Heisenberg: A genius, a madman, a little bit lucky

SPOILERS for the entire series of Breaking Bad below.

• • •

Chemistry is, well technically, chemistry is the study of matter.
But I prefer to see it as the study of change.

Walter White in season one, setting up everything we are about to see.

• • •

Walt rolls a black barrel housing roughly $11 million through the dusty New Mexico desert. His DEA-agent-brother-in-law is dead. He blames Jesse for giving Hank the information that led him to his death.

But Walt has always been the architect.

This is the same place it all started. You can even see Walt’s old khakis in the middle of the desert—the pair that blew away in the very first episode.

All the while, this song plays.

Had a job a year ago,
Had a little home,
Now I’ve got no place to go,
guess I’ll have to roam.
Take my true love by her hand,
Lead her through the town,
Say goodbye to everyone,
Goodbye to everyone.
Every wind that blows boys,
Every wind that blows,
Carries me to some new place,
Heaven only knows.
Take my true love by her hand,
Lead her through the town,
Say goodbye to everyone,
Goodbye to everyone.

Walt’s one true love: Power. His power is in that heavy barrel. $11,000,000 worth of power. Worthless power.

This wasn’t a song written for the show. This was a song written over 50 years ago. Yet it perfectly summed up that moment.

• • •

A poem from 1818 about the fall of leaders and their empires.
Walt’s story is as old as greed.

In episode 514, titled Ozymandias, Jesse is finally a dead man in Walt’s eyes. After watching his brother-in-law get shot in the head, he’s ready to watch the same thing happen to his surrogate son. A son that he’s been closer to than his own for awhile.

Later in the episode, Walt berates Skyler on the phone. He knows the cops are listening. He’s trying to exonerate her as much as he can. He’s become Heisenberg because Walter White can no longer save his family. Walter White no longer has a family.

His voice—cold, calculated, and down-right evil. His face—crying and in pain. This was the last good thing he could do for his family.

Bryan Cranston’s performance as Walter White is more than award-worthy, it’s legendary.

In the end, Breaking Bad is really just a show about a science teacher that becomes a really good actor.—Dan Trachtenberg

• • •

Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle “states that it is impossible to determine simultaneously both the position and velocity of an electron or any other particle with any great degree of accuracy or certainty.”

Walt has been spiraling out of control since the day he told Bogdan to shove it. His choice of Heisenberg as a pseudonym confirms Walt’s genius, hubris, and dumb luck.

He’s never really been in control. His actions have always been a reaction to uncontrollable events. He gets cancer. Tuco. Gus. Mike. Jesse. They all had him figured out a lot earlier than they realized.

And that’s what Breaking Bad did so well. We all saw what he went through, but we also remember from where he came. His actions were wrong. His intent wasn’t entirely evil.

Seems like everything up to now has been prologue. 4 seasons of origin story, now we are in it!—Jeff Cannata

A world was established. The consequences of his actions had been coming for a long time.

• • •

Breaking Bad will go down as one of the greatest pieces of drama in any medium. It started with series creator Vince Gilligan. The writing team he put together was nothing short of brilliant.

For as brilliant as the writing was—the crew was outstanding.

Director of Photography Michael Slovis shot television with more skill and attention to detail than some movies with budgets over $100 million. The editing was top notch. Kelley Dixon, one of the show’s editors, won an Emmy this year. Deservedly so.

And the cast. Anna Gunn—as Skyler White—went to hell and back. Betsy Brandt transformed Marie from a purple-loving kleptomaniac to a person that felt like she lived in the real world.

Dean Norris—as the tough as nails Hank—went out the only way he could, with his dignity in tact. No one wanted Hank to die, not even Walt in his lowest moments. But no one wanted to see him beg or side with the bad guy.

And Jesse. Jesse. They were going to kill him off in season one, can you believe that? But Aaron Paul brought something special. He took a junkie loser and made him a lovable, if misguided, soul. You always wanted to see him turn his life around.

But sometimes the study of change just leads you back to the same place.

Andy Newman