Breaking Bad’s Walter White shares several traits and thematic similarities with one of Lost’s main cast who is perhaps the series’ saddest character.
Breaking Bad’s Walter White acts as a dark mirror for a major character from Lost. First released in 2008 and 2004, respectively, Breaking Bad and Lost both came to define the third Golden Age of Television across the mid-to-late 2000s. Though the two TV series are set in entirely different universes, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a dark version of what one of LOST’s saddest characters could well have become in a darker timeline of events.
Breaking Bad’s Walter White is a middle-aged high school teacher who feels underappreciated, having sold his majority stake in a now multi-billion-dollar chemical research company, Gray Matter, for just $5,000. When Breaking Bad begins, he finds out that he has lung cancer, tipping him over the edge and convincing him to cook crystal meth with his former student, Jesse Pinkman. Conversely, Lost’s John Locke (Tery O’Quinn) also personifies a tragic life, being abandoned by his mother and never knowing his father from a young age. Although Locke does eventually meet his father, he turns out to be a con man who tricks John into giving him his kidney and pushes him from an eight-story building, forcing Locke to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. This only changes when John is healed by the Lost island’s magic, leading him to think he has been chosen for a higher purpose.
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In this way, John Locke and Walter White mirror each other as middle-aged men defined by their losses in life and the belief that they deserve more. For Walt, this takes the form of an aggressive ego that only grows larger as he transforms into the evil drug kingpin, Heisenberg. On the other hand, John is more sympathetic and is often a victim of manipulation rather than an overtly bad person like Walter. However, John clings to the belief that he is special and is willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill his destiny, such as when he kills Naomi in season 4 to stop the survivors from escaping the island.
Both Lost’s John Locke and Breaking Bad’s Walter White are very proud men, owing to the fact that the pair feel that life owes them something. After seeing how successfully Gray Matter used his early research, Walter White resents his life, pushing Walter towards Jesse’s companionship and cooking crystal meth to heal his own wounded ego. Similarly, Locke is presented as extremely depressed after his encounter with his father, losing the love of his life, Helen, and resorting to speaking to phone sex workers to combat his feelings of loneliness before finding his “purpose” on Lost’s mysterious island.
The irony here is that Walt has everything John wants from life: a stable job, a loving wife, and children. Where Locke turns to morally questionable acts on the island due to achieving none of this and desperately seeking a purpose, Walt is driven by ego and a desire to be respected above all else. Walt admits as much during “Felina,” the final episode of Breaking Bad, when he says to Skylar, “I did it for me.” In this way, Walt is a cautionary tale of what would likely have happened to Lost’s John Locke had Locke’s faith and ego been allowed to run unchecked across the final seasons of the ABC series.
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About The Author
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Nathanial is a film and tv nut from the UK, living in London. He’s currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Film Studies and has written for sites like the UK Film Review, Inside the Magic, and Coastal House Media. He’s a Hufflepuff and a Daredevil stan.
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