“Hush little baby, don’t you cry. Daddy loves you and so do I.”
There is a scene in “Breaking Bad” this season with Walter White and his son Walter Jr. watching “Scarface” together. “Everyone dies in this movie,” Walter says. They’re loving the countless spent rounds and explosions. “Say hello to my little friend!” Ha!
Sacred legend has long proclaimed that “Breaking Bad” creator (and nerd God) Vince Gilligan pitched the show to studio executives as “a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr Chips into Scarface.” Most “Breaking Bad” fans know Gilligan said this about “Scarface,” and now here is our antihero Walter “Heisenberg” White – formerly a dopey high school chemistry teacher, presently a budding meth kingpin – watching the movie and commenting aloud on the violent mortal end of its characters.
Later, another character mentions having rented “Heat,” a film which also climaxes on a spectacular shootout scene between cops and criminals.
Gilligan has said this will be the final season for “Breaking Bad,” and the first scene of the first episode this year saw Walter White, a year in the future, buying an enormous machine gun. Where could this possibly be headed?
With Walt closing in on fiery death, this seems a fair time to look back on his gangster saga and wonder when, precisely, our protagonist turned evil. Was there a true tipping point? Some specific moment when killing became OK? Did that specific moment set a course of events in motion that would culminate with the baddest thing that ever happened on “Breaking Bad”?
Yes, yes and yes. Glad I asked. Remember White watching Jane, strung out on heroine, choke to death on her own vomit? They’d argued over money. It was a startling sequence, with Walter struggling to decide whether he should merely roll the girl on her side to save her life… or do nothing and watch her die. Suddenly there’s a shift in facial features that’s somehow both blatant and barely distinguishable, and the decision is made. He takes on the look of an uncaring thug. She’s dead, so there’s that problem solved.
That wasn’t the tipping-point moment, but it happened in that same devastating episode. Walter changed before Jane choked and died. Right before, in fact.
Let’s flash forward to the wonderful and polarizing “Breaking Bad” episode called “Fly.” (The entire hour is Walt and Jesse hunting for a fly in their meth lab.) Drugged with sleeping pills, Walter stubbornly refuses to pass out. Instead he whispers, one squinted eye sending a tear down his cheek: “I should’ve never gone to your house. Maybe things would have– I was at home watching TV. Some nature program about elephants. Skyler and Holly were in another room. I could hear them on the baby monitor. She was singing a lullaby. If I had just lived right up to that moment, and not one second more.” He pauses and stares off into another universe, jaw hanging open. “That would have been perfect.”
He’s talking about the moment he steeled himself to emotion and officially became a monster.
His daughter had just been born, and she was perfect. He and his wife were warm toward one another, though she was starting to retract and make goo-goo eyes at that stupid asshole Ted. Walter had earned the cash to secure his family’s financial future – the ostensible reason this whole adventure began in the first place. He was sitting in his living room. Happy. Eavesdropping on his wife softly singing a lullaby to his baby.
White’s soul melts when the song ends. He becomes a bad guy right then, rubbing his mouth while his eyes seem to disappear from his face. He goes to Jesse’s house and lets that girl die, coolly adding another awful secret to Heisenberg’s closet of corpses.
But then Jane’s dad slips his soul as well. Awash in mad grief, he goes to his job as an air traffic controller and guides two planes into each other. It’s awful to watch. Awful and mesmerizing: He accidentally says his daughter’s name and then gives in to raw hate, for himself and everyone else. The explosion in the sky sends a flaming pink Teddy bear into Walt’s pool.
The plane disaster is easy to forget now, because so much has happened since. There were those ax-wielding twins in the slick boots who crippled Hank, and the life-or-death chess match between Walt and Gus Fring that ended with an ultimate death scene:
Nothing really trumps that plane crash, though. It’s been the biggest, worst consequence of Walter’s change – a tragedy on the scale of a terrorist attack. If you blame Walt and Jesse for Jane’s death, doesn’t it follow that they’re responsible for the crash her grieving father created as well? If we include those victims, the death toll climbs from a couple dozen to nearly 200.
Which is crazy. Walt is going to hell. Soon we find out how he gets there.