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Alternative Character Interpretation / Breaking Bad

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In a series where all the main characters have complex personalities, this is inevitable. Even minor characters are no strangers to this.

  • Walter White is quite possibly one of the most complex, most complicated characters ever put in TV. Let's see?
    • It's hard to decide if Walt's turning into Heisenberg is retaliation against a world that never cut him a break, a genuine desire to provide for his family, or both? And Walt himself — was he a nice guy when we first encountered him at the start of the show, or was his persona that of Heisenberg from the very start? Evidence is piling up to suggest the latter. Especially his explanation of his separation from Gray Matter.
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    • Or is this all just one extreme case of a man going through a midlife crisis after being faced with his own mortality when he got diagnosed with cancer?
    • Did Walt really become the mask of his Heisenberg persona, or was the Heisenberg persona his true self from the start? Even the cast members and writers aren't entirely sure.
    • There are several hints early on that Walt craves power and has a violent, intimidating streak (his taunting of the teenager in the department store in episode one). Regardless of how you feel about Walt, as you re-watch and take a look at his impulses, it seems over-simplified to merely label Walt's journey to Heisenberg as a transformation from X to Y — Walt never "becomes" Heisenberg, but Heisenberg does indeed wake up, so to speak.
    • Another question: Is Walt's difficult path to criminal life the product of an established social factor? Or it's just the possibility that his ego and social life could be greatly affected by leading a criminal life? Deep examinations of the character seem to show that Walt was always a highly self-centered man, so the latter is highly plausible.
  • Skyler: Good woman who's acting poorly due to her husband's actions? Simple human frailty? Or a control freak who ran the family up until Walt broke bad and is now looking for any method to put him under her thumb in some form of twisted love?
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    • In "Fifty-One", was Skyler's attempted drowning part of her attempt to get the kids out of the house, or was she actually suicidal?
    • Skyler and Walt's relationship, too. Many view Skyler as a Manipulative Bitch who doesn't love Walt anymore in Season 1, although by the time it becomes clear that Walt has ruined many opportunities of his own through his ego, it becomes much less clear. Specifically, is she acting desperately out of love for her family, Mama Bear instincts, a desire to maintain her life as it is, or because she is afraid of Walt?
  • Who is Gus Fring really? And we're not talking about his background in Chile here. Is he a ruthless drug kingpin or a relatively reasonable boss in the drug trade? Mike seems to think the latter, and he angrily tells Walt that everything would have been fine if he just did what he was told. The rival drug dealers may or may not have murdered Tomas Cantillo under orders, but what does it say about Gus that he left hazard pay for his employees in the event that he dies and they are sent to prison? Or even the fact that Gus invites employees over for dinner at his own house? They say that maybe there's a line: perhaps Gus is perfectly fine with those that follow orders and entirely overly cautious or even homicidal towards those that can’t be trusted to follow orders.
    • Before Walt turned on him and had Gale killed, how did Gus see him? Did he come to view Walt as an enemy at some point even before their falling out because he recognized Walt to be a dangerous, ambitious, disloyal man? Or, as Mike suggests, would Gus have let Walt work for him indefinitely for years as long as Walt was loyal and responsible? Relating to this is that Gus knew Walt had cancer, his original job offer was for three months, and he had intended to use Gale as his primary cook and later instructed Gale to learn Walt's process. Did Gus always see Walt as a conveniently temporary pawn to be used in his plans and he would have let Walt live out of his life once their business was done? Or would he have had Walt killed once Gus no longer needed him since he was a dead man walking anyway and a dangerous loose end to leave hanging?
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  • Is Jesse a Genius Ditz or a Ditzy Genius? Over the course of the series, he repeatedly makes bad decisions with horrible consequences for him and those around him, and while sometimes he does this due to his emotional turmoil, other times he's perfectly lucid and still does something stupid. On the other hand, he often has great ideas that stun even Walt, shows himself to be perceptive and insightful at times, and becomes just as great a chemist as Walt. It could that Jesse simply is a short-sighted, impulsive idiot who occasionally has a good idea, or that he has the potential to be highly intelligent but his psychological shortcomings limit his ability to make smart choices and see the bigger picture.
  • Jesse's parents. The interpretation really comes down to whether or not you feel it's ever justified to give up on your child. Or whether, given how he was the one taking care of his aunt when she died from cancer, his parents are a large part of what screwed him up to begin with and what led him to turn to drug dealing.
    • The element of Jesse taking care of his aunt is also subject to this. We only have Jesse and his mother's word to go on — he insists he took care of her, his mother insists that he didn't do that much. Either (or both) could be an Unreliable Narrator. Jesse was said to be much more selfish and irresponsible in his youth, but his mother has a history of having absolutely zero faith in her son and doubting what he says, even when it's true.
  • Hank, despite coming close to the truth on several occasions, never realized his own brother-in-law was was the drug dealer "Heisenberg" he was investigating until the final season. Was it because Hank never even considered the possibility it could be Walt, and if so, why not - because he thought too highly of Walt to think he could be a criminal, or because he looked down on Walt and thought he wasn't capable of being a criminal? Or did Hank not realize it because of his own shortcomings - perhaps he was too arrogant and he couldn't conceive of the possibility that Heisenberg could be directly operating under his nose without him noticing, or he was just an incompetent cop who missed the obvious clues being dangled in front of him constantly.
  • Was Walt right about Gretchen and Elliott all along when they dismiss him on TV? Or are they just doing damage control for their company by distancing themselves from an infamous drug lord? Likewise, is Walt right in saying that they betrayed him, or is he merely blaming them for his past errors due to his own pride?
  • Gale Boetticher: Did he really miss the subtext of Gus asking him to master Walt's cooking methods and was simply too afraid to ask questions about it, or genuinely ignorant of Gus's intent to remove Walt from the picture altogether?
  • Jane Margolis: Did she genuinely love Jesse or was she more interested in his money/drugs?
  • What about Lydia? Was she nothing more than a cowardly bitch who would stop at nothing to make a buck, or was she just a single mother way in over her head providing for her daughter, unable to accept the true gruesomeness of the business she found herself in?

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