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Breaking Bad’s Walter White is irredeemable

In the latest episode of 'Breaking Bad', Walter White has quite possibly gone past the point of no return. Were there clues to where he's headed in this season's premiere episode?

- Season 5, Episode 7 - "Say My Name (FKA Everybody Wins)"

For those who have not yet seen the episode in question — the penultimate of season five — you might want to do the smart thing and go away now; thar be spoilers here.

I’ll start out by saying I wasn’t surprised that Walter shot Mike. Not only did I notice the glaring hint of the gun in Mike’s “just in case” bag when Walt took a look inside, but in at least the past few episodes alone, Walter has earned a reputation as a despicable, delusional human being bordering on monster. No, he hasn’t quite gotten to “monster” status yet, but in his cowardly, clumsy, and hasty shooting of Mike brings him to a place I’m not sure he’ll be able to return from.

Before he shot Mike, I had a couple of theories of how Walt might be lured away from the meth trade. My first theory had to do with Skyler — or someone else in the White household — turning to taking meth, which theoretically would wake Walt up to what he’s actually playing with. That one I could still see happening, though I’m not convinced at this point that it’d have any positive affect at all on Walter. Walter considers himself completely blameless in everything he does; if Skyler or Junior started taking his blue meth, he’d simply find someone to blame for it — likely Jesse or his new distribution partners — and take them out in a fit of rage. The lesson he was supposed to learn would go right over his inflated head.

The other theory I had was that Gray Matter — the company Walt helped found many years ago — somehow finds they need Walter back into the business. Maybe there are some old patents with his name on them that require his participation, or the old founders name him a successor of sorts. He finds his real chance to be “out” of what he’s doing; to be a part of a multi-billion-dollar company. And just as he’s about to feel all cushy in his new, clean job, ghosts of his past come to take revenge on him. Instead of having been happy with what he had — which, I admit, was looking pretty bleak — and waiting patiently for what he deserved with Gray Matter, he “broke bad” and dug an immensely bigger hole for himself. I based this on Walt recently lamenting to Jesse, on his selling his share of Gray Matter for mere thousands of dollars. Definitely a more farfetched theory than the previous one.

I talked a bit with Bob about this last crazy theory, and he reminded me of the opening of this season’s premiere. In it we flash-forward to a year after the early events of the season, with Walt on his 52nd birthday. He’s got hair and a full beard, but the more important things to take from it:

  • He’s coughing and taking medication. One could easily deuce from this that Walter’s cancer is back; Skyler got her wish.
  • He’s using an alias and fake ID. He’s fully on the run. Deduction: Hank’s figured him out. The jig is up.
  • He’s got one hell of a big gun. There are only two things Walter would use that monster for. He’s either looking for revenge, or he’s looking to secure his business from someone. Likely with a canon that big, Walt’s up for taking out multiple targets. I sense his distribution relationship doesn’t go so well.
  • He’s alone. No Jesse. No Saul. In fact, Walt’s not wearing a wedding ring, though that could be part of his cover. Everyone’s either dead or has completely left him at that point.

What we get from that scene — and what we get from adding it to what Walt did to Mike in the last episode — is that it’s impossible to view Walter as redeemable. Seeing Walter become a “good guy” in all of this would be akin to seeing Vic Mackey of The Shield come out smelling like a rose. Things can’t end happily ever after for Walt, and viewers wouldn’t be satisfied if they did. We can look back at that opening scene of the season and feel pretty reassured about that.


Photo Credit: AMC

4 Responses to “Breaking Bad’s Walter White is irredeemable”

August 28, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Keith, are you the last person on the internet who hasn’t heard the Vince Gilligan (BB creator) quote about “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface”? Walt was never going to be redeemable. He is never going to come out of this as the “good guy”. He even tells Jesse that there’s already a spot for himself in hell!
And other than mentioning Walt killing Mike, it’s amazing how little of what you wrote actually has to do with this particular episode. You have hypothetical theories, you recap what we saw in the season premiere teaser, and you talk about the redeemability of Walt. I wish you’d focused your post on this specific episode instead. Lots happened.

August 28, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Oh believe me, I know of what Gilligan’s said about Walter. In fact, I asked him personally about it at SDCC this year.

Don’t consider this an “episode review.” I know it’s not that. I won’t be reviewing episodes in the traditional sense anymore. Consider this more a column about the show in general.

August 28, 2012 at 1:12 PM

“Walter White has quite possibly gone past the point of no return.”

Do you actually need to see Walter White grinding up live puppies as ingredients for his black-market Girl Scout cookie ring before you’ll commit? He poisoned Brock last season, for pity’s sake. At that point he had already crossed the the point of no return. The character himself contemplated the “when question” in “Fly” –season three.

We can all admit it now. It’s OK. Vince Gilligan has taken the show past the paradigm of the anti-hero as protagonist. Walter White has become the antagonist. Need someone’s soul to pray for, how about Hank and Gomie?

August 28, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Oh Brock smock! ;)

I still had some “hope” he’d be able to redeem himself somehow. Even if he came outright with penance to Jesse for it. Unlikely, yes, but I felt it possible.

What do Hank and Gomie need redemption from? Or are you just saying they’re as good as dead once Walt takes that gun to them?

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