The evolution of Breaking Bad’s Walter White

Emily Manning, Contributing Writer

It is almost misleading to title this article the evolution of Walter White because far too often evolution is associated with a positive connotation. Although Walter White did evolve, he did so by abandoning every ounce of humanity. Throughout the course of Breaking Bad, Walter went from a human being, with a sense of compassion and morals, to a self-destructive monster.
The character of Walter has progressed so much, it seems the producers of Breaking Bad are just toying with avid fans’ emotions by ending the series now. No one will ever know what he will do next. However, fans need to ask themselves, is there anything left for Walter White to do? When someone has turned their back on everything they once stood for, nothing they do could cause amazement or wonder.
For those unfamiliar with the show, and even those who have never missed an episode, let’s take a moment to sum up who Walter once was. Walter was a talented chemist, whose job as a high school teacher caused the level of respect he received and his pay check to be incompatible with his abilities. After being diagnosed with seemingly fatal lung cancer, Walter teamed up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, who was already selling meth and began cooking the drug. Walter’s mission was clear, make enough money to support his family, after his inevitable death, and quit the business. Unfortunately, Walter overlooked an extremely destructive element in his plan, himself.
Amongst many other defining factors, like his ability to cook meth, Walter is characterized by his precision and ability to anticipate the actions of everyone in his life. However, his hyper awareness for the world around his left him blind to his own actions. For this reason, Walter was unaware of how rapidly his transformation was taking place.
Walter’s ignorance to the speed of his evolution is not meant to convey empathy from viewers. There are many moments when Walter is fully aware of the destruction he has caused through his immense power and decides to look past it for his own selfish interests.
In these moments when he should feel pity for the lives he has ruined, he instead feels pride. There is no better way to convey the character’s thought process than through a quote from Walter himself. “No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler [his wife]. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks.”
If only it were as simple as the illegality of Walter’s actions made him an immoral person. Those who wanted a show where cooking meth makes someone a bad person changed the channel early on for something more black and white. Breaking Bad is an endless sea of gray area. Watching this show causes viewers to constantly try to justify Walter’s actions. These justifications dictate the point where Walter’s evolution is complete. As long as the viewer could relate Walter’s actions to helping his family, he was not a monster, he was a family man. When, the viewer can no longer validate Walter’s actions, his transformation is complete.
The writers of Breaking Bad clearly spell out who Walter used be and what he used to stand for, but leave it up to the viewers to decide what he has become. To put it simply, the decisions he made over the course of the show transformed the former family man into a power – obsessed, controlling genius, who is too stupid to see he gave up everything to gain nothing.

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