Mike (Jonathan Banks) is gone. And Walt (Bryan Cranston) killed him. Breaking Bad has unraveled into a game of every man for himself. And based on the preview of next week’s episode (which is the final episode until the series concludes next summer), this looks like it means trouble for everyone.
C.S. Lewis, who calls pride the’ Great Sin’ also writes, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”
Walter White has become the living, breathing embodiment of pride. As he compares his ‘product’ to the talent of the New York Yankees and the classic purity of a Coca-Cola, Walt demands that we say his name and deem him king.
As Mike breathes his last breath, Walt apologizes, not for what he’s done, but because he remembers another way out in which everyone could still have ‘won.’
Walt tells Jesse (Aaron Paul), “Jesse, what we do – being the best at something – is a very rare thing. You don’t just toss something like that away. You want to squander that potential? Your potential? Why?”
And he tells Todd, “Give your full effort and attention. Listen and apply yourself. Do that, and we might have a fighting chance.”
It’s the competition, the challenge, and the potential, that inspires him. It’s the possibility of more, of better, of the fight. Striving is the only thing keeping Walt going.
And apparently this striving for potential justifies everything.
Even if the consequence is hell. Especially if the consequence is hell. Walt tells Jesse he is not going to lie down and wait until hell arrives. And anything less than the best counts as lying down according to Walt’s calculations.
Walt’s logic is flawed though. Because it relies on the the cowardice, evil, and ignorance of others. What happens when fear, death, power, and money fail to function as lures in Walt’s scheme? When Mike decides to die in peace? When Jesse is out, with or without his money?
The illusion of power and pride produces a festering evil that has systematically destroyed Walt’s job, his relationships, his family, his moral compass, and his own humanity. Walt believes he is “pretty much going” to hell and seems perfectly content. What Walt fails to see in all his calculating, though, is that he’s already there.
Daniel Defoe, the prolific and versatile English novelist, said “Pride is the first peer and president of hell.”
I don’t know if Walt is the king Heisenberg he sees himself as, but it’s hard to deny that he reigns as president of some sort of hell.
If hell is the choice of pride, may everyone else choose to get out. To embody another reality. To live – and to rest – in peace.