Why We Love Breaking Bad, Reason #5: The “Fascination of the Abomination” (Mr. White is Not Your Friend)

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Sometime last week I decided to change up one of my Reasons for loving Breaking Bad. Why? Because my original Reason #3, “The Primal Urge of Human Pride,” seemed too similar to “The Beauty of Human Frailty” (Reason #1). And also because I had to admit to myself that the show, and its protagonist Walter White, had something like an unhealthy hold on me. Liking “the bad guy” is frighteningly easy, but analyzing why we like him is something we’re not always willing to do. So, finally, with the stake in my hand, the salt and matches in my pocket, I set forth to deal once and for all with this horror show—what Marlow, in Heart of Darkness, calls the “fascination of the abomination,” which is my Reason #5. (This piece is a little different. You’ve been warned…)

Did you get all warm and fuzzy when Walt said to the drug dealer, “Say my name” (5.7)?

Oh, c’mon: you smiled that sort of “hehe, gosh darnit, you gotta hand it to him, guy’s got some stones” smile when you heard that. Didn’t you? You know you did.

I did, too.

I keep coming back to this show: Breaking Bad. Over and over again. The other day, walking down the street, and thinking about this obsession (with season 5 rounding out, the stakes high, and the steaks char-freakin’-broiled): “Another episode,” I said to myself. “Mmm, yes: another episode”—and this is the way I put it: “with my FRIENDS.”

Honest.

You ever put it that way? That is, about a show you like, where you keep coming back to familiar faces, and they become like family, like friends?

Well, you know what, friend? It’s a mistake in this bleak world called Breaking Bad.

You—meaning I—just made friends with the wrong guys. Wrong guy. Singular. You became enamoured with his charm, his charismatic personality, his straight-toothed smile and tooth-combed goatee, and his promise of legacy. You, this innocent, came along like some green punk kid who’s watched too many damn gangster movies. And you made a mistake.

These guys aren’t your friends. (Walt, and those neo-Nazi guys he starts consorting with.) You hang out every weekend (or perhaps every night, if you’re like me), and you just assume that they want you here. But you’re convenient: you’re an audience. They knew you’d be compelled. That was the whole plan, bozo. And you totally fell for it. Well, actually, something like 2.5 million people fell for it. And they (meaning you, friend, the audience) say things like, “Oh, he’s sooo bad,” and, “Man, he’s a real bad-ass there,” or, “Damn, dude, that’s hardcore.” And they—or he, meaning Walt—says, “Yes, I am. So why are you here?”

Whoah.

Didn’t expect that, did you—all nestled up in your chair or sofa with your Doritos and Labatt Blue Dry (if you’re like me)? So you discover for yourself that he’s not your friend. This TV bad guy who knew all along that he was really a bad person—above and beyond whatever category of “bad” TV creators come up with. Walter White, I’m saying, stopped the cameras, and walked right over to Vince Gilligan, grabbed him by the throat, and commanded him: “Say my name. Say my f–ing name.” He seethed that out, okay? (And AMC, like me, had to bleep out all that swearing, but trust me on this one: Walter said it.)

His teeth were perfectly straight right there, and the words slipped through, like a poisonous gas. There was a perilous sound, anyway, like mortality and morality leaking out of a flesh dummy. You look at it (now, so late in the game, so late in the show, rounding out—as I’ve already said—in season 5), and you think: how can that be human? Vince thought that, too, and then kept rolling the cameras, compelled like the audience, but driven (like a maverick journalist in El Salvador) to show the “truth.”

And you were there, too. And so was I. We both watched the humanity leak out. And then there was the panic: we’re somewhere in the background (on that cozy, crumb-covered chair), thinking we might just get out of it, slip away unnoticed. Like, in our enthusiasm, we begged to come along in the car, wanting to be witness to this big “move.” But no. We were never important.

Listen: do you think that they’d hesitate for one second to dispose of us if we weren’t in for the ride, like, all the way? Pop. They’d shoot us in the belly before we could answer. Then, as we were crawling around on the ground, the pain so severe, right in the stomach: so much pain…  Pop. Right in the back of the head, so that the dirt was sprayed with our brains. Dental records might not even help here. No one would ever find us: Walt would see to that, with his goddamn hydrofluoric acid.

And that’s where we made the mistake. We went there—into the desert, with only bleached bones and a pristine white smile, a snake smile. A bald ghoul. What did you think would happen?

Mr. White is not your friend.

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3 comments

  1. Hello Adam,

    I will be honest. I have a short attention span but this post is beautiful analysis and goes to show that you loved this show and previous episodes must have been a great read.

    I liked Jesse the most, not the Chemist. We all have our quirks.

    Breaking Bad is once in a decade type of show I guess. I might be wrong.

    Have a lovely day ahead.

    Love and light ❤

    Anand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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