***SPOILERS: Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the finale.
Some of my Christian friends have refused to watch Breaking Bad because they claim that it’s a show that glorifies evil. But of course, they are very wrong.
Clearly, those judgments have been made without having watched the show. If anything, Breaking Bad is one of the few shows today that makes it clear that no one gets away with anything. While Walter White may think that by succeeding in the meth business he’s becoming a better man, the audience can clearly see how it destroys everyone around him. Walt’s ascent is really a descent, but he’s just too blinded by pride to see it.
He starts out as a likable character, as a man going through a twisted midlife crisis, but by the end, Walter White has become a monster.
As creator Vince Gilligan told the New York Times, “If there’s a larger lesson to ‘Breaking Bad,’ it’s that actions have consequences.” Gilligan is not a Christian, although he’s not an atheist either. Still, he longs for the same thing that believers do. “I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something.” (The Dark Art of Breaking Bad)
Gilligan continues. “I’m pretty much agnostic at this point in my life. But I find atheism just as hard to get my head around as I find fundamental Christianity. Because if there is no such thing as cosmic justice, what is the point of being good? That’s the one thing that no one has ever explained to me. Why shouldn’t I go rob a bank, especially if I’m smart enough to get away with it? What’s stopping me?”
That’s what Breaking Bad gives us, a perfect example of the wages of sin. Walter White doesn’t get away with it. There’s no ambiguity in the writing. Vince Gilligan wants us to see how monstrous Walter White has become. Walt doesn’t think twice about murdering someone, he doesn’t hesitate in poisoning a child (though he lives), and he doesn’t even flinch when Jane is choking and he could have saved her.
Because of his actions, he loses his family, the one thing he treasured the most. Because of him, Jesse loses two people that he cares about deeply. Because of him, Jesse ends up as a slave to a group of neo-Nazis. Because of him, Hank Schrader and his partner get killed somewhere in the New Mexico desert. The list goes on.
There’s no glorification of violence here. There’s no unrealistic portrayal of the consequences of sin. Everyone that Walter White came in contact with ended up either dead or severely scarred. Although Walter White does partially redeem himself in the end, he is too far gone and he doesn’t feel sorry for the things he did.
After Jesse Pinkman kills Gale in cold blood, he goes to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to find some solace. He can’t tell people exactly what he did, so instead he says that he killed a dog for no reason. The dog didn’t do anything to him. It wasn’t even a bad dog. He just killed it. One of the ladies in the group starts accusing him and the counselor interrupts her saying, “We’re not here to sit in judgment.” Jesse can’t take it anymore.
“Why not? Why not? … If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what’s it all mean? What’s the point? … So no matter what I do, hooray for me because I’m a great guy? It’s all good? No matter how many dogs I kill, I just—what, do an inventory, and accept?”
Jesse understands that absolution isn’t that easy. There has to be judgment. If Jesse Pinkman weren’t a fictional character, I wish someone would have told him about grace and what Jesus accomplished on the cross.