The Downward Spiral of TV’s Resident Bad Guys
Behind the Screens
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 18:09
Countless shows are returning to TV lineups this fall, but two dramas in particular, “Sons of Anarchy” and “Breaking Bad,” have left me especially excited about events that will conclude or drastically change the plots’ trajectories and the characters’ lives
On a superficial level, the common factor between the shows is their propensity for showing illicit activities. However, at this point in their stories, they each offer more subtle similarities through their protagonists, as Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) of “Sons of Anarchy” and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) of “Breaking Bad” individually expose us to crucial moments in their personal struggles.
The word I find most appropriate to connect these very different characters is “transformation.” Both are decision-makers with an increasing amount of interpersonal responsibility. They must adapt to successfully take on new burdens. The two are very much the type of characters you are unsure whether to love or hate, since their choices often straddle the line between moral and immoral. The famous Spider-Man quote — “With great power comes great responsibility” — can be tailored to adequately describe Jax and Walt’s situations: With great responsibility comes great unpredictability and a great number of morally questionable decisions.
Let’s start off with the arguably more drastic of the transformations, Walter White. He is the central figure in a story that is somehow both preposterous and plausible: Medical bills from cancer treatments and a mission to leave money for his family force the high school chemistry teacher into a more lucrative trade, cooking meth. However, the family man with a noble cause now travels a significantly darker path.
Now, viewers might be confused as to whether they are watching Walter White or his drug-dealing alter ego Heisenberg. This distinction is apparently not evident to Walt, who seems to be entirely sure of himself. Walt’s good intentions, however, have been obscured by the dangers affiliated with his new profession, and he has been forced to toughen up significantly while becoming unbelievably stoic. As the series draws closer to an end — this is the penultimate season —, we eagerly await the conclusion to Walt’s story and try to guess how the writers will tie up loose ends.
“Sons of Anarchy” contains a less Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque transformation in Jax but promises intriguing developments in season five. The bad-boy-turned-good-turned-bad-and-back-again shoulders significantly more responsibility in both the motorcycle club he is a member of and in his personal life. As he struggles between his desire to safely support his family and his duty to serve with his “brothers,” he must repeatedly make decisions that are detrimental and, nine times out of 10, put his life at risk.
At one point, Jax must make the best of where he finds himself with the hope that the path he truly desires will present itself again. The motorcycle club as a whole is going through times of change, and consequently many questions remain to be answered in this explosive show. As we anticipate a chaotic season full of internal and external conflicts, Jax’s increasingly influential position in both the club and the plot promises to once again play a central role in a show that, like “Breaking Bad,” somehow distorts our perception of right and wrong.
As a huge fan of both these shows, I expect the plots to continue their excitingly unpredictable developments while also remaining true to what I see as their primary focus in the evolution of these main characters. For now, all we can do is wait one week at a time as events slowly unfold, and watch as some of our favorite characters come back to life.
Eduardo Gueiros is a junior in the College. Behind the Screens appears every other Friday in the guide.