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by
Ron Radosh

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July 16, 2011 - 6:33 pm
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As Poniewozk writes, the more White falls into the drug world, he finds that he is a master cook of crystal meth, “and it feels good” to him. Unlike teaching chemistry to bored and unappreciative students, he is on top of the world — and making a bundle to boot. To quote the critic once more, “As Walt gets in deeper, embracing his criminality and signing on to run Gus’ pharmaceutical-grade-meth superlab, Breaking Bad becomes something incredibly compelling — and dead serious.”

The questions raised are moral issues. What would we do if faced with the stark alternatives Walter White faces? Would we put aside the quandary of whether good people can and will do bad things to others, if necessary to save one’s own loved ones? The key to the morality is the character of Jesse. The former student is a crazed junkie when we first meet him. By season three, he has gone to rehab and cleaned himself up, and is dedicated to working with his old teacher in order to make a business and build a life for himself.

But Jesse develops a conscience and a heart and, unlike Walter White, has trouble doing what is required to succeed in the criminal world — especially murdering others when asked to do so. In his AA group he meets a girl he becomes involved with and, learning that she is a mother of two young children, urges her to clean up her act and break her meth habit. Despite his good intentions, he is dragged further into going where he does not want by Walt who, in the last episode, orders him to murder someone who had to be put out of the way for the two of them to move ahead. We see him about to cross the point of no return and are left with the question of whether or not he did carry out the order to murder given him by Walt.

If you subscribe to a cable service that has “On Demand,” I urge you to watch at least the last episode of season three. If you don’t, turn on AMC Sunday night — I guarantee you that like those who take Walt and Jesse’s crystal meth, you will be hooked.

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Ronald Radosh is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at The Hudson Institute, and a Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York. He is the author or co-author of 14 books.
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