October 4, 2013
The End Of The Line For TV Anti-Heroes
Two reasonably long-running series recently ended a week apart, and now two of the most popular anti-heroes have had their final “hurrah.” Dexter Morgan, the title character of Showtime’s Dexter, has apparently seen the end of his serial killer days, while Walter White, the meth cooking cancer patient on AMC’s Breaking Bad, has truly cooked his final batch of revenge.
Thus is the end of two series where the lines between good and bad were truly blurred. Dexter was a guy who killed bad guys, until an innocent or two got in the way. Dexter might seem to be the bigger monster on first glance as he did physically kill people, cut them up and dumped their bodies at sea. As noted, most (most, but not all) of his victims were guilty of something. These people were criminals: murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders.
However, a couple of innocents did get in the way. Dexter, who worked as a blood spatter expert for Miami Metro Police, was forced to kill two police officers to save his own neck, once with the unwitting help of his sister. As such, she was a victim of sorts, having to live with her crimes. In the end, she found peace, but only by dying (I did warn you about spoilers). That was the event that served as a catalyst for Dexter to end his serial killing ways.
However, Dexter isn’t really the bigger monster.
Walter White, a not-quite-so-timid high school chemistry professor who was diagnosed with cancer, is really the bigger monster. Instead of asking for help from his former business partners, who struck it rich with a company that White co-founded, he opts to cook crystal meth to pay for his treatment and leave a nest egg for his family.
Five seasons in, White says he isn’t in the meth business, he’s in the “empire business.” Only in the series finale is he able to tell his estranged wife that, “I did it for myself” and that “I liked it.”
Dexter may have directly killed dozens of people (off screen and on), but White not only took many lives (including a fair share of drug dealers and white supremacists) his signature “blue” meth was found to be popular with users across the American southwest and even in Europe. How many lives were ruined by his product?
What does it say about us as the viewer when we’re rooting for these anti-heroes, who are really bad guys? In the case of both Dexter and Walter White, there is a lot of blood on their hands, directly and indirectly.
At least they both sort of get what they deserve. Dexter is forced into an exile, even if he did leave his young son to live with his girlfriend Hannah, who is herself on the run from the law as she had poisoned those who got in her way. The good news for young Harrison, Dexter’s son, is that he’ll have a mom that will do the unthinkable to protect him. How that might play out is anyone’s guess.
For Walter, he actually left his family worse off than if he had succumbed to cancer early on. The more money he made left a problem for the family, not a solution. He did set up a possible solution for his son, but that won’t really make up for the scares of the family knowing “dad was the king of the meth cookers.”
Finally, what Breaking Bad wasn’t was Showtime’s Weeds, where even the baddest of the bad guys wasn’t all that tough. Anyone thinking that maybe cooking meth to pay the bills could see the error of the ways in one season of Breaking Bad.
With these shows over maybe now we can go back to rooting for the good guy again, or just watching how things unfold on Boardwalk Empire, Low Winter Sun and next year’s Black Sails. Sometimes it’s good to root for the bad guy.
Image Credit: AMC