Breaking Awful

For the past few years, people have suggested I watch a TV series that ended in 2013. As you probably know, this is now possible through the magic of streaming. Many of us—and probably you as well—have been known to get hooked on old shows that we never saw (or that we want to see again). Services like Netflix and Hulu make it all possible.

Because of these wonderful little inventions, binge-watching entire series has become a thing. I’ve been known to get caught up in such trivialities from time to time when I come across a show that captures my imagination. And now, it has occurred once again.

Terminal Cancer

The series I mentioned in my opening line is Breaking Bad. In case you haven’t seen it, it entails the story of a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he has terminal cancer and decides to “cook” meth to make money for his treatment and secure his family’s future. Well, one thing leads to another and he becomes a major criminal.

The thing about this five-year series is that each episode ends with a cliffhanger of a scene. It’s tough to turn off the set until you’ve seen how it turns out. Then, of course, the next episode ends up being another cliffhanger. It’s almost like getting addicted to drugs. It’s tough to quit.

Walter, the main character, starts off as a rather likable guy—sort of meek and mild—a brainy family man who gets clobbered by a tough break. You have to feel sorry for him—even when he begins to cook methamphetamines. You know that he’s helping to ruin lives by supplying all the meth-heads in the neighborhood. Still, it seems like a good cause.

Deeper and Deeper

Of course, he keeps getting in deeper and deeper. As time goes on, more and more lives are ruined, his family is put in danger, and people die—lots of people. Spoiler Alert! On more than one occasion, he personally commits murder. He ends up being a monster of sorts.

The thing about watching this show is that I still root for him to get away with everything. As vile and immoral as he becomes, I still can’t help feeling sorry for the guy. He’s one of those hero/anti-hero types. I’m conflicted and compromised.

This is not the only show like this, of course. I’ve seen several of them in the past few years. One thing they’re good for—aside from the entertainment—is the way they portray the evil that resides in each of us. 

These days, a lot of humanists keep telling us that people are basically good. If you’re a Christian and have paid attention to your own theology, you know this not to be true. Humanity is basically evil, and it doesn’t take much for us to get lost in our own sinfulness. We are a people in need of a Savior. Walter is one of us. I guess that’s why I still root for him. 

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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