“Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here – ‘This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!’ Total nonsense!”
This Monday I finally finished “Breaking Bad,” all 62 episodes . And yes, it is the best television series ever made. Witness all the awards the show has received, including at this year’s BAFTA’s – which is surprising as it has never been broadcast in the UK.
You need either to buy the five box sets or like me, use your daughter’s Netflix account. (I also used Chromecast to watch it on our television rather than on my computer monitor).
This has to be television at its very best – with all the various components coming together to great effect: brilliant acting, remarkable camerawork with some surprising angle shots along with some inspired scriptwriting as involved as any le Carré plot and a continuing reference to the 19th century poet Walt Whitman. It’s hard to believe that it was written one series at a time rather than as a coherent whole.
Also some great locations, some fascinating applications of chemistry (especially the title sequence) and a clever choice of music tracks. Talking about tracks, there is also one episode featuring the Santa Fe Southern Railway. You can’t get any better than that.
So what is Breaking Bad all about? In fact, you can’t answer that question without giving away the direction of the plot along with its stunning dénouement. All you can do is say where it starts.
And it starts with Walter White, a rather ordinary and world weary chemistry teacher at the local high school in Albuquerque. To support his cash-strapped family – his wife, Skyler, is pregnant with their second child – he works at a car wash in a menial capacity. Nevertheless they appear happy enough, enjoying a close relationship with Skyler’s sister and her husband, Hank, who just happens to be a drug enforcement agent.
Then Walt discovers that he has inoperable lung cancer. Facing an imminent death he fears for his family, and the only treatment which could work would be far too expensive for their budget. There seems no way out, no hope.
It so happens that Walt is invited to watch one of Hank’s drug raids, just going for the ride and realises he knows the drug maker who gets away, his former pupil, Jesse Pinkman.
At this point Walt sees a way out – to team up with Jesse in order to make crystal meth, the illegal drug methamphetamine. This will fund his treatment and provide for his family’s future.
And everything flows from this key decision, all five series, an outworking of Walt’s free choice to do bad so that good may come. The result is an epic morality tale, Macbeth goes to New Mexico. Riveting.
Vince Gilligan, the originator of Breaking Bad, summaries its theme as “actions have consequences.” We watch spellbound as the character of Walt develops, again in the words of Gilligan, from being Mr. Chips to Scarface. It is a frightening journey, representing what is after all the overriding theme of the Bible, that actions have consequences.
Each episode of Breaking Bad begins with a scene which puzzles. Just like the opening sentence of this blog.
‘This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!’ Total nonsense!” Here in this morning’s BRF Bible reading the prophet Jeremiah challenges those entering the temple in Jerusalem to change their ways (Jeremiah 7:4). They are not to presume on God’s grace.
Stop thinking that God will protect you regardless of how you live, he urges If you disobey the Lord, the God of Israel, there will be consequences. So change now, repent, before it is too late!
In fact, the whole Bible story is that of the outworkings of Adam taking the forbidden fruit. This act of disobedience triggers a whole series of events, which God in his respect for our freedom allows to happen. Something we need to remember each time we are faced with a moral choice – there are always consequences.
Evangelist Charles Stanley could be writing about Walter White when he observes “People don’t like the idea of consequences. They want to be able to live their life freely and do what they want to do without any consequences. And we know that’s just not the way life is.”
The good news, of course, is that God does not walk away and leave us to our inevitable fate. His response amazingly is seen in the cross of Jesus. This cruel death is the inevitable consequence of Adam’s fall, such is God’s love for us.
So we read in Hebrews 9:27-28 (the Message translation): “Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever.”
The cross as chosen by Jesus gives us the opportunity for a new start, a new direction. Our choice but as Jesus himself explains there are still consequences. So he tells Nicodemus “Whoever believes in (God’s Son) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18).
Our decisions have consequences. As Donna Rice observes “In my case, I learned that although God loves us, he doesn’t grant us immunity from the consequences of our choices.” Clearly she has been watching Breaking Bad.