"Breaking Bad" Takeaways: Walt's lonely life at the top

When actor Dean Norris (who plays Walt's brother-in-law Hank) teased earlier in the week that Breaking Bad's mid-season finale had an “oh, shit” moment, I found it hard to believe it could be more shocking than the death of late, great Mr. Mike Ehrmantraut in last week's episode. That was until Hank needed some bathroom reading material and decided to pick up Walt's copy of Leaves of Grass ( a collection of poetry written by American poet Walt Whitman) – finding Gale's personal note to Walt in the process.

I got a lot to cover this week so let's just jump into it:

  • The increasingly frequent references to famed American poet Walt Whitman raises questions of how series creator Vince Gilligan sees him fitting into the general fabric of the series. Beyond the obvious connections to the series' once protagonist (e.g. their first name, their initials), it is quite possible that Gilligan sees Whitman's poetry as a template for Walter White. Heavily influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, Whitman's poetry often focused on the power and primacy of the individual. But just as Whitman and the earlier Romantics failed to recognize the limits of human knowledge, Walt's own hubris led him to believe he could think his way out of any dangerous situation. Exhibit A would be the antics of the past half season – specifically, the train heist and magnet/laptop operation.
  • Aside from Hank's realization at the end of the episode, the most important storyline of the mid-season finale was Walt's gradual disillusionment. Following his business arrangement with Lydia and the his Godfather-style execution of Mike's crew, he seems to be going through the motions. With that said, the question is: Has Walt come to realize the full scope and magnitude of his actions? Or is just simply a matter of him becoming bored with his relative security following his rise to the top of the meth food chain?
  • Driven by my serious obsession with this series, I have devoured any and every article I've come across concerning anything to do with the show. And over the course of the past few weeks, I've coming to one conclusion: series creator Vince Gilligan talks way too much about his own show. Call me old-fashioned, but I really don't need/want the series creator holding my hand through each and every episode while telling me what I should take away from each twist in the plot. If he's doing his job correctly (which he absolutely is), then there should be no need to describe the series for me.
  • Walt's latest trip to the doctor's office was one of the best scenes of the series for me. The imagery of the smashed paper towel dispenser (warped after Walt punched it in after he found out his cancer had gone into remission) was powerful – referencing where Walt has been and what he has become. And though we aren't given any results, we're given plenty of reasons to believe that the cancer has begun its return – adding a bit of tragic irony to Hank's discovery.
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Andrew is a senior and the only remaining member of the original Gavel editorial board. He spent spring of 2012 studying in Paris. He is a passionate supporter of the Kansas Jayhawks.