Walter White is a name that inspires a wide variety of conflicting emotions, thanks to its association with one of the most dynamic characters ever written for television. Lest we forget, however, it’s a name that is shared by another character, one who is often overlooked amongst the gallery of more colorful personalities that surrounds him on Breaking Bad.
I’m referring, of course, to Walt, Jr. (or “Flynn,” as he once preferred to be called), the loving and gentle soul who is unknowingly caught in the middle of a heinous and destructive crime operation run by a father whom he sees as a mild-mannered, ineffectual nerd- albeit a nerd he adores.
Although Walt, Jr. is afflicted with cerebral palsy, he can hardly be said to be “suffering” from it; despite his use of crutches for mobility, he otherwise lives his life much as any other typical teenaged boy. He hangs out with friends, dreams of owning a cool car, idolizes his bad-ass uncle, and reacts with predictable embarrassment when his parents try to be “cool.” He adopts a rebellious persona, like most boys his age, but it is never more than an attitude. At heart, as we can plainly see, he is a sweet kid who deeply loves his family and has nothing but good intentions towards them; he may be naive about his parents’ domestic struggles, and he may have some serious lapses in judgment from time to time, but his age, coupled with his somewhat sheltered middle-class background, make these things completely understandable and only serve to make him all the more endearing.
However, lest we, like his father, take him more or less for granted, we should take a look at some of the issues that have, so far, come up around this lovable character, and consider the ways that they may rise to the surface as Breaking Bad heads into its climactic episodes. Walt, Jr. has always had a special affection for his dad, and though it may have suffered during the difficult early days of the Heisenberg Empire, that bond has become strong once more; nevertheless, there was that uncomfortable moment when Walt, delirious with pain and remorse after being beaten to a pulp by his young partner-in-crime, accidentally referred to his son as “Jesse.” This slip of the tongue has got to weigh heavily on Junior’s mind, and even if he hasn’t consciously addressed it yet, you can bet it will come up again. Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room; what happens when Junior finally learns the truth about his beloved dad’s secret life? How will this revelation affect the boy’s perception of his family? Will he idolize his father more for being an underworld kingpin, or will the sting of being lied to drive a permanent wedge between them? Where will his loyalties fall if he finds himself having to choose sides between his revered Uncle Hank and the father he only thought he knew? Whatever the answers to these questions, Walt, Jr. will be an important factor as the show moves into its endgame, we can have no doubt to that.
Of course, there’s always the ending that I have long envisioned for the series, though I can’t say it would be the most satisfying. In a show so drenched with irony, it might perhaps be fitting for Junior never to find out about his dad. Instead, after a cataclysmic final showdown in which Walt, Hank, and everybody else that could share the secret has been killed, Junior is suddenly left sitting, alone (or perhaps with Aunt Marie, equally oblivious, left behind as a guardian for he and his baby sister), on top of an enormous pile of money that he has inherited, no questions asked, without any way of knowing where it came from. On second thought, that might be pretty satisfying, after all.