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Bad Man Rising: Walter White’s Lowest Lows on ‘Breaking Bad’

Chronicling his journey from warm-hearted family man to cold-blooded killer

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Walter White doesn’t have a character arc. He has a character slope.

Most of the great TV dramas – The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks – have star characters who formed their moral codes long before the cameras started rolling, and the drama comes from watching how they use those codes to react to new challenges. Breaking Bad, which airs its final episode of the year this Sunday on AMC, is different: When mild-mannered chemistry teacher Walter White decides to secretly fund his cancer treatment by making crystal meth, he’s tossing his old moral code out the window, and tossing himself off a cliff. The only question is how far he’ll fall.

This list is the answer. Presented below, in chronological order from the pilot to the shocking seventh episode of Seson Five (WARNING: spoiler alerts ahead), is an updated list of Walt’s lowest lows – the shots and scenes where his journey from warm-hearted family man to cold-blooded killer took its greatest leaps forward, or downward. They’re the moments that made you jump off your couch or shrink back into the cushions, cover your mouth or let it hang open in shock and disbelief. They’re the moments that make Walt bad, and Breaking Bad great.

Dean Norris as Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad

Ursula Coyote/AMC


The Book (Season Five, Episode Eight: “Gliding Over All”)

The final scene of the Season 5A may very well be the lowest of all lows for Walt. At the White homestead, Hank, looking for something to read, finds a copy of Leaves of Grass. This is, of course, the book Gale gave to Walt, inscribed, "To my other favorite W.W. It's an honor working with you. Fondly, G.B." A flashback brings us to the scene where Hank asks Walt to assist with Gale's murder case: Hank shows Walt a notebook inscribed "To W.W," joking how those are his initials, too. Walt, laughing, replys, "You got me!" Hank, now out of the flashback, realizes that Walt is Heisenberg, and his reaction is one of awe, outrage and sorrow. This is the piece that could complete the puzzle that is Breaking Bad – such a careless, foolish mistake shows just how low Walt has sunk. There's also some irony in the fact that Walt's downfall is brought on by a book in his home, as it was his desire to protect that space – and everything inside of it – that made him first "break bad."

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