Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

Walter White: The Least Bad Bad Guy Left?
Talking television.
Sept. 16 2013 11:00 AM

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

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Are we being set up to cheer on Walt as a good guy?

Jesse Pinkman and Walter White
Jesse Pinkman and Walter White

Photo courtesy Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

For an episode that spent so much time lingering on betrayal and the collapse of family ties, this hour of television featured a couple of curious moments of naïve faith. Did nobody ever tell Walt that you don’t reveal the full size of your bankroll to heavily armed violent sociopaths? He was desperate, I guess. But Walt’s error was immediately followed up by a strange lapse into sentimentality by Todd’s uncle. Walt is a brilliant mass murderer. You don’t kill his brother-in-law, humiliate him, steal $70 million from him, and then leave him alive with an oil drum full of cash.

Which is to say: Heisenberg doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy likely to move to New Hampshire and forgive and forget.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure I totally understand what’s happening with Todd and his new meth slave. Didn’t this gang just get a $70 million payday? Shouldn’t they retire? Go find a nice island somewhere to start a white supremacist oceanfront community? And if they’re not riding off into the sunset, shouldn’t they be feuding over the disposition of the money? Maybe this is just Todd trying to impress Lydia. People do crazy things for love or lust all the time, perhaps including torturing a sad young man and holding him hostage.

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But now, after wallowing in Walt’s evil and culpability, it looks like we’re being set up to root for him in the denouement. Hank’s death and Jesse’s incapacitation means that the final showdown won’t be with a sympathetic antagonist. The remaining adversaries conveniently exist at a level of immorality beyond even Heisenberg. They’re murderers and drug dealers, yes. But they also blow past all taboos—they murder kids, they torture, they’re racists. If Walt comes back to settle scores with them, we’ll be hoping he wins, right? After everything we’ve seen, it’s hard to imagine him as a good guy, but if the alternative is Uncle Jack, what other choice do we have?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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