We Are Born When We Die by Apollo Sunshine
Anyone who looked at their calendar this morning thought welp, it’s about time for the WD anniversary post, was
pathetic correct. Technically yesterday was WD’s fourth birthday. However, I’ll save the normal pleasantries (i.e. reminding you how patient, erudite, and fucking dope you all are as an audience) for next week. This week I knew I had to say something about Breaking Bad.
Stop reading now if you have some weird phobia of spoilage. (N.B. And my evisceration of that irrational fear is a completely different post).
If you’re anything like Wife, you’re more than tired of hearing my broad and hyperbolic proclamations. Nonetheless, I must. But I’ll at least do it without actually typing the words. You know what I think about these five seasons of Walter White’s decent from high school chemistry teacher to meth overlord, about the gorgeous and ominous foreshadowing, about the brilliant internal integrity creator Vince Gilligan has demanded of his story, about the first-line-in-obituary performances of Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Jonathan Banks, and numerous others, and about the world they have created and the story they’ve told. But I won’t say it.
I’m also not going to peck out a dubious intellectual analysis of What It All Means. You can find one of those, from tediously brilliant to the mawkishly dense, on the ‘net with a modicum of Googling.
Instead, I’m thinking about Walter. More egocentrically, I’m thinking about what I think (and will think) about Walter means about me, and about what you think (and will think) about Walter means about you. (N.B. And I mean you whether or not you’ve watched BB yet, because if you are even a marginally devoted reader of WD, I predict it’s just something you’ll eventually do.)
As I sit here on Thursday morning in the precipice between BB’s penultimate episode and Sunday’s finale, I know Walter White; I know Heisenberg; I know the One Who Knocks. I know he’s a bad person and he may have always been one, and I know he may have been a good person who was dealt a shitty hand and wanted to overcome it, and I know that the excuse for his power-lust that he “did it for his family” rings hollow over and over again until those heartbreaking instances where it seems like the most sincere act he’s capable of, and I know he’s a vile and manipulative malefactor with hands bathed in blood and a soul drenched in black soon to get a comeuppance, and I know he deserves to die alone, his cancer-ravaged body finally failing him, and I know he should be permitted one apology delivered to a family who should be allowed to question forsaking him for his violent and immoral avarice.
I know him.
And I know I’ll miss him.
But what I don’t know when Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece fades to black this Sunday night, and I’ve just been given my final taste of the ultimate anti-hero in this golden age of television, is how I’ll feel about it…about him, about Walter White.
Not Walter White the man, one way or another he’ll be lost. But Walter White the Idea will live on, has to live on. Like Omar Little the Idea, or Tony Soprano the Idea, or soon Don Draper the Idea living on in the collective consciousness.
I believe that Walter White, and what he’s become these last five seasons has risen above (or sunk below) them all. He’s not a good guy, but like Tony Soprano, I can’t quite yet call him (a murdering, lying, violent, sociopath) a bad one. And that’s the brilliance of the show, the character Gilligan created and the life breathed into it by Bryan Cranston. That’s why he’ll be missed.
That’s also why what we ultimately decide about Walter White, how we choose to pass judgment on him, because that’s what is being asked of us, says a lot about us as well.
What will it say about you?