What does one of television's most ruthless figures have in common with the Caped Crusader? If you ask Damon Lindelof, quite a bit.
Millions of fans have become addicted to AMC's Breaking Bad, the saga of high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin Walter White, over the last several years, and as the final episode of this explosive series looms, everyone is talking about White's complex nature and speculating about just how his story will end. Among them is former Lost writer and showrunner for the forthcoming HBO series The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof. In addition to being one of the most sought-after writers around right now, Lindelof is also a major comic book geek, and in an editorial over at Vulture, he proved it by drawing some interesting connections between White and Bruce Wayne.
Lindelof is specifically interested in the transformative nature of each character: the transformation of billionaire orphan Bruce Wayne into the World's Greatest Detective and the transformation of Walter White into the wildly successful and widely feared meth overlord known only as "Heisenberg." Both men are characters who are shaped by a defining event in their lives. For Wayne, it's witnessing the murder of his parents in Crime Alley. For White, it's learning he has cancer and realizing that he may very well die and leave his family with little money to take care of themselves. Thus, each man takes action to change their respective worlds, but Lindelof argues that -- while each event may be a driving force -- neither one is the origin of Batman or Heisenberg. Those personas, those feelings, those titanic ambitions, were pre-existing.
"Bruce Wayne was already Batman," Lindelof wrote.
"Because millions upon millions of people are murdered by criminals all the time — especially in comic books. But the sons and daughters of those people do not become Batman. But Bruce Wayne?
"Bruce was different. There was something inside him. Lying dormant. He just needed something powerful enough to awaken it."
The same thing, Lindelof argues, is true of Walter White. Heisenberg was already there. He just needed something dramatic to pull him out, and once he was out, nothing -- not even cancer remission later in the series -- could put him back again. To bring his point home, Lindelof argues that even if the tragedy that fueled Bruce Wayne were somehow magically reversed, he would not stop his crimefighting quest.
"This is the equivalent of Bruce Wayne’s parents suddenly reappearing to him and saying, 'We had to fake our deaths when you were a kid and we’ve been in witness protection all this time, and we’re so sorry, but the guy who shot us was actually an FBI agent helping us and he wasn’t even a criminal and we love you, so can we have our pearls back and NOW YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BATMAN ANYMORE!!!'
"But would Bruce stop being Batman?
"No. He would not. Because he is Batman. And once the catalyst has … well, catalyzed? There is no going back"
And finally, just as he argued that Bruce Wayne is unique because not every child who sees their parents murdered goes off to be Batman, Lindelof provides evidence of White's inherent Heisenbergian nature, citing a flashback scene from Breaking Bad's season three finale, in which a younger Walter White and his wife, Skyler, are considering purchasing the house that will eventually become their Albuquerque home.
"Go and watch that scene. Hear Walter White’s voice as he frowns upon the modesty of the home he has not yet purchased," Lindelof wrote. "Look into Walter White’s eyes when he says, 'I don’t think this is gonna be enough.' Is it ambition you see? Or is it something else?"
It's a convincing argument, even if it seems at first like Lindelof is making a comparison between two very disparate characters. Both men seem, at first glance, like (largely) ordinary people who end up doing extraordinary things through sheer force of will, but as we get to know them, as we learn the nuances of their respective intellects and senses of determination, we find they might never have really been all that ordinary. What do you think? Is this a fair comparison, or a twisted piece of logic concocted to get a word in about a very popular show that will be off the air in less than a week?