Walter White's Seven Step Program into Hell
Heisenberg's March into the Inferno
Photo by Gage Skidmore
If there was ever a way back for Walter White after tallying 201 souls, settling with Skylar provided the moment. He finally admitted his true motivations. "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really -- I was alive." But descent was a long road and each rung down wasn’t necessarily marked by Walt’s darkest moments. In other words, Walter had to build an evil tolerance and develop the skills to sink to such hideous depths. Otherwise, he could never have executed deeds like allowing Jane to die or poisoning Brock. So here’s a look back at the seven steps that gaves us Heisenberg in all his glory and secured Walter White's place in Hell.
The First Casualty of War is…
While Walter may not have known about his cancer, his subconscious could have clued him beforehand. Maybe that’s why Hank’s $700,000 seizure of meth money had all of Walt’s neurons fire off in unison. “Wow,” the gasp says it all. The underlying base of greed revealed, cancer upends the foundation, and soon enough, Walt claims his first victim. Either you cook with me or I turn you in, he corners Jesse. I know, blackmailing a meth dealer is pretty small potatoes. But even the devil started somewhere, and Walt’s conscience is the first casualty.
Given all those laid waste by Walter White’s travels, losing a janitorial job means you got off pretty easy. But the incident reveals plenty about Walt's motivations, and we really feel the depravity through the kind hearted victim. So Walt coming up short of the bathroom, Hugo Archilleya's caring and decency goes beyond duty calls. “I got it, Mr. White. Don't worry. You got kids to teach,” the janitor implores. Walt’s dark side still has to catch up, though, and the guilt is any easy read on the chemistry teacher's face. Fortunately, Hank helps Walt find his way. The family gathering for a friendly game of poker, a simple slight provides the mode of transportation. “Walt, but you wouldn't know a criminal if he was close enough to check you for a hernia,” Hank condescends. Oh my, the look of disdain completely overlooks the life just derailed, and signals the arrogance Walt is going to need to proceed. As such, he goes all in on Hank, and the card game becomes a metaphor. Heisenberg will not be ignored, and the next circle of Hell has been breached.
Lie to Me
Lying seems pretty inconsequential - especially when your most depraved act led to a plane crash that kills 71 people. On the other hand, Walt’s consistent dance with the truth hits hardest at home, and ultimately unravels everything he’s trying to shield. The problem is easy to identify. Walt believes his lying skills are equal to the strategic thinking that have gotten him out of so many jams. The hubris plays out all across season one, but the second cell phone fable really crosses the threshold. Unaware of the shortcoming, the actual lie doesn’t do as much damage as the nonchalance of his delivery. Traipsing around the kitchen, Walt tries to pass off the fallacy like the normal discourse of the day, and Skyler lets him have. Pfft - she’s gone. Still, Walt’s poor showing doesn’t matter in comparison to the necessity. It only matters if he believes the lies, and the benchmark gets Satan hotter on Walt’s heels.
The Bottom Line
Breaking Bad sounds simple. Walt needs to $737,000 to provide for his family, and then he can die in peace. So cook some meth, sling the science and the proceeds should tally before anyone gets hurt. Of course, the best laid plans go awry, and the street soon has its say. Walter doesn’t shrink in the face of his first kill or be killed scenario, though. He blows up Emilio and strangles Crazy Eight. On the other hand, if you’re going to empire build, there can be no limits on your strategic thinking. Therefore, a criminal CEO must never consider the number of broken eggs (or bodies) that it takes to make an omelette. So when one thousand dollars worth of breakage completely unravels Walt, we simply don't realize that his vision has enlarged. “I want you to handle it" he directs Jesse. Now, Walt does reconsider, but only because the decision is faulty business logic. And we know sentimentality is not the cause. Walt quickly sees the street cred potential of Jesse's perceived muscle, and he’s all over it. So watch your back Lucifer, and that goes for everyone else too.
All the World is a Stage
That was some performance given by Walt after the plane crash he caused. Unfortunately, for the victims and those to come, the only method he was employing is known as cognitive dissonance. For you beginners, that’s a scenario involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors, and all the carnage, alleviating mental discomfort is a must. So Walt can either abandon his evil persona or find rationalizations to explain his descent. He begins by possibly returning to the man who became a pillar of his community. “An incident like this, over a populated urban centre, that right there, that's, that's just gotta be some minor miracle,” Walt soothes the situation. But the roll the chemistry teacher is on does not align with anyone’s better angels, and he begs an audience by contextualizing the numbers. No takers, the rationalization doesn’t matter because there’s only one person he's trying to reach. Walt White and he’s going to need this skill in spades. As expected, his oratory is up to the task. “We will move on, and we will get past this. Because that is what human beings do, we survive.” Or more precisely, there’s no “I” in “we.” Heisenberg is now ready to placate his guilt for whoever he lays waste to in the future.
The murder of Drew Sharp is the most heart wrenching moment in the series. Going from the heights of ingenuity, the methylamine hijack had to be met with the ultimate depravity. Well done to all those at the keyboards of Breaking Bad, but no amount of cognitive dissonance could possibly suffice. So while Jesse is completely undone, Walt simply upgrades his standing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Walter White is now a full blown sociopath. The cook suits up, prepares his work station and whistles off the start of another day at the office. How else could he possibly go on, and thankfully for everyone involved, the final valley is not far off.
The Empire Strikes Back
You build a business behemoth, and either psychosis provides the impetus or the megalomania escalates to consolidate a foothold. Thus, power is craved, respect demanded and the top spot requires unending acknowledgment. Of course Walt is no different, and just as his empire is poised to operate without impunity, he can't bear going unrecognized for all he's built. Hank abandoning his quest and giving undo props to Gale, Walt must clarify. "From what I saw on those papers - genius," he dismisses. "Not so much. I mean there was no reasoning, no deductions in those pages. To my eye, all this brilliance looks nothing more than rote copying." Oh No he didn't. Yes and we know it's more than just the alcohol talking. Jessie tries to restore order to Walt's world with a 5 million dollar cash out, and Heisenberg wants no part. I'm not in the meth business or cash business, he asserts, “I'm in the Empire business." That's right, say my name.
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