Walter White from Breaking Bad is perhaps the most fascinating character in television history. Seeing this former family man and teacher transform into a ruthless drug kingpin is an astounding character arc that leaves us with so many complicated feelings about Walt.
The show never goes the easy route of making him all bad, but instead makes the audience grapple with his flaws and his slide down a dark path. Sometimes we are on his side and other time he disgusts us. Here are some of the times we felt bad for Walt and times we hated him.
Felt Bad: Humiliated At Work
When we meet Walt, his life seems to be pretty rough. He has a loving family, but he struggles to gain respect outside of his house. As a teacher, he is extremely overqualified and yet his students barely listen to him.
To make matter worse, his family’s financial burdens mean he needs to take a second job at a car wash. One day he is forced to wash the car of one of his disrespectful students. It is a gut-wrenching moment of humiliation for a man who deserved better.
Hated Him: Forcing Jesse To Kill Gale
Walt and Jesse begin their story together as two men who dislike one another but force themselves to work together. As time goes on, they become closer and form a bond. However, that does not stop Walt from treating Jesse as a pawn.
When it seems as though Gus Fring will kill him, Walt forces Jesse to save him by killing Gale, the only other man who can cook the meth. Jesse is not as ruthless as Walt and though he does it to help his friend, it is something that haunts him forever.
Felt Bad: Cancer Diagnosis
When Walt’s life is complicated enough with money problems and a baby on the way, he gets news that no one wants to get. He is diagnosed with aggressive cancer and will likely not survive.
Even with all the terrible things he does, it’s likely Walt would have remained a fairly mild-mannered family man if not for this news. The diagnosis sends him on this dark path and shatters his world. It’s hard not to have sympathy for him at this moment.
Hated Him: Letting Jane Die
Jane is someone who gets in the middle of Walt and Jesse, which means Walt sees her as a problem that needs to be dealt with. Jesse’s new girlfriend gives him a glimmer of hope in his dark life, but they unfortunately spiral into addiction together.
When Walt attempts to talk to Jesse, he finds him passed out with Jane. She vomits and begins chocking. Walt sees an opportunity to eliminate a problem and allows her to choke to death in her sleep rather than save her.
Felt Bad: Going On The Run
Even after walking away from his drug empire, the inevitable happens and Walt’s world comes crumbling down. Desperate, he attempts to flee with his family, but the truth of what his actions have caused breaks the family up.
In a desperate attempt to hold on to his former life, Walt takes his baby daughter with him, but quickly realizes he needs to give her up to. His heartbreaking realization and his complicated phone call to Skyler makes us feel for Walt even though it’s all his doing.
Hated Him: Giving Jesse To The Nazis
Uncle Jack and his Nazis are perhaps the easiest villains to hate on the show. After Walt hires them to find Jesse for him, they proceed to kill Hank and steal almost all of Walt’s money. But even after all that, Walt still decides to hand Jesse over to them.
Wanting revenge for Jesse selling him out to Hank, Walt finds Jesse hiding and gives him to Uncle Jack. Jesse becomes their captive and is tortured and forced to cook meth. It is a horrific betrayal for Walt.
Felt Bad: Hank’s Death
Completely unknown to Hank for much of the series, he and Walt had long been enemies, with Walt responsible for much of the drug crime Hank investigates. When Hank learns the truth, it puts him on a deadly collision course with his brother-in-law.
Hank is able to arrest Walt, but Uncle Jack and his men soon arrive and chaos ensues. Even though he is facing the rest of his life in prison, Walt still tries to beg for Hank’s life, even offering his entire fortune in exchange for letting Hank go. His devastated expression when Hank is shot is unforgettable.
Hated Him: Killing Mike
Walt and Mike never have a friendly relationship. Mike likes order and stability in his work and Walt creates too much risk with his arrogance. After Walt kills Fring, he and Mike feud about many aspects of their operation which leads to a final confrontation.
As Mike prepares to go on the run, he tells Walt what he really thinks of him. In response, Walt shoots him and Mike slowly bleeds out. It is a petty act by Walt based on his ego alone and he even admits he didn’t need to kill Mike at all.
Felt Bad: Saying Goodbye To His Family
With his entire empire gone, cops on his trail and his family broken apart, Walt goes on one final mission to bring down Uncle Jack and his gang. But before he does, he visits Skyler one last time to say goodbye.
Though he is responsible for the horrible state of his family’s life, it’s hard not to see bad for Walt in this moment. In the beginning, he did all this to help his family and now he’s lost them. He finally admits to Skyler that he liked the power and he was selfish.
Hated Him: Poisoning Brock
Walt is talented at cooking meth, but his true talent might be in manipulating people. He finds weaknesses that he can exploit to get what he wants and it’s clear that innocent lives are expendable in his mind.
When Jesse begins moving away from Walt’s side and towards Fring’s side, Walt poisons Brock, the son of Jesse’s girlfriend. He blames it on Fring so that Jesse will help him take down Fring once and for all. It’s a moment that proves Walt is finally a villain.