Follow TV Tropes

Following

Characters / Breaking Bad: Walter White

Go To

Walter Hartwell White, a.k.a. Heisenberg

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/white_walter_h_7573.jpg
"A guy opens his door and gets shot, you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!"
Portrayed By: Bryan Cranston

"I have lived under the threat of death for a year now. And because of that, I have made choices. Listen to me. I alone should suffer the consequences of those choices, no one else. And those consequences, they're coming. No more prolonging the inevitable."
Advertisement:

A very clever but underachieving Albuquerque, New Mexico high school chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, starts manufacturing crystal methamphetamine to provide for his family upon his death. Knowing nothing about the drug trade, he enlists the aid of his former student, Jesse Pinkman, to manufacture and sell his meth. Walt's scientific knowledge and dedication to quality lead him to produce a drug that is purer and more potent than any competitors'. Walt eventually devises an alternative chemical process utilizing methylamine, giving his product a distinctive blue color. His crystal meth, which is given the street name "Blue Sky", soon dominates the market, leading to confrontations with established drug kingpins.

Now has a self demonstrating page.

    open/close all folders 
Advertisement:

    #-F 
  • 0% Approval Rating: Achieves this at the end of "Ozymandias," after Skyler attacks him with a knife, thinking he killed Hank (which he indirectly did), Flynn calls the cops on him, and he flees with Holly. After that, the entire world learns who he is, he becomes the most wanted man in America, and when he returns home after his exile in New Hampshire, his mere presence is enough to scare the living shit out of anyone who recognizes him. Even the infant Holly seemed to want nothing to do with him, which is what prompted him to return her, and use Saul's identity eraser. His deliberately psychotic sounding tapped phone conversation with Skyler certainly didn't help him either. By the end of "Felina," the only characters who have even the slightest amount of respect for him are Skyler (for finally admitting to her that he did it all for himself), and Jesse (for freeing him from Todd and Jack, and eliminating Lydia to fully free him from the meth business).
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Usually averted, but one time, in a combination of bitterness and alcohol, Walt forced his son to down a bottle of tequila until he vomited his lungs out, solely out of spite (it's implied in that scene that he was annoyed by his son looking up to his "badass" uncle Hank and Walt just wanted to prove his masculinity). He even had a smug, shit-eating grin on his face as Walt Jr. retched in the pool in front of dozens. This is one of the early moments when Walt shows his dark side.
    • Played straight when it comes to surrogate son Jesse. He's the closest thing to a father figure in Jesse's life and unlike his real parents, he actually cares for him (and saved his life several times). This doesn't stop him from being horribly abusive to Jesse, as he constantly belittles him and manipulates him.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Walter gets seriously overconfident whenever he succeeds. Done away with at the end of season 4, when he kills Gus and his pride is reinforced permanently. Mike finds out fatally what happens when one insults his pride.
  • Adorkable: Starts off as this in season 1 when he's an awkward, seemingly hapless teacher out of his depth (and it helps if you remember Bryan Cranston's most famous role before this one), but loses it quickly when he shaves his head and bombs Tuco's den.
    • Walt shows this side of himself again in season 3 when he excitedly discusses chemistry with Gale Boetticher.
  • Affably Evil: Zig-Zagged. It's sometimes hard to tell to what extent he actually cares about people and to what extent he's just playing them, especially when the balance changes from moment to moment (although with a general trajectory of "less affable" as the seasons go on). As early as the first season he can become downright abusive when he's crossed or frustrated and blaming his problems on others, while by the final season he's very short on Pet the Dog moments that don't include some selfish ulterior motive.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg:
    • Stalling for time in the Season 3 finale.
    • Walt later genuinely begs for Hank's life in "Ozymandias", to little effect. What's notable is that Hank refuses to grovel.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: By the end of the series, Walt is reduced to The Atoner desperately trying to make up as best as he can for all the mistakes he made over the show, leading to him eventually saving Jesse at the cost of his own life.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Many times throughout the series, probably the worst and stupidest was convincing Hank that Gale wasn't Heisenberg.
  • The Alleged Car:
  • Alliterative Name: In a famous scene, after reading Gale's notebook, Hank asks Walt who could Gale be referring to when he writes W.W. and jokingly says "Woodrow Wilson? Willy Wonka? Walter White?"
  • Always Second Best: Walt's attempt in Season 5 to take over, the now-deceased, Gus Fring's meth empire to far less success. Mike is quick to frequently remind Walt how poor of a successor he is to Gus.
    Mike: Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: He's incredibly aggressive with things related to his ego, lacks empathy, is a manipulator, a Consummate Liar, has a bad need for recognition, a sense of entitlement, can be pretty pointlessly sadistic at times, proud, overly dramatic at times, and his tantrums and lash-outs have the maturity of a 15 year-old, the intensity of 3 suns and the deadliness of a lunatic. He's somewhere in the range of the cluster B group of personality disorders according to the DSM-5. All of these attributes are the curve of the Character Development. His passive personality transforms into an increasingly ruthless man who is reinforced by his success in the drug business, eventually inflating his ego. There's something definitely off with him, but it's never clarified where exactly it comes from, so everything is left to the viewer's interpretation. For what it's worth, Vince Gilligan has stated that Walt is a sociopath, but he throws the term out very loosely and Walt himself shows much more emotion than sociopaths usually do. In fact, the way his personality tends to change from awkward, remorseful and emotional to determined, ruthless, violent, sadistic and vicious feels incredibly bizarre and out of place, almost as if he were a completely different person. Even Walt himself notes that he felt like a completely different person after delighting in forcing his son to drink alcohol until he vomited.
  • Ambiguously Evil: There's no doubting that Walt isn't a moral person — he cooks crystal meth. However, his reasons for doing so are understandable (he is in a terrible financial condition and he is dying of cancer), and the real question is whether his intentions are noble or not. Early on, it's clear he wants his family to have a stable financial future after he dies, but as time goes on it becomes more apparent that part of the reason why he's making drugs is to get revenge on the society that treated him like dirt for years. His questionable morality serves as a crux for the plot of the story. In the end, he claims that he was really doing everything for himself, though he at least tries to redeem himself in the last episode. However, he is still completely unapologetic about his sins and makes it quite clear he would do it all over again if given the chance.
  • And Then What?: He gets this from Skyler after he makes more money cooking meth than they could ever spend in 10 lifetimes, nor could she safely launder without attracting unwanted attention.
  • Animal Motifs: Walter is repeatedly associated with roaches, even sneaking into homes under cover of fumigation in order to continue cooking meth in season 5. Just keep an eye on how often he's sitting in front of posters codifying various species of roach and other vermin.
  • Anti-Hero: Deconstructed. He starts out as something of this status, and then goes through several scales of grey as the seasons come and go. When exactly he crosses the line into Villain Protagonist is very much up to the viewer. He returns to something of this status in Felina.
  • Anti-Villain: Well-Intentioned Extremist with a side of Health Care Motivation, before Character Development turns him into more of a Noble Demon, especially in Season 5 Part 2 when he turns against Jesse and Hank. He initially tries to reason with Jesse, and when it proves futile he makes the painful decision to have him killed albeit quickly and painlessly. As for Hank, Walt would rather surrender himself than even consider killing his brother-in-law.
  • Apathetic Teacher: At best. Walt cares very little about the lazy and spoiled students in his class, and doesn't think twice about casually failing one. As the series goes on he sees teaching more and more as a soul-sucking day job.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • Walt breaks down crying and apologizing over and over after being forced to kill Krazy-8.
    • Later in season 5, after fatally shooting Mike, when he realizes he could've just gotten the information he wanted elsewhere.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hank views Heisenberg as his.
  • Asshole Victim: He suffers a lot of humiliation and indignities throughout the series, but the worst of it is when Walt really deserves what is coming.
  • The Atoner: An extremely dark version in "Felina". He doesn't show a whole lot of remorse for anything he's put his family and Jesse through, and still resorts to unscrupulous methods to do something that at least resembles atonement, such as threatening Elliot and Gretchen into sending money to Skyler.
  • Badass Baritone: Walt develops a very deep, raspy voice, which is especially noticeable as Heisenberg.
  • Badass Beard: Shortly after undertaking his first truly badass act (bombing Tuco's headquarters as a negotiation tactic), Walt grows his mustache into a goatee.
  • Badass Boast:
    • "Stay out of my territory."
    • "I am not in danger, Skyler. I AM the danger. A guy opens the door and gets shot, you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!"
    • "I won."
    • "I'm in the empire business."
    • "I'm the cook. I'm the man who killed Gus Fring. Say my name."
    • "If you don't know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."
    • "Elliott, if we're gonna go that way, you'll need a bigger knife."
  • Badass Bookworm: He's an extremely well-read and educated man, which serves to make him even more dangerous and capable.
  • Badass Mustache: His mustache at the beginning of the show is an inversion; Cranston describes it as looking "impotent" and like a "dead caterpillar". He trades it in for a Badass Beard shortly after undertaking his first truly badass act, bombing Tuco's headquarters.
  • Badass on Paper: While Walt does accomplish much throughout his tenure as a drug kingpin, he leaves too many loose ends in his personal life, and his lack of long-term criminal connections means he quickly loses control of the drug cartel he acquired after Gus Fring's death, which forces him to work with the White Supremacists, who are even harder to control. Ultimately, Walt lacks the cold, expansive, ruthless efficiency that Gus possessed to hold onto his 'empire'.
  • Bad Liar: He turns into a sheet of cellophane whenever Skyler's around. And to Walt Jr. after "Ozymandias".
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Walt sees Skyler for the last time and he starts to say "everything I have done..." she thinks he's about to repeat his usual justification for his crimes. Instead he finally admits that he mostly did it for himself.
  • Bald of Awesome: Starting in "Crazy Handful of Nothin'". Though as the show progresses, it gets closer to...
  • Bald of Evil: Notably, when he grows it back for "Granite State" and "Felina", he's become The Atoner.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • His victory against Gus hinges on Gus being so bent on revenge that he would want to kill Hector himself. It works. He later uses it to wipe out the Nazis and Lydia, seeing Lydia as a Creature of Habit and exploiting Jack's hatred of rats and Pride against them.
    • He's also the victim of one in To'Hajiilee. Jesse fools Walt into thinking he has found his barrels of money in the desert and is burning it. Panic stricken, Walt leads Jesse and Hank straight to it. Just for good measure, Jesse also goads him into admitting to the many crimes he has committed, all recorded by Hank.
  • Beard of Evil: Or at least Beard of Anti-Heroics, which Walt grows once his actions become less and less excusable. Eventually it's just a Beard of Evil.
  • Beard of Sorrow: He grows one during his self-imposed exile.
  • Because I'm Good at It.
    • In "Felina", he finally admits to Skyler that this is why he went on cooking.
