I watched the first season of Breaking Bad over the weekend, virtually uninterrupted and totally captivated by the awesomeness of Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
Walter is a high school Chemistry teacher whose wife, students and boss at the car wash job walk all over him. His mentality and demeanor take a 180 degree-turn once he finds out that he has inoperable lung cancer. In order to provide for his family – wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), son with cerebral palsy, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), and unborn daughter – and to pay for his chemotherapy sessions, Walter uses his brilliance in crystallography to produce methamphetamine. It is not just any run-of-the-mill meth; it is 99.1% pure meth. In his first rodeo as a meth artist. Walter’s impressive meth catapults him from a nobody to be the unnamed and unseen but highly respected kingpin in his side of Albuquerque.
Season 1 of Breaking Bad follows Walter’s fall from grace and his meteoric rise as an anti-hero protagonist. That alone is love. But there are more to Walter White than crystal meth and Stage IIIA cancer.
- Walter White is a Chemistry god.
What I learned from my seven years of chemistry eons ago seems useless compared to what Walter White taught me in seven episodes of Breaking Bad. During that time, aside from learning nonsuperimposable images of organic compounds (lesson I abhorred), I learned not to “apply heat to a volumetric flask” because that is what the “round bottom boiling flask, 5000 milliliters” for. But Walter taught me so much more. He taught me that I could survive perilous situations (such as getting kidnapped) in a meth lab. “Red phosphorous in the presence of moisture and accelerated by heat yields phosphorous hydride. Phosphine gas. One good whiff and poof.” All I need to do is find a meth lab.
- Walter White is a magician.
Walter White creates something out of nothing, and he also makes things disappear. By things, I mean an adult human body. Walter leans on “chemical disincorporation” to do that. Chemical disincorporation involves dissolution of human bodies in strong acid, hydrofluoric for example, in polyethylene containers stamped with a triangle with LDPE at the bottom. Whatever one does, never perform chemical disincorporation in the bathtub. It will be a bloody mess.
- Walter White is a family man.
Walter White loves Skyler and Walter, Jr. so much so that he does not wish to burden them with worry and financial paralysis after his demise. The same love pushes him to cook meth. He wants to pay for the $90,000 chemotherapy sessions and leave enough money for his son’s college education.
- Walter White has the cojones to cook in his underwear.
Walter White wears white underwear beneath the green laboratory apron as he cooks over the spick and span mobile meth lab; and he looks half mad scientist and half sex symbol while doing it.
Walter cooks without his good clothes on because he does not want to “go home smelling like a meth lab”. That is a family man to the core.
- Walter White does not smoke.
Walter White has inoperable lung cancer, but he has not smoked a day in his life. “You don’t smoke? Well, well, well, I shall curse you with lung cancer then.” And that is how fate fucks up Walter’s life. In order to say that he did not give a damn (for a minute), Walter enjoyed long and lingering puffs from a Cuban cigar given to him by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Yes, his brother-in-law catches bad guys like Walter. Anyway, I like men who do not smoke, so Walter gains +1000 pogi points.
- Walter White has the badass gene hardwired into his system.
Walter White was as straight as a metal arrow at the start of Breaking Bad. However, as the season progresses, the metal arrow is subjected to high temperature, changes shape and becomes crooked. Walter starts to fight back. He quits from his car wash job, then says, “fuck you! And your eyebrows”. To be fair to Walter, the car wash owner’s eyebrows look like twin caterpillars – the overly hairy ones. He also manhandles his son’s bullies. There are three of them, and the smallest among them is bigger than Walter. Walter’s badassery continues with numbers 7 and 9.
- Walter White is a fearless negotiator.
Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), the unpredictable meth distributor, beats the crap out of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) over $35,000 worth of meth. Too bad for Tuco, Jesse is Walter White’s partner. Walter and his freshly-shaved head show up at Tuco’s hideout with a bag of white crystals. Only this bag of crystals does not make one high on the sky. What this crystal does is explode almost instantaneously.
With a handful of it in his possession, Walter hammers a good deal with Tuco: money up front, two pounds of meth a week for $35,000 a pound, and $15,000 for the physical assault of Jesse. Fulminated mercury and a little tweak of chemistry go a long way in business deals. The chemical reaction for success is:
Hg(ONC)2 -> Hg + 2CO + N2
- Walter White is compassionate, sometimes.
A sacred coin flip tasks Walter White to put an end to the life of Krazy-8, a meth distributor who threatens Walter and Jesse’s operations. Instead of chemical disincorporating Krazy-8, Walter makes him sandwiches, without the crust because that is how Krazy-8 likes it. Later, Walter arms Krazy-8 with the basic needs of a captive. Walter slides two water jugs, sandwich, bucket for pissing, roll of toilet paper (I smiled at this point), and the clincher, hand sanitizer (I laughed at this point), precisely to within six inches of Krazy-8.
- Walter White can be kinky.
Walter White gets turned on by the police investigation, with his unnamed and unseen alter ego, Heisenberg (of the Uncertainty Principle), at the center of the shitstorm. He plays more-than-footsies with Skyler in the middle of a jampacked room. He finishes his urges inside their car, which is parked outside a school building and only a parking slot away from a police car.
- Walter White has good moral compass.
Walter White makes a list of Let Him Live and Kill Him reasons before deciding on what to do with Krazy-8. In the pros column he writes, “It is the moral thing to do”, “murder is wrong” and the winner of them all, “Judeo/Christian Principles”. Oh, Walter kills Krazy-8 after all, and it is the latter’s fault. Really.