breaking bad ozymandias

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My name is  O Z Y M A N D I A S, king of kings

The episode title refers to the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which recounts the crumbling legacy of a once-proud king. Over the course of the episode, most of the main characters fall to their knees out of grief, in comparison to the poem. At the end of the fifth episode of Talking Bad, Vince Gilligan emphasized the line: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” in reference to Walt and his fallen empire. 

Walter White vs Frank Underwood: Who really is the one who knocks?

This is the age of anti-heroes dramas. 

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) are the living proofs of a change in the narrative styles adopted by TV writers these days. 

Long gone are the days when the main character was a positive everyman with noble and saving-the-world like intentions. And when someone happens to be a positive character of such, he or she ends up being physically or morally harmed, or worse decapitated.

We are fascinated by anti-heroes. They tend to stay more hooked up on our feelings than positive characters do. There’s something magnetic and thrilling in supporting the bad guys that clearly makes us more disposed to forgive them and cheer for their progress in the storylines.

The American drama has recently given us two great examples of anti-heroes that are likely to be remembered and leave a cult image of themselves in the years to come.

I chose to focus on Walter White and Frank Underwood since they are the best examples of anti-heroes in television, though they’re not the only ones. Tony Soprano and Don Draper (from Mad Man) are two great anti-heroes of previous shows.

Then who, in an imaginary competition, is the greatest anti-hero?


Walter White/Heisenberg

As we all know, he is the chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer, who eventually decides to direct his life towards the criminal world by becoming the greatest methamphetamine’s cook and producer of the world. With a 99.1% purity, Walter White’s – in art Heisenberg – meth is the best ever manufactured. He eventually becomes a producer himself, unchaining his product from the hands of the villain Gus Fring. 

Walter White’s story is about a man who has been given the chance to pursue his ambitions “thanks” to his disease and, therefore, has nothing to lose. He chose to exploit all these circumstances to reveal his nature, though he’s been hiding under the idea of leaving something for his family.


Frank Underwood

Conversely, House of Cards’ protagonist totally lacks an inner and more human side, showing to the world a meticulous, impassive, rational and machiavellian character whose only pursuit is to ambition and personal success. And if this means hurting others in order to succeed, that is completely accepted. He doesn’t need anyone’s permission and appears able to act with “ruthless pragmatism”.

In comparison, Frank appears to be the Heisenberg side of Walter White. He seems to lack  humanity and he usually exploits his wide range of skills in order to accomplish his personal goal. 

Contrariwise, Water White shows some kind of good intentions in what he does.
He still retains some sort of humanity that eventually makes him vulnerable and weak. That is observable in the feelings he has for Jesse and how he’s not completely ruthless and schemer in every situation. “Ozymandias” is a clear example of what I’m talking about. 

Nonetheless, after coming to know Walter’s personality I had personal doubts about his reasons: is he a good man transformed by the need to provide for his family? Or was wickedness already an inner side of his persona? Did the cancer give him an excuse to unleash his real personality?

Walter wasn’t a bad person: he truly believed his goal was to leave something to his family after he’ll be dead. But eventually, we come to know that what he was doing had awakened some sort of inner strength he had been covering for too much time.

Speaking about House of Cards instead, I think we’ve been played by Frank Underwood.

He’s not the anti-hero we want him to be. 

He is the villain of the story and there’s something scary, thrilling, disturbing and peculiarly disarming about being confident of the bad guy. He has nothing that may justify his action — contrary to Walter White — therefore watching him playing his role to me is like watching the whole Harry Potter saga from Voldemort’s point of view.

Nonetheless, we cheer for Frank as we have supported Walt and we want both of them to win and accomplish their purposes. 

Maybe there’s something evil in everyone’s inner side as I personally get excited every time I see Frank succeeding or talking directly to his audience. To us, to me.

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As promised, pics of my Breaking Bad inspired (and first!) tattoo! Taken from the moment in Ozymandias out in the desert where Jesse is about to die and he looks up to see the two eagles flying together. This show is always beautiful but this moment was so stunning I think my heart actually stopped.

Partly a personal tribute to a show that’s the best work of art I’ve ever seen in my life, partly a reminder to always look for the beautiful in the bad situations, and partly I think it’s wildly pretty:) Ughh I’m so glad I went for it because I LOVE it!!