    • In the final scene of the show, Walt takes a rather nostalgic-feeling stroll through the Aryans' meth lab before dying of blood loss from his bullet wound. Badfinger's "Baby Blue" starts playing as background music, with the lyrics implying that he is dying next to his true love, which isn't his family or even his money, but his blue meth, his creation that he is so proud of because there was no one better than him.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Walt invents "Heisenberg", his criminal alter ego, as both a convenient pseudonym and a coping mechanism. As time goes on and his behavior becomes more flagrantly amoral, it begins to seem as though there may not really be a difference between the two.
      Walter: I am not in danger, Skyler. I AM the danger. A guy opens the door and gets shot, you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!.
    • This is emphasized in Season 5, when he starts wearing Heisenberg's iconic pork pie hat in everyday life. And when Declan identifies him as Heisenberg, to which he responds, "You're goddamn right."
  • Being Evil Sucks: Walt struggles with lying to Skyler when he first starts making drugs, particularly going into Season 3 when his wife asks for a divorce for all the lies he told, as well as finding out he's manufacturing meth. His guilt almost drives him to walk away from the drug trade. Over time, though, he gets over it.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: The reason why Walt is so dangerous is because until the finale Walt genuinely believes that he is doing the right thing for his family and will fight to the death to protect them.
  • Berserk Button: Attacking his Pride is probably the most dangerous thing you can do, as Mike found out. In "Granite State", the Schwartzes bring Walt back from the very edge of the Despair Event Horizon from thousands of miles away simply by unintentionally smashing down hard on his Berserk Button regarding his role in Gray Matter.
  • Best Served Cold:
    • He finally receives a recompense of sorts from Grey Matter by blackmailing them into establishing a trust fund for his children.
    • In "Felina", he finally kills the Nazis, months after they killed Hank, stole Walt's money, and enslaved Jesse in "Ozymandias".
  • Better Living Through Evil: He earned barely over $40K a year in his legal job as a high school chem teacher. As a meth lord, 80 million in less than a year.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Applies in the early seasons before the "nice" goes out the window. He was a meek, unimpressive man before the cancer. Now, people prefer not to cross him.
  • Big Bad: In Season 5. For the first half and most of the second half, he's Hank's main target after he discovers that he is Heisenberg.
    • Ex-Big Bad: However, in "Ozymandias", he loses the position to Jack and the Neo-Nazis, with Walt being eventually reduced to The Atoner.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: With Lydia and Jack Welker during Season 5 as a whole.
  • Big Bad Friend: "Heisenberg" is Hank's personal nemesis, but Walter is his close friend and brother-in-law. Walt occasionally uses his position in Hank's life to fish for info and keep tabs on what the DEA knows.
  • Big Bad Slippage: His entire character arc in the storyline is this. As someone who has the longest, most complex Face-Heel Turns ever put in television, he happens to be Hank's main target after he discovers that he is Heisenberg.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: For most of the series, Walter is not as threatening or powerful as he thinks he is, being beaten by more experienced villains like The Juarez Cartel, Gus and Mike.
  • Blackmail:
    • Walter blackmails Jesse to begin working with him in the first episode, having witnessed Jesse leaving a crime scene. Later, Walter emotionally blackmails Jesse into murdering Gale in cold blood, to save his own skin, having previously saved Jesse from being killed.
    • Pulls a nasty example in "Confessions", where he makes a "confession tape" confessing to all of his crimes, while saying that his brother-in-law, Hank, was behind everything, using his DEA knowledge to become the meth kingpin and threatening him and his family to get him to do what he wants. He does it as a warning to Hank to get off his back.
  • Blatant Lies: Unavoidable, really, considering the path he goes down. He actually starts out pretty good at it, but as time goes on and the lies begin to stack he begins to get worse at it.
  • Blessed with Suck: How he views his cancer going into remission, since it robs him of a convenient excuse for his awful deeds and convenient escape from their repercussions.
  • Bloody Handprint: The ending to the series, after Walt leans on a tank to steady himself. It leaves behind a bloody "w" on the tank of meth.
  • The Bore: His life before his life of crime. You can really see this when he has conversations with old friends at Gretchen's party or any time he talks to Hank in the first season.
  • Born Lucky: Invoked by Jesse, when he mentions just how successful Walter has been in the meth business to Hank and Gomez.
    Jesse: Look – look, you two guys are just... guys, okay? Mr. White... he's the devil. You know, he is – he is smarter than you, he is luckier than you. Whatever– Whatever you think is supposed to happen– I’m telling you, the exact reverse opposite of that is gonna happen, okay?
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: His phone call at the end of "Ozymandias". Knowing that the police are listening, he calls Skyler and portrays himself as a psychotic abuser who terrorized her into complicity in his crimes from the get-go so she won't be prosecuted for willingly aiding him and so Marie and Walt Jr. won't shun her. He's playing it up hard and you can see the moment Skyler realizes this.
  • Break the Haughty: Over the course of the final season: Walt is now the drug kingpin of New Mexico, but things start going downhill from there. Jesse and Mike leave the business, Hank finally figures out who "Heisenberg" really is, Hank apprehends him soon after, Hank is shot and killed by Walt's neo-Nazi "friends", and Walt's family becomes fearful of him, thus causing him to go into exile across the country alone...until the season finale, at least.
  • Break Them by Talking: Attempts one on Jesse in Say My Name. It doesn't stop Jesse from leaving his business.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Progressively for Jesse over the course of his descent into villainy, culminating in the revelation of his true evil in "Confessions".
    • Hank and Marie do not react well when they discover Walt is Heisenberg.
    • Becomes one for Walter Jr. when he finds out who and what his father is. He even legally changed his name to "Flynn" after the events of "Ozymandias" because he's ashamed to share that name.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Walt is at his most lethal when backed into a corner and stripped of his assets, manpower, weapons, and even physical strength. During his absence from New Mexico, his infamy has grown to such an extent that a few crank calls from teenagers (or possibly Badger and Skinny Pete) ties up the entire Albuquerque PD. Throw in a couple of laser pointers for good measure and voilà: Instant hit squad! ("Felina")
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: To Gus in Season 3, and Jesse and Tuco before that: His behavior is erratic and he sometimes threatens to stop working if he doesn't get what he wants, but the meth he cooks is so pure that his bosses are willing to accommodate him. Walter White loves to weaponise this trope.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: After listening to Hank wax lyrical about what a genius Gale was and how he could've helped humanity if he'd only wanted to, Walt offers his "humble" opinion that Gale's notes looked more like rote copying than his own work.
  • Byronic Hero: He either develops into one as the show progresses or he always was one and is gradually exposing it.
  • The Cameo: Has a ~5 minute flashback scene in El Camino.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Forces this on Gus after he murders Gale.
  • Can't Spit It Out: He seems completely incapable of expressing the kinship he feels for Jesse, even though he goes batshit every time he's in danger. This bites him in the ass in "Bug", since his constant belittling of Jesse (who is still disturbed by Gale's death and finds some satisfaction in working with Mike) finally pushes Jesse over the edge. And boy, was the biting long overdue. He gets somewhat better in season 5, but only because he figures out that appealing to his need for approval is the best way to manipulate Jesse.
  • Can't Take Criticism: It goes hand in hand with his massive ego. In "Say My Name", he goes berserk when Mike calls him out on that ego for causing problems in the meth business.
  • Car Fu: Uses this on two child-murdering drug dealers at the end of season 3.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • He deduces everything Gus tries to do with Jesse in season 4, but he fails to convince Pinkman himself. Ironically, when Jesse finally believes him about one of Gus's schemes, Walt is actually the culprit.
    • Walt really didn't murder Hank, but by then he has alienated his loved ones so much that not even Skyler and Walt Jr believe him.
  • Character Development: THE WHOLE POINT of Breaking Bad.
  • The Chessmaster: Attempts it several times, with varying results. Played straight in Season 4 finale and in "Felina".
  • Chronic Villainy: No matter how many times he's in danger, he would go back to his meth business just because he can. He gives up his drug business after "Gliding Over All," only to have Hank discover that he is Heisenberg, forcing him to go back into his criminal ways.
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime:
    • When Skyler confronts him on his odd behavior, he tells her he's buying pot from Jesse.
    • In "Seven Thirty-Seven", he confesses to changing the TV channel when Hector attempts to accuse Walter of poisoning Tuco's food.
    • In early season 4, to explain his newfound wealth and erratic behavior, he tells Hank and Marie he got into underground gambling.
    • Also in "Salud" to Walt Jr. — to explain his injuries, he lies that he's back into gambling.
  • Consummate Liar: Walter lies to everyone, including himself most of all.
  • Control Freak: Another trait of Walt's that is both a huge strength and a huge flaw. His perfectionism makes his product the best on the market, but his love of control leads him increasingly to act like a Manipulative Bastard, not just to protect himself, but to change the behavior of those close to him whenever it doesn't suit him.
  • Cooldown Hug: Gives one to Jesse when the latter vents over how Walt is unable to be truthful about his motives for getting him to leave town.
  • The Corrupter: Both in a Downplayed intentional fashion and in an unintentional fashion. While Jesse was already in the meth business, Walt coerces and manipulates him into doing things that he would never have considered doing beforehand. Unintentionally, Walt's influence has a similar effect on everyone around him. One of the writers noted, "Walt has corrupted everyone."
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • Invoked in "Fly," in which Walt tries to pinpoint the exact moment where, if he'd just died, his family would have had enough money to live comfortably and wouldn't have been in danger because of his involvement in the drug trade.
    • In season 5, Mike refuses to tell Walt the names of his nine guys in prison (because Walt would try to kill them to prevent them from talking). Infuriated, Walt shoots Mike, fatally wounding him. When he sees the dying Mike, Walt realizes he could have just gone to Lydia for the list of names.
    • The entire show is this trope for Walt. His money problems and lack of professional success are due entirely to his own ego and miserliness- he once had a promising career in Grey Matter and his work even co-earned him a Noble Prize, but he threw it all away because he couldn't stand the fact that his then-girlfriend came from money as he wanted to be an entirely self-made man, and for the self-same reason he turns Grey Matter down later both when they offer him a well-paid job out of genuine respect for his talents and contribution to the company, or at least to cover his medical expenses, and even then it is implied that they would have helped him out at numerous points in the show if he had only asked for it. His entire criminal career, and all of the death and destruction that goes with it, is based on the incredibly petty motive that he doesn't like handouts.
  • Crucified Hero Shot:
    • His arrest in "Ozymandias".
    • The final shot of "Crawl Space." The same shot recurs in the final episode, "Felina", when he dies from blood loss as the police arrive.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: In Ozymandias during the phone call that Walter knows is bugged, he begins to belittle and insult Skyler while at the same time making it look like Skyler had nothing to do with his activities at all. Initially confused at his words, she eventually catches on that he is trying to get her off the hook for all of his activities and that the act is for the DEA. He also makes it sound like he killed Hank, even though he didn't, so that Marie can know that her husband is dead and get some semblance of closure.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: "I am....awake."
  • Dare to Be Badass: To Jesse. Or, well, Dare to Appear Badass, anyway. "Jesse, look at me. You are a blowfish."
