“I am not what I am.”
This is said by Iago, one of the greatest fictional villains in literature. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago is considered to be a two-faced traitor who manipulates two parties to reach his means. Upon reading Othello, I couldn’t help but relate the characters of Shakespeare’s play back to Bryan Cranston’s famous meth cook character from the award-winning Breaking Bad. Like Iago, Walter White has two identities. He is both Heisenberg the meth cook and Mr. White, the chemistry teacher with cancer.
A classmate (or Uncle Ben, I forget which) said: “With great power comes great responsibilities. And those responsibilities can be used to manipulate you.” I couldn’t think of anything more truer than that.
While Heisenberg is cooking methamphetamine, Walter White struggles to protect his family from the dangers of drug trafficking and hit men who threaten Heisenberg’s existence. The risk and responsibilities he faces are weighed against him and he finds himself not only alienated from his home and family but recolored by the underground drug trade. Like Iago, Walter White is not who he is. This way, their identities are shrouded in mystery and the audience doesn’t know whether to sympathize with the character.
But I am reminded of a Cherokee legend about a young boy and his father: “Inside you there are two wolves fighting: there is the black wolf of evil and the white wolf of good.” says the father to his son. “Which one will win?” asks the boy to his father. The father smiles. “The one you feed, son.”