viewersare often reminded of their past feelings of empathy in previous episodesthrough starting new episodes with recaps, which, however, can also hold certainmemories and thus manoeuvre viewers to assume a certain approach to characters.Thus, the finale of Breaking Bad’s fourth season begins with a “previouslyon Breaking Bad”-sequence, in which Jesse, an assisting character,witnesses drug lord Gustavo Fring visit his old enemy, Hector Salamanca, at thenursing home where he lives due to being paralysed, to ridicule him: “Alldead. As is your grandson”. The viewer is instantly evoked of the vindictiveness of Fring’s character re-establishinghim as the rival.
The former scene of course proves to be relevant to theepisode as it shows the situation where Walter is the bad guy as he oppressesJesse into killing one of Fring’s employees, the skilful chemist Gale, becausehe poses a threat to Walter’s superiority within methamphetamine production. Adynamic relationship is maintained between the viewer and the character.Themore insight we gain into the character, and his/hers inspirations, opinionsand moral values, the more interest we take in him/her. Character engagement iscrucial to television serials, since the span of the description is much longerthan in films, and thus calls for characters urging enough to make viewersreturn each week. Moreover, narration plays an important role in terms ofguiding the viewer response as the “ultimate organizer” , which can work toboth stopping the viewer from engaging in a character through withholdinginformation about him/her, as well as encourage engagement through emphasisingcertain lookout of a character to make him/her more favourable than othercharacters. Similar to their rocky anddysfunctional father-son relationships, marital bonds are equally deranged and destructivein this series. In some male-cantered dramas like Breaking Bad and Dexter, the marriage is already overwhen the series starts and it depicts the character’s struggle to rekindletheir relationship. The marriage of Breaking Bad’s Walter and SkylerWhite is cursed by problems.
In what primarily seems to be a mostlycompassionate marriage of a restrained husband and a dominating wife, theirrelationship begins to the formation of Walt’s transition into crime. As Waltbegins to cook crystal meth he rediscovers his self-esteem and uses thatnewfound strength to disrupt the power distribution in their household.Contrary to White, the series explores in more detail theconflict between White’s former student and meth-cooking partner, JessePinkman, with his upper middle-class parents, who was thrown out from theirfamily home after his numerous drug escapades. His secret life becomesincreasingly important to Walt, and so he gradually takes the place of his son.Due to the fact that Walt cannot converse his secret activities with anyoneelse but Jesse, their bond becomes more important over the course of theseries.
Jesse was a poor student and talented artist who used to draw his highschool friends as comic book characters. At various times during his harrowingexperiences in BreakingBad, Jesse’s kind heart and nurturing traits resurface, such asthe way Jesse treats children and how he cared for his dying aunt. Ultimately,Jesse turns his back on his parents and begins to treat Walt as surrogate father.However, Walt’s relationships to both his biological and surrogate son provehighly dysfunctional. Despite his pointless efforts to be an ideal father towhom his son can admire, Walt’s initially subdued pride and egotism graduallybecome major obstacles in his parental relationship. To Walt, a good father issynonymous with being the family’s beloved provider and patriarch, but he wasnot compatible enough meet those standards.
Although Walter Jr. seems to favourhis father over his mother, Walt and Walt Jr. do not spend a lot of timetogether or participate in any father-son activities. Aside from providingrides to and from school and the occasional breakfast and dinner scenes, Walthad no dialogue with his son. His dream of a successful drug empire drew himfurther from his family, and although Walt gained respect and power in his jobas meth cook, he was absent for his son’s sixteenth birthday and his daughter’sbirth.Eventually, everything in Walt’s life revolved around money and hisdesire to be his family’s sole provider.
However, this created a rift in thefamily as his criminal career begins to swallow his life as father and husband.Despite BreakingBad’s premise of a would-be drug baron driven by social and economicforces, Gilligan does not perceive his series as a cultural critique. A definite distasteagainst Walter did not occur, however, as the alignment with his character wasso strong that the viewer remains engaged in and loyal to Walter, despite the factthat he has truly become an unsympathetic anti-hero. In other words, theelucidation of the character of Walter is so compelling that the viewer is heldcaptive by his power and charisma, apparent in the trademark dark humour of theserial, which provides both relief from the on-screen violence, as well asreminds the viewer of Walter’s humanity and ‘former life’ as an underdog.
And, of course, violenceand total intolerance, so to say. There is probably no other show that woulddepict our everyday reality with such cruelty, and with a few filters. This isa breath of fresh air for many viewers, tired of endless action, perfectlyappropriate in terms of political correctness, and cautious in showing violence.