July 27, 2017

He is completely transformed after his long exile to the Granite State, the equivalent of Jesus’s forty days in the wilderness. Walter returns beatified, an exalted being with heightened and noble sensibilities. Although it barely registers a pulse on Rotten Tomatoes, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium apparently has the same transformative effects as Ayahuasca. Except for the final spurt to force Uncle Jack to present Jesse, an impromptu writ of habeas corpus that he uses to bate the prideful lead nazi, Walter is done with lying. His ability to improvise whoppers at a drop of a fedora has always been an indelible character trait. Jesse once pleaded “Can you just stop working me for, like, ten seconds straight?” Sklyer was always the primary victim of Walter’s byzantine fibs. But now the lies are all gone. He confesses to Skyler that he was never trying to do good for his family, but to break bad for himself, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really - I was alive.” Like Jesus, not only does he save the living, but Walter also raises the dead. He gives his wife the GPS coordinates to To’hajiilee where the bodies of Steve and Hank are interred (or where Jesus is buried), a red, desert landscape that recalls the hills around Jerusalem.

Breaking Bad vs. Breaking of the Bread

The former we know it as the show’s title. The latter is a phrase that the apostles used after dining with a resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:35). Is the matching alliteration and nearly identical wording merely coincidental? Before you answer, consider the titles of a few of the final episodes: “Blood Money” (like what Judas was paid), “Buried” (self-explanatory) and “Confessions” (a favorite Christian ritual with cleansing benefits). Then think back to all the seemingly innocuous and inconsequential events that the BB writers peppered throughout all five seasons, and how eventually and happily you were surprised when the show tied it all together.

Jessie Strokes His Passion

Jesus and Jessie were both carpenters. In the Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus was transported out his of misery to his married life as a carpenter only to be violently pulled back to continue enduring his torture on the cross. Jessie in his dream sequence builds a box, “It was insane. I mean, I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebra wood. It was fitted with pegs, no screws. I sanded it for days, until it was smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. You know, you put nose in it and breathed in, it was... it was perfect.” Sadly, perfection proves to be elusive as he is wrenched back into his pit to continue cooking.

Holy Handles

One of BB’s most unsung attributes is its diversity. Tuco Salamanca and Gus Fring rock but they would not be tolerated in most other TV shows or movies. They look and sound too alien for the average viewer’s taste. Even their names are alien. The names of other BB principals are more familiar to the common ear, but the keep a new Testament bent. Jesse in Spanish is short for Jesus. Marie is Mary in French. We have mother and child, but where is the dad? While not exactly fatherly, Old Joe or Joseph, the junkyard owner and Bill of Rights expert fills the bill. And there is more. Holly is not only Christmasy but it (sometimes) means holy. Paul is just as important as the Big J in Christology as Paul was Saul pre-epiphany. “Goodman” was added as irony we can assume. Rounding out the celestial host is Mike, i.e., Michael the archangel. Jane is the feminine form of John, an apostle. Skinny Pete is Peter, the original Rock. Badger’s real name is Brandon Mayhew and Mayhew is Gift of God in French.

It’s a bumpy transition from religion to ethnicity, but it is a necessary one if we wish to examine the German last names that predominate. Merkert (Hank’s boss), Schuler (head of Madrigal’s fast food division in Germany), Boetticher, Schrader, Schwartz (German and Jewish), White, Ehrmantraut, Beneke, Welker (Uncle Jack), and Heisenberg are all German. While a welcome departure from the Anglophile standards on TV, I doubt they that they accurately reflect Albuquerque’s ethnic demographic. The Teutonic surnames can’t be a coincidence, just like it’s no coincidence that Walter picked Heisenberg as his nom de guerre. Werner Heisenberg was not a chemist, but a theoretical physicist in Nazi Germany who, through his Uncertainty Principle, pioneered quantum mechanics and who headed Hitler’s bungled effort to create an atomic bomb. This is not BB’s only connection to the Third Reich. Los Pollos Hermanos's corporate lineage is traced back to Hannover, one of the many cities that saw its own share of Nazi predations against Jews during WW2. We thus find ourselves firmly on racist ground, that is, on the ground of racists. White and Pinkman mean lacking melanin. Factor in Huell’s undeserved fate, Hank’s incessant and unapologetic anti-Mexican bigotry, and the murderous (are there any other kind?) cackle of skinheads who are not interested in investing a sliver of their fortune on an interior decorator, and suddenly we are riding a wave of white pride (maybe even catching a glimpse of the fabled “white genocide”) to make Breitbart salivate. I trust that the writers weren’t furthering a racist agenda, but instead making fun of anyone who pictures Jesus as Caucasian and presumes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that breaking bad is reserved for brown people.