The Theology of "Breaking Bad"

Art is a creative work that leaves itself open to interpretation. I’ve never seen the show Breaking Bad, but I’m curious about it (c’mon Amazon Prime, get with the program; I don’t have cable!), because apparently it fits that description.

Fare Forward takes a look at Breaking Bad and its moral underpinnings, with guest appearances from C.S. Lewis and Kierkegaard:

Over the course of five seasons, Walter descends deeper and deeper into evil, becoming the ultimate anti-hero. So how does one go from a common chemistry teacher to a murderous drug lord? Or as series creator Vince Gilligan puts it, “What if it was essentially me— in other words—a guy who has never broken a law, barely littered or jaywalked, who has never broken the law in any serious way suddenly finding himself being a meth cook, doing something reprehensible?” Gilligan’s answer takes three primary forms: Walter’s evil deeds are motivated by pride, rationalized with good intentions, and lead him slowly but surely into total depravity. 

Ultimately, Walter’s descent is driven by the most formidable and dangerous of sins: pride. His wealthy friends offer to cover the cost of his cancer treatment, in part because they owe him a great intellectual debt, but Walter refuses to go “begging for [their] charity.” He is offended by the very idea of relying on others and spurns the offer. 

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis calls pride “The Great Sin” for it “has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began… it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice.” We see in Walter’s case that it is his pride—an unwillingness to accept normal treatment, a refusal to be a charity case even when faced with his own impending death—that starts him on the path toward manufacturing meth. Pride is the catalyst that leads to all of Walter’s other sins.

3 thoughts on “The Theology of "Breaking Bad"

  1. Ok, rest assured that I’m going to catch up on Breaking Bad at some point. But I just want to point out that this breaks the record for the fastest comment ever on any post I’ve ever posted, and it absolutely crushes the record for fastest second comment ever. Now I’m planning on turning this into an all-Breaking-Bad blog.

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