17th June 2013: Becoming Heisenberg



I’m a late-comer to Vince Gilligan’s television series Breaking Bad. Most people are waiting for Season 5’s second half in August. I’m at the end of Season 1. Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) transformation from “Mr. Chips into Scarface” (Gilligan) might find its way into a PhD chapter.


A pivotal scene from Season 1 occurs during the finale of episode 6 ‘Crazy Handful of Nothin’‘. White has just shaved his hair due to chemotherapy. He confronts crystal methamphetamine dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) who beat up White’s partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). White’s bargaining leverage is the fulminated mercury he has bought with him as a small incendiary explosive, and which the episode foreshadowed in a high school chemistry class. The scene is a great negotiation clip that illustrates the madman theory in grand strategy and nuclear deterrence.


More significantly, it is the moment that White takes Action, and first transforms from a mild-mannered chemistry teacher (and former graduate student researcher) into his alter ego, Heisenberg. It’s a moment of Metic intelligence (craft, cunning, skill, wisdom). I’m looking forward to how White evolves, and what the consequences of his decisions are, in the remainder of Breaking Bad.