Ep 8: The Moral Landscape of Breaking Bad; Can one break “Good”?

Spoiler Warning! Breaking bad will be discussed in some detail in this episode.

Sean points out that the show features morally gray characters with complicated mortal structures

By the Terminator Twins we mean the Cousins

Ryver points to a sense of unnaturalness about the twins

Sean brings up Walt Jr. as an example of an interestingly banal character.

Bruce points out that until the 3rd episode from the end of the series Walt Jr. never has to make any moral choices

Ryver points out that in terms of the story he takes very little action

Bruce suggests instead providing a context for the actions of others and goes on to break down what normative ethical positions he feels some of the main characters represent.

Skyler: Value ethics/pragmatism

Hank: Virtue ethics

Jesse: Deontology

Sean suggests another analysis

Gomez: Lawful good

Bruce talks a little about how Hanks character develops and suggests that by the end he has shifted to lawful good

In speaking of secondary characters who hold strong moral positions Bruce brings up Tuco Salamanca as an example of a strict rule based morality.

Sean poses a question central to the show; Are violent actions necessarily “Bad” actions?

Ryver brings up a link between violence in WWII movies and Breaking Bad’s treatment of it.

Sean asks if our American culture’s attitudes toward violence in media have an effect on our analysis

Sean goes on to talk about how violence is used to evoke different reactions over the course of the show

Ryver brings up Gustavo Fring as a representation of vengeance

The group discusses a particularly violent scene where in a twist changes our attitudes about the on screen violence as it happens and this leads to talking about how violence is often used to delineate the moral placement of characters in other shows and how that relates to the muddier waters of Breaking Bad.

Bruce talks about the slippery slope of Walter White’s journey into a world of violence.

Sean talks a little about Amorality and Saul Goodman as its avatar.

Bruce suggests that Saul may have some sort of professional ethics

Ryver points out that Saul seems to have some kind of history walking the line of legal but not moral

Sean reinterprets the scene being discussed as a symbolic event to serve his interests.

Bruce offers up Mike Ehrmantraut as another example of amoral behavior but qualifies that he seems to have a code of conduct.

Sean counters that Mike seems amoral but it’s revealed that his actual moral structure relates to his family and a kind of dark pragmatism.

Ryver points out that Mike seems to show a sense of responsibility toward the arrested members of the team.

Ryver brings up Mikes spartan lifestyle and the group discusses what that tells us about his character

Sean points out Mike’s car as a metaphor for his life

Bruce points out how cars are used as a means to relay information about all the characters in the show

Sean talks a little about cars as general metaphor in American television overall.

Ryver brings up Gus Fring again to discuss revenge and relationships as the seat of value.

Bruce suggests that Gus is an example of a purpose driven life centered on his revenge motivation.

Ryver points out that this makes Gus a strong consequentialist in moral terms

Sean talks about how Gus represents an interesting example of a character who is singular in purpose but with a rich personality behind it as juxtaposed to most TV examples of that type of character.

The guys finally talk about the episodes central question of breaking good

The discussion turns to the juxtaposition of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and how they represent opposing trajectories.

Bruce takes the last word to discuss the relationship between narratives we choose to reiterate in our culture and how we frame the moral narrative of our lives and thinking.

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