  • Dark Secret:
  • Darth Vader Clone: This article emphasizes how incredibly similar Walter White and Darth Vader are. Even if you ignore what is stated in that article, Walter has an internal conflict, is the Villain Protagonist of the franchise, has a hidden but malicious part of his personality that appears whenever he is in complete despair (Walt has Heisenberg; Anakin has Vader, respectively), wears a black outfit most of the time, is not the best father towards his son (a nice, kind-hearted boy), has a deep voice that tends to be emphasized when he his Heisenberg persona comes into play ("I am the one who knocks!"), is a tactical genius and a Dragon with an Agenda who plans to take over from the Big Bad (Gus Fring). And like Vader, he's reduced to The Atoner, has an Alas, Poor Villain moment, and performs a Heroic Sacrifice defeating the last Big Bad in the story.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes to excess, especially when listening to Skyler's story in Season 4.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Dies from a stray 7.62mm round from his rigged M60 to his right lung while saving Jesse from Jack and his gang's clutches.
  • Death Glare: Surprisingly, a master of this. Just see his expression near the end of "Over", to Saul in "Bullet Points" or to Bogdan in "Cornered".
  • Death Seeker: After he kills Jack and the Aryans in "Felina", he tells Jesse that he wants Jesse to kill him. By this time, he's not only dying from cancer, but also has a fatal bullet wound.
  • Death Wail: His reaction to Hank getting killed is so agonized, that it's inaudible.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype:
    • Of the Anti-Hero: At face value, Walt aims for a noble goal through sketchy means (getting enough money for his family before he dies); however, his untapped ego, his inability to think beyond certain point and his rage ensure he's willing to go the extra mile in every aspect of the journey: Be the best at what he does? Obsessive, arrogant and demeaning toward any subordinate he has. Rebellious? His tantrums and lash-outs have the maturity of a 15 year-old, the intensity of 3 suns and the deadliness of a lunatic. Well meaning? Up to a point, but it's hard when your line of work encourages you to be as heartless as possible. Counterculture? Crystal meth manufacturing is more of an illegal predatory business like the rest, even if it's more honest about it. Dangerous? Any trait he has, he can turn into a weapon in the blink of an eye. So watch out for the cold look behind the glasses. Strong? As much as a geeky chemist can be, which is not much considering he can strike with just the right elements with no fingers moved. Torn between good and evil in him? Both are part of the same person, who can and will ignore any kind of guilt as long as he can think he's doing the right thing. Not so heroic now, huh?
    • Of the Butt-Monkey: Walt views himself as an undeserving punching bag whose fate was decided the moment he turned his back on greatness, so he rationalizes his actions as a back-biting response. While he has endured a lot of bad luck (past and present), casting himself as one ignores the fact that much of his bad luck was due to his own arrogance and pride.
    • Of the Diabolical Mastermind: He only has the confidence to pull off his audacious plans because he feels he has nothing else to live for. Once his justifications and the sword over his shoulder is removed, it only becomes a matter of time before his guarded dark side starts overtaking his personality.
      Marie: That arrogant asshole thinks he's a criminal mastermind but he's not.
    • Of the Justified Criminal: Walter's actions have far-reaching consequences since he can only plan so far and his justifications get weaker and more self-serving as time goes on, to the point where Skyler balks at his "bullshit rationales". It's indicated as early as season 1's "Gray Matter", when Walt scoffs at the idea of his former colleagues solving all of his financial and intellectual problems on the grounds of "charity".
  • Determined Expression: While waiting for the police to arrive and arrest him, he sees a TV interview of Eliott discrediting his contribution to Gray Matter; this sparks his final move for the finale.
  • Died Happily Ever After: With his family taken care of and his enemies killed off, he strolls through a meth lab before falling dead.
  • Dies Wide Open: From blood loss, in "Felina."
  • Dirty Coward: One of his glaring flaws when it leads to him poisoning a child or murdering Gale to save his skin. He even sends an old lady into the house to test if Gus' mooks are in there and then tries to have Jesse killed by proxy, leading to Hank's death.
    • On the other hand he's willing to storm into Tuco's lair and threaten to blow it up with the rest of his ful mercury.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: For Season 5.
  • Dissonant Serenity: His demeanor though the last episode, "Felina". Of note is the scene of Walt setting up his machine gun rig, humming the lyrics to a Marty Robbins ear worm as he does it.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: Walt pulls a really nasty inverted one on Hank. When Hank shows no signs of letting up on his pursuit of Walt, Walt shoots a "confession" video in which he fingers Hank as Heisenberg, claims to have been forced to work as Hank's unwitting chemist, and claims that Hank is trying to engineer his death. In one fell swoop, Walt effectively neutralizes Hank's potential credibility if he were to arrest him.
  • Ditzy Genius: The conflicts with the kingpins make clear that although Walt is a brilliant chemist, engineer, manipulator, and short term tactician, he's also very naive about how the criminal underworld works compared to experienced criminals like Mike and often makes stupid strategic mistakes such as attacking Ted's office or trying to off Mike's guys or leaving Gale's Walt Whitman book.
    Hank: You're the smartest guy I ever met, and yet you're still too stupid to see. He made up his mind ten minutes ago.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Walt's default position should anybody back him into a corner, strip him of agency, threaten him from what they think is a relatively safe position of authority or manage to exert control for a time: he attacks when he gets an opportunity to and has been wound up enough. The series basically shows his bite getting better, more ferocious and more on a hair-trigger as he goes along. He goes from a Chihuahua to a toy poodle to German Shepard to mastiff... so beware the bite.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: His early motivation, when he learns he's got cancer, is to die on his own terms. He attempts it by initially refusing treatment and going into the meth business to provide for his family. This is partially because he saw his father die as a weak shell, struck down by his illness. In "Felina", he dies from blood loss after being shot in the side by the M60 he rigs in the trunk of his car which he uses to kill Jack and his Aryan Brotherhood gang.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Refuses the offer to pay his medical expenses from two of his old colleagues. He also becomes quite angry when his son sets up a website to raise money for his surgery, only relenting when Saul persuades him to use it to launder his drug money.
    Gretchen: I feel so sorry for you, Walt.
    Walt: [brimming with fury] ...Fuck you.
  • Doom Magnet: By series end, Walter's actions have led to worsening the lives of virtually every major and most minor characters in the series, if not killing them outright.
  • Doting Parent: For all his flaws, Walt truly does love his children.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Between seasons 3 and 4, he is Gustavo Fring's chief meth cook. While Gus has his conflicts with The Juarez Cartel, Walter clearly doesn't mind, and later plans to dismantle his business when the conflict between him and Gus begins to solidify.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Walt spends all of Season 4 trying to convince Jesse of what Gus is up to to no avail. When Jesse finally does believe him, it's when Walt is lying to him.
    • Hank's death, one of the few things that Walt is genuinely not responsible for (in fact, he tried his damndest to prevent it), is the thing that finally breaks his relationship with his wife and son.
  • The Dreaded: By Season 5, he is feared by anyone who knows him as Heisenberg.
    Walt: Now, say my name.
    Declan: [beat] [quietly] [You're] Heisenberg.
    Walt: You're goddamn right.
  • Drunk with Power: After offing Gus, Walt considers himself invincible.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: It's true that Walt gets no respect from his school, or his pupils, or Hank and Marie, his brother- and sister-in-law. However, deconstructed by Skyler, who he constantly accuses of not respecting him, to which she usually replies that no, she doesn't, because he's a drug dealer who has put her and their children's lives in danger many times.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: He's still seething over selling his stock in Grey Matter for a paltry five grand. The final straw is a Coincidental Broadcast in a roadside bar in New Hampshire: Gretchen and Elliott appearing on national news to trash Walter's contribution to the company.
  • Dying Alone: Ultimately dies without any of his friends or family, of blood loss.
  • Dying as Yourself: His greatest goal. Ultimately, he loses everyone that he ever loved, but he does regain some concept of who he was just minutes before he was about to die.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Walt is mortally wounded by a stray bullet fired from his M60 gun turret, killing everyone in the Nazi compound except for Jack, Jesse, Todd, and himself. Walt, seemingly unfazed by his injury, advances on Jack and executes him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Or your Bittersweet Ending, anyway. Walt dies, but his family is taken care of. Jesse is free, but likely to be emotionally damaged for life. And Walt's beloved meth empire dies with him.
  • Enraged by Idiocy: In the early days, he was prone to extensive ranting at Jesse's screw-ups.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: The only thing he can say, while being arrested by Hank, is one word to Jesse.
    Walt: Coward.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • About the only thing that keeps Walter from turning into an irredeemable monster is that even at his worst, he still cares for his family, and he comes to see Jesse as a surrogate son in a twisted sort of way. He refuses to kill Hank and Jesse when its suggested to him, even though killing them would be the simplest solution for him. While he is eventually pushed to ordering Jesse's murder, he orders it fast and painless, and only does so after Jesse makes a threat that Walt believes is against his family. Finally and most powerfully, in "Ozymandias", he begs Jack to spare Hank, offering Jack all of his 80 million dollars just to let Hank go.
    • Probably the shining example of this is in "Felina." In his last act of charity before tying off every loose end and shutting down the Albuquerque meth empire for good, he forces his old colleagues from Grey Matter to give the 10 million dollars he has left to his son in an irrevocable trust fund on his 18th birthday with the hope that he'll use it to support his family after his own fate is resolved.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • In spite of all the evil he's done, Walt makes it very clear that he would never, ever, dare physically hurt his family.
    • He arguably takes this too far when he insists on a pure product and can't go through with cooking when there's a fly in the lab.
    • Non-lethal poison may not be off the table, but he never kills anyone who isn't already a part of the criminal underworld.
    • Despite how unfathomable his hatred of Jesse becomes by the finale, he still can't bring himself to let him die when he sees just how horribly Jack and his gang have been treating him, so he tackles Jesse to the ground and takes a bullet instead.
    • For all of his ego and pride, Walt instantly regrets killing Mike for insulting his ego after not wanting to reveal the names of his imprisoned men whom holds sensitive information about them. Even if Mike had attempted to kill Walt several times before, Walt admits he crossed the line for killing Mike for such a petty reason.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: He is completely baffled by Jesse's desire to leave the meth business after the death of Drew Sharp.
  • Evil Feels Good: He admits it to Skyler in the last episode.
  • Evil Genius: As increasingly amoral and ruthless as Walt becomes, one aspect of his personality that cannot be refuted is his brilliant mind. He isn't just a skilled chemist, he's also a cunning plotter, a shrewd personal manipulator, and has skill in engineering by way of tinkering with hardware to create some cobbled-together gadgets if needed. The only thing that continuously gets in his way is his cripplingly massive ego.
  • Evil Is Petty: Blaming Jesse for Hank's death, Walt tells Jesse that he watched Jane die. At this point, Walt had already handed Pinkman over to Jack's gang to be executed as payback for his former partner siding against him, so telling him the truth about Jane served no other purpose but for Walt to twist the knife further. invoked Vince Gilligan actually said that he considers this the worst thing that Walter does on the show, as it is the one thing that he does that is actually sadistic in nature.
