In Breaking Bad, Walter White starts off as the most sympathetic of all possible meth cooks. A brilliant chemist, he is stuck teaching bored students at an Albuquerque high school. He does his best to support his pregnant wife and their partially disabled son, but earns so little that he must work night shifts at an area car wash just to make ends meet. Despite it all, he soldiers on dutifully until he is unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer. That trauma changes him. Suddenly he confronts the prospect of dying penniless. He doesn’t want an impoverished widow, or two kids without a college fund or even a small savings account. So he resolves to cook (and later sell) just enough meth to give his family a middle class existence.
Of course, his plan from the start is to manufacture a dangerous narcotic. His profits will come from addicts whose lives are being ruined by his product. But we still begin in his corner. We see Mr. White as an unlucky man playing the hand he’s dealt in a fallen world, where drug addicts will get high with or without his blue meth. Isn’t it better, in a way, for him to manufacture Albuquerque’s choice high? At least he isn’t going to accidentally blow up his lab during a cook, or put out an impure product. Surely it’s better for a dying, middle-class family man to be enriched than Tuko Salamanca, the cartel-backed sociopath that Mr. White and his product displace.
That’s what we told ourselves.
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