Breaking Bad is one of the greatest American tragedies to ever have been written. A well-done tragedy rationality conquers ideas, it depicts a story where the thing that logically would happen does. The reasoning behind a well-done tragedy having this occur is due to the hero of the story having a damning flaw. This brings us to Walter White and his darker persona, Heisenberg. Is the reasoning behind Walt’s initial choice of cooking meth due to desperation or was it something more? Something more personal, like being bought out of a company he founded, a company that went out to become worth billions of dollars. He sold his share for $5,000. It is evident that this decision left Walt filled with hate. It was not just the money though either. Walt had a personal relationship with Gretchen Schwartz, as well as a professional one. The personal relationship failing is more than likely what led to the professional one becoming dysfunctional as well. To make matters worst, Gretchen went on to marry and build the company with Elliot Schwartz, a former partner, and friend of Walter’s. The entire Gray Matter situation is the birthplace of Heisenberg. After being diagnosed with cancer, the roots of Heisenberg begin to seep out. It starts in the clothing shop when he attacks the leader of a group of kids who are making fun of his son due to his cerebral palsy. Yet, it is the murder of Krazy-8 that marks the first appearance of Heisenberg. After realizing that Krazy-8 had intentions of killing him, Heisenberg appears and strangles him to death. When you combine this situation with what Walt did after Tuco nearly beat Jesse to death, one can see Heisenberg has taken shape. Using his chemistry knowledge to strike a deal with Tuco, after initiation a controlled explosion at his headquarters. These two situations are the keys to desires for death and carnage that Walt never experienced before. It is also what leads to the rise that follows.
It takes over the course of a year and a half for Jesse Pinkman, Walt’s partner in the meth business, to call Walter out for tendencies that are manipulative. The dynamic between Walt and Jesse is a complicated one. Walt was Jesse’s chemistry teacher when Jesse was in high school, hence leading to a student and mentee roles being there from the start. Throughout the entire series, Jesse refers to Walt as “Mr.White” which is a label that indicates that Jesse on some level feels respect and/or deference towards his former chemistry teacher. What makes the relationship dynamic more complicated is Walt becoming something of a father figure to Jesse. Jesse’s parents basically have disowned him due to his drug issues. Underneath all of the manipulation, one gets the sense that Walt is also trying to have Jesse develop a sense of feeling special. That he has something that is unique which contributes to their partnership. One of the most intriguing things of Breaking Bad is Walt’s inability to admit to his carefully planned intentions that he hides behind innocuous illocutionary acts to Jesse. It is evident when Jesse tells Walt to basically drop the act and just ask him to do him a favor, just to tell him that Walt needs Jesse to leave town. It happens again after Jesse is saved by Walt from the group of white supremacists. Walt slides a gun towards Jesse, stating that he wants this moment. To kill Walt for all of his evil deeds, especially allowing his girlfriend Jane to choke herself to death and poisoning a young boy. Jesse once again proclaims for Walt to just say what he really means. That Walt wants to die and for Jesse to kill him. Jessie does not do it, ultimately driving away but not before having an exchange with Walt that illustrates the unique relationship between the two. It is the illustration of Walt truly caring for Jesse, yet seeing himself as deserving of more respect. Of holding more power.
After Skyler, Walt’s wife figures out what is going on with him she starts to develop a theory. This theory comes to light after Walter suggests to Hank that Heisenberg is still out there. That Gale was not the genius behind the whole ordeal. Skyler suggests that Walt securely wants to get caught, as a means to rid himself of the stress associated with the criminal world. This theory is instantly shut down by Walt with the use of mockery and sarcasm to express the truth that is his definition of reality. Hers is completely wrong in his eyes. Furthermore, it is during this speech that Walt brings attention to Skyler the transformation he has gone through. He is an entirely different person and he knows that when he asks Skyler “Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see?” The theme of Walt achieving a higher status of “power” correlates with the theme of death. Every time he is able to gain a new seat of power, people die. Walt is for the first time feeling that he is getting the recognition he felt that he always deserved for his vast knowledge of chemistry. Aligning himself with drug kingpin, Gustavo Fring, Walter is able to build the empire he felt was his with Gray Matters. Gus was already running a massive operation, successfully for numerous years, that was expecting to go worldwide. Walter’s “sky blue” recipe became a thing of legend. Heisenberg enabled Walt to reach a level of infamy that he could never have dreamed of. It was also what he wanted though.
The blue meth is his brand, which is why he gets violently angry when he finds out that his partner Jesse Pinkman was using his recipe without him. Seeing it as an affront to his good name. It is Walt’s vast knowledge of chemistry through an extensive education, lots of research experience, and a career in science education that saves himself and Jesse after the killing of Gale. Within disciplines, naturally developed is special languages. Just like a linguistic code, these play two roles. For outsiders of the language, the individual speaking is an elitist. For the individuals using the language, it is like a secret handshake for insiders. In this particular instance, it is Victor who is the outsider in Walt’s eyes, due to Victor not understanding how the chemistry works behind the process. Walt begins using words that he knows Victor will not understand. It is a display of his remarkable knowledge in front of a businessman who is basically choosing an employee and whom to kill. It is beautiful how Gus prevents Walt from receiving any insight into his intentions. By not uttering a single word, Gus is able to preserve the enigma surrounding the murder that is about to be carried out. It is the silence that makes Walt feel in a position of weakness and vulnerability, leaving him to beg rather than argue his stance. After some time Walt realizes that he is going to have to get rid of Gus in order to not only survive but to also protect his family. He does so by using his knowledge. He is able to kill Gus in one of the most daring and impressive ways, with an ally that was almost more unlikely then Walt’s cancer staying in remission.
After becoming “king” of the meth business, there is barely an ounce of Walter left. It is when Walt sanctions the killing of Drew Sharp, a young innocent bystander of a train heist, along with the killing of Mike Ehrmantraut that finalizes the transformation of Walter White to Heisenberg. However amiable or nice he may come off, it is all part of his game. Using people consistently. Walter’s fatal flaw is that regardless of how dark his acts may be, he still fights with the idea that what he is doing is helping his family. It’s the struggle he has of trying not to be the person he wants to be. Ironically, the downfall of Heisenberg comes by pure chance and his own doing. Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent, Hank Schrader comes across a book that was a gift from one of Walt’s former associates. Like in all tragedies, the thing with a small percent chance of happening does. Hank is quickly able to piece together everything, yet has no evidence to show for it. It becomes a back and forth between Walt and Hank, culminating in Walt’s lie being undone. The light has exposed Heisenberg. Walter White did not just “break bad”; his transformation was similar to chemistry. It was a process of change, change that led to a transformation that is complicated, inconsistent, and one similar in a way to anybody who has experienced change. Heisenberg’s run comes to an end in the woods of New Hampshire after losing everything, leaving behind the broken remains of his actions. Although he is a destroyed man who has nothing left, Walt comes to a realization of what he has to do. It marks the first time were Walt uses Heisenberg in order to get redemption, not as a means of helping Walt get his way. In the pilot episode of the series, Walt proclaims that chemistry is “the study of change.” In that aspect, Breaking Bad is a form of chemistry. The change involved is not a simple matter though, like “growth, then decay, then transformation. Before Hank is killed he states to Walt “I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know who I’m talking to.” He was right. The thing is Hank was not talking to “Heisenberg” but Walter White.