Heisenberg’s Road to Hell: Final Thoughts on “Breaking Bad”


In the earlier seasons of “Breaking Bad,” Walter White is watching “Scarface” with his son Walt Jr. and loving every minute of it. “Scarface” is of course about a young Cuban immigrant who found power and rose to it, only to lose the love and respect of his wife and little sister. Tony Montana is nothing but a dry husk of a man who goes down gunning, and dies face first in his fountain. As Walter White ascended to power from Mr. White the meth cooker, to Heisenberg the blue meth kingpin, we saw that gradual rise to supremacy and the immediate fall from grace.

White always had the book smarts to cook amazing meth, but he never had the street smarts to build a crime empire. As Jessie stated in the final half of season five “He’s smarter than you are, he’s luckier than you are.” Walt’s own sense of hubris comes from his ability to out think people around him. So he thinks. In reality, Walt has relied on nothing but luck and luck alone to make him a millionaire in the drug industry and kill his competitors. The first scene in the final episode of “Breaking Bad” almost signifies that Walt’s well of luck has run dry. He tries to hotwire his car, and surely enough when he brings down the sun visor, his keys fall right in to his hand. This is no longer his dumb luck, this is fate welcoming him to his final act. This is his time to die, and he has no choice to but to act out his fall from grace. The entirety of “Breaking Bad” was about an impotent man filled with regret who found new life in his ability to produce a product everyone wanted. He became a commodity.

But the higher to power he found himself, the realization became inevitable that he’d built an empire, but could not brag or gloat about it. In the first season, Walt goes to his old work partner’s house, and envies his large house, array of friends, and a birthday party filled with expensive gifts. By Season five Walt has built an amazing empire, but he just can’t speak about it. Walt’s ultimate run of good luck ends when he becomes Icarus and flies too close to the sun. He associated himself with the Aryan nation, he assumed he could control them, and surely enough he sought to become Gus. At the end of the day, he couldn’t be Gus. In the end, he was barely at the fame of Saul Goodman. Inevitably the bad luck would catch up with Saul, this we know to be true. Saul knew when to fold his hand and leave town. He’d end up in a piss hole, working for minimum wage.

And by fate’s hand, someday he’d likely die from a painful disease, or be shot down in a grocery store by a junkie. Who knows? In the end, Walt gets what he wants. He bests his enemies, he frees his best friend, and he’s able to claim the fame as Heisenberg. But by besting his enemy he takes himself out, freeing his best friend leaves him alone, and by the time he’s able to become a worldwide celebrity, he’d be dead. He’d be incapable of enjoying or savoring any of the sweet rewards. He showed the Aryan nation his “little friend,” packed in his trunk, but like Scarface, he was taken out in an effort to show them who was boss. Walt lived his life contributing nothing of real worth to society, and in the end he died contributing nothing of worth to society. He took out a small band of the Aryan nation. Big deal. As we saw in the show, every time someone of power died, someone even worse would eventually pop up.

So Walt basically accomplished nothing. Even when bleeding to death and dying of lung cancer, Walt was still trying to control his fate by pleading with Jessie to shoot him in revenge. It would be a wonderful way to die as a martyr, a hero, and it’d be a merciful release. But surely enough Jessie didn’t offer him that courtesy. Walt didn’t deserve to die like Hank did. Hank sacrificed his life and died brutally in an attempt to stop a vicious drug dealer. No matter if the cops found Hank and Gomez buried in the hole in the desert, Gomez and Hank would be admired, worshipped, and thought of as prime examples of law enforcement for decades. Walt didn’t die in that reflection. Walt died beside the cold sterile machines. Once again, he was book smart but not street smart. He devised a wonderful mechanism to gun down the brotherhood, but he never figured out ricochets, thus his luck ran out. Fate came for him. And his time was out. He died still the short sighted impotent man who wanted everything and never quite realized that everything was in fact his wife, son, daughter, and close brother and sister in law.

He didn’t have a fortune, or good health, but he had their undying support and affection. Only when he re-visited Skylar, and took one final look at Holly and Flynn did he realize that he should have appreciated the riches he had all along. But Holly would never know who he was, Flynn wished for his death in the second to last episode of the series, and Skylar hated Walt dearly. Walt was his ultimate nemesis from episode one. He spent five years rationalizing every single move he made, from killing Mike, to allowing Jessie’s girlfriend to die, right down to Hank being murdered in cold blood. Like every good villain, he doesn’t consider himself a villain. Like every good villain, he began life with good intentions. Those good intentions became a means to an end. And they led down a road to hell littered with bodies, and blood. At the end of the day, Walt died like a chump. Much like Scarface. Scarface was no hero, nor a martyr. He died protecting his selfish materialistic assets. And in the end, Walt sought out to protect his selfish materialistic assets. Walt told himself that his actions were all just a means to an end.

Scarface sought the American dream and died a poor immigrant. Walt sought the American dream, and died a withered, sick, pathetic man. What Jessie did throughout the five years cooking with Walter were horrible, criminal, and immoral, but deep down the good ultimately won. He spent season three wallowing in self pity and regret, and in the end of season five he couldn’t live with himself any longer for allowing Walt to go free and live. Jessie could go on to restart his life and perhaps redeem himself and change his fate. Walt dealt his hand long ago, and he spent it alone, underground, and clinging for one last shred of remorse. Show creator Vince Gilligan said that there is no ambiguity about the end of the series, and the final fate of Walter White. “Breaking Bad” is one of the few shows to end on such a pitch perfect note. It’s a complete story, a tragic story, and the story of the search for a legacy that led to carnage. It’s the story of how a regular man fought every nemesis, and never realized that his own worst enemy was himself.