Throughout the amazing ‘Breaking Bad’ series, we see the character of Walter White slowly degrade with each episode. Thus abandoning his boring teacher persona for that of Heisenberg. The alias used by Walter throughout the series comes as a nod, and possible homage, to German Physicist Werner Heisenberg, who was one of the pioneers of Quantum Mechanics.
Similarly to Heisenberg and Nikola Tesla, Walter White was a brilliant chemistry graduate of the California Institute of Technology and co-founded Gray-Matter Technologies. Walter decides to leave the company and sells his shares for 5.000$. Not long after his departure the company makes a fortune from his research. This bears a striking similarity similarly with what Thomas Edison did to Nikola Tesla.
Before being diagnosed with Stage III Lung Cancer on his 50th birthday, Walter is presented as a mild-mannered professor of chemistry and car wash cashier.
His teaching job paid so poorly that he had to work more and was often ridiculed and humiliated by his students when he had to wash their cars. These events would be the start for Walter’s metamorphosis into a ruthless drug kingpin. His journey from small time teacher to drug lord is the central part of the show. It can be seen from his attitude and even his wardrobe colors. Walter wears light colors during the beginning of the show. His color scheme turns darker and darker as the plot moves forward.
The reasoning behind these changes is to follow his personality’s evolution.
Walter White is one of the best antiheroes to grace the TV screens. His multilayered personality puts him in several different situations where he shows gentleness towards some characters while being brutal and violent with others. His descent into madness is also a central motif. Besides his colors of choice, he is also an extremely prideful man and refuses many offers of help that would aid his treatment. He prefers to make and sell meth in order to support himself and his family. He is seen barely concealing his fury and anger at his son for creating a website where he asks for donations for Walt’s treatment, later on telling him that he doesn’t want to be remembered as a sick and dying man.
Many times during his transition from Walt to Heisenberg, he uses his family as justification for the crimes that he commits.
This hypocritical nature is further shown when continues using the excuse that he is providing and protecting his family when the reality is that Walt went further into the drug business for his own interests and enjoyment.
Other notable example of his double standards can be seen when he shows his bitterness towards his friends and co-founders of Gray-Matter. They sold his ideas and research and became rich on his back, while he never saw a dime. He is also a cunning and meticulous man and systematically destroys his enemies, or people with more power than him, until he is the only man left standing. Starting with Krazy 8, Tuco, Gus and Mike, Walt shows he has the unbeatable survival skills of a kingpin.
Bryan Cranston, the man who brought Walter White to life said that: “ I think Walt’s figured out it’s better to be a pursuer than the pursued. He’s well on his way to badass. ” Walt also faced difficulty with killing throughout the series. However, after his complete transition into his doppelganger he does not have second thoughts about killing and murders with no remorse. During his descent into the criminal underworld, Walt shows that nothing, or nobody, can stand in the way of his drug empire.
Being in the position of power also diminishes his empathy. He also comes to regard his new status as a drug lord as psychologically rewarding.
This leads him to become less and less reluctant to resort to criminal acts such as theft, extortion, money laundering, and murder, showing pleasure, enthusiasm and even a sort of depraved indifference in these acts to a degree. In Machiavellian fashion, Walt shows impressive levels of repression: repressed ambition, anger, resentment and vanity. However, with his family he remains as he did in the past. Even begging for the life of Hank towards the end of the show, bargaining his fortune for the life of his brother-in-law. Showing that there is still a part of Walter White in there instead of just Heisenberg.
“Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up. Disappears! It ceases to exist without me. No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger! A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!”
Walter revealing his true nature to his wife is one of the best scenes in the show. It serves to present the real transformation and that finally Walter is no longer suppressing his emotions as he had done in the past. Irony does follow Walter to the end of the show when he dies in the only place he truly felt alive, a meth lab, marking the end of his drug empire. His doctor told him during the diagnosis he would live, at best, for two more years. Walt dies on his 52nd birthday. This being a single day short of the two years.