BREAKING BAD REWATCH, Pt. 1: Justifications

Posted: July 2, 2013 by mwerntz in Myles, Television

While I work on other things that don’t demand that much attention, I’ve taken to keeping the Ipad open and doing an impromptu BREAKING BAD rewatch. I had thought about waiting until the season wraps up this Fall before starting in on the series again, but I just couldn’t help myself. The cookie jar was just right there….

One of the great debates among viewers of the show is exactly when Walt “breaks bad”. The phrase itself is used by Jesse Pinkman to describe Walt in the pilot episode, not as a statement of fact, but in a completely incredulous way. Walt, in his mid-50s, is a high school chemistry teacher who has discovered that he has Stage 3 cancer, and can’t pay for the treatment. At least, this is the initial justification (more on this in a moment). So, he approaches his former student, Jesse Pinkman, who he happens upon in circumstances that lead Walt to believe (correctly) that Jesse knows how to make methamphetamine. The two begin to cook, and hilarity ensues.

And by hilarity, I mean people start dying almost immediately.


Walt enters into this scenario for plausible reasons: seeking to pay for cancer treatments, and (later) to set his family up financially after he has died from cancer. But even this justification is an addition to the first: caring for his family as a justification only appears in a later episode. The initial justification–paying for cancer treatments and for his wife’s pregnancy–grows into the second: setting his family up. Without spoiling anything for those among us who haven’t seen this yet (Gator/Hamster/Kevin), this justification changes…or rather, it blossoms. Without leaving the initial justification behind, the justification for Walt’s meth production changes to include more grandiose reasoning, more high-flying justification. And this, I think, is what makes his justification so interesting. In other films where people “break bad”, betraying their sense of judgment or morals, the justification changes, as in, they begin with one justification for their act, which becomes abandoned eventually for an entirely different justification.

Any other favorite films/shows where a central character undertakes a morally reprehensible act for seemingly good reasons? I’m trying to figure something out here.

  1. Bo says:

    The second season of The Killing, once the killer was revealed, dealt with one justification leading to another and another. Like dominoes. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

  2. Kiki Malone says:

    Buffy started slaying because she was a born slayer and her watcher revealed to her her “destiny” to protect mankind from the vampires and undead and demonic realm, but then Buffy started to genuinely enjoy fighting in tight pants, and then the shit got really real.

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