I got hooked on Breaking Bad this past summer when I read an interview with the show’s creator. He said something like, it was hard for him to believe in heaven, but it was harder not to believe in hell. I have been following the ‘chemistry-teacher-turned-methamphetamine-kingpin" up to its conclusion last night. It has been a riveting ride.
I was fascinated by the lead character, Walter White. He is a complicated man whose behavior always kept me guessing. Both a villain and a dupe, his actions were disgraceful and pitiable. He was capable of intentional malevolence and violence as well as sensitivity and charity. His bout with cancer made him a cancer on all he came to know.
After watching five seasons of this Emmy award-winning series, I found myself haunted by the question: "Under the right circumstances am I capable of the same?" "Could I be Walter White?"
Holocaust Survivor Yeheil Dinur would say yes. Dinur testified at the Eichmann Trial in 1961. After his opening statement DeNur fainted and was subsequently unable to resume his story. A film clip from Eichmann’s 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom only to see Eichmann for the first time since Auschwitz. The clip shows Dinur crying hysterically and then collapsing.
Dinur later explained that he saw Eichmann in a simple business suit for the first time. He was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. "I was afraid about myself," said Dinur. "… I saw that I am capable to do this. I am … exactly like he. Eichmann is in all of us."
Breaking Bad has placed something steadfastly punitive at the core of its world: the dreadfulness of getting what we deserve – a world of law, barren of grace. The only way Walter White could ever be redeemed is the same way any of us whom the law pronounces broken and bad are – by restoration through God’s good grace.