After watching Breaking Bad series twice, I feel that the net effect of Walter's actions is not so obvious (negative). I understand that a lot of innocent people died and there have been consequences. However, one could argue that Walter did a few favors to the society:

  1. Got rid of some junkies.
  2. Wiped Jack's gang.
  3. Wrecked Gus's meth empire.
  4. Raised awareness for the future.

Was this intended to be considered or is Breaking Bad only about the "Bad"?

  • 5
    I'm not sure "getting rid of junkies" is a positive outcome. Even criminals are people, and death is only considered a valid punishment for the worst sort of murderers. Additionally, Gus Fring does kill people but he avoids violence when possible, there are even indications that he is peaceful when he shouldn't be. Someone more violent will take his place. The only thing I can agree is positive is wiping out the white supremacists, as they were depraved killers who would kill again at the earliest opportunity. I think that it was only about the "bad".
    – John O
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


Whenever one encounters great art - whether written, filmed, painted, or other - it should be kept in mind that very little of it is accidental. Without going into the merits of the Peabody Award winning series, would you think Dickens, for example, or Shakespeare, or Walt Whitman wrote works with entirely unintentional outcomes?

Vince Gilligan has often been quoted as saying that he was fascinated by the idea of taking a protagonist and turning him into an antagonist (Mr. Chips becomes Scarface):

The idea of a kind of Walter Mitty, milquetoast character who reinvents himself and turns from somebody good to somebody bad and profits in the process. That was the sum total of the concept.

The setting of the protagonist being a meth-cooker came from a quip made by a fellow writer when they were both unemployed, that they should cook meth out of an RV to make ends meet.

Good writing is intentional (quotes from here on are from Gilligan himself).

Having said that, in hindsight, my good fortune was that I didn’t have the opportunity to go with my first instincts and throw the kitchen sink plot-wise into our first season. If I’d done that, I would have painted myself into some seriously unpleasant plot corners. ... People still like storytelling that can slow down enough to explore characters and examine them closely. I think there’s still room for that.

Good writing, however, can't prevent misinterpretation by individuals or by changing mores in culture.

I will admit that a great many of the interpretations that people have of [breaking Bad and Better Call Saul] involve details and conclusions which — frankly — I never had in mind.

If our culture ever becomes one in which we see the death and destruction of many innocents as a perfectly acceptable collateral damage in order to "rid the world" of some junkies, gangs, and meth empires, then maybe society will come to see that ol' Walt wasn't so bad after all.

But that was not Vince Gilligan's vision. He wrote a series in which a faulty protagonist becomes a vicious antagonist who destroyed everyone around him.

Clearly, though, certain people were killed for the greater good:

Todd is actually in a weird way kind of likable, but he just had to go. Opie had to go. Ricky Hitler, as we like to call him. I think the whole world is better off without that group of characters. ...the character of Lydia – we were all champing at the bit to see her get her just desserts much more than Todd even.

Ultimately the story is not about the good done to society in doing away with bad people, but the bad things broken people can do. He ruins people's lives, everyone who is close to him.

(On choosing an ending for Walt in which he was afforded a sliver of redemption before dying:) We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. ...I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. ...When you think of it, [Jesse] didn’t really have a chance in the early days. Walt said, ‘You either help me cook meth and sell it, or else I’ll turn you in to the DEA.’ So this poor kid, based on a couple of really bad decisions he made early on, has been paying through the nose spiritually and physically and mentally and emotionally. In every which way, he’s just been paying the piper...

TL;DR: No, I don't think Vince Gilligan thought Walter White was kinda good for society.

Breaking Breaking Bad
'Breaking Bad': Creator Vince Gilligan explains series finale

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