Friday, September 13, 2013

How Shakespeare Would End 'Breaking Bad' by D.B. Grady

Three episodes remain of Breaking Bad, the riveting series on AMC that tracks the descent of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin. The show has accurately been compared to a Shakespearean tragedy, and it's clear that the Bard's works have influenced Vince Gilligan, the show's creator. Perhaps, then, one might turn to the works of Shakespeare to try and divine how Breaking Bad might end—or at least, how Shakespeare would end it.

(If you're not caught up on the show, this is a good place to stop reading.) 

Let us first establish that the tragic hero in Breaking Bad is Albuquerque, New Mexico. Because of Walt's actions, the city has attracted ax-wielding twin psychopaths, sustained an airliner collision, suffered a dead and "disincorporated" child, and has been littered with innumerable ancillary bodies from the merciless drug trade. This is to say nothing of Walt's pure and highly addictive blue crystal methamphetamine and the ruined lives of countless addicts and their families. Albuquerque is a city under siege.

Shakespeare crafted similar such cities and states. The tragic hero in Hamlet is Denmark. By the play's end, however, where previously there was "something rotten," Denmark is now restored. The extent to which the board is reset becomes apparent when you consider the body count and who remains. Among the dead: Claudius, the most rotten of them all; Gertrude, who has something of dubious virtue; Laertes, whose moment of weakness dooms him; Polonius, whose nosiness is his undoing; and, of course, Hamlet, whose inaction led to the events in the first place. (Caught in the crossfire is poor Ophelia.) But when these characters are gone and the able Fortinbras steps in, Denmark's "unweeded garden" is saved.

Continue reading "How Shakespeare Would End 'Breaking Bad'"

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