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

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

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.

Advertisement

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 10:10 AM Where Do I Start With Sleater-Kinney?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.