The Killings of Walter White: Season 1 (SPOILERS*)
The Killings of Walter White
(Link: Part 2)
For the last two years, I have been watching and re-watching “Breaking Bad,” and I have marveled at the story, the acting, the cinematography, and the overall experience that these elements create. I’ve been especially fascinated by the change that has taken place in Walter White, and the way in which the narrative elements convey that change. Recently, I started contemplating how many people Walt had killed over the course of the show. I noticed that while his methods got increasingly brutal, the rationales behind Walt’s killings changed only slightly throughout the show. Yet these slight changes define the progression of Walt as a character, and demonstrate at every meaningful point how far he has strayed from his former self.
There are only two killings in the show’s first season, however much of the first season is built around them, as they help define Walt’s character as the series begins. The first occurs when Walt has a gun pointed at his head, and is an act of pure self-preservation, without any premeditation or aggression. Walt’s partner, Jesse, has brought two dealers to their cook site to buy their meth, but the deal goes south, as one of them, Jesse’s former partner Emilio, believes Walt to be a DEA agent. They prepare to kill Walt and Jesse, but Walt offers to teach them his recipe in exchange for their lives. When he has them in the lab, Walt creates a toxic gas, runs outside, and locks them in to suffocate them, killing Emilio.
Walt does not see him die, but is visibly shaken by the experience, this being the first time he has ever taken a life. He saw the drug trade simply as a way to make money for his family for after he was gone, and the fact that he has become a murderer makes him physically sick. He is so disturbed by what has gone on that he intends to leave the drug trade entirely. As he is starting up the rolling lab again, Walt tells Jesse that once they get rid of the corpses, they will never see each other again. However, a groan from one of the bodies changes this plan quite a bit.
The gas should have killed both of Walt’s attackers, but leaves one, Domingo, aka Crazy 8, alive. The would-be drug lords lock him up in Jesse’s basement, chaining him to a support beam with a bike lock. Walt is tasked with killing Domingo, losing the coin flip on who only has to dispose of a dead body.
Walt spends several days avoiding killing Domingo, trying to find some logical reason for keeping him alive. This is difficult, as Domingo has every reason to kill him, and will likely kill his family afterwards, since Jesse told him everything about Walt before their meeting in the desert. Walt talks to Domingo, gets to know him as a person, and is, at one point ready to let him go, thinking he has earned Domingo’s trust. He then discovers, to his dismay, that Domingo has grabbed a weapon to stab Walt as soon as he is free, and then presumably kill his family. Realizing this, Walt kills Domingo, strangling him with the bike lock.
These incidents do a lot to set the tone of the show, but they also give us a great deal of insight into who Walt is at the beginning of this moral dissent. Walt is a decent man, who, out of a sense of nihilism and desperation, has entered into a world where he does not belong, and whose values are not his own. After he has strangled Domingo, Walt collapses on the ground, tears in his eyes, whispering, “I’m sorry.” He wanted desperately to free Domingo, to be given any logical reason not to have to kill again.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
When the deed is done, Walt intends to leave the drug trade, but after he decides to seek chemotherapy, mounting bills and his own pride push him back into the lab. Yet without the means of distribution, Walt and Jesse are forced into bed with an even more dangerous dealer. And when that dealer demonstrates how readily he will take a life, more killing looms on the horizon.
To Be Continued...
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• How the Shutdown is Affecting the US
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