Apparently it ain’t kosher to think Walter White (a.k.a. Bryan Cranston maturing better than Brad Pitt) is the hottest thing on TV, like, ever. Many articles denounce him as soul-less, degenerate, petering to a skin-shell of a man as each season winds. So how could one possibly LOVE him? I mean, we all love him, want him to empire build better than Darth did, hope he succeeds where Gus failed, that he’s king before the show ends (America has kings, right?) But I don’t mean that sort of love. I mean full-on-used-to-fantasise-about-Tom-Cruise-now-it’s-you-L-O-V-E. And sure, love is blind; I’m the first to admit my taste pre-millenium, and even post-it, is pretty questionable. But this is not a judgement error, some pre-pubescent crush I’ll regret in 2 months or 4. I’m not a Twi-Mom pining over a poster of a teenager I could’ve carried twixt my hips. No back track, no regrets. This is the sort of love that’s got my husband worried. And he fucking should be.
The iconic image of Walter, or W. W. as our Gale would call him (and Gale was totally crushing, ain’t no denying), is pant-less, glasses taped or broken, untucked shirt, socks pulled as far over shins as possible. A MESS. This is not where love starts, but this is the tip of it, the hint, that our protagonist is about to unravel more spectacularly than Don Draper, who’s always been a bit too staid to warrant fuckability. Plus he’d fuck anything, so where’s the fun in that?
I wonder if Cranston knew what he’d look like bald? I read an interview with Michael Rosenbaum, who played Lex Luthor with a Chuck Bass swagger in Smallville, who said it was a real risk shaving his head for the role. What if his scalp was scarred, marked, scabbed over, or irreparably bumpy? How’d he portray a character famed for baldness if he couldn’t pull it off, when a bald cap wouldn’t cover it? And an easy to spot wig, hair piece or bald cap is frustrating like date night with Joey Potter. It’s a tease with no pay off: it feels like the actor didn’t try, give everything they possibly could. Which is why Walt shaving his head, and really shaving it, is a step into sex-territory (I’m just making these terms up as I go along, people).
I’ve expressed to my friends this pure, super true love of mine, that is W. W., and apparently it’s weird. “It’s all about Jesse,” they tell me. Or, “Gus is hot with a face.” Which is true, he’s super hot, for some of the reasons Walt is: power, intuition, the ability to act without moving his face all that much. But Jesse, I have to ask, seriously? Aaron Paul is an attractive man, absolutely. But meth-prone Jesse, he’s not exactly marriage material. You may ask, what does fuckability have to do with marriage? But it’s the seasoning, the groundwork. And although I don’t date meth addicts, never did, I dated a shoal of unavailable, unreliable, addictive-personality, borderline depressive people like Jesse, and yes, they were 100% hot like he is, in the way that he is: in real life, you know it wouldn’t work, but you want it anyway. You want him the same way you hoped Jordan Catalano would grow a personality so he could sustain the next 50 years of engaging you in god damn conversation. But, Bible, that was never going to happen. And house or no house, bank balance or nil, Jesse’s about as much of a catch as Edward Cullen (a 117 year old celibate vampire pretending to be a teenager to score with attractive high school girls. Errrr what?)
Maybe I’m mellowing, because part of Walt’s fuckability is down to his stability: his unending need to provide for his family, his penchant for nice cars and home furnishings, his love of good liquor. But I can tell you the moment it occurred, the scene I repeat-played approximately 9 times having watched it. And that was just the immediate replay. If this was VHS, he’d be a scratchy tape section, all static, burned away like the moment Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs in Basic Instinct.
Walt’s at the hardware store, when he spots a guy with a trolley filed with ingredients for cooking meth. He gives him advice, which scares the guy off. Walt leaves too, and outside he spots the guy with a tough looking friend/fellow cook near a recreational vehicle or van (this show has taught me to spot a meth lab in any locale). So little speech occurs. Tough guy squares up, steps up, pumps his body like he has in built shoulder pads. And simply, Walt says, “Stay out of my territory.” This is enough to scare both men away: they drive off, leaving Walt smirking to himself, at the start of his empire, and the rest of us destroyed, because Heisenberg just went all Magic Mike on us (sexy but don’t tell anyone or they’ll know just how deviant we really are).
I’ll counter that there are glimmers before this episode (season 2, episode 10), but this had me sold. I felt the old heart flutter like I’d eaten too much food with fat in it, and I wanted MORE. And Breaking Bad has been delivering on the sexy ever since. No more so, maybe, than when Walt tells that dude, “Say my name.” I’ll say it and then some.
There have been some troublesome moments though. Does Walter really feel no emotion when people die (at his hands, or the guns of others)? Does he rape Skyler as the credits roll (season 5, episode 2)? Would he sell out anyone for his kingdom (even me)?
And these questions are huge, slide around the grey area of Breaking Bad making every episode an emotionally vomit-inducing raspberry ripple ice cream (yummy, but imagine you ate 10 tubs in quick succession). None of the characters are safe from themselves or those around them, and Walt’s the epitome of this flip coin, Two-Face in broad daylight. And he knows his fate, gets secure in the pit of his reformation, asking Jesse (season 5, episode 7), “If you believe that there is hell, I don’t know if you are into that. But we’re, we’re all pretty much going there right?” Which totally paraphrases One Tree Hill’s Dan Scott in Season 9, when asked, “You think we’ll ever find redemption for the things we’ve done?” Dan replies, “I wouldn’t count on it,” says he’ll save the guy, a fellow prisoner, a seat in hell (kind offer, thanks man). Now, Dan Scott could handle a machine gun, went total Jack Bauer on the final season of OTH. But he never achieved hotness (or if he did, please prove me wrong, readers!) Awesomeness was enough for him. But Walt achieves both. He owns his destiny like any horror movie villain about to get found out, and there’s nothing sexier than a Freddie Kreuger/Michael Myers type (if wet dreams are to be believed).
I can’t wait to see where Walt ends, although mourning him (whether he lives, dies or disappears) will last longer than the pain felt when Joey chose Pacey (3 straight hours of crying) or Mark and Lexie (ugh I can’t even say it WHY SHONDA WHY?) And when the show goes he’ll be gone but not forgotten (I don’t just mean spank bank, although I also mean it). I’ll get a picture, frame it, hang it (my bedroom’s ready) and I’ll replay those clips like I don’t even remember what life was like before you could get all OCD about a fictional character and just watch those downloads/DVDs until your computer gives up and dies. Because that doesn’t happen often (married to an IT expert, for the win).