Five Lessons We Can Learn about Sin from AMC’s “Breaking Bad”

This piece just ran on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog.  I wrote it after watching the series finale of BB last night.  I still think the theme of “sin” plays a major role in the series, and I try to unpack what that means for the audience without crossing into pedantism.

With Sunday night’s airing of the series finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” the show’s audience finally has a complete work from which we can attempt meaningful interpretation.  So what was the show was actually about?

Of course, one of the main elements of the story, perhaps the driving element, was the destructive and ultimate dehumanizing effects of sin.  This point was obvious from the first season of the show as many critics have pointed out.   The popularity of the show was a direct result of how the theme of destruction/dehumanization was worked out through exceptionally well-done storytelling and characterization.

Here are five lessons about sin we can learn from the five seasons of the award-winning show.

1. Self-destructive behavior often stems from old wounds and festering bitterness.  In the first episode of season one, we meet the character of Walter White, a man deeply embittered by a life that is not the picture of success he had expected in his younger years.  We see him acting out, yelling at Bogdan, his boss at the car-wash, and assaulting the jerks in the store who make fun of son with special needs.  These public explosions betray the infection of discontent and jealousy that had festered long before he ever stumbled upon that meth lab during Hank’s ride-along.

The success of Gray Matters Technologies is a constant reminder throughout the series of “what could have been” for Walter, and the sudden reappearance of Gretchen and Elliot on Charlie Rose in the show’s penultimate episode (“Granite State”) initiates a final transition for Walter that leads to the show’s bloody climax. Their appearance reminds us that this whole mess began with what we might think of a common “domestic” sins stemming from unmet expectations.

Read the rest here .

Photo: Frank Ockenfels–AMC