ALERT: Spoilers ahead.
It will take some time for those of us who watched Breaking Bad to absorb the layers of that show, and the near-perfect ending of the series, aired this week. When the show began, Walter White was a high school chemistry teacher, struggling with cancer and mounting bills — and, we soon discovered, a tragic personality flaw that led to him missing out on being a rock star chemist and billionaire. Jesse Pinkman was a ne’er do well dropout druggie with a penchant for nothing in particular, except maybe a quick buck.
When the show ended this week, much had changed. It turned out that Walt was not just a guy who started out a couple degrees off course and got swept into a dark underworld that he couldn’t escape. In a final and belated bit of self-awareness, he tells his former spouse, Skylar, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was, really … I was alive.” Previously, he’d told himself and anyone who would listen that he was doing it for his family. But he wasn’t.
And, as viewers, we began to see that over time. Walt had several opportunities to extricate himself from the drug trade, and do so cleanly, but every time he chose to stay in. And the longer he stayed in, the more people got sucked into the gravitational black hole that was his life. In the end, dozens of people died because of Walt. Skylar was reduced to a chain-smoking bag of bones. And Jesse…