who is?
At this point, everyone seems morally bankrupt and nobody is black and white. Walt’s wife threw him out over his lies and criminal actions, but now she’s laundering money. Hank, the DEA brother in-law, who was shot and left paralyzed in a tragedy last season, has never really been anything but an obstacle to the show’s leads. This leaves Jesse, Walt’s partner, and possibly the most interesting, ambitious character. In Jesse, you have a guy who is basically a ‘train wreck’ and got into drug dealing because he was out of options. Jesse loves to call himself a bad guy, but he is the only one who seems to show true remorse over his actions.
I for one am interested to see how the writers continue to develop the show’s characters going into the later part of the series. There is no doubt a lot of comparisons will be drawn to The Sopranos as a great deal of fans will want to see Walt brought down, while others will want to see him come out on top. Unlike Tony Soprano, who was born into a system he never had a real shot at escaping, Walt made the choice to become the villain.
As for my predications…It wouldn’t surprise me to see the tight “partnership” between Walt and Jesse dissolve and I could envision a situation in which Jesse ends up working with the DEA to bring Walt down. It’s equally possible that the show ends with Walt getting the better of everyone- a kingpin with his family at his side and all the money and power he clearly seems to want. Perhaps, it ends as it began- a sad and pathetic guy desperately trying to avoid dying of cancer.
“Breaking Bad” airs on Sundays on AMC.