**WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS A LOT OF SPOILERS**
With the final episode of Breaking Bad about to be cooked into television history, the internet is abuzz with all things Bad. Need some dessert while consuming the final episode? Enjoy these blue meth-themed truffles. Want to see your favorite locations from the show? Albuquerque proudly showcases its status as Heisenberg’s hometown. You can even rock youR favorite drug dealer’s look for Halloween this year by purchasing either his signature porkpie hat or the bright yellow safety suit our hero wears to cook his meth.
This show about a (no longer) mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher is about to explode like a badly maintained meth lab.
I watched my first episode of Breaking Bad about a month ago. Somehow, despite the unanimous, exuberant rave reviews that I had been hearing over the years, I never quite got around to watching the show. The plot was intriguing; I almost started it many times, but never got there until last month. You know how drugs are: the first taste is free. That’s how you get hooked.
It worked. I consumed most of the first season in just a few days. After learning that the entire series would end tomorrow, I doubled down on my new addiction. I still need to rely on AMC’s recap marathon to get me up to the finale, but I’m ready to witness Walter White’s final steps into…whatever.
What struck me from the very beginning is that chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White is not the only “Bad” person in the show. Every single character has his or her own Bad. But, like Walter, they all have their own good as well. Walter justifies his descent as a means to pay for his cancer treatment and to provide for his family in case he dies. Every other character has their own justifications for their actions.
Take Skyler, Walt’s wife. Try as she might to live the perfect, middle class America existence, Skyler is a lie. She lives off Walt’s meager income while berating and controlling her husband. She sneaks cigarettes while pregnant, cheats on her husband, and eventually launder’s Walt’s drug money, all while keeping up appearances.
Marie Schrader, Walt’s sister-in-law, keeps an immaculate home but hides from her family a compulsive shoplifting problem. Her husband, DEA agent Hank, struggles to keep his macho, carefree attitude while burning with PTSD and self-doubt deep inside. Hank also has a bit of a Captain Ahab complex. His obsession drives him to attack suspects in their own homes, violate constitutional rights, and ignore all other investigations just to catch his elusive target.
At the same time, many of the “bad” characters show plenty of good. Jesse, who emphatically calls himself a “bad guy” at one point, simply can’t handle the death and suffering that his partner leaves in his wake. Jesse is profoundly disturbed after his first murder, leaving him wallowing in a sea of self-hatred and guilt despite his methamphetamine riches. Jesse is a loving protector of children and is even more disgusted when a child becomes a victim of Walt’s worsening greed.
Hit man, thug, and all-around-awful-person Mike Ehrmantraut is a sweet and loving grandfather. Even the ruthless Gustavo Fring has his soft side. His actions to take on the Mexican cartel bosses were driven by their murder of his former partner.
The underlying theme of the series matches the Hermetic Law of Polarity: “Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites.”
In general, Pagans don’t believe in absolute good or evil. Many of us believe in a continuum of dark to light that exists within everyone and everything. We tend to reject cosmologies that see the world in terms of Ultimate Good vs. Ultimate Evil and replace them with more nuanced views that recognize the mixture of dark and light we all contain. In 60 episodes, Breaking Bad explores this Pagan value in detail. In fact, this complex and intertwined series rises above mere gradations of black and white – Breaking Bad paints good and evil in a full palate of color. And most Pagans know all about the power of color.
Color is a gigantic character in Breaking Bad. Characters wear specific colors to indicate who they are, their relationships to Walter and to meth, and the state of mind they are in. Opposing characters where opposing colors. Friends wear colors that are compatible with each other. This page on the Breaking Bad Wiki breaks it down thoroughly, pinning it to the artist’s Color Wheel.
The Color Wheel
Source: Breaking Bad Wiki
Walt puts on a green apron to cook his first batch
Source: Breaking Bad Wiki
The obvious place to start here is the main character’s last name: White. Walter White is a blank canvas, and as he changes he takes on every color on the Wheel. When he first cooks meth, he puts on a green apron, which the Wiki associates with “greed, money, growth, and envy.” While it is true that Walter gets into the meth business to make money for his family, fans of the show know that his actual motivation is a greed fueled by the envy of his former business partner’s success.
His wife, Skyler, usually wears blue, which is described as the color of “loyalty, sadness, purity, water, sky, coldness.” While she is loyal at first, Skyler evolves into a cold, distant wife. Walt’s signature meth is also blue, and its purity is well known on the streets of Albuquerque. You could even argue that, in his avarice, Walt’s meth replaces his wife. Both are blue.
Jesse Pinkman wears a lot of yellow
Source: Breaking Bad Wiki
Walt’s partner is Jesse Pinkman (Pink is described as the color of naiveté, youth, and death- appropriate for Jesse). Despite his name, Jesse begins the series wearing a lot of yellow, described as the color of “methamphetamine, optimism, pleasure, caution, cowardice, fear.”
Jesse was the first meth cook Walt met, hence his association with the drug’s color. He actually undergoes the largest change over the five seasons, and his colors change with him. In times of despair and addiction, he wears black, grey, and white. As he becomes more of a sympathetic character, we see him in more blues.
It can be confusing to think of meth as yellow while the show emphasizes Walt’s blue meth, but after all yellow (meth) plus blue (Walt’s recipe) makes green (money). And when the two cook their meth under termite extermination tents, the tents are striped with green (Walt/money) and yellow (Jesse/meth).
Gustavo Fring wears red to murder
Source: Breaking Bad Wiki
It comes as no surprise that reds and oranges tend to accompany violent things. Aggressive cop Hank Shrader is almost always in orange. Gustavo Fring, who wears meth yellow most of the time, changes into a red safety suit just before violently murdering his subordinate. In one scene, a drug connection kills himself in a public bathroom decorated by a red toilet, sink, and toilet paper. In fact, the more red you see in the background of any scene, the more confident you can be that violence is about to occur.
Breaking Bad is about a lot more than being bad. The characters exist on a scale of bad to good, yes, but they also exist in a third dimension of color. Every now and then, someone will appear in a color that is completely unlike them – a dead giveaway that something weird is about to happen. Beyond black and white, their stories are told using the magic of color. Each character creates their own palette of experience.
The last question: what will be the final pigment that colors Walter White’s tragic masterpiece?