I have been watching Breaking Bad for a few days. I am reaching the end of season 4. It is a very well directed and scripted crime drama. Acting-wise also it does very well. But what is compelling me to write about it today is the way Walter White’s character evolves in the series.
The series begins with White’s diagnosis of an advanced stage lung cancer. With the realisation of the shortness of his life, comes fear. The fear disguises itself in the form of an instinct to leave something behind for the family. This instinct leads him to take the first irreversible step, which takes him away from his family, a sense of responsibility towards the society he lives in and his ethics. He forgets the primary responsibility that comes from his role as a school teacher. He has been a teacher for the longest part of his life. But he forgets.
Why does he take this road? Many people suffer from cancer, do all of them take the road that Walter White did? We all know that people like Walter White are very few. Some people leave the life of crime when they see their end is near. Why does Walter White walks down the road of crime? The crime drama tries to tie this thread logically by showing scenes from his past life where he was quite a genius in his field but couldn’t make use of it as well as his contemporaries did. Instead he settled as a school teacher.
This frustration of not living his life to the fullest surfaces when he hears about his diagnosis. That frustration leads him to make satisfy his creative core. His creative core finds an easy expression in manufacturing meth. His conscience does not feature in his decision making. He is determined to make something of himself.
That is how it begins with frustration that fuels fear which process both these ingredients as a passionate urge, that cannot be reasoned with. His awareness of his actions gives him guilt. This guilt is manifested as fear. Therefore, while Jesse and Walter White, both are making meth, you find only Walter White living with fear. Because Jesse had accepted his life as an addict early on. He didn’t have the urge to satisfy his creative core. Nor did money attracted him. He was just tagging along.
As the drama unfolds, Walter White’s fear also becomes greater. Fear colours his perception of life, of people. He finds himself on the edge everyday. Fearing it to be the last day, he lives his days strategising to reach a space where he could feel unafraid, secure.
But the thing is that no such place that is free from fear exists in the outside world. Such a space that is free from fear lives inside us. That is what one needs to find to feel unafraid and fearless.
Therefore, even after killing so-called threats Walter White lives in fear all his life. This fear influences his actions. An action that is influenced by fear becomes the cause of a greater fear. This vicious cycle consumes the individual till he/she lives. Unless through some intervention the person is able to, even momentarily, comes out of it to face the reality. The reality is not as scary as the idea of reality cooked by our mind.