  • Evil Wears Black: As Walt descends into Heisenberg he starts wearing black more often. For example the infamous “Stay out of my territory” scene have Walt wearing a black outfit.
  • Expy: invoked Vince Gilligan has described his goal with Walter White as turning Mr. Chips into Tony Montana.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The main focus of the storyline and one of the longest, most complex, and most meticulous in television history, from put-upon Everyman to Anti-Villain to Villain Protagonist to Big Bad.
  • Fainting:
    • While carrying some food down to Krazy-8, showing just how badly the cancer is crippling him.
    • Walter passes out when Hank is murdered by Jack.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: At the start of the story, Walter is teaching high school chemistry, well below the pay grade of someone with a STEM master's degree from Caltech.note  On top of that, he has a second job at a car wash. It's obvious the Whites are struggling financially even before Walt's cancer diagnosis.
  • Fan Disservice: Walt sometimes strips down to his tighty whities in order to cook (usually in the first season) or for other reasons, but neither for comedy nor to look pretty.
  • Fatal Flaw: His pride, inability to accept the consequences of his actions, and his tendency to not empathize with anyone else outside of his family. His secondary flaw is greed, as he always ends up wanting more than he has to the point where he ends up losing everything.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Becomes this in Season 5, especially when talking to Skyler. He affects a caring facade, but it's only to try to get her feeling more comfortable and cooperative with his criminal enterprises.
  • Feels No Pain: He once tore an IV out of his arm and scorched his wrist charred black without so much as a flinch, possibly done to emphasize how much of his humanity's he's lost that he doesn't even feel pain anymore.
  • Fired Teacher: Happens to him about halfway through the show's run after he makes a pass at the principal. Soon after, he goes to work for Gus.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: In Seasons 2-4.
  • For Science!: He enjoys the chemistry of top-notch meth cooking almost as much (if not just as much, or even more) as the power, money, and criminal thrill that comes with it.
  • Foil: Walt shares some traits with each of his rivals throughout the series:
    • Like Tuco, both have a Berserk Button that goes off whenever someone affects their ego.
    • Like Gus Fring, both are criminals that hide in plain sight, ostensibly focused on the "professional" side of drug dealing.
    • Like Mike, Walt is motivated — at least initially on Walt's side — to get money to ensure the financial stability of their loved ones.
    • Like Hank, both have little regard when it comes to exploiting Jesse for their own ends.
    • Like Lydia, both are Properly Paranoid, anal retentive criminals who believe Murder Is the Best Solution to cover their asses.
  • For the Evulz:
    • In "Over", where he forces Walt Jr. to drink tequila until he vomits. While this is far less horrible than many of the others, it has the distinction of being the first time he did something sadistic for no conceivable rational reason, but just because he could. Furthermore, this stands out for his serious drive for malice, egomania, and a desire to be dominant.
    • He finally admits to Skyler in the last episode that he did all those awful things as Heisenberg for himself and he liked it, not because he wanted to protect the family.
    Skyler: If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family...
    Walt: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really... I was alive.
  • Freudian Excuse: He's reluctant about chemotherapy and insistent on dying on his own terms because of his father's death from Huntington's Disease. In addition, his mother seems to have been a very unpleasant person who he has little to no contact with. It's lightly touched on by the show, but growing up without very much love may be a big reason why Walter turns out the way he does. More recently, his falling-out with Gretchen and Elliott is also a huge contributing factor for many of his evil deeds; because he's had to live with the shame of knowing that he missed his chance at wealth and respect, he'll do almost anything to feel important.
  • Freudian Trio: Intrestingly enough, Walt himself over the course of the series embodies all three aspects of the trio. In seasons 1 to 4, before the killing of Gus Fring, Walt played the Superego to Jesse's and Saul's Id and Ego respectivley. Afterwards, Walt's pride and arrogance is taken up to a new level, which turns him into the Id of the new trio with Jesse and Mike being the Ego and Superrgo. All of this culminates to when Walt goes into exile after being exposed as Heisenberg, after Hank and Gomez are killed by Jack's gang, a now humbled Walt now acts has the balanced Ego in contrast with Todd/Jack and Lydia, who fills the Id and the Superego.
  • Friendship Favoritism: Throughout the series, Walt tries to keep Jesse around, often against his better interests: he convinces Gus to hire Jesse as his lab assistant, even though Gus is not enthusiastic about hiring an addict; and he runs over two dealers under Gus's employ to save Jesse from getting killed by them, causing Gus to see him as a liability. Later, after Gus dies and Walt becomes the new drug kingpin of New Mexico, he tries to convince Jesse to reconsider leaving the business after Drew Sharp's death (while doing little all to try changing Mike's mind about leaving), then tires to argue against having Jesse killed after Skyler realizes he tried to burn their house down. Hank catches onto this and tries to exploit Walt's favoritism for Jesse to his advantage.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Pretty much the whole point of the show is to display his transition from naive, pushover high school science teacher to ruthless, murderous meth manufacturer.

    G-L 
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Walter White agonizes over whether or not to kill Krazy-8 in the first season, drawing up a literal "pros and cons" list. As the series goes on, Walter becomes much more comfortable with murder.
  • The Gambling Addict: The cover up story that Skyler makes for Walt's earnings in the drug business.
  • Gilded Cage: The Extractor takes him, along with Saul, out of the city when the DEA starts to close in. Saul is deposited in Nebraska (to his obvious displeasure), while Walt is unceremoniously stuffed inside an empty gas tanker and driven to a desolate ranch in New Hampshire. The Extractor pitches it as a retirement retreat, advising Walt to use his solitude to contemplate things. Walt seems to have taken his advice, as he is more open to Skyler when he turns up again in "Felina."
  • Go Out with a Smile: In Felina, after setting up his kids' future, killing the Neo-Nazi group, and freeing Jesse, Walt dies in a meth lab with a content smile on his face.
  • Graceful Loser: Attempted in "To'hajiilee". After discovering he'd been Out-Gambitted by Hank and Jesse, Walt is faced with the choice of calling in The Cavalry to bail him out or surrender. Not being able to bring himself to order the deaths of his brother-in-law and surrogate son (who wasn't out to kill him after all), he chooses the latter. Unfortunately for him, the backup he calls off arrives anyway.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: He is jealous and possessive over a variety of things: his wife, his meth formula, and, subtly, Jesse. He goes crazy when Skyler has an affair. He attacks and insults Jesse whenever he tries to cook meth or imitate his formula on his own. Finally, he poisons a child just to win Jesse's favor back from Gus, not as an equal, but always a subordinate. And he hints at this by suggesting that Victor was killed for "flying too close to the sun."
  • Gut Feeling: Just like Gus, he becomes able to pick up cues that a situation could be off from subtle odd behaviors in others. He ends up checking his car for a tracking device when Skyler mentions that Hank has been sick with a "stomach bug".
  • Handicapped Badass: During his fight with Jesse in Bug. It doesn't mean he won, but Walt can throw down pretty good for a late middle-aged man with cancer who needs glasses.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Early on, Walt's angry outbursts were restricted to restrained shows of force and only occassional shouting matches with Jesse. But as the series progresses, his quickness to anger is only matched by his ego's sensitivity. Notably, he returns to having a much colder temper in "Felina", where he has become the Atoner.
  • Happily Married: Subverted. While he and Skyler clearly had some good times and a fair amount of affection for one another and put on a happy face to their friends, it's clear in the pilot that there's a fair amount of emotional distance between them even before Walt's deception caused a permanent wedge in their relationship. It's implied that their marriage has become largely sexless, if the fact that she considers a half-hearted handjob that she can't be bothered to break her eyes away from her laptop to perform a "birthday present" is any indication.
  • Heel Realization:
    • In "Salud" after his fight with Jesse. A tearjerking one, to boot. Until it gets thrown out of the window in "Crawl Space".
    • Seems to finally get the message in "Ozymandias" when baby Holly's first words are "mama". It dawns on him that no matter how hard he bullshits himself into believing that he's doing it for family, it's no longer possible to convince them.
    • And finally, after lying relentlessly to himself as well as his family, pretending that everything that he did he did for his family, he finally, calmly acknowledges the truth in Felina:
      Walt: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really... I was alive.
  • He's Back: He is on the verge of a Despair Event Horizon following a particularly cringe-worthy phone call to his son. ("Granite State") Moments after he phones the DEA to give himself up, Walt spies Elliott and Gretchen on the Charlie Rose show, a reminder of unfinished business. The following episode opens with Walt immediately stealing a sedan and speeding back to Albuquerque.
  • Heroic BSoD: In the last scene of "Crawl Space", Walt is caught between tears of despair and manic laughter at his predicament.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While going to Uncle Jack's compound to kill him and his gang for murdering Hank and Gomez, he makes a split-second decision to tackle Jesse to the ground so he isn't shot by the M60 turret in his trunk, getting hit in the side in the process. He bleeds to death shortly after Jesse finally escapes.
  • The Hero Dies: His fate in the final episode. Although the machine gun in his car mows down the neo-Nazis, he is hit as well and dies soon afterward. However, he was likely planning to die soon regardless.
  • The Hero's Birthday: The first episode begins on Walt's 50th, and it's also the last normal day of his life (he is diagnosed with cancer the next day). His 51st and 52nd birthdays are significant too: on 51, Skyler turns on him for good, even to the point of wishing death on him, and on his 52nd birthday he returns to Albuquerque to die.
  • Hidden Villain: To Hank. Until "Gliding Over All".
  • Honor Before Reason: A rare example which is portrayed as unambiguously negative, a matter of pride more than honor. He refuses to accept money from former friends, despite the fact that it would solve pretty much all his problems, because he is still bitter about their success with a company he left. This is given as the first evidence of Walt's petty, selfish nature and shows just how prideful he is.
    • A more positive example would be Walt's relationship with Jesse. Despite the benefits of allowing Jesse to be killed, Walt goes out of his way several times to save him even though it endangers him. Ultimately, it indirectly leads to the demise of Walt and Hank.
  • Humiliation Conga: In the pilot, he teaches chemistry to apathetic high schoolers, works a menial job in which he is disrespected, forced to stay late on his birthday, and mocked by his students, his brother-in-law casually (and likely unintentionally) belittles him, and his wife can't even be bothered to take her eyes away from her laptop while giving him a half-hearted handjob as a "birthday present." Happy birthday, Walt.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Showcased by his "I am the one who knocks" boast to Skyler and the "motivational" speech to a fellow cancer patient. Season 4 is pretty much Walt in denial until the finale.
    • His overall treatment of Jesse can also be considered this when you consider that Walt's entire motivation for being Heisenberg is that he feels entitled to respect that he, in his mind, did not receive.
