Exegeting Breaking Bad


“The whole thing felt kinda shady, you know? Morality-wise?” – Badger

*Warning * Spoilers ahead.

Now that’s writing. I make a living off of closely examining the written word, looking for conventions, motifs, understanding background story and context, interpreting culture and re-interpreting back into culture; sometimes parsing the meaning of words and phrases here and there. Which is why I have long bemoaned the deplorable writing behind much of contemporary visual media to the point where I stopped watching TV altogether and passed up on major summer blockbusters. There is nothing significant to ponder on, to work with, to discuss, to exegete.

That changed when a friend recommended Breaking Bad a few months ago and I started watching it on Netflix. My immediate response? Revulsion. I always felt kind of down, a little depressed, disconcerted after watching it, but at the same time I was mesmerized by the story development. I kept waiting and watching for Walt to finally grow a pair, in the hopes that Skyler would one day break bad and maybe Hank too, and maybe they would become a huge crime family with ties into the DEA, operating right out of the valley. And then I found myself waiting and watching and wondering how in the world they were going to end this thing and that Walt – having become a true anti-hero – would have no choice but to atone for his sins with his own life. I’ve dabbled in writing plot lines before and have found difficulty in plot and character resolution so I braced myself for disappointment – but to this interpreter’s hard-earned pleasure, I found the resolution of the story – the finale – to be complete, tied-off, nothing left hanging, solid.

And then it’s been days since and I’m still pondering and reflecting; what did I just see? And why is it that something so morally reprehensible in subject matter (hence my revulsion above) is so darn compelling, and powerful? Just what about it was so redeeming? Badger is right after all, in what seems an almost-apology from the writers about the whole thing: “The whole thing felt kinda shady, you know? Morality-wise?”

So while I haven’t answers I do know Breaking Bad definitely leaves me with much to ponder about, to exegete, to discuss, to consider. I will have to lay it out here for now, as presently I am head-into another magnificent literary work, the Gospel of Mark, in particular, chaps 3 and 4 (and I am of the opinion that this too is another work that closed out brilliantly) – but here it is – perhaps something to work with for our next God on Film series.
  1. “Just get me home – I’ll do the rest” – intimation at redemption, divine or otherwise? (keys fall from above, allegedly attached to a Narcotics Anonymous emblem for “surrender”)
  2. Jesse’s refusal to pull the trigger for Walt one last time – even if it was on Walt himself – significance?
  3. What’s next for Jesse? Save Brock? I mean what chance does he really stand for recovery after all that?
  4. Jesse is the last man standing. Did they ever get that fly all those episodes back? (notice the way Jesse would wear his gas mask resembling a fly)
  5. The meaning of “Felina” – title of the last episode? (anagram for “FINALE”?)
  6. Saul’s changing wardrobe towards the end; trading his flamboyant colors for drab, khakis / slacks.
  7. Could we have one final scene of Walt in his underwear? Perhaps he was vulnerable enough at the end…
  8. And did Huell ever leave the apartment?

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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