Attach the MDMA moistened electrode pads to your shaved cranium and light up the crystal blue pinball machine with a full tilt Carl Jung style breakdown of Breaking Bad- one of the best jocko daddy dramatic TV series in television history. Our cockroach burning magnifying glass focuses on Season 4, episode 1: Box Cutter- written by series creator Vince Gilligan.
Spoiler Alert Red: Never watched Breaking Bad? It’s about a high school chemistry teacher who turns methamphetamine manufacturer following his cancer diagnosis. Still there? Buckle up or not, and let’s King Kong the gas pedal of this James Dean Porsche down an oil slicked New Mexico twilight highway.
- Opening scene- flashback to the underground meth super lab, In forty-four caliber Chekov’s Gun style, Gail the meth cook opens bound crates with the foreshadowing box cutter.
- Scene 2 begins with Jesse splatter-blatting Gail’s brains into the Persian carpet’s design pattern- another karma domino that tips into the next karma domino. The cosmic crime cycle continues.
- Scene 3 waits and worries. Mike and Victor keep gun-sights on Walter and Jesse as the quartet prepare for pissed off Boss Gus to show. Great tension building before the category 5 shitstorm.
- In Scene 4 Skyler parks missing Walter’s minivan away from the house. Like a Javanese shadow puppet, the minivan represents the illusion of “normal Walter”. As Walter’s criminal world merges with Walter’s normal world, the Maya minivan illusion dissipates, giving Skyler greater insight into Walter’s transformation. By moving the now revealed minivan illusion away from her home, she avoids the shattering reality of Walter as criminal, which by extension makes her one too. Skyler, like the enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter or 1930’s Nazi Party member uses mental compartmentalization and self delusion to avoid the psychological guilt of criminal complicity. Maintaining an appearance of both normality and morality is very important to this type of individual.
- Scene 5 returns to the meth super lab. While Walter, Jesse, and Mike wait passively for Gus, Victor starts an unauthorized meth cook to show he can take Walter’s place. As a gray corporate henchman or cog, Victor breaks company protocol by engaging in unauthorized innovation- a risky fast track move in a monolithic vertical hierarchy.
- In Scene 6 Sykler does a better call Saul to find Walter. As a mythological archetype Saul Goodman represents the trickster- like Loki in Norse religious mythology. Even Saul’s public persona is a trick- he’s taken a fake Jewish identity to attract more law clients. Tricksters tend to have comedic qualities.
- Scene 7 finds Skyler conning a locksmith with a mother in distress story to access Walter’s apartment- a lie that’s analogous to emotion based propaganda global elites use to sway public opinion. One classic example is the PR campaign created by marketing genius Edward Bernays that manipulated the American public into supporting United States’ entry into World War I- a costly blunder that set the groundwork for WWII, but enriched bankers. Inside Walt’s apartment Skyler finds the all seeing Teddy bear eye from the plane crash- a symbol of truth realization.
- Scene 8: Bullet crippled Hank collects sparkly gems to distract him from his miserable reality. Symbolism? Substitute gemstones with reality TV, electronic blink blink, or oxycodone.
- Scene 9 is the episode’s climax- and this sucker delivers a quadruple orgasm. Crime boss CEO and Obama lookalike Gus arrives at the meth super lab. In response to Gail’s murder, Gus/Obama cuts corporate henchman Victor’s throat with the opening scene box cutter. When propaganda fails, the corporate state resorts to violence, even when the recipient of the violence isn’t guilty of that particular crime, e.g. Iraq’s destruction in response to the probable inside job 9/11 attacks.
- Scene 10 is dead body clean up. Victor’s murdered corpse is stuffed into a barrel, soaked with acid, and carted off as legal industrial waste- the same way the genocides and war crimes of our Corporatist Occupation Government get cleaned up by CNN, Fox, MSNBC through terms like Peacekeeping Mission, Humanitarian Aid, Operation Freedom, and War on Terror.
- Scene 11 transitions from a pool of blood to ketchup on a plate. Post murder cleanup moves to a diner where Hungry Jesse devours a hearty breakfast while Walter looks on- a clue to how each processes the ordeal. Jesse accepts working for Gus will now be hell, but sees it as a long term thus safe arrangement. Walter understands the reprieve is temporary as Gus’s unchecked form of hyper-capitalist corporatism eliminates what it can no longer commoditize- mainly Walter. We see this in our own corporate state’s destruction of societies and nature ecosystems. Ultimately Walter doesn’t want to change the system, but rather to run his own version of it. Of note- Walter and Jesse have exchanged their bloody clothes for cheap ill fitting Chinese made Walmart type pants, sneakers, and Kenny Rogers tee shirts- symbols of their social demotion, and commoditization by Gus.
