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Protagonist or Antagonist?

Walter White
Walter White (Photo credit: geener)

Tonight I will be watching the final episode of Breaking Bad.  DH and I made it through the whole series in just over a month.  Yes, it is amazing that the rest of my life hasn’t fallen apart (and it is probably a contributing factor to my exhaustion).  Anyway, I don’t know how I feel about where the show has gone.  I know I’m not going to be happy with the ending.

*WARNING: SPOILER ALERT*

I am having a really difficult time deciding if I still like Walt.  He started the series as the Protagonist.  He had all the good intentions and you could really identify with him.  Even up to the middle/end of the fourth season, you still wanted him to come out on top.  Despite the crimes he committed, it was still possible to believe that he was doing it for all the right reasons. I left the end of the fourth season being angry at Walt, but believing that maybe it would all work out for him and it wouldn’t have been for nothing: Maybe he would secure a financially stable future for his family, he would die from his Cancer and not because of his drug interactions, and he would be remembered by everyone, including his kids, as the loving, caring, kind man who he was at the beginning of the show.  Season five sure shattered all my illusions.

Walt may have started as the protagonist, but did he stay that way?  What he did to his family, the situations he put his wife in, the threats and the killings… there is nothing there that still screams “protagonist.”  Despite that, I still find myself pulling for him.  I am angry when he makes mistakes and puts himself at risk.  If Walt was anyone else, I would be happy that he loses out; he is an antagonist through and through.  He deserves to lose his money, and lose the respect of his family, and die a horrible death.  But I know that won’t make me happy, either.  Interestingly, I find myself getting angry with the other characters, such as Skyler, Walt Jr., Hank, Jessie – all the people who are victims and who probably have done the right things and reacted in the appropriate ways, yet they made it difficult for Walt to succeed in his endeavours.  If only they listened to Walt, everything would have been okay.

And now I am cheering for the bad guy.  The bad guy who is really the good guy?  I don’t even know anymore.  Maybe that’s why I’m so torn up about the show.  I know what’s right and wrong, and I know that Walt is wrong.  However, I don’t care: I sympathize with him and I want him to win.  As soon as it became clear to me that he won’t be winning in this series, I decided I didn’t really want to finish watching the show.  Who knows, maybe there will be an interesting twist in the final episode, but I’m not holding my breath.

Once I finish watching the series, and I get over my disappointment with how it ends, perhaps I can start to reflect on the amazing things that were done by the writers of the show.  The took a protagonist and made him one of the worst antagonists in modern television.  Not only did they do that, but they made it impossible for the viewer to ever really dislike Walt completely.  In any other plot, the protagonist is always supposed to win and the antagonist is always supposed to lose.  When this doesn’t happen, it’s like the “way of the world” has been disrupted.  But, what happens when the protagonist and the antagonist are the same person?  If Walt wins and his family runs away and lives happily every after with $80 million, there is some satisfaction.  But that’s not the way it should go: the drug dealers shouldn’t win – and maybe that’s why the series ended the way it did.  The way of the world needs to be restored, and even if Walt is the good guy deep down in our hearts (because the writers made us fall in love with him at the beginning), he is the bad guy in the grand scheme of things.  If the antagonist doesn’t lose, then it’s just not right – so obviously, Walt has to die (and I guess, without the money and the reverence of his family). The finale might be disappointing to me, but it doesn’t change the fact that the series did something that hasn’t really been done before.

I guess as I watch the finale tonight, I will just have to remember that when the protagonist and the antagonist is the same person, there is no way that the show can end with complete and satisfying resolution.  And, regardless of how it ends, it is still probably one of the best TV shows that I have ever watched.

2 thoughts on “Protagonist or Antagonist?

  1. [spoilers alert too]

    Wow, I also just finished the watching the whole series a few days ago. This show is really something mad. Everything is pretty much evil but with the kind of characters sensibility. I started to be pretty much against Skyler because like you I kept on wishing she listened to Walt and stopped acting on her own! And Hank, I felt soo bad for him, he’s the “light” of the story, the hope of the family. Haha. Amazingly, intelligently mad show until the end.

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