You Probably Missed This Walter White Detail In Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is an unusual story. No TV show, past or since, has successfully woven such terrifying ruthlessness around a protagonist who wears grandpa underpants. Walter White has layers to him. On the surface, his story is about a chemistry teacher who sold meth. He's a good guy who becomes a bad guy. But there's more to Walt than badness. His story, like Jesse's, is about change. 

If you dig into the details of that change, though, some interesting patterns emerge. Early in the story, Walt imprisons a small time local drug dealer in his basement. Walt careens from blunder to indecision as he decides what to do with Krazy-8, his ultimate decision to murder him starting Walt's long journey to self-destruction. But as he steels himself to take his first life, Walt feeds the gangster sandwiches, neatly slicing the crusts off before serving them to him as per the doomed man's preference. From then on, whenever Walter eats a sandwich, he first removes the crust.

It seems that Walt somehow absorbed one of his victim's traits.

Later, Walter murders Mike. From that moment, he switches his whiskey-drinking preference from neat to on the rocks — just like Mike. After killing Gustav Fring, Walt begins to drive a Volvo. You guessed it, this was firmly established as Fring's sensible and unobtrusive vehicle of choice.

What's going on here?

It's an odd little trend once you notice it. It's far from obvious, but it's repeated just enough to clearly establish a pattern of behavior. Is this mimicry some interesting psychotic quirk of a man capable of doing almost anything to survive? It might be. But there are odd echoes through the Breaking Bad storyline that suggests it might be more than clever character window dressing.

Take Walt's wife Skyler as an example. Later in the story, she becomes aware of the threat posed by Walt's right-hand-man, Jesse. She urges that Walt kill him in cold blood. It's a stunning and terrifying transformation — almost as though her prolonged exposure to Walt permanently skewed her moral compass. Considering Vince Gilligan's universe as a whole, in Better Call Saul, our eponymous anti-hero decides to seek revenge on his brother's law-partner Howard Hamlin through what can best be described as weaponized mimicry. He copies Howard's mannerisms, style of dress, and eventually steals his company's logo and name, plastering his co-opted identity on a billboard for the world to see.

What's going on, then? Maybe it gets back to chemistry:

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."Carl Jung

In addition to being an amazing story about a meth dealer in bad underpants, perhaps Breaking Bad is a Jungian exploration of one flawed chemist's experiment with the infinitely strange chemistry of human transformation.