Over the course of Breaking Bad’s run, we’ve seen the show do the unthinkable and morph its main protagonist, Walter Hartwell White, into its main antagonist, Heisenberg. We’ve grown to hate Walt, a truly selfish and miserable human being, while hoping that one of his various foes, be it Hank, Jesse, or Skyler, would bring about his downfall. However, in the build up to the series finale, the showrunners seem to have changed course once again, and it looks like they may be leaving us no choice but to root for Walt.
At the start of the series, Walter White was a meek, unassuming high school chemistry teacher who had just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He reluctantly went into the meth-cooking business in order to provide for his family after his death. He was someone whom we could easily root for, even if he was misguided. But as the series progress, Walt changed. His motives changed, and so, seemingly, did his mentality. We learned more about his history with Graymatter Industries, how he felt that he had been cheated out of being successful, and saw how being "Heisenberg" made him feel like he was finally reaching his full potential. He became ruthless in maintaining his identity as drug kingpin numero uno, and saw no problem with standing by while his partner’s girlfriend choked to death, poisoning children, or working with neo-Nazis to orchestrate the murder of ten witnesses.
But something funny has happened in these final episodes. Walt has actually been trying to be good (for the most part). He has genuinely seemed opposed to ever cooking meth again. With his police-tapped call to Skyler, he did what he could to try and make it look like she was ignorant of everything he’d done (even after she tried to stab him), rather than trying to pin the responsibility of his crimes on her, which would be the Heisenberg thing to do. He was so opposed to having Hank killed that he was willing to go to prison and give up all of his money, the two things Heisenberg feared the most, in exchange for letting Hank live. And he was even planning to turn himself in after seeing that Walter Jr. no longer cared for him, largely due to his role in Hank’s death.
Walter seemed resigned to his fate, at least until he saw his old Graymatter business partners telling Charlie Rose how insignificant Walt’s role was with the company, when in actuality he had been very instrumental in its founding. This seemed to awaken Heisenberg, and when Gretchen mentioned that the sweet, caring Walt that she knew was gone forever, Walt took off, evading his fate. So is he returning to Albuquerque to prove once and for all that the good guy Walt is dead? Or, is he going back to prove Gretchen wrong and show that the good guy in him is still alive after all?
Heading into the finale, we know a couple of things thanks to the show’s flash-forwards. We know Walt acquires an assault rifle, and we know he retrieves his hidden vial of ricin. The obvious target for his vengeance would be Jack, Todd, and the rest of the Aryan Brotherhood, and in that scenario, how could we not root for Walt? If there’s one thing that’s more evil than Heisenberg, it’s Nazis. Walt wants revenge for Hank’s death, and he probably wants his money back, too, because he knows he’s living on borrowed time and still subscribes to the fantasy that his family will get the money.
If the target of Walt’s vengeance is Graymatter Industries, well then, you’re on your own, Walt. We couldn’t see ourselves rooting for him in that case, and it would be pretty fitting for him to go out all Heisenberg-style, being really petty and awful. But we really have a hunch that he goes full-hero in the finale against the Nazis and Ted Bundy, err, Todd, and when it’s all said and done, we’re going to hate ourselves for crying when Walt dies.
We mean, he has to die, right?
Do you think you can root for Walt again, or is there no way? Sound off in the comments below!
Catch the Breaking Bad finale this Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.