The world of Breaking Bad was so rich and deep that years after its excellent series finale, fans are still talking about the ins and the outs of Walter White’s rise and fall, as there are still plenty of details and questions that were never fully explained. And despite creator Vince Gilligan’s stance that viewers should get what they want from the show, he’s finally cleared up one of the biggest mysteries: what made Walt leave his company Gray Matter?
To refresh: Walt co-founded Gray Matter with his college friend Elliott Schwartz, helped along by Gretchen, Walt’s lab assistant and girlfriend. Seemingly out of the blue, Walt ditched Gretchen and her family while on vacation and later took a $5,000 buyout from the company that would later be worth billions. Walt has always held a massive grudge against Elliott and Gretchen (who later married) for using his research to find success, and here’s what Gilligan says really caused Walt’s earliest detour down the path to breaking bad.
I think it was the kind of situation where he didn’t realize the girl he was about to marry was so very wealthy and came from such a prominent family, and it kind of blew his mind and made him feel inferior and he overreacted. He just kind of checked out. I think there is a whole other side to the story, and it can be gleaned.
So there you have it, folks. One of the most interesting and captivating lead characters in all of television made what was then the biggest decision of his life because he felt inferior to his romantic partner and her family. I can’t help but assume that mindset soon branched out to ensnare Elliott and spun him into another source of Walt’s ego-damage, causing him to opt out of Gray Matter.
What’s most surprising about this answer is the lack of surprise that it inspires. Even though Breaking Bad viewers knew that Walt had a huge problem with the couple, the show never exactly played them up as the kind of ruthless monsters who would screw a friend out of anything. Even when they lied in the finale about Walt’s contribution to the company, it was obvious they were only doing it to save public face, not to sincerely discredit everything Walt had done in the past. We never really got to know how Walt’s rapid absence changed their lives, for either the good or the better, and I never really found a reason to dislike them as people.
Gilligan also offered up another piece of insight to Huffington Post.
I think the interesting thing is not exactly what happened but the fact that Walt hasn’t let it go over all these years. He has no perspective on himself. He gets to the point where all he can really do is try to justify everything that he’s done.
And everything that he did, no matter how he spun it to anyone else, was all for himself. He moved beyond cooperative occupations and mostly singularly took over a drug empire because power and control make up his life force. He let people die because they would have challenged his uprising. And going by Gilligan’s explanation, we can also make light assumptions that Walt ended up marrying Skyler specifically because she was the kind of woman who could arguably never rise above him in intelligence or authority, as well as someone who might naively avoid noticing him doing ridiculously illegal things.
Before his death, Walt sort of came around and made a bunch of good decisions that didn’t reverse time, but gave everyone around him a different outlook moving forward. (Well, not Hank, but you know.) Sucks that it took him all those years to understand that he was crafting his own downfall, but at least he got final say on how it went down.
As one of the greatest shows of all time, Breaking Bad absolutely held our attention the entire time it was on the air. And we couldn’t be happier that the show can still give us gifts years after it ended its run. Now I want to see Better Call Saul throw in an easter egg reference to Gray Matter and the Schwartzes at some point.