How Justified is Walt in all He’s Done?

When it comes to “breaking bad,” is there ever any justification for falling over the edge and beyond the point of no return?  Is Walt still a good man who’s fallen into some bad decisions, or is he officially a hardened criminal with not a redeeming quality left to his character?

In the series’ beginning, Walt’s choice to go down the meth-cooking path seems at least somewhat forgivable—even as unforgivable of an act that in itself was.  His desperation to provide for his family, fully believing he only has mere months left to do so, throws all rational thought out the window.  He does what he feels is right, not in the eyes of the law or by the addicts he is supplying, but by his wife, son, and unborn child.

Murder quickly falls into the mix.  It begins with a dire situation and clear-cut self-defense, pardonable manslaughter in the name of self-preservation.  No one can judge a man for acting on impulse when his life is on the line.  Few would dare to condemn a man whose future is so terrifyingly uncertain; however, where does one draw the line?  In the whirlwind of his angst, Walt steals a wealth of equipment from the high school laboratory, blows up a BMW out of nothing more than spite over its owner’s cocky attitude, deceives nearly everyone with whom he crosses paths, blows up a building to intimidate a drug dealer, and steals a drum of methylamine worth $10,000 dollars—and that’s all just in the first season.

Homicide quickly moves from manslaughter to premeditated murder when high-volume drug dealer Tuco has Walt and Jesse in his sights.  Granted, the ricin-laced bag of meth Walt cooks for Tuco ends up discarded and he dies instead from a combination of gunshots from Jesse and Hank, but the intent is there.  While not premeditated, even more evil is the way Walt allows Jane to die after she blackmails him, watching her aspirate her own vomit while she is passed out under the influence of heroin—then allowing Jesse to blame himself for her death.  Of course, Walt’s second batch of ricin, brought out of hiding numerous times with the intent to kill, followed by the well-planned bombing of his greatest nemeses, shows just how low Walt is willing to go when threatened.

While one must forgive some of Walt’s actions, taking into account the emotional stress and bouts of temporary insanity that have obviously driven him, a close look at all he has done does merit a critical double-take.  It is difficult to say how any one person might react to news of impending death, especially one as terrifying as cancer, but where does one draw the line between breaking down . . . and downright breaking bad?

Leigh M. Lane is a speculative fiction author whose works span from sci-fi to horror. Her most recent full-length works are The Hidden Valley HorrorFinding PoeWorld-Mart, and Myths of Gods. For more about her work, go to her website at


  1. shulgidude says:

    I agree that Walt, in the eyes of someone who never had to fight for thier lives, has done some very bad things. I think the lifestyle and money got the best of hium for a while making him become the enemy of some people, namely gustavo and mike. His drive for the release of supression overcame many times. However to call him a bad person to the core i dont believe is accurate. I believe that his actions have mainly been reactions to what life dealt him. Some, if not most, people would have laid down and died at the news he got with all that it meant. he may not have chosen the best solution, but he has fought to be a winner and changed his life around. Most of the incidents that have taken place would seem horrendous and inconceiveable to someone who never wondered where their next meal was coming from or if they would have a roof over their heads that night. The noble path is usually more noble for those that arent forced to survive.

    • Rich says:

      I disagree. Yes, life threw a curve ball to Walter, and unfortunately for him, things “broke bad”. I think the morality tale that weaves it’s way through the show is that ordinary people who face horrible challenges, don’t resort to the things that Walter White has done. Power is now the drug that drives Walter. He was a powerless civil servant facing a death sentence, and now he’s the all powerful Heisenberg! things are going to really break bad for him in the end, and they should!

  2. Rob says:

    Tuco and Jane both brought their own demise onto themselves

  3. bogey251 says:

    I believe Walt used his fatal illness diagnosis as justification to pursue easy money as a way of massaging his pride and ego after the falling out with Gretchen and Grey Matter. Walt has something to prove. That “providing for his family” routine is not genuine. Of course, his actions are not justified. Explainable, yes. Understandable and logical? For the most part, yes. But it is all part of a bargain he made. And it is all evil.

  4. bogey251 says:

    Walt is no longer a sympathetic character. In a showdown between him and Hank, who would root for Walt?

    • shulgidude says:

      I would root for Walt, because walt not only saved hank’s life several times but also incurred the expense of rehad etc for hank. It was walt’s fault that hank was getting close in his search, Hank was a good investigator and was doing his job. Walt went out of his way to save Hank and to help him as a good family should do, despite the put downs that hank always gave walt.


  1. [...] acts he likely never would have had he not believed his days were numbered.  As I pointed out in last week’s article, his felonious acts began as those of self-preservation and for the preservation of his family’s [...]

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