August 11th is going to be a special day for me. It is one that I’ve looked forward to for a long time. In fact, it might as well be a holiday in my house. That special day marks the moment when we will all get to begin the countdown to Breaking Bad’s final episode. But as excited as I am for August 11th, I’m also saddened. I feel like I’m losing my best meth-dealing friend.
I’ve been completely sucked into Breaking Bad since the first season, when I witnessed the dad from Malcolm in the Middle standing in the desert in his underwear while holding a gun. For those that haven’t watched Breaking Bad, you’re missing out because it is the greatest show to ever be put on television. (Oh, don’t start with me you Wire people. I’m aware of The Wire’s greatness and I know you old timers will boast about Mash, but this is my post. Write your own.) Now, I’ll say it again, Breaking Bad is the greatest show ever.
Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teacher that is diagnosed with an inoperable form of lung cancer. Faced with his imminent death, he chooses to begin cooking and distributing meth so that he can leave a nest egg for his family after he passes. With the help of a drug addict former student, Jesse Pinkman, played brilliantly by Aaron Paul (who is by far the best crier on television), White begins to build his meth business into a multi-million dollar empire.
Bryan Cranston is remarkable as Walter White and I think they should rename the Emmy for Best Actor in a Television Series the “Bryan Cranston Award.” You will not find better acting anywhere. There will be character studies done on Walter White for years and the success of the show is in large part to Cranston’s acting.
Okay, now that I’ve set up what Breaking Bad is all about and I’ve shared my thoughts on how fantastic the show is, I’ll get into my title question. Is Walter White the best TV dad ever or the worst TV dad ever? Here’s the argument for both:
The Worst: Walter White is a bad, bad man. He’s the worst kind of man because he knows better. Not only does he make a highly addictive drug that ruins the lives of many, but he also orchestrates the deaths of many more. Most of those people are bad themselves, but still, he is behind their deaths. His entire plan and purpose is to make a lot of money, and he doesn’t care how he does it, so long as he does. He lies to everyone, including his family, and does it with ease. He manipulates poor Jesse all the time and looks out for his own best interest time and again. Let’s not forget that he’s already made more than enough money to put his kids and grandkids through college and live the rest of his days debt free, yet he continues to build his empire. While his love for his family originally motivated his actions, it’s clear that the only thing motivating him now is his own selfishness.
The Best: What is a universal characteristic of a great man? Self-sacrifice. Walter White has sacrificed more than any dad that I can think of in television history. He began his meth-dealing journey to protect and provide for his family for those days when he wouldn’t be around. He wanted to set his family up so that they wouldn’t have any financial hardships and that his two children could be put through college. With every episode, Walter faces possible imprisonment or death. I can’t ever remember Ward Cleaver sacrificing anything unless it mean putting the paper down so he could go and fetch Beav from a steaming coffee cup or other similar predicament. Steve Douglas, Heathcliff Huxtable, Danny Taner, Mr. C, Andy Taylor, and Jim Anderson never had to live with that kind of stress. What’s so bad about Walter White? Oh right, the meth part.
So, best or worst, which is he? I can’t say that he’s the best dad because of the whole double life thing and shaky morality. Could I say he’s the worst? Not as long as Dexter Morgan is around. Now there’s a guy with issues.
The final season begins Sunday, August 11th on AMC at 9:00.