Two week, I started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix (hey, my subscription’s just sitting there.. I had only had a perfunctory interest in Malcolm in the Meth Lab because it was on the same network as The Walking Dead. The 8 minute episode recap I saw drained me; I could only imagine how much moral weight a full episode, much less a 13-episode season contained. But the show’s blending of a liberal and a conservative understandings of evil intrigued me.
BB is partially typical liberal satire on middle America, and a liberal understanding that evil is created by one’s circumstances. The conservative dopes in the sticks want to judge us, says Hollywood? A mega-villain can just pop out of the cul-de-sac in average-joe-New Mexico if he gets cacer. But what makes the show great is a conservative understanding evil. Creator Vince Gilligan admitted that one of best decisions he and his writers made early in the series was to make Walt driven by blinding pride, so much so that he cannot accept help from others to pay for his cancer treatments (see the video below). Otherwise, according to Gilligan, it would have just been clumsy Dr. Tim Whately, bumbling to hold on to his drug money. In spite of this, BB was in fact fifteenth on a 2010 list of favorite shows of democrats, mainly because its most dominant theme is perversity-in-the-suburbs. (No doubt, many democrats also watched BB because of AMC’s other hit show, Mad Men, which was democrats second favorite show and their top scripted show.)
It is fascinating to consider the corruption of a man who says to his partner in crime, “Do you believe that there’s a hell? We’re pretty much going there.” The way Walt charges toward the blackness in front of him just shows how much nihilism has taken over American culture. We run toward judgment and indulge in pain, even if we admit what the consequences will be.