Part of what makes Breaking Bad such a beloved show is its complex and well-developed characters, especially Walter White. Walt is a brilliant individual who uses his knowledge of chemistry to create an unparalleled product that earns him the money he needs for his cancer treatment and makes him wealthier than he ever imagined possible. Beyond his chemistry smarts, Walt also used his intelligence to outsmart and defeat his opponents on many occasions, even getting many of them to willingly act against their own interests.
But while Walt is clever, other factors, such as his ego, pride, arrogance, and sometimes even honest mistakes cause him to sabotage himself, both personally and professionally. Being a genius with some self-destructive tendencies is part of what makes Walt such a captivating character.
When He Sells His Share Of Gray Matter
Years before the start of the show, Walt co-founded a company called Gray Matter Technologies. But he took a buyout and sold his share of the company to Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz for $5,000. While this seemed like a lot of money to Walt at the time, he grew to deeply regret this decision as the company went on to be worth billions.
Vince Gilligan confirmed that Walt left Gray Matter because he felt inferior to Gretchen and her wealthy family. By letting his ego and pride get in the way, Walt walked away from the opportunity of a lifetime and spent years feeling like he wasted his potential, which contributed to many selfish and unwise decisions that he made later.
When He Let Jesse Buy The RV
Walt took out all his savings and gave them to Jesse to buy an RV for their operation. Jesse wasted most of the money on partying and used what he had left to buy an RV that his friend Combo stole from his mother.
The RV being stolen and the fact that it originally belonged to the mother of Jesse’s friend Combo helped Hank track down the RV. Jesse’s poor choices, which Walt enabled, almost allowed Hank to discover the truth and take them down for good.
When He Kills The Street Corner Dealers
After the street corner dealers killed Andrea’s younger brother Tomás, Jesse went to confront them. Before he could, Walt arrived on the scene and killed the dealers himself to save Jesse’s life.
At this point, Walt had a good relationship with Gus Fring and he had Gus’s respect and his trust. Walt threw all of that away by killing the dealers working for Gus. While Walt saved the life of his partner and friend, he destroyed his relationship with Gus and incurred the wrath that led to a volatile dynamic where Walt lived in fear of his life and in fear of his family’s wellbeing.
When He Accidentally Confirms The Existence Of A Second Cell Phone
During the first two seasons, Walt constantly found ways to evade Skyler’s astute suspicions about his secret life. Right before he went into surgery, Walt unintentionally undid all of his lies. When Skyler asked him if he brought his phone to the hospital, as he was being sedated, he asked, “Which one?”
He’d spent weeks convincing her he didn’t have a second cell phone, but his answer while being sedated told her everything she needed to know. The accidental confirmation of the second cell phone led Skyler to finally see the truth, and her life and her relationship with Walt were never the same again.
When He Kills Mike
Walt demanded that Mike give him the names of his imprisoned men so he could have them killed before they shared any critical information with the DEA. Walt killed Mike when he refused to give up his guys, but after lethally shooting him, Walt realized what he’d done wasn’t necessary since he could get a list of the names from Lydia instead.
Mike’s tragic death was ultimately an act of self-sabotage on Walt’s part because it drove more of a wedge into Walt’s relationship with Jesse. Even though Walt lied to Jesse about what happened, Jesse figured it out. This served as an important factor in Jesse growing to distrust and hate Walt and even working to bring him down.
When He Tries To Kiss Carmen
While struggling with the revelation that Skyler had an affair with Ted Beneke, Walt became unhinged and did some unacceptable things. This included trying to kiss his boss, Carmen Molina, when she brought him into her office to discuss his inappropriate behavior and failure to meet his job responsibilities lately. This was a despicable act on Walt’s part, as it was not consensual.
Walt was rightfully fired for this. And by losing his job as a teacher, Walt lost his only source of legitimate income and a cover that he could use for parts of his secret life. This made it even more difficult for Walt to hide what he was really up to and for him and Skyler to explain where all their money was coming from.
When He Didn’t Fire Todd
After pulling off a successful methylamine train heist, everything fell apart as young passerby Drew Sharp pulled up on his bike and saw Walt, Jesse, and Todd with the stolen chemical. Todd dealt with the situation by murdering Drew Sharp on the spot. In the aftermath, Walt, Jesse, and Mike debated about whether to fire Todd or keep him as part of their operation.
Not only did Walt and Mike decide to keep Todd, but Walt began working more closely with him and even taught him how to make pure crystal meth. If he had just fired Todd, Walt could’ve avoided the disastrous consequences that arose from working with Todd and letting him take over the business when Walt stepped away.
When He Hints To Hank That The Real Heisenberg Is Still Out There
In season 4, Hank reached a point where he believed that the deceased Gale Boetticher was Heisenberg. Hank felt like the answer had been found and he was ready to move on from the case. But Walt’s ego wouldn’t stand for letting Hank believe that Gale was the brilliant Heisenberg and he told Hank that he didn’t think Gale was the guy Hank had been trying to track down.
If Walt just let Hank believe that Gale was Heisenberg, Hank would’ve stopped with the investigation and Walt could’ve stopped dealing with the threat of being discovered by his brother-in-law and the DEA. Instead, Walt reinvigorated Hank’s search and Hank did ultimately uncover the truth.
When He Puts Leaves Of GrassIn The Bathroom
Time and time again, Walt had been meticulous about cleaning up evidence and making sure nothing could lead back to him. So given his attention to detail, it is mind-boggling that Walt left his copy of Leaves of Grass in the bathroom, a copy given to him by Gale Boetticher with a handwritten inscription addressed to W.W., which Hank discovers during his most iconic scene.
Walt knew that Gale was part of Hank’s investigation and yet he left it out in his bathroom where Hank or anyone else could find it. The book and the inscription allowed Hank to finally realize the truth and spelled the beginning of the end for both him and Walt. If Walt had disposed of the book or simply hidden it, many of the dark events that followed likely could’ve been avoided.
When He Hires Jack Welker
Walt hired Jack Welker and his gang to kill Mike’s imprisoned men and he hired them again later to take out Jesse. Hiring this gang of ruthless white supremacists unleashed a monster that Walt couldn’t control. While they killed Mike’s men on Walt’s orders, Jack and his gang also murdered Hank and Steve Gomez, stole 70 million dollars from Walt, and threatened Skyler and her children.
They also took Jesse captive and tortured him for a year while forcing him to cook crystal meth that they profited from. By hiring Jack and his gang, Walt gave them the means to do these horrific things, and only in the very end was he able to eradicate them and liberate Jesse.