Walter White is Macbeth, and Cranston is cool
The universe is telling me to write about AMC super series "Breaking Bad."
First, series star Bryan Cranston appeared on the Howard Stern* show this week. Cranston was in-studio to promote "Argo," opening Friday, but naturally the King of All Media also drew a great interview from a delightfully candid Cranston. (Two words: European brothels.)
Then I read this recent AP report of Mexican drug cartels' industrious production of high-octane meth, not at all unlike Walter White's blue glass.
And I think we all know what happened in Mexico on "Breaking Bad."
Truth, my friends, is stranger than fiction.
Although those doses of fiction are what really make "Breaking Bad" one of television's great series. Much of the mischief on BB is wrought by unlikely villains and heroes. Gus Fring? Our main foe thus far is a deadly calm, chicken-slingin', Volvo-drivin' dude? Oh yes. All the better to run an illegal business in nearly plain sight.
Fring's fabulous lieutenant? Mike Ehrmantraut, a veteran mobster with big ears who dotes on his granddaughter. (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT: How poetically just was Mike's end? It was like a cowboy movie out there in the desert!)
Then there's Jesse Pinkman, Walt's business partner, who initially seems kind of a dink/degenerate — a dink/degenerate who emerges a deep well, with a giant heart, and more of a brain in his head than any of us might've thought. Suddenly we LIKE this guy!
Can I get even more English major dorky for a sec? Jesse is the father of King David in the Bible, a line that some trace to none other than another famous "pink man," Jesus Christ. Will Walt's number 1/son figure be He Who Sets Things to Right? Just sayin'.
And Hank? This bald, dorky, very good DEA agent is the current bringer of light? This guy's tough, for sure, and the man can barely walk at the moment. How fab is it that?
Then take Walter White himself. Here's a former frumpy high school chemistry teacher/cancer patient who turns master meth cook to provide for his family and emerges a ruthless drug king-pin/endangerer of all who call him friend or family. Really?
Well, it wouldn't be the first time a less than perfect character overreached and got really bloody in the process. Walt has Macbeth syndrome: power is thrust on him, and he's not sure if he can hack it. He seizes it, fumbles, and then gets a little encouragement back at the ranch. Remember who volunteered to launder Walt's money? His accountant wife, Skylar, subsequently driven a little kooky by her own and her husband's actions. Lady Macbeth much?
In the end, Walt, like his Shakepearean predecessor, is seduced by the spoils of war and utterly changed, unable to back down from his self-inflicted perch on a pile of bodies.
The question is, will a Macduff-figure emerge (Jesse? The death of whose girlfriend, PS., was kinda Walt's fault?) and bring about the fall of the ambitious Walter White? Or, as Cranston noted on Stern, will a more suitable end for Walt be life among the destruction he has wrought?
Cranston said he doesn't know how the series will end, but also said he implicitly trusts series creator Vince Gilligan not to screw the pooch with a Tony-Soprano-Don't Stop-Believin' bummer of an ending.
Fingers crossed, but we've got months of conjecture in front of us. "Breaking Bad" returns to AMC for its series finale NEXT SUMMER. In the meantime, we'll have to console ourselves with Shakespeare, "Argo," and maybe this episode** of the "X-Files," starring none other than Mr. Cranston, a role, he says, that eventually landed him his celebrated spot as Walter White.
*Bababooey! Bababooey! Bababooey y'all!
**With thanks to copydesk wizard Joe Turco for recommending the episode.
I'm on Twitter: @TheMDesk.
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