Friday, May 3, 2013

The Psychology Behind Breaking Bad

I just recently finished watching all of the material that is currently available for Breaking Bad (which ends at Season 5 Episode 8). And i find it interesting now that i have a moment to reflect on the entire series to see how all of the characters have changed from Point A to Point B. In this post i'll be making some pretty general statements about the TV show as a whole but some people might consider them as spoilers, so if you're adamant about not having anything about the show ruined for you, i'd suggest taking a bow out of this post for now.

The entire TV series opens up with portraying Walter White as a little bit of a bitch. he's whipped by his wife, he's on the verge of being whipped by his students, and he's whipped by his boss at the car wash. He just kind of mopes around and takes it all too. Never bothers to put up a fight of any kind. Then to add insult to injury, he finds out he has cancer, so now he's whipped by his own heath. Enter Jesse Pinkman. With the introduction of Jesse, we find a young man who gave up on his education a few years too early and as a consequence he faced the dilemma that all high school dropouts face, which is the inability to get any form of high paying job what so ever. So, to counteract having to work 9 to 5 in some shit hole fast food restaurant for the rest of his life, he resorted to cooking meth (and subsequently getting addicted on his own product).

When our two main characters meet up and do their first cook, you see more of the same from Jesse, he's an addict whom has no regard what-so-ever for the process in which to cook or for the product itself. But for Walter, we see a genius spring into action. We begin to see that this guy is much too qualified than your average high school teacher. Then when they run into the first speed bump in their business, we see that Jesse has a complex for obeying orders. he refuses to do anything of the sort which causes several problems for the duo. We also see Walter struggling within himself to hold onto a small piece of his morality, only to throw it out of the window in exchange for his own limited survival.

Season 2 brings a new Walter to the scene. Walter becomes much more assertive. He becomes cold to the dirty work involved with the business, but he's still determined to only make what he needs to give his family enough to live off of when he passes away. Jesse finds love and has a reason to live besides the cook. Walter attempts to get out of the business for a short while when he has enough money but finds himself wanting for more. This is also the point where we begin to see that it's no longer about the money for walter.

Season 3 shows us  Walter continuing to slide down the slippery slope. Jesse loses love, goes into rehab, comes out clean and almost immediately starts selling again without walter. Season 4 Walter becomes so addicted to being in a place of power with his ability to make the most chemically perfect crystal in the world that he is willing to set up extremely intricate schemes to eliminate anyone in his path so he instantly skyrockets to the top of the world. Jesse, on the other hand, manages to find love once again, stays clean, becomes independent, and confident.

Lastly where we land, Walter begins to realize that his reach has exceeded his grasp, and he starts to really collect who he is once again. But by this time, he has already become the antagonist when he started as the protagonist (a very unlikable one at that but still the intended protagonist). Jesse has become the Protagonist now. Completely pulling out of the business and living the life of a hermit after breaking up with his second love to protect her and her child.

The reason i cover this all is to show you the power of dynamic characters. Even in my all-time favorite TV show, Battlestar Galactica (2004), sure the characters were dynamic, but they were never this dynamic. They evolved from Point A to Point B, but what Breaking Bad takes 2 seasons to do, BSG took 4 (6 if you want to count 2.5 and 4.5 as their own, independently standing seasons).

But this isn't just about Hollywood writing, it really is about the human psyhe. A man who was merely a timid shell of a person almost his entire life, finds a rush of adrenaline in an activity he is reluctant to do and becomes addicted to that rush. He begins to take on the mentality of doing whatever it takes to get that rush the same way as he did that first time. Walter is the worst possible epitomization of that addiction because he feeds it. He changes who he is dramatically, he lets himself learn to be okay with things that are as far from okay as they possibly could be, and all just to get that rush again.

On the flipside of the coin, Jesse is a kid who had that rush as a daily component of his life for as long as he can remember. so by the end of the journey, he finally realized that he was tired of being pushed around, and the rush had lost it's zeal. He just wanted to be left alone and not have to think about the rush for that matter.

This all applies in everyday situations too. Say you get into skydiving and you love the rush of it, chances are, you're going to have a few close calls if you keep at it, and then you'll call it quits. it costs too much to get up in the air, it's too dangerous jumping out, there's too many variables that can go wrong, and the thrill is gone, it's just going through the motions now. Everyone will get to that point, it's just a matter of people who start sooner will probably get there sooner.

Sorry for the long rant, but it is in the web address of the blog. What do you think about the psychological development in Breaking Bad? Maybe not even just within Walter and Jesse, all of the characters. The only 2 static characters on the regular cast if you ask me are Walter Jr. and Marie.

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