    • Halfway through season 3 he tells Jesse to not complain that he is getting a million and a half to cook meth just because the guy above him is making even more. By the last season Walt himself is making more money than he could ever spend, and has no intention of holding back.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Walt left Grey Matter, the multi-billion dollar company he helped found, on less than amicable terms, selling his stock for 5000 dollars. Making up for the money he lost this way is a secondary motivation for the entire series. By Season 5, this goal becomes his primary motivation to keep cooking despite having more than enough money laundered to provide for his family.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Always this trope. He even wanted to have a calm discussion with Jesse, once he found out, about how necessary it was to poison Brock.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Walt's paranoia over Gus murdering him causes him to pick it up in "Open House". First, he tries to goad Mike into helping him kill Gus, his employer, and doesn't really offer Mike anything in return. Later on, he just drives up to Gus' house with the intention of killing him and is shocked to receive a phone call from Mike.
    • He picks up another one when he gets drunk and lets his pride do the talking when he convinces Hank that Gale couldn't have been Heisenberg.
  • Ignored Epiphany:
    • Judging by his behavior at the very end of "Face Off". Completely outsmarting the most powerful drug dealer in the whole state can have that effect on you.
    • Has another one, more long-lasting in the middle of season 5, after he realizes he can't easily justify killing Mike and earning so much money that it begins to be a liability.
  • Important Haircut: Shaves his head as a sign of his acceptance of cancer and part of his new criminal persona. "Badass, dad!"
  • Informed Kindness: Several characters have a tendency to say that Walter White is nice, a good, decent person, etc. If you pay attention, however, from the beginning, you'll notice that all of Walt's kind-seeming actions are either forced for the sake of manipulation or for that of a facade, or him trying to fulfill his role as a parent. Never does he go out of his way to do anything nice for anyone. As the series advances, he goes downhill from there, both retroactively as we discover his backstory, and by Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Insignia Ripoff Ritual: While avoiding the authorities in New Hampshire. Walt, the destitute king, chafes at having to pay $50,000 for supplies he could pick up himself in town. ("Granite State") Defying the instructions of the extractor, he dons Heisenberg's trademark hat and saunters toward the compound gate... only to suffer a coughing fit and turn back, defeated. The last time we see Heisenberg's hat, it's adorning a mounted deer.
  • Insufferable Genius: He treats Jesse's effort to cook with utter contempt and believes only he can make his product. Though he later admits Jesse is just as good, it is part of his scheme to get him back and avoid suing Hank.
  • Irony: At the beginning of the series, Walt rejects Gretchen and Elliot's offer because he didn't want to depend on their "charity". At the end of the series, the only way Walt can get his remaining drug money to his family without them rejecting it and/or without law enforcement confiscating it is to coerce Gretchen and Elliot into using it to open a trust fund for Flynn that he'll receive on his 18th birthday so it'll look like the money came from one of their acts of charity.
  • It Gets Easier: He becomes much bolder after killing Krazy-8, which only escalates with every crime: throughout the series, his schemes get more and riskier and he gets more carefree about killing, til in one scene he is able to causally sip coffee while several men are being brutally murdered in prison under his orders. It culminates with the killing of Mike, the first truly pointless crime Walt commits.
  • It's All About Me:
    • It's indicated as early as in season 1, when he turns down a high paying job with an offer of having his medical bills covered because of his refusal to work for a company he left before it was big, essentially putting himself before his family.
    • It kicks in full time in season 4, to the point where Walt speaks this exact line out loud, which eventually leads to a conflict with Jesse.
    • In "Felina", he admits to Skyler that this was his main motivation for cooking meth, as he was good at it and enjoyed it. This marks one of the only times the admission of this trope has ever been portrayed sympathetically, as he is finally being honest with both his wife and, just as importantly, himself.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: He has a master's degree from the California Institute of Technology. This trope is actually deconstructed. While another show might just throw out that a character studied at Caltech or other Ivy equivalent to mark them as intelligent regardless of how they act or what their actual job is, in Walter's case the fact that he graduated from such a prestigious institution and did such great work only to end up as a secondary school teacher is nothing less than maddening. Not to mention humiliating.
  • Jaded Washout: Walt's promising career was thwarted when he missed the chance to participate in a Nobel Prize-winning project. His life and embitterment went downhill from there.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: The difference between Walter White and Heisenberg is pretty much night and day and the entire theme of the series is Walt turning into Heisenberg
  • Jerkass: To everyone (mostly Jesse) except his family, and then in later seasons pretty much only his children are spared from his swollen ego and bitterness.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Late in season 2, Walter refuses to give Jesse his share of the cut after completing a massive deal. Walt's primary motivation is likely greed and manipulation, keeping Jesse dependent on him, but it's true that Jesse has a massive drug addiction. That same addiction almost screws Walt from completing the very same deal. Walt even makes a point in saying that if he gets clean, he can get his share.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In a very dark sense, he is this to Jesse. For all of his constant belittlement, manipulation, and abusive, jerkass behavior to Jesse, Walt does genuinely care about him. Several times throughout the series, Walt saves Jesse's life despite being a dick to him not too long before. Even after Jesse almost burns his house, Walt tries his best to resolve the situation without harming Jesse. When he realizes he has no choice but to kill Jesse, Walt is heartbroken.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: His whole arc. His first murder, of Krazy-8, leaves him in Broken Tears and he's visibly devastated. By mid-Season 3...not so much.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: He has a tendency to lie in an obvious way, and when called on it, Confess to a Lesser Crime, as seen with his "gambling addiction" or when Walt Jr. wants to know why his clothes smell like gasoline.
  • Kick the Morality Pet:
    • After finding out his cancer is in remission, Walt goads Walter Jr. into drinking tequila shots until he vomits. Hardly the worst thing he does in the series, but the first time he does something cruel for absolutely no reason.
    • A major one in "Say My Name". When Jesse tells him that he wants out of the meth business, Walt tries to get him to stay. When Jesse insists on leaving, Walt starts belittling him by essentially telling him that he has nothing else of value in his life outside of cooking meth, and proclaiming that nobody outside of the business cares for his well being. Walt then proceeds to twist the knife even further by attempting to use Jesse's murder of Gale in order to convince him that he's just as morally bankrupt as he is.
    • In "Ozymandias", just before Jack's crew takes Jesse to interrogate him on what he told Hank and Gomez, he tells Jesse that he let Jane die, just to spite him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: His early victims, such as the boys picking on his son or the obnoxious man in the bank, keep him from seeming too bad.
  • Lack of Empathy: By the final season, if you're not part of his family or Jesse, he really doesn't give a damn what happens to you. Exemplified in a scene where, after telling Jesse how broken up he is about the shooting of Drew Sharp, he immediately starts whistling a joyful tune, coincidentally "The Lily of the Valley".
  • Large Ham: He’s usually a subtle character but there are moments where Cranston is allowed to devour any scenery, even in the middle of nowhere.
    Walter: HELLFIRE RAINED DOWN ON MY HOUSE WHERE MY CHILDREN SLEEP! THERE WERE BODY PARTS IN MY YARD!
  • Laughing Mad: An epic instance at the end of "Crawl Space".
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Finally catches up with Walt in the season 5 mid-season break. He's done with the business, there are no loose ends, he has more money than he can spend in 10 lifetimes, he smooths out things with Jesse and his family. He's out. And then, Hank realizes that he's Heisenberg. Bonus points for him finding out from a book given to Walt from Gale, the "innocent" man he forced Jesse to kill.
    • Jesse finally comes to realize that Walt poisoned Brock and is having no more of his manipulation, vowing to take him down.
    • The entirety of "Ozymandias". Walter directly endangers a family member, getting Hank killed. He loses most of the money he earned to feed his ego and protect his family. He destroys the last ounce of trust his family had for him and gets into a physical altercation with Skyler and Walt Jr. He realizes that he's been deceiving himself about his motivations all along. And to cap it all off, he embraces the Heisenberg persona fully, so he can protect Skyler from being complicit in his crimes.
  • Leitmotif: "The Long Walk Alone" (Heisenberg's Theme), which often plays when he is in full Heisenberg mode.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Walter's brain seems to work best when he is in mortal danger. Practically every brilliant gambit he comes up with is created when (sometimes literally) looking into the barrel of a gun.
  • Like a Son to Me: Jesse. Walter admits this to several people in 5B when it becomes apparent that Jesse is a risk to him and he may have to kill Jesse. Hank even mentions to Jesse that Walter cares for Jesse in a twisted way.
  • Living Legend: In Season 5, Heisenberg has become this to drug lords in the American Southwest, as evidenced by his scene with Declan.
  • Lonely at the Top: In the mid 5th season finale, Walter reaches this point when he successfully makes more money than his family could ever spend in 10 lifetimes and has lost the emotional support of all his loved ones. This and the news of his cancer returning help him decide to quit his empire.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Walt claims he does what he does out of love for his family, which is partly true. Of course, he also has more egocentric motivations. As time goes on, the ego motivation outweighs the love motivation more and more.

    M-R 
  • MacGyvering: He does this from time to time to get out of trouble, like mixing the right chemicals to escape Krazy-8 and Emilio Koyama. Jumpstarting a car with sponges. Or the bell-activated pipe bomb that kills both Hector and Gus. And an automated M-60 turret made with a garage door opener and car keys.
  • Mad Scientist: Walter White may arguably be an example of this trope in a realistic show outside the science fiction genre. He's a genius scientist skilled in chemistry and engineering, but due to a long list of personal insecurities, he thinks the best way to use his talents and expertise is by exploiting them for organized crime; such as making toxic and deadly drugs, and building improvised weapons to kill anyone who gets in his way.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Grows into one more and more of the course of the series. Seen most clearly with Jesse; Walt plays on Jesse's need for approval more than once to keep him on Walt's side. But he also manipulates criminals he runs into by promising them he can make more money for them and he mostly lies and plays the victim for his family among other ways.
  • Manly Tears: During his phone call to Skyler in "Ozymandias", he manages to keep up the monstrous persona he's putting on for the police even though he is absolutely bawling his eyes out the entire time.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • His name was chosen to be deliberately bland and uninteresting to emphasize his everyman nature. As the series goes on, it reflects his increasingly unforgivable actions.
    • Werner Heisenberg, a theoretical physicist turned Nazi weapons scientist who died of cancer, also may have been a basis for Walt. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is also symbolically in play — the more certain Walter is of what he thinks needs to be done, the more unpredictable he becomes.
  • Mistaken for Gay: By Jesse at first because he insists on making meth in his underwear.
  • Moral Myopia: Any threats against him or his family are unforgivable. His murder of people who are either relatively innocent (Gale) or whom he deliberately screwed over (the nine prisoners whom Walt denied security payments owed by Gus and Mike) are glossed over.
  • Morality Pet: Walt is this to Todd; while usually not blinking at murder, Todd respects Walt and goes out of his way to keep him (relatively) safe.
  • Motivational Lie: Uses one to try to get Jesse on his side in the season 4 finale.
