Breaking Bad and Predicting Change

You see the desert but you hear sirens. Khaki pants fly through the air and land on a dirt road. An RV whizzes by and runs over them. Wearing only underwear and a gas mask, Walter White is driving while his partner Jesse Pinkman is passed out in the passenger seat. Breaking Bad started with a bang and had no intentions of letting up.

This scene from the pilot episode aired in January of 2008. The series just aired the first half of its fifth season in September and will return next summer with eight final episodes. During its six year run, Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, has undergone the powerful transformation from a sympathetic high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer to a full-blown drug manufacturing monster.

“I love the transformation because you don’t know what he’s going to do next,” said sophomore Kerianne Wilson. “He’s going crazy, he has no more morals. In a previous season, he wrote a list of pros and cons for killing someone. But now he doesn’t even care.”

Breaking Bad is widely considered the best drama on television, arguably one of the best of all time, and its success can be attributed to the consistently top notch writing led by Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator. Walt’s transformation is not only one of the most unique aspects of the show; it has ensured that viewers return for more.

“This is the one show I’ve ever followed religiously,” said senior Gabriella Rivas. “Watch the first two or three and you’re pretty much hooked.”

Some of those who haven’t seen the show believe it’s about a chemistry teacher who links up with one of his former students to cook crystal meth so that he can pay for his cancer treatment, and that’s about it. As in, ‘Who cares, it’s a show about meth. I don’t do drugs. Pass.’

Walt told everyone what the show was really going to be about in an early episode:

“Chemistry. It is a study of change. Well, that’s all of life, right? I mean, it’s just it’s the constant; it’s the cycle. It is growth, then decay. Then transformation.”

Breaking Bad is a show about change. It’s about mortality being shoved in a man’s face and the choices he makes when faced with this ultimate challenge to his life and his family’s well-being.  At this point his lust for power has far exceeded his good intentions, but it is the journey that makes this show and this character significant.

“He just had such an addictive personality and once he knew he could get to one point he just kept going,” said Rivas. “As a chemistry teacher he had never really had that power. He was so much smarter, and he knew that, but he couldn’t go anywhere with it.”

On the other side of the partnership is Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. In the earlier seasons, Jesse was the druggie drug dealer with the bad ideas, crazy lingo, and baggy pants. Over time his character has grown and matured as much as Walt’s has decayed.

“He’s transformed in a good way, instead of Walter who’s gone to the dark side,” Wilson observed.

While Walt continues to spiral deeper into the drug world, Jesse has pulled back and distanced himself from his partner. Despite their currently fractured relationship, the series began and has survived on their connection. Their paths are destined to cross at the end.

“I know people are gonna die,” Wilson said. “I don’t know who, but I really hope it’s not Jesse or Walter. I really just hope that when it ends that Jesse and Walter will still be alive. But I bet one of them is gonna die!”

Because the trend of the show mirrors Walt’s impulsive behavior in the first 4.5 seasons, nobody can tell for sure how the final eight episodes will pan out.

“That’s why it’s so good,” said Wilson. “Because you really can’t predict anything.”

A solid prediction for the end, however, is that things will change. Like Walter said, change is life’s constant. The cliffhanger at the end of season five ensures that Walter’s life will no longer be the same.