I began watching this show on a lark, and was hooked from the very first episode. I’ve watched them all (now multiple times, thanks to Netflix), and enjoy them very much. More than once I have asked myself why I am so drawn to this story of greed, obsession, lust, avarice, and raw humanity.
Walter White is a superbly intelligent individual. But he is also a deeply flawed human being. Several times throughout the show he could have walked away a rich man, and chose not to. Though it’s not completely clear why he walked away from Gray Matter (which, ironically, would have made him more millions – legitimately – than cooking meth every did), a careful study of the show reveals that Walter always feels that his genius is unappreciated. So he sold his shares, left Gray Matter with a huge resentment and “a couple of months’ rent”, and subsequently slid into mediocrity. That haunted him until his diagnosis.
From the beginning we see a man on a mission, and it takes him from hero, to killer, to criminal mastermind, and finally to fugitive. Like the man, the mission is deeply flawed. Never feeling fully appreciated, his obsession (matched only by his brother-in-law Hank’s obsession to catch the mysterious “Heisenberg”) leads him down a very dark path from which redemption is hopeless.
That said, Walter seems comfortable knowing that what he is doing is illegal. He seems to grow more at ease with the terrible things he has done, but never tries to justify it in terms of “free markets” or any other such nonsense, and does not try to disguise stealing from innocent (if perhaps greedy) people as “Capitalism at its finest.” In fact, he proudly declares more than once that the money he has acquired by cooking methamphetamine is money he “earned.”
Perhaps the lesson is this: greed in any form, leads to destruction. Period.
Or maybe the lesson is, when you have 1,000 gallons of methylamine and you can sell it for $15,000,000, take the deal.
That doesn’t make for very good TV though.