  • Motive Decay: An intentional and interesting case of this. Walt constantly tells himself that he's doing what he does to provide for his family, and on a certain level, he may be right. However, as the series goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that his decision to cook is as much motivated by the desire to feed his ego as it is for helping his family. In season 5's "Buyout", he tells Jesse that the meth business is all he has left and he's only concerned with having as big a piece of that pie as possible.
    Walter: You asked me earlier if we were in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I'm in the empire business.
  • Murder by Inaction: After moving Jane after a heroin injection, he watches her die from her own vomit.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In Season 5, this is Walt's answer to dealing with Mike's incarcerated associates.
  • Murder Makes You Crazy: As of season 5, creator Vince Gilligan has stated, "The new Walt lives in a power vacuum created by the death of Gus Fring."
  • Must Make Amends: The main drive of "Felina" is Walt's last-ditch effort to fix the damage he caused to his family. He first launders the remainder of his drug money into a corporate-sponsored trust for Flynn, then discloses the location of Hank's body to Skyler, giving her enough leverage to escape RICO's grasp. Finally, Walt wipes out Lydia and her drug ring and leads the police to their superlab, ending the threat posed to his family forever.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Averted for most of the series; he is really good at rationalizing his crimes and ignoring the consequences of his actions. He finally begins realizing his mistakes near the end of season 5 part one after killing Mike and acquiring so much money that it can no longer be laundered or even spent.
    • Goes through one in "Ozymandias" when his kidnapped daughter's first word is "Mama".
    • Happens to him in "Salud" following a very ugly argument with Jesse that results in a fight. When Jr asks his father how he got hurt, Walt breaks down in tears and begins apologizing to his son. Judging by the fact that Walt calls his son "Jesse" shortly after Jr is able to calm him down and sedate him, it could be inferred that his apology was actually meant for Pinkman.
    • A very subtle, non-verbal example occurs in "Felina", when he realizes exactly how much torture Todd and Jack have put Jesse through. Prior to that moment, Walt had every intention of killing his former partner. When he sees that Pinkman has been turned into a slave, however, Walt's face expresses visible regret over the fact that he handed him over to them. His last act of compassion is tackling Jesse to the ground to shield him from the death trap he created for Jack's gang.
  • My Greatest Failure: Selling his stock in Gray Matter.
  • Narcissist: Examples of It's All About Me, Manipulative Bastard, Never My Fault, and most of all, his Pride are all over this character page.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent:
    • He originally declares this to Jesse in the beginning. Unfortunately, desperate situations lead to the semi-subversion of this trope at the end of Season 3 with Gale.
    • While Walt does become very callous and reprehensible, he never kills anyone who wasn't part of the criminal underworld.
  • Never My Fault: Walt's main failing other than his ego is his tendency to rationalize his actions and find excuses for himself:
    • During the season 3 premiere, he refuses to take any responsibility for his role in the mid-air collision.
    • For most of Season 4, he insists that he's the Only Sane Man and Gus is out to get him for no good reason. Never mind that he killed Gus' dealers, then ordered Jesse to kill Gale so Gus couldn't kill them.
    • You'd think it was inverted when he admits his fault and guilt in driving Jesse too far when trying to get him to kill Gus with the bug and everything. Yes-no: he admits his mistake, alright... to the wrong person (his uninvolved son). He can only admit guilt under specific circumstances. And, only in a way that doesn't step on that Pride of his. He very quickly goes back to Justifyville, Denial.
    • A bit more of a subtle example, but his selling out of Jesse to Jack's crew and telling him the truth about Jane can easily be interpreted as Walt blaming him for Hank's death.
    • Subverted after his attempted kidnapping of Holly in "Ozymandias", when Walt makes a phone call to Skyler (which he knows is being intercepted by police) and seemingly blames her for everything that has led to his downfall. But what Walt is really doing is making himself look like an abusive spouse so that the extent of Skyler's complicity won't be uncovered and so she won't be shunned by the remaining family.
    • Even his backstory with his following out with Grey Matter. Walt constantly alleges that he got frozen out and his ideas were stolen. Come the final season he admits to Jesse he actually sold his shares when he walked out from the company and only regretted it later when they became successful.
  • Nice Hat: The pork pie hat is an integral part of Heisenberg. When he first wears it he looks like someone's absurd, uncomfortable grandpa. It doesn't stay that way.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Almost everything he does ends up making the situation worse, including the sole fact he went into the meth business. One of the best examples is taking out Gus' laptop in such a way that it reveals a clue that is more valuable to the DEA and actually manages to affect people's lives.
    • Perhaps Walt's most severe and devastating incident yet happens when he thinks Jesse is about to have him killed, and summons Jack's white power gang for backup. He tries to call them off when he sees that Jesse is with Hank and Gomez. Jack's gang ignores the order, shows up after Walt's arrest, and proceed to gun down Gomez and execute Hank to Walt's limitless anguish.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: By Season 5, Walt has definitely taken on the status of Villain Protagonist, he has more than a few incidents of this, some intentional, and some not.
    • Intentional cases include managing to exonerate Skyler via a phone call where he takes the blame for his crimes, he succeeds in securing a college fund for Walter Jnr so he might have a happier future than Walt or Skyler's, and he kidnaps Holly to make Skyler look more heroic.
  • Nominal Hero: Walter is far from being a model human being, but the drug distributors he deals with are usually worse than he is. However, by season 5, this trope no longer applies, seeing as how Walter has become just as ruthless as anyone else in the business, and remains in it solely for his ego.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened at Gretchen's parents' house that led Walt to break up with her and leave Grey Matter.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: In Season 5, upon finally taking the Big Bad slot. While Walt is quite a badass at this point, it's entirely due to his intelligence and cunning. Physically he's still an out-of-shape older man with no combat experience suffering from lung cancer and relies on his subordinates for muscle. Even Jesse, a short string-bean, can beat him in a fight.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: Despite his seemingly weak body, he inexplicably survives for an extra six months past his doctor's original estimation (18 months) even though his cancer was very aggressive by this point and he was getting second-rate treatment. He also stays alive and able to move around for an impressive few minutes after being shot by his own machine gun.
  • Not Me This Time: He truly didn't kill Hank, but by that point his son and wife have absolutely no respect for him anymore and refuse to believe anything he says.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In the 5th season, Jack's crew and Lydia completely underestimate Walter because he looks like a wreck and has no money left. They forget that he also has nothing else to lose.
  • Not So Omniscient After All: A lot. Especially visible in season 3, where the fact that he is hunted by the Twins and that Gus is playing a much more elaborate game than just selling meth completely flies over his head. Although he deduces it very quickly after events.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Originally having turned to cooking crystal meth to pay his hospital bills and provide some extra money for his family should he die, his motivations increasingly turn to serving his own ego and hunger for power. In the finale, he finally admits to Skyler that cooking meth was something he did for himself, and his family was always just an excuse.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several in the final episodes: realizing Hank found and took Leaves of Grass in "Blood Money", and realizing that Hank is talking to Skyler in "Buried".
  • One-Man Army: He single-handedly kills the entire Neo-Nazi gang using a remotely activated machine gun (with the exception of Todd). A rare example where the One Man Army has no real combat skills. By the end of the series, Walt has directly killed (or mortally wounded) 17 dangerous criminals,note  but always through either a plan or with the element of surprise.
  • Only Sane Man: He invokes this often enough, as it's what he loves to convince himself he is. And/or try to convince others he is in comparison, as well. However, it's actually inverted when you notice just how ill-considered, skewed and short-sighted many of his ideas are at root.
  • Overarching Villain: As the undisputed Villain Protagonist of the entire series, he has been a recurring threat since the beginning of the series, causing a lot of problems both direct and indirect by his own actions. Basically, Walt managed to be the Villain Protagonist, the Dragon with an Agenda between Seasons 3 and 4, and part of the Big Bad Ensemble in Season 5.
  • Out-Gambitted: By Hank and Jesse.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • A trio of bullies quickly find out it's a bad idea to make fun of Walt Jr's cerebral palsy in the pilot.
    • Despite his frequent belittlement and manipulation of Jesse, Walt tends to get very angry if his protege is subjected to any serious harm, or is manipulated by someone other than him.
  • Parental Substitute: To Jesse. Which doesn't stop him from being horribly abusive to him.
  • The Pete Best: In-universe. Walt left Gray Matter and sold his share for a pittance before it became a multi-billion dollar company. It's a major source of Walt's pent up bitterness.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • When Walt leaves a hundred dollar tip to the kind waitress Lucy.
    • His interactions with baby Holly - the only person in the entire series that he can't, and doesn't attempt to, manipulate - are the only consistently genuine ones he has.
    • There is seriously no love lost between Walter and Hector Salamanca, but Walt does give him a chance to back out of their plan to frag Gus Fring.
    • During his "confession" tape he uses to blackmail Hank (the whole version of which is available on DVD releases), he manages to never mention Jesse once.
    • The scene in "El Camino" that shows Walt encouraging Jesse to leave his life of crime and pursue college.
    • At the end of "Gliding over All", Walt realizes he'd like to end things on amicable terms with Jesse and decides to give him his 5 million dollars which he had previously withheld from him.
  • Playing Sick: His "fugue state" in season 2 that he uses as an alibi to cover up his and Jesse's time as Tuco's captives.
  • Poison Is Evil: His use of poison at the end of Season 4 is generally seen as the point where he crossed the line from Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain to full Villain Protagonist. Though part of this involves the fact that he poisoned Brock.
  • Poisonous Friend: Although their relationship is more complex than simple "friendship" and the traffic on the Toxic Friend Influence highway is by no means solely one way, he's this very specifically to Jesse as he does start outright manipulating him from the beginning to get what he wants, ending up undermining most of Jesse's outside relationships in a bid to both maintain control and keep his loyalty. However, he does this kind of thing not only to Jesse. Just look at the lives of the people he's touched, be they "friends", "enemies" or "family"....
  • Poor Man's Substitute: invoked One of the major themes of Season 5 is Walt's attempt to assume the position of the now-deceased Gus Fring. Ironically, he finds himself making even less money than he did when he was working as Gus' chef. His ego leads to everything crumbling around him.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Averted, and serves to deconstruct his Even Evil Has Loved Ones with Jesse. True, not taking various characters' advice to off Jesse at various points does give Walt a humanizing side, but the fact remains that many times in the earlier seasons, Jesse is The Millstone who causes trouble for Walt. The most poignant part is when Jesse, incensed at the street dealers who killed Tomas, is going to kill them and facing Gus' retaliation, thus necessitating Walt to bail him out. It's from thereon that Walt's relationship with Fring starts to unravel and things going downhill.
  • Prepare to Die: Walt gives a good one to Tuco when he snaps on Walt and Jesse.
    Walt: We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you're an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die.
