Badly Broken

I’ve been watching Breaking Bad on AMC since the first episode. I am a huge fan of Bryan Cranston and expected great things from him, and ultimately I have not been disappointed.

After the first few episodes, there came a point during each episode, usually near the end, at which I asked myself why I was still watching. Yes, it was well done, well written and well acted, but it was unremittingly bleak. I kept asking myself if it was worth my time. Was it ennobling?

I am, as I have basically admitted, a pop culture junkie. I try to be somewhat discerning about it, though, both in terms of attempting to discern some deeper meaning in the pop culture with which I interact and in terms of wanting to steer clear of any that will have a negative impact on my state of mind.

There are many works which are well crafted yet so full of hopelessness and so insistent upon the ultimate meaninglessness of life that, which I can appreciate the artistry, I cannot bear to immerse myself in them.

The question, then, was: is Breaking Bad worth my time, or is it of the category of thing that will slowly corrode at my happiness and fill me with despair?

Eventually, it occurred to me that the redeeming value of Breaking Bad is that it serves as one long window into the consequences of sin and its corrosive nature, snowballing from “little” moral compromises to bigger and bigger trespasses. It is a cautionary tale.

I am not the only one to make this assessment, I have since learned:

I have never seen a show which portrays the addictive and destructive nature of sin better than Breaking Bad. Walter White uses the very good desire to provide for his family to justify some very bad behavior. … What the show also does extremely well is that it shows, with unflinching reality, the effects that sin has on those around us. At first Walter tries to convince himself that what he does isn’t hurting anyone and that those who choose to take the drug would do it whether he provided it or not. But the reality of the lives destroyed through drug use is vivid and unavoidable. Beyond that, the show brilliantly shows the unintended consequences of sin and its destructive force on the completely innocent, including the family he sought to protect.

— from Breaking Bad: The Wages of Sin

Watched with this in mind, I consider it the story of two people, Walter and Jessie, who make bad decisions with good intentions over and over again. I am rooting for Jessie to find some way to escape Walter’s orbit and his own past and that his innate goodness leads him to something more. I am hoping that Walter will die at the end, and that his pride will crumble in that moment and allow him to recognize how far astray he has gone. If it ends with Walter as the new Gus then, well, it’s still not a triumph, because we will have seen all that Walter sacrificed to get there (as well as what eventually happens to people like Gus).

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One Response to Badly Broken

  1. I saw a few episodes of this show and really liked it. I think I probably haven’t taken enough time to engage pop culture and it’s caused my message to be somewhat impoverished as a preacher. I know about the news and the political issues, but I don’t know much about the TV shows that make my parishioners laugh, cry, etc. So I’m very appreciative of the premise of your blog. I’m a bit of a snob myself. My wife watches TV while I lie on the couch with my French philosophy texts. I’ll have to check out Walter White again.

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