- Final Scene 12: Walter returns to his house to pick up his minivan and encounters Skyler. While she better understands who Walter is, she fills in the missing gaps with her own illusions. Skyler doesn’t reach complete epiphanic cognition of the reality that is Walter until the season finale. This episode ends with Walter retrieving his keys and trudging on.
Some more in depth character analysis:
Walter White’s psychology: Years of low self image exacerbated by lack of recognition and financial distress clash violently with Walter’s idealized genius self. This creates chronic suppressed rage that manifests as cancer. The illuminating effect of proximal death coupled with a predatory health care system releases Walter from his former societal constraints.
Each successful caper validates Walter’s idealized genius self, but he continues to suffer because a) his core psyche is still damaged, and b) he’s not a true sociopath, so his crimes conflict with authentic feelings of morality.
Walter as archetype: “The Angry White Man”. Although Walter’s cognizant of the diminishing financial and social status of the once privileged white middle class male, he’s too intelligent to fall for dumbed down Trump style race baiting- or go hunting for humans at the local mall. Walter understands the new system hierarchy is primarily class based, and his white man’s rage sublimates into building a successful business- no matter what the cost. Of note- Walter’s (quite attractive) boss at his high school is a female Latina, and his crime boss is an Hispanic Black male. When Walter becomes his own boss, he forms a working relationship with a White supremacist gang, and Lydia Quayle- employee of an IG Farben type German conglomerate. Coincidence that Walter chooses Nazi scientist Heisenberg as his pseudonym? And finally Walter’s last name- White.
Walter White as hero- or anti-hero: Walter takes the classic hero’s journey of trial by flamethrower. Along the way he traverses an epiphanic arc that ultimately leads to self realization. While Walter’s vulnerabilities help make him a sympathetic character, the greater evil of the society he navigates through further negates his crimes.
Jesse Pinkman analysis: Jesse represents directionless youth unable to find meaning in the status quo. He’s a pink man- offbeat and unconnected to mainstream society. Walter manipulates Jesse into immoral actions with the promise of life purpose, i.e. Jesse’s the co-opted rebel. Ultimately Jesse turns self destructive as his internal morality collides with his criminal paradigm.
Hank as DEA agent represents the violent arm of authoritarian power. Take away the threat of violence- or defund the DEA, and the fascist enforcer turns into into a symbolic bedridden cripple, who at the end of the scene is shitting into a bedpan with the assistance of his groupthink wife Marie.
Obama lookalike Gus both represents the amoral multinational corporation, or more specifically our current corporate state, and its political leadership. Obama/Gus embodies the synthesis of corporatism and impersonal murder, or from a larger perspective- for profit genocide. Think of Gus or Obama as a modern Hans Frank, the polite highly intelligent efficient Governor-General of Nazi occupied Poland.
Mike: An efficient killer who follows orders. Like the Einsatzgruppen commander who clings to the illusion of Teutonic knightly chivalry, Mike lives by an old school code that gets subordinated to practical realities. While Mike has streaks of humanity mixed with his homicidal tendencies, he is a follower incapable of constructing new philosophical paradigms. His set thinking patterns and ingrained cynicism contribute to his destruction.
Gail as symbol = “The Sacrificial Christ”: Mythology protocol says sacrificial animals, or in Christianity “The Lamb” must enter the meat grinder to pay the sinner’s tab. In Breaking Bad, gentle Gail gets a lethal bullet lobotomy for Walter and Jesse’s sin of wasting Gus’s drug dealing employees. Christ dies, the world lives. Gail dies, Walter and Jesse live.
Gail as Christ??? “Fuck you!” the ghosts of Siskel and Ebert shout from the grave. Gail the vegan meth cook turned toxic chemicals into methamphetamine, not Flint tap water into Cabernet Sauvignon. Easy daddyos. Conduct wise Gail always acted with pure intent. Example: After Gail tests Walter’s superior meth product, he tries to persuade Gus to hire Walter even though it means self-demotion. Gail puts scientific integrity above ego and money.
If archetype Gail’s big sin was cooking meth, archetype Christ’s big sin was selling a religion that never worked as promised- e.g. Crusades, Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, Vatican bank accounts, Evangelicals. Not saying individuals can’t connect to a higher universal consciousness by using Christian archetypes and symbols, but Christianity as organized religion is the Hindenburg landing at Lakehurst New Jersey.
Good writing, whether in novels, short stories, or TV and movie screenplays uses themes, allegories, metaphors, and other subcutaneous techniques to introduce the author’s social or philosophical viewpoints, These camouflaged literary constructs can also leak out through the writer’s subconsciousness- sometimes without their awareness. Transcendent storytelling allows for multiple interpretations by the reading and or viewing audience. So have at it bitches.