“Breaking Bad” and the Weight of Our Souls

The third-ever episode of “Breaking Bad” begins with a long-ago flashback, where Walter White looks like a college student. He’s with a girl, writing numbers she reads onto a blackboard. They’re adding up the percentages of each element that makes up our bodies. Hydrogen: 63 percent. Oxygen: 26 percent. (There you have your water.) Carbon: 9 percent. Nitrogen: 1.25 percent. Calcium is only .25 percent, even with our whole skeleton to account for. Iron: .00004 percent. You can’t have hemoglobin without iron, right? Well, apparently it don’t take much. Sodium: .04. Phosphorus: .19 percent.

Add up all these percentages and you’re left with 99.888042 percent, .111958 percent shy of 100.

“It seems like something’s missing, doesn’t it?” Young Walt says. “There’s got to be more to a human being than that.”

“What about the soul?” she asks.

“There’s nothing but chemistry here,” Young Walt says.

He just did the math, though, and some quantifiable part of what makes up our bodies isn’t actually chemistry.

If you’re going to change a nerdy, white high school science teacher into a Scarface-scale gangster, he has to lose his soul. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Very early in its run, “Breaking Bad” spelled this out explicitly. That flashback begins the episode in which White strangles a man with a bike lock. His first murder. He did it to save his family, but that reason doesn’t matter any more. Really, the strangulation of Crazy 8 was Walt making his bones. These days he commits business killings no problem.

“Trust me,” Crazy 8 tells White early in the episode. “this line of work doesn’t suit you.” Yeah it does, dead man.


One thought on ““Breaking Bad” and the Weight of Our Souls

  1. the dude that played Crazy 8 is a good friend of mine – he was at my wedding…his brother was the photographer, who I worked with at a paper in Chicago. SMALL WORLD.

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