Vice and Virtue in Breaking Bad

About a year ago now, I finally caved.  It was only a matter of time, really. 


Back in 2008, I heard from a few friends about a new show set in Albuquerque, New Mexico—the place of my birth—called Breaking Bad.  At the time, all I knew about the show was that it was filmed and set in Albuquerque, and that it was about a chemistry teacher who decides to cook meth.  Seeing as I’m not too big into TV, and a Catholic with moral conviction, I wasn’t too inclined to watch.  Driving around Albuquerque during my next visit home, I was surprised to see yellow “BrBA” signs with arrows directing crew to filming locations spread across the city—a site which would quickly become familiar.  As the years progressed and the show matured, I learned the reason why this high school teacher had decided to cook meth—he had been diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer, and was concerned for his family’s future.  At that point I became intrigued, but still not interested enough to begin watching the show.  As new seasons continued to debut, more and more people were raving about the show.  Beyond that, Breaking Bad seemed to be completely taking over the city of Albuquerque—Breaking Bad donuts, specialty beers, blue rock candy, t-shirts, tours—it was hard to escape the world of Walter White.  On top of it all, a few friends and family members described some of the interesting moral dilemmas portrayed in the show.  I grabbed a Blue Sky donut, a Heisenberg's Dark Black IPA, and decided it was time to begin my ten-month, slowest-binge-watch-ever of the show that had captivated so many in Albuquerque and the world over.


Now you may be thinking, What business does a Dominican Friar have watching a show about a drug kingpin?  In fact, that same thought kept me from watching the show for quite some time.  And as I watched, I found the show to be incredibly violent and, at times, over the top.  However, I don’t think that the show glorifies or condones drug use or manufacturing.  If anything, the show speaks to the completely destructive nature of drug culture.  And while the show’s plot tells a story of drugs and violence, it presents many important themes and lessons which speak to the moral life not only of drug kingpins, but of you and me, as well.  So while I wouldn’t recommend the show to everyone without reservation, there are some good things that we can learn from it. 


Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing my thoughts here regarding the show’s portrayal of vice and virtue, act and consequence, and other interesting insights I gained while watching one of the best-made shows to ever hit TV.  Breaking Bad is fresh off of yet another impressive awards season, and a spin-off sequel is in the works.  Whether you watched “Felina” live while dressed as a Los Pollos Hermanos mascot at a watch party or finished the series last week on Netflix, come along!  Of course, there will be plot details, so if you haven’t finished the show and don’t want it spoiled, bookmark this page and come back when you do finish!