Breaking Bad: Seasons 1-3 created by Vince Gilligan (High Bridge Productions, Gran Via Productions, and Sony Pictures Television)
Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Paul.
Dexter Morgan vs. Walter White
As I watched the first three seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix, I couldn’t help but compare the series to Dexter, television’s other critically acclaimed series featuring a protagonist with dark secrets. Where Dexter Morgan is a serial killer vigilante, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher who utilizes his scientific expertise to cook methamphetamines.
Although it may sound astonishing, I argue that Dexter functions as a more likeable character than Walt. In spite of its dark content, Dexter carries an air of levity. In between murders, the viewer sees the lighter side of Dexter’s relationships with his peers. Murder, of course, is awful. But the vigilante nature of Dexter’s killing coupled with his quirky mannerism renders a likeable character.
In contrast, Walt is a difficult character to root for. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Walt faces the unenviable situation of laying plans for his family once he passes. With a dead-end job for which he has always been overqualified, Walt realizes that he will never leave a monetary legacy for his expecting wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and teenage son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte).
When One Breaks Bad
Riding along with his brother-in-law and DEA agent, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walt observes first-hand the rewards and penalties of cooking meth. Operating under the assumption that he has, at best, a couple of years left in his life, Walt “breaks bad”. He teams up with high school dropout and former student, Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to cook meth.
On the surface, Walt’s decision to become a criminal possesses a certain sense of honor. Walt cooks meth not to selfishly reap high profits, but to maximize the amount of money he can make for his family with the time he has left.
The “Ethics” of Drug Dealing
Yet, Walt’s gruff demeanor, his isolated suffering, and his ruthless anger make him a difficult character to like. Moreover, Walt’s dark side supplies grim consequences for innocent people around him. While Dexter makes Miami a better place by executing the murderers of the city, Walt sources high quantities of an addictive drug that diminishes the quality of life in New Mexico.
The Little Things that Make Brilliant Television
Despite the fact that Walt’s character is in many ways irredeemable, I believe Breaking Bad is a better show than Dexter. First and foremost, the meticulous and artful writing and production of Breaking Bad is brilliant. From excellent foreshadowing, beautiful opening scenes, unique camera angles, and time-lapse cinematography, every detail of Breaking Bad offers high quality for the viewing public.
Additionally, Breaking Bad’s character feel realistic, with flaws and all. Haven’t we all at least considered some of the actions Walt completes? As a member of the 99%, Walt takes fate into his own hands repercussions be damned. With excellent and creative writing anchoring the show, I look forward to continuing this story.
Verdict: 5 out of 5