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At the beginning of Breaking Bad we observe Walt refusing to fight for his life and deciding to slowly wait for his last day. However, when he starts making "real" money, I think everything changes. But is there any true indication that Walter changes his mind and wants to live and use his money? I cannot imagine he was building his meth empire only to feed his ego or to support family.

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Walt starts the series as a dead man. He has nothing beyond his family, despite a big potential (Gray Matter, billions etc). The news of his impending demise allow him to slip off the mental inhibitor that allowed him to be a family man, but kept him in this nothing existence.

The provision for the family is an EXCUSE, not a driver. Walt becomes Heisenberg, Walt's amoral image. As this becomes more and more successful, the life returns to Walt, and he starts to care about trying to survive the cancer. His ties to his family slip, Skyler has an affair, Walt jnr distances himself, and Walt takes Jesse as a surrogate son.

Only when Walt realizes that his immense talents cannot stop either his death, or the approaching car crash of his business, he begins to regain his moral compass, setting things right for his Family (via the Schwarzs), and by attempting to redeem himself by sacrificing himself to rescue Jesse.

It wasn't that he'd had intentions of staying alive, he just hadn't realised he was dead.

As Walt says to Skyler in his final meeting:

I did it for me. I liked it. It made me feel alive.

This isn't him trying to placate Sklyer to make her feel better by changing it from "I did this for you", it's just about the ONLY truthful thing Walt says to Skyler in the whole series, and only because he knows it'll be the final time they speak.

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His family was Walt's main motivation for most of the series. Being rich was not. All of Season 1 and most of Season 2, Walter believes the cancer will kill him soon, until he finds out it is in remission. (Season 2 Episode 9 "4 Days Out"). At that point he immediately starts planning on leaving the drug game. (Season 2 Episode 10 "Over"). After his wife leaves him (when she learned Walt's a drug lord when he was babbling during his cancer surgery), Walt was basically planning on burning the million he got from Gus. (Season 3 Episode 1 ("No Más") He also turns down Gus's offer of 3 mil for 3 months of cooking.

The defining moment in this is how Walt explains it:

"I have money, more than I can spend" Walt says, declining. "What I don't have is my family."

There is more of the back and forth between Mr. And Mrs. White in season 4 and 5, but in the end, the theme follows the entire series. Walter White's main concern is his family. The Money was a means to an end of ensuring his family is well off. Even after beating cancer.

But Walt does transform through the series. His intentions at the beginning may have been completely pure, but eventually the power corrupts him more and more. He becomes less Walt the Science Loving Family Man and more Heisenberg the Drug Lord. By the end of Season 5, he even admits it to himself and Skyler, even as he still attempts to make sure she and his kids are well off financially.

  • She doesn't really learn that he's a drug lord during his babbling, does she? He merely admits that he has a second phone. But it isn't till quite a bit later that he himself tells her the whole truth, no? – Napoleon Wilson Sep 2 '15 at 8:52
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    "His family was Walt's main motivation for most of the series" - Actually I think this completely the wrong way about. His family was Walt's main EXCUSE for most of the series. Walt initially just wants to raise money to provide as he is a DEAD MAN WALKING already. As the series continues and the old Walt (the brilliant/arrogant one who started Gray Matter) resurfaces, it becomes less and less about the family, and more about Walt. This is then driven home in the final meeting with Skyler where he admits it. Walt transforms, but back into the person he was before his family. – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 2 '15 at 13:52
  • @TheWanderingDevManager the creator even says after the finale he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and **that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished**.” From day one to his last breathe he did it for his family. – cde Sep 2 '15 at 22:53
  • @cde - Yes but he also says "Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation". The important part is "in that first episode", that was how Walt reconciled in his head why he was doing this, but that wasn't the real driver. If I happen to be in Best Buy and splash out on a new laptop without telling the wife, I'll convince myself that I'm going to get x and y done by buying it. But really I'll just feel cool with my new toy. – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 3 '15 at 8:07
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I think there are two separate questions here -

a. Did Walter have intentions of staying alive after making millions?

b. Was he building his meth empire only to feed his ego or to support family?

I will start with "b". A lot of questions have already been asked here which all point to this same issue/topic.

The defining moment for this question is the scene from the series finale, where Walt meets Skyler for the last time and he tells her

I did it for me. I liked it. It made me feel alive.

When Walt entered the meth business, he had a number in mind, in order to support his family. He already crossed that number long long ago, but still continued anyway, because long long ago he stopped doing it for the family and started doing it for himself.

So I guess, this answers the part-b.

Now, part-a. This is a little tricky.

I think Walt definitely wanted to stay alive, irrespective of whether he made millions or not. This is because inspite of all his vices, Walt was a family man, and he really loved his family, especially his kids. Any person who is in love with his family would definitely want to stay alive, but not to spend the millions he had made, but to simply be with his family.

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