  • Pride: One of his biggest Fatal Flaws and the reason why he started cooking meth in the first place - he could've easily been bailed out by Elliot and Gretchen, but he views the act as "charity" and refuses to take their money. He even talks Hank out of believing that Gale is Heisenberg because he refuses to let another man take credit for his work, even though Hank was getting ready to close the investigation. After he kills Gus, Walt's pride reaches insatiable levels and he becomes convinced he can do no wrong, believing himself to be an untouchable criminal mastermind that no one will ever stop. Mike makes the mistake of insulting his pride and gets murdered by an angry Walt for it. Even during the confession video he makes to frame Hank, touches of Walt's pride can still be seen; he makes a point that Hank sought him out to be his chemist, believing him to be smart enough to make the best possible meth, and he still takes credit for building the bomb that killed Gus (while claiming it was under duress, of course). This flaw above his others is what leads to his undoing, since Jesse manages to trick him into admitting to all of his crimes over the phone while Hank and Gomez are listening.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Creator Vince Gilligan describes the show as "What happens when Mr. Chips becomes Scarface." Gradually, Walter's civilian life dies and the Heisenberg alter ego takes over.
  • Properly Paranoid: In Season 4. When he speculates that Gus may have set up a failed stickup as a Batman Gambit so that Jesse would foil it and "prove himself" to Gus and Mike, he sounds insane. He's also absolutely correct.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Despite being a very intelligent and resourceful criminal, Walt is still extremely selfish, petty, stubborn, vindictive, hotheaded, and possesses a huge ego larger than Jupiter. He's basically an overgrown high-school nerd who watched a-few-too-many gangster movies, and it becomes obvious that he chose a life of crime for two main reasons: he feels insecure about his own perceived lack of masculinity, and especially to spite everyone who ever angered him in any way.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Walt manages to build that nest egg for Walter Jr. and Holly before his death, but his actions have led to his brother-in-law's death, his family losing their house and his remaining family disowning him. Moreover, his family will never know it was his money, instead they'll think it was an act of charity from Walt's resented former business partners, the very thing he refused to accept back in season 1. He barely manages to keep his wife out of jail for her role as an accomplice in laundering his money, and he has to do that by making himself out as an abusive spouse who forced Skyler into it. And while his family was cleared of any criminal charges, they've been forever scarred and remembered for his crimes.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: In general, every 'victory' Walt has causes more problems than it solves and/or kills off even more of his humanity.
  • The Quiet One: Walt starts out as a man of few words and even fewer actions, but subverts this later on when he becomes comfortable with his new lifestyle, and his Pride starts making him talk way too much.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: It is never outright confirmed, but on two separate occasions in Season 5 it is heavily implied that Walt rapes his wife. At one point, Walt starts kissing her neck in bed while talking to her, all while she looks incredibly uncomfortable. At another, Skyler tells him "I can't even keep you out of my bed", implying she has tried and failed to get him away from her.
  • Reality Ensues: His confrontation with the show's Final Boss, Uncle Jack's Aryan Brotherhood. No matter how good he's proved at manipulating people, he couldn't do anything to stop Jack's crew from executing Hank and taking over his eighty million for themselves. They have guns and he doesn't.
    • Walt does the things he does because he comes to enjoy them and enjoy how important and potent being good at them makes him feel. It's this lack of pragmatism that proves his downfall, as his Pride and his Greed are taken to their logical conclusions.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gets quite a few from various characters through the series:
    • Gus explains the reason why he initially refuses to do business with Walt, not knowing how right he is.
    I don't think we're alike at all, Mr. White. You are not a cautious man at all. Your partner was late, and he was high. ...You have poor judgement. I can't work with someone with poor judgement.
    • One from Mike, and it doesn't end so well for him.
    We had a good thing, you stupid son of a bitch! We had Fring, we had a lab, we had everything we needed, and it all ran like clockwork! You could have shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed! It was perfect! But no! You just had to blow it up! You, and your pride and your ego! You just had to be the man! If you'd done your job, known your place, we'd all be fine right now!
    • The most devstating one has to be from Walt Jr./Flynn when Walter tries to give him the money after Hank's death:
    ...you killed Uncle Hank! YOU KILLED HIM! What you did to Mom, you asshole! You killed Uncle Hank-Just shut up! Just shut up! YOU KILLED UNCLE HANK! YOU KILLED HIM! What you did-just shut up! SHUT UP! Will you just-just leave us alone, you asshole! Why are you still alive?! Why don't you just-just die already?! JUST DIE!
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Only a few times but when Walt’s deep into his Heisenberg persona he’s worn a red shirt with a black outfit.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The logical, experienced blue to Jesse's emotional and young red. He then swaps roles with the more cold and calculating Gus Fring.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Somewhat in "Felina". Just before dying, despite still being completely unapologetic about the decisions he's made throughout the series, it's clear that Walt at least feels some guilt over the unintended consequences and had regained at least some of his lost humanity.
  • Revenge: While he started out insisting that he wanted as little trouble as possible, his actions have always shown him to be extremely vindictive when wronged. From attacking some teens who were mocking his son to setting Ken Wins's car on fire to his lack of hesitation in going after Tuco when he found out that he had hurt Jesse to his reaction when he found out that one of Jesse's dealers had been ripped off (despite Jesse insisting it wasn't a big deal), Walt's always gone out of his way to hit back at people who have messed with him, regardless of the offense or risk.

    S-Z 
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • In "Crawl Space" after finding out that his wife gave most of their money to Ted to pay for taxes, when he desperately needed it to disappear them all after Gus threatened to murder his entire family if he tried to stop him from killing Hank. Many viewers say that Walter never came out of the crawl space, only Heisenberg.
    • In the opening to "Live Free or Die", he is completely out of it and can barely form a coherent sentence anymore.
  • Sarcastic Confession: To Hank, twice - first in the season 3 premiere, the second time when Hank stumbles on Gale Boetticher's notes, with a dedication to a "W.W.". It bites him in the ass in "Gliding Over All".
  • Say My Name: "You're Heisenberg." "You're goddamn right."
  • Science Hero: Think if MacGyver turned evil. In the first season alone, he uses his chemistry know-how to cook incredibly pure crystal meth, kill two drug dealers with phosphine gas, blow up an annoying yuppie's car, intimidate hardened criminals with exploding fulminated mercury, and melt through a solid metal lock with thermite.
    Tuco: What was that stuff?
    Walt (as Heisenberg): Fulminated mercury... a little tweak of chemistry.
  • Secret Identity: His Heisenberg persona that he uses to sell meth. Eventually, it becomes his true persona.
  • Self-Serving Memory: In "Peekaboo" he implicitly compares himself to Tracy Hall, the chemist who invented synthetic diamonds for General Electric but was screwed out of millions of dollars by them...except, it is revealed in the same episode that while he feels this is what happened to him with Grey Matter, in reality he walked away from the company after breaking up with Gretchen, and worst of all he broke up with her because he didn't want to marry into money. The truth is that he is solely responsible for all of the money problems he ever faces in the show purely because of his ego.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man:
    • Manly Man to Jesse's Sensitive Guy. Walt's cold and calculating personality contrasts with Jesse's compassion, empathy, and uninhibited vulnerability.
    • Sensitive Guy to Hank Schrader's Manly Man, at first. Hank is brash, crude and boisterous, an avid sports fan and gun enthusiast, and his work as a DEA agent often puts him in danger. Walt is a mild-mannered and milquetoast high school chemistry teacher, much more of an intellectual and something of a dork. As the show progresses, however, they both shift around the spectrum: Hank reveals an increasing amount of emotional problems and insecurities, as well as some nerdy interests, while Walter becomes increasingly cold, ruthless and dangerous.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: His manner of speech, especially when contrasted with Jesse's.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Greed and Pride.
    • Envy: Walt is clearly annoyed at his son's hero worship of Hank, and is utterly resentful and bitter towards Gretchen and Elliott over their success with Gray Matter.
    • Greed: As far back as the beginning, Walt has a tendency to bite off more than he can chew. When he can't make as much meth as he had initially agreed on with Tuco, he still tries to get him to pay the original price as a retainer, despite knowing full well how risky it is to piss off Tuco. Even when the meth business is going smoothly, he always insists to Jesse that they could be making more. This is used by Jesse and Hank to corner him in "To'hajiilee".
      • Averted in "Kafkaesque" when he is perfectly content with his $1.5 million deal with Gus, and it is Jesse who believes that he isn't being paid enough.
      • Subverted in "Felina", when Jack's promises to return Walt's money and claims do nothing to keep Walt from killing him, even as he claims Walt could never find it on his own.
      • Once he fills the void killing Gus Fring and Fring's wiping out of his rival cartel leaves in the drug manufacturing trade, Walt basically has a monopoly on the meth trade in the southeastern United States and becomes fabulously wealthy. Despite it being more than anyone could ever want (and more than he could ever realistically spend), he keeps all his millions locked up in a storage locker and just keeps going, seemingly just wanting more and more money for the sake of it, in addition to the boost being a kingpin gives to his now massive ego.
    • Pride: The prospect of claiming that his meth profits are a gift, inheritance or randomly found money is so abhorrent that he pays 20% of his profits to Saul and slowly launders the remainder. In Season 4, he talks Hank out of believing that Gale was Heisenberg, because he can't stand the idea of another cook being credited with his precious Blue Sky. In Season 5, he all but outright admits that his ego and the boost it gets from cooking meth are why he stays in the meth business. In "Granite State", seeing Elliott and Gretchen appearing on television and making him an Un-person in Gray Matter's history is what drives him to go back to Albuquerque rather than turn himself in. Finally, in "Felina", part of Walt's partial redemption involves letting go of his pride, making sure through Gretchen and Elliott that his children receive all the remaining millions he has left to him even at the cost of letting them think the money is from the generosity of his hated ex-business partners rather than through his work. He also finally admits, to himself and to Skyler, that his meth cooking was always much more about him than the family.
  • Shouldn't You Stop Stealing?: Both Skyler and Jesse call him out on this, as he doesn't stop selling meth even after making more money than his family can safely launder (let alone spend) in a lifetime.
  • Shout-Out: A visual one. Before losing his hair, Walt's facial features make him look a lot like Ned Flanders, putting further emphasis on the whole Protagonist Journey to Villain thing.
  • Sinister Whistling: Jesse is distraught over a TV news broadcast about the disappearance of Drew Sharp, the boy that Todd killed. Walt tells him that he feels guilt about the incident as well, but after the conversation is over, he starts to whistle light-heartedly, implying that he doesn't feel any remorse over the murder.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Granted, the reputation he has as "Heisenberg" doesn't make him just a "small name"; however, Walt has a frequent tendency to assume that he's in control of everything when he clearly isn't. His speech to Skyler in "Cornered" is probably the best example of this.
  • Smart People Play Chess: During Walter's first day at Gus's laundry, he plays chess with Gale.
  • Smug Snake: When his Heisenberg persona comes into play, Walt likes to think of himself as threatening and intimidating, but in reality, it's just his massive ego. Much like other fictional high-functioning smug snakes like Light Yagami, Walt can be very smart and cunning, but his pathetic Freak Outs, childish tantrums, extreme arrogance and overconfidence can and do cost him the sympathy of manys. All these attributes prevent him from qualifying as a invoked Magnificent Bastard. Marie described him very accurately:
    Marie to Skyler: "That arrogant asshole thinks he's some criminal mastermind, but he's not."
