It’s fairly easy for the television industry to downplay morality in the messaging of it’s programs. To endorse a God, a religion, or even a moral based belief system directly or indirectly, tends to be politically incorrect and often leads to more backlash than support.
However, Breaking Bad undoubtedly expresses the traditional Christian value: that none of us are inescapable from our sins and that we all have to pay a price, regardless of our situations.
The background of the show is very complex & dark. Walter, the main character of the show, is an overqualified high school chemistry teacher, who falls into a series of unfortunate events. Formerly the nice guy that we see him to be in the show’s flashbacks, we quickly notice that he is willing to change and challenge everything, including his own morality to provide what’s necessary. After Walter finds out he has terminal cancer and an unexpected pregnancy on his hands, he untraditionally turns to cooking methamphetamine in order to pay the bills.
Which poses significant moral questions, one of them being: What would you do to keep yourself and those you that you love in a position to survive? By helping others with our sin, can there be justification for such actions? The answer that the television shows us is that when necessary, all possibilities are open, but none without consequences. However, to follow the possible opportunity of cooking methamphetamine to provide for his family, it’s obvious Walter suffers with one serious moral question: be the bad guy, or the good guy? He struggles with this throughout the show, increasing the gap between the good of his character and the evil of his character. No longer the same man, he begins to wear two different hats (each are fedoras). We see this when he falls so far into his sin that his own self convincing of his crime causes him to say “I’m not in the drug business, I’m in the empire business.” When someone attempts to confront him.
As the show progresses, Walter’s character becomes stronger, believes himself to be more invincible, more justified, just like the sinner who becomes more blinded by his sin the deeper he falls into it. However the deeper he goes, it becomes more obvious that he cannot escape his sins as a man and that ultimately there is a final judgement. The judgement being not by the DEA or by other law enforcement, but a higher judgement, a spiritual one.
Ultimately, the show shows us that we are all accountable for our actions…and the producers have no problem making sure that the characters of the show sit in their own judgement episode after episode.
The show’s apparent and indirect presentation of the Old Testament, is largely hidden, until it comes out in a full frontal assault in the character of Jesse, Walt’s partner. Jesse cannot deal with his sin and recognizes that he simply can’t take inventory of his crimes and move on, there must be something more and that the source of this ‘more’ is what is causing him to feel guilty and broken. For him not to feel guilty, or any guilt at all, would remove the entire concept of a higher judgement from the show. However, the writers clearly put that in there to imply a higher form of judgement. The show’s writers have created a graceless universe, in which Jesse is forced to wallow in and endure through until his number is called.
The last and most important philosophical aspect of Breaking Bad is the obvious embracement of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, a German Philosopher, who prided himself as one of the founding thinkers in the existentialist category of what it meant “to be.”
Heidegger was of the philosophy that we are all taking one step closer to death everyday,that we are dots on the timeline and that every step takes us a little bit closer to our own end. We see this both in the timeline style of the show as well as the quick and tragic events that fill it’s script. The most obvious part being that all of the characters get a little bit closer to their own destruction as the show progresses.
If this is the case, that we are all flying closer towards death with each and every day, and that we are all accountable for our actions in some spiritual form, shouldn’t we embrace every opportunity to cleanse ourselves from our wrong doings before an inevitable judgement from a higher being? The answer is a clear yes and the show, despite its graphic content, does just that of being an indirect yet, a critical messaging tool for the cause of Christ and his redemptive love.