:::Please see my previous analysis of Breaking Bad before reading this follow-up:::
I’ve noticed a sentiment in the Breaking Bad community that Hank is considered “the good guy” by many viewers; or, at least, the goodest guy. I want to dispel that theory once and for all.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Walt, at this stage in his transformation, is beyond the point of possible redemption. He’s too far gone, done too many horrific things, exploited too many people, and committed murder many times over, all in the selfish pursuit of wealth, power, and respect (His motivations are discussed at length in my previous piece). He truly has broken bad, never to return, and he’s well past the point where any moral observer should be able to root for him.
His most obvious foil on the show is Hank Schrader, his DEA agent his brother-in-law. It would be logical to assume that if we can’t root for Walt, then Hank, the agent trying to catch him, is who we should be pulling for. But that is not the case.
First of all, Hank is a hypocrite. While he makes his living busting people for using certain drugs, he’s totally comfortable smoking illegal Cuban cigars, brewing his own homemade beer, and serving as bartender at house parties, pouring everyone margaritas and doing shots of whiskey. His drugs are okay while other drugs aren’t.
Second of all, Hank is an officer of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which means that he is an agent of oppression. He’s a federal employee whose job it is to arrest people who produce, distribute, or use illegal drugs. Meanwhile, the government is in bed with the pharmaceutical companies, who push their legal yet just as potent, addictive, and dangerous drugs through the health care system. In essence, Hank’s job is to eliminate the corporate state’s competition.
And the police are in general an oppressive force designed first and foremost to protect the status quo and preserve the established order of society. In other words, their job is to safeguard the elite, and they oppress the masses in order to do so. The police are only necessary in our society because the system creates haves and have nots, and their job is to make sure the haves maintain their power over society. As a police officer Hank is part of the mechanism that enforces the class divide and fills the for-profit prison industrial complex with drug users, and everything he does is stained by that fact.
Finally, Hank has crossed the line too many times. Throughout the entire show he has bent the law, or flat out violated it, in order to pursue his leads. He breaks and enters without warrants, willfully ignores orders from his superiors, and engages suspects without documented proof, on more than one occasion outright assaulting people without cause. His beating of Jesse was brutal and unforgivable, and he should have been fired. The only reason he wasn’t arrested was because Jesse didn’t press charges, and it should be noted that Jesse would have pressed charges if it weren’t for Walt’s manipulation of the situation.
The point I’m trying to make is that Walt and Hank are almost equally bad. Both are prone to breaking the law and committing acts of brutal violence, the only difference is that Hank is sanctioned by the system and Walt is not. Walt is a renegade capitalist-imperialist who exists outside the law while Hank serves the established system of capitalist-imperialism. They are mirrors of each other, and we can’t root for one to prevail over the other.
There are many ways Breaking Bad could end, but the worst possible ending would be one in which Hank emerges as a triumphant victor over Walt. Though it might be gratifying to see Walt get what he deserves after escaping justice for so long, Hank shouldn’t be the one to give it to him, because ultimately that would represent the oppressive establishment preserving itself, ridding itself of Walt’s anomaly, and the current order of haves and have nots lives on.
So, if we can’t pull for Walt or Hank, who can we root for? In my opinion: Jesse. While Jesse, like Walt, has done many terrible things, he hasn’t yet lost his moral compass. He still knows right from wrong, and he is therefore redeemable. Plus, you have to consider that a lot of his wrongdoing is the direct result of Walt’s manipulation, and if left to his own devices Jesse would have remained a small-time meth cook scraping together a living, more interested in partying with his boys than building a drug empire.
Personally, I hope both Walt and Hank get what they deserve in one way or another, and I hope that it’s Jesse who ultimately gives it to them, since he has cause to hate them both, and he, unlike them, still has time to redeem himself.