  • Spotting the Thread: Early in Season 1, he is torn about killing Krazy 8, because it would be his first murder in cold blood (Emilio's death was mostly self-defense), and it's a line he'd rather not cross. Krazy 8 has him legitimately interested in letting him go, but then he decides to piece together the shards of the shattered plate he'd cleaned up, and notices the missing piece.
  • Start My Own: After killing Gus, he aims to start his own meth empire. He even outright states he'll manage his operation just as well as Gus. He doesn't.
  • Suicide by Cop: In the first episode, it's strongly implied that Walter's plan when he thinks he's going to be cornered by police is to open fire on them so they'll kill him. This should give a few implications about his personality from the outset.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Season 1, with Krazy-8. Later, not so much.
  • Taking the Bullet: Unwilling to let Jesse get caught in the path of gun turret, Walt tackles him to the floor and pretends to beat him up. With the Nazis now distracted by the scuffle, Walt secretly activates the smart key to his Buick, unleashing a hail of bullets and shielding Jesse with his own body.
  • Taking the Heat: After Walter flees his home, he calls back while the Whites are under police surveillance to feed a story that he was solely responsible and forced Skyler to his will, so she isn't held accountable.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Probably too many times to list...
    • Deconstructed to all hell in "To'hajiilee" and "Ozymandias".
  • Tears of Remorse: Walt with his first murder. Also, after he lets Jane die.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: In reaction to Hank's death and his family leaving him ("Ozymandias"), Walt submerges himself in the Heisenberg persona, barking out threats and gloating over the deaths he's caused. Not necessarily because he takes pleasure in it, but because he wants to distance Skyler from being linked to his crimes. Most telling is that during the whole scene, despite his harsh tone, he is weeping profusely.
  • This Means War!: Against Jack for stealing 70 million dollars of his money and murdering Hank.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Deconstructed in the 1st to 3rd season. In season 1, an emotional Walt kills a drug dealer because letting him free after events would mean the certain death of him and his family. Trying to keep this moral trope proves difficult in the 2nd season when Badger, a dealer of Walt and Jesse, becomes a liability and paying off the right people becomes impractical in their line of business and expensive, at least at the time. In the 3rd season, despite his claim to Jesse that they aren't murderers regarding the issue with the two rival drug dealers, Walter has Gale murdered in order to secure his and Jesse's survival. By Season 5, he has absolutely no problems with it anymore unless it's family.
  • Took a Level in Badass: What the title of the series refers to, though he doesn't really make it all the way there until the end of season 4 when he outsmarts Gus. However, it's also a Deconstruction as, the more badass he gets, the more humanity he loses.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Oh boy. The longer the series goes, he gains new and new levels of jerkassery, but after killing Gus, there's barely any humanity left in Walt.
  • Too Clever by Half: Walt's ingenuity often screws him up, since he is terrible at predicting consequences, mostly due to his exceeding pride and superiority complex. The magnet ploy is the best example; it sets in motion much of the drama and complication of season 5.
  • Tragic Hero: A textbook example to the point that he has been widely compared to many of Shakespeare's characters. Walt is a genius-level chemist (restricted to a job far below his skill level), loving father, and all-around good person at the start of the series. Diagnosed with lung cancer, his own pride drives him to refuse handouts from anyone else and deal with the issue on his own terms. As time goes on, his decisions drive him further down a dark path, draining him of any morality. By the time he realizes just how far he's fallen, the only things left for him to do are humble himself and make amends before dying.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Walt has a tendency to remember his important kills through gifts and adopting mannerisms:
    • He cuts off the crust from his bread in memory of Krazy-8.
    • He keeps the eye from the furry toy from the plane crash in ABQ. It represented his morality and his regrets about what he was doing.
    • He keeps a book from Gale, which ends up screwing him over.
    • Some of Gus' cleanliness seems to have rubbed on him; for example, he puts a towel on the floor before kneeling down to vomit, just as Gus did.
      • His handling of Lydia in the car wash directly mirrors his talk with Gus about Hank's bug at Los Pollos Hermanos.
      • Additionally, his grieving pose in "Ozymandias" (lying face-first on the ground, beaten and humiliated) mirrors that of Gus when Max was killed.
    • After killing Mike, he starts to drink alcohol the same way.
    • And he tells Lydia that she needs to learn to "take yes for an answer", just as Mike told him.
    • Though he didn't kill Hank, Walt feels responsible for it, and thus orders his whiskey in the same way Hank did.
  • Tragic Villain: Deconstructed. At first he is forced into his life of crime as his only way to care for his family. As the series progressed however he starts choosing evil and caring only about himself.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • A masterful example can be seen at the end of "Granite State". He keeps his poker face on after breaking into Elliott and Gretchen's house, which probably greatly contributes to their panic.
      Walter: I really like your new house.
    • Another moment can be seen with his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Jack, as despite his betrayal and murder of Hank, he never raises his voice and stays coldly calculating throughout the entire ordeal.
  • True Companions: As unfathomable the hate they gradually had for each other, he and Jesse were this at the end, evidenced by Walt shielding Jesse from his machine gun trap and letting him go. The little nod they both give each other before Jesse leaves is about everything they needed and could say.
  • The Unapologetic: By the time of the final episode, even after admitting that his intentions weren't as noble as he tried to claim, he still never apologizes to Skyler or Jesse for everything he put them through.
  • The Unfettered: After living afraid for 50 years, as Walt himself puts it, he starts to become this soon after "Heisenberg" arises, being capable of nearly anything to achieve his goals: from lying, abusing and manipulating the people closest to him into doing his bidding to threatening, poisoning or murdering anyone who stands in his way. Though there is at least one line he will never cross: he won't (physically) hurt family, no matter what it costs him, and has a bit of a breakdown when his actions accidentally result in the death of Hank.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Rejecting the offer from Gretchen and Elliot was ungrateful and it was an Establishing Character Moment that shows Walt to be on the selfish, bitter side.
  • Un-person: On the verge of becoming one in "Granite State": his legal identity is erased, his character as a father and husband is denied, his contribution as a scientist in Gray Matter is discredited, and his reputation as the legendary Heisenberg is steadily diminished as his signature blue meth remains on the market despite his disappearance. This is what drives his actions in the finale. The tagline of the final season says it best: Remember My Name.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: In "Felina". Having accepted that everything is his fault, Walt salvages anything that hasn't yet been destroyed. He ensures a hefty inheritance for his family and that Hank and Gomez's bodies are found. He avenges Hank by killing the Neo-Nazis, rescues Jesse before giving him the chance to kill him. Finally, he clears his family off any charges for good, or at the very least, puts them on a good legal standing.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • He lets Jane die in "Phoenix", which quickly snowballs into a mid-air collision in "ABQ".
    • Walt also tells Jack about Jesse's relationship with Andrea and Brock. This leads to Todd killing Andrea in the Penultimate Episode.
  • Victory Is Boring: In "Gliding Over All", everybody who could pose a threat to Walt is dead and that combined with the meth business feeling like a 9-5 job, prompts him to finally leave the meth business until Hank discovers his dark secret.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • At the end of the Season 4 episode "Crawl Space".
    • And an even more severe one in Season 5's "Ozymandias", when Hank is killed right in front of him.
    • Right before "Ozymandias", "To'hajiilee" sees Walt set up by Jesse and Hank with a ruse to threaten his money, which results in Walt furiously ranting to Jesse about how he earned all of that money and everything he did for it- the entire rant was recorded by Hank for the purpose of busting Walt. The last third of "To'hajiilee" through "Ozymandias" is one long villainous breakdown for Walt.
  • Villain Protagonist: His actions have gradually become more extreme and amoral as his greed and pride increasingly influence his behavior, pushing the limit on how far he can go before he stops being a sympathetic Anti-Hero. Come Season 5 he has finally transitioned to full villain status, murdering several people to secure his own safety, continuing to cook even though he has more money than he ever needed, and stating outright that with his family life in ruins, his goal now is to build a drug empire. Dials back slightly in the second half of the season when he finally gets out of the business for good and makes it clear that he still loves his family, but it may be too little too late in-universe by this point. By the end, he flat out states that everything he did was all for himself, and while he admits this to his wife and is finally honest to her and himself, he is still completely unapologetic.
  • Villain's Dying Grace: As is obvious from the other tropes, Walt swings back and forth between being a hero, villain, and everything in between. However, by his death, he has alienated Flynn and Skyler most of all, and emotionally destroyed them. They both make it clear that he can't be forgiven for that - but he finally admits to Skyler the last time he sees her that he acted selfishly. Plot-wise, Skyler shows obvious relief and gratitude when he, on a bugged phone line, silently forgives her for turning on him, fully implicates himself, and frees her as much as he can so that she may still raise Flynn and Holly.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Deconstructed Trope.
    • Both Jesse and Skyler call him out on this in the first half of Season 5.
      Jesse: Mr. White... is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?
    • In the second half of season 5, Walt ties up his loose ends and finally admits the truth to Skyler. Most notably is that he never truly apologizes to anyone in the end, only giving a brutally honest admission of his motives.
      Walt: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really... I was alive.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Initially played straight but the "well-intentioned" bit is mostly in his own head by the later seasons.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • Walt goes in and out of this with Jesse until Jesse finds out that it was Walt who poisoned Brock.
    • He was also fairly close to Hank until Hank finds out Walt is Heisenberg.
  • What a Piece of Junk: Walt finally gets a vehicle that gets some action when in the finale he slaughters the entire Neo-Nazi gang via a machine gun mounted to the back of an old Cadillac.
  • What You Are in the Dark: A major element of the series is putting Walter through ever higher and higher stakes and showing his response. Almost every one he makes shows him to be quite a reprehensible human being, and steadily getting worse.
  • When It All Began: Walter's life as Heisenberg begins on his 50th birthday, the day Hank offered to take him on a ride-along for a meth bust, and ends on his 52nd.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: In the earlier seasons, it seems like his meth cooking and increasingly aggressive behavior is his way to get even with a world that had always treated him like dirt. Even after all the terrible things he's done, it's hard not to feel sorry for him in "Granite State" when he has to go into hiding in complete solitude, pays someone 10 grand to be his friend for just an hour, and has his son yell at him that he needs to just die.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Poisoned Brock as part of his plan to get Jesse back on his side against Gus. While it doesn't really excuse his actions, he at least made sure to use a non-fatal poison. And it was after Gus had threatened to murder Walt’s family so it was also out of desperation.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: After the shooting that results in Hank's death, Walter taunts Jesse with the exact details of Jane's death before Jack's men take him away.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: In "Ozymandias", when he embarks on self-imposed exile to New Hampshire. Until Gray Matter sparks his final move in the finale.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: He knows he's doomed from the very beginning after his cancer diagnosis; which, of course, is what sets everything in motion in the first place.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report