The AMC original series Breaking Bad is one of the most popular shows in television history. Beginning in 2008, it tells the story of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. In an effort to leave his family financially secure, Walter partners with a former student, Jessie Pinkman, and begins manufacturing and selling chemically pure methamphetamine, more commonly known as “crystal meth,” “crystal,” or “glass.” From there, the show chronicles the duo’s rise from smalltime dealers to international drug lords.
I enjoy the show because I understand the decision to enter a life of crime in such a terrible situation. Walter White is broke, dying, and in desperate need of money for his family’s security. A temporary foray into the criminal underworld, given the circumstances, seems justified. Also, given Walter’s intention to manufacture a chemically pure – and thus safer – form of crystal meth strikes me as altruistic. People will get exactly what they pay for. What could go wrong?
Walter soon realizes that treating the illegal narcotic trade as a come-and-go buffet line is pure folly. The people involved are ruthless and diabolical by nature, and to survive in their world, things must be done a certain way. Thus, the straight-laced Walter White becomes a manipulative, murderous monster willingly to step-on anyone that gets in his way.
Yes, nearly all criminal schemes sound brilliantly simple and foolproof in theory. It’s not difficult to make money as a criminal, but nor is it difficult to lose yourself. The show is nothing if not a warning.