Is “Breaking Bad” Really a Morality Play?


Vince Gilligan has said that the larger lesson of the series is that “actions have consequences,” and often cites examples within the show, such as an airplane collision, as symbolizing the damage Walter White’s actions have brought upon those around him. However, many critics, including Chuck Klosterman, have focused on how much most audience members will side with White, even as he continues his downward slide in moral corruption. Many of these arguments reflect what’s been written about Alfred Hitchcock, particularly his film Psycho, and how audience sympathies can be manipulated so that they have no relation to the actual moral consequences of a character’s actions.

Breaking Bad is not a situation in which the characters’ morality is static or contradictory or colored by the time frame,” says Klosterman. “Instead, it suggests that morality is continually a personal choice…what we see in Breaking Bad is a person who started as one type of human and decides to become something different…And because we were introduced to this man in a way that made him impossible to dislike, the audience is placed in the curious position of continuing to root for an individual who’s no longer good…this is a series in which the main character has actively become evil, but we still want him to succeed.”