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Monday, September 30, 2013

Walter White and my father. I've seen this movie before.

Breaking Bad concluded its amazing five year run last night. Most of you know that. I have been on board since Year 1 and have been captivated all along the way. I posted a blog on some of my random thoughts on Saturday. Here is a link if you wish to read that. 
Here, I will be more specific. One topic, which of course relates to the main plot point last night. 
Last night, what everyone was finally waiting to hear was addressed. Walter White had to finally admit it. He didn't do all those things just for his family, as he had steadfastly stuck to the whole time. The viewers wanted to hear him say that, so Gilligan gave in and gave them that.
But, in my view, the truth is not that simple. He started doing it because he was desperate and thought the world had screwed him over and passed him by. Then he realized that it was his ticket out of the mess he had created for himself. Only then did he start doing it for himself because he got caught up in the power it gave him. So truly, he broke Bad and was never able to break back the other way.
The moral of the whole show......once you Break Bad you can never truly go back. If you are in, you are in for the long haul, which is likely a very short time span. Walt crashed and burned, because all of these types do.
As poetic as they made it seem (and they did it masterfully as always), in reality he died around a bunch of dead Nazi psychos and with a bullet hole in his stomach, on the floor, in a meth cook lab--not surrounded by loved ones, who had shunned and abandoned him by that stage.
A sad ending to a sad tale of good gone bad. But a fitting one. Walt was never a hero. He was simply a guy who became a criminal and got what he deserved for that.
I have first hand knowledge of this sort of thing. My father and Walter White are very much the same person.
A short bit of history. My dad "knew people." Why is that? Well, he always knew people from the neighborhood, but was never really involved. Then, when I was about 7 or 8, he got involved with a bunch of guys in a business who he claimed set him up to take a fall on some kind of scam, a fraud on the government. It was some kind of construction firm and there were unpaid (and/or evaded) taxes or corrupt payments, or something like that, involved. When the dust settled, my father went to jail for 2 years and the others got off. That is how I remember it and how my family told it to me. How much of that is true? Probably some of it, but not all of it. In reality, my father was probably the mastermind, and involved on some higher level, and got what he deserved. Will I ever know the truth about that? Nope. My father died 3 years ago, and even if he was alive now I wouldn't get a straight answer or the whole truth, or maybe even much of the truth. My dad like to make up stories and lie. He was actually very good at it. So, I will never know the whole truth about anything he did, nor do I care. It is enough to know that whatever he told me, to this day, I don't take it on face value. I assume there is some embellishment, fudging or just outright lies involved. 
In many ways, I am Flynn. The father I thought I knew was not the father I learned to accept as what he is as I matured and figured it all out. That is a slap in the face you never forget.
Here are a few very similar things about my father and Walter White.
Walter White was very smart. So was my father. Just smart enough to get himself in so deep that he could never get out from under the mess he created for himself. Did he ever really want out if he could? I doubt it. Same goes for Walt. They like it. They are addicts. They are addicted to whatever that life gives them and even though they are smart enough to get out, they are dumb enough, like an addict, to stay in and self destruct when they don't need to.
People often say its a shame that some people don't use their great talents for good, but instead choose the wrong course. It is sad, but many do it. After you grow up, you just learn to accept that fact. I think, if they were to do a Breaking Bad, 20 years later, you would see Flynn come to that conclusion. I did.
I never viewed it as a reflection on me. My father did what he did, and I was his son. Those don't connect and make me part of any of it. He did his things, they were his things. Never bothered me. I had a friend ask me once if it did, and I told him it didn't. That was very hard for most to figure out and understand, but that was always me. I am my own person, and what family members do is not my problem. 
After that initial brush with the law, my father had his chance to go straight. He didn't take it. I think he learned to be a better criminal in jail. He said that was what they said in there. People say that and I believe it. He did try a few regular jobs after that, but now that he had better contacts and knew his way around the game, he decided to go back in. All in. The rest of his life was a series of scams, jail time, and more of the same. He just could never stop. It's a sickness. For Walter White, it was a sickness. Worse than the cancer. You can beat cancer. Walter White almost beat the cancer. He was never going to beat the Heisenberg facade he created and then tried to make his core believe.
Walter White went all in. He figured that just making the meth was wasting his talents. Why not own the business and make all the money? So he did. My father did the same. And so, he got in way deeper. The next time, he did more jail time, and for a while there was no getting away from it. He was tainted now, and he was for the rest of his life.
My father claimed he did it all for us. He even believed that on some level for the longest time. He didn't. He did it because, underneath the facade, he was very selfish. He did it to boost his ego. He liked the power, just like Walt did.
Walter White and my father know how to talk the talk. Convince people to do what they want them to and convince them that it is their idea and a good thing for them. They are master salesmen at framing the narrative and distorting the reality in their favor. I saw this, day in, day out. Jesse even brought that up in the desert when he, Walt and Saul were there and Walt was trying to convince Jesse (play him) to leave town because he cared about him like he was his son and it was the best thing for him. I saw and heard that sort of thing endlessly with my father.
I spent my whole life trying not to be Walter White, or my father. So far, despite a few bumps on the road, I have succeeded. I know how tough that is. That temptation is always there and very strong, especially when you are good at it, which I could be. I guess observation tells me that it always ends up like Walter White did last night and my father did for 40 years until he died a broken man.
My father once said what Walt did. That he did it all for us. I was ready for that when he did. I told him that if he was doing it for us to just stop doing it. We wanted him, not the things he gave us by doing what he did. That startled him. We never talked about that and it was never brought up again, but I still remember sitting at the kitchen table when I said that.
Flynn told Walt that in the second last episode. The reality for the types like Walt and my father is that they want to believe that they truly do it for us, and not for themselves, because it makes them feel better about themselves and what they are doing. They can't admit how flawed they are. And they never will. 
Here is one difference though between Walter White and my father. My father did realize it, regret it, and admit it. Walter White never really did. Right to the end, he wanted to die believing he took care of his families future, saved Jesse, avenged Hank's death and righted every wrong he created along the way to boost his fragile ego. 
He didn't. You can't. You can admit it, but you can't correct it.  
I have seen that movie before and I know how it ends. The real life movie, where the hero isn't a hero, and they don't win the gun fight with life. They lose. Just as Walt did. Just as my father did.

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