Vince Gilligan broke new television ground by writing a series about a good man turned evil. He also borrowed from a long history of storytelling. Walt White is a modern superhero archetype, but Breaking Bad also borrows from classic fairytales. Most modern stories do.
PUSS IN BOOTS
The unnamed cat in Puss In Boots is determined to make life better for himself and his underdog third son master. The first thing he does is pretty benign — he catches a rabbit with a lettuce leaf and sells it to the palace. But then he gradually turns into a lying, thieving, threatening, murdering little bastard. Puss ‘Breaks Bad’, in other words.
Things end better for Puss though, depending on which version you read. In one version he ends up as a pyromaniac, setting fire to his master’s house after the ‘Marquis of Carabas’ turns out to be ungrateful for all the help he’s had in securing the ogre’s house. Kind of like the final episode of Breaking Bad, in a way.
The wife in Bluebeard knows something’s going down, and she makes it her mission to find out once Bluebeard leaves town. So she finds out he’s lying, murdering scum and that her own life is in danger. What now? Unfortunately, Skyler doesn’t have two brothers to save her from her fate.
THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Walt actually thinks that as long as he gives his wife everything money can buy he is actually a good person. Doesn’t matter that he’s basically holding her captive, using the kids as bargaining chips.
I’m reminded too of the father of the girl held captive in Rumpelstiltskin, because who is worse in that story? Rumpelstiltskin, the greedy King, or the father who pawns off his own daughter?
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY IN THE WOOD
Jane. Sleeping. She’s not cursed by an evil fairy but by drugs. She used to be Daddy’s little princess.
Jane doesn’t have an ogre of a mother-in-law exactly, but she does have Walt — her boyfriend’s business partner. He doesn’t kill her — exactly — but lets something else do the job. Unlike Sleeping Beauty, however, Jane sleeps forever.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
The Brock storyline, perhaps. Not goodies, ricin. Walt is the Big, Bad Wolf.
Others have suggested that Little Red Riding Hood is Jesse, with the hint in his name: ‘Pinkman’.
This is the rags-to-riches ur-story that applies not to Walt but to his millionaire erstwhile business partner. Like Cinderella, Walt’s friend kind of struck it lucky and that’s how he got rich. Also like Cinderella, he is a good person. But Walt doesn’t think this in itself is what justice looks like. Walt is an Ugly Stepsister, perhaps.
A rule in fairy stories which applies across cultures: If you find out where a fairy gift came from you lose the gift.
When Skyler returns Marie’s baby shower gift to the jewellery store, she learns that Marie has stolen it. Marie is a bad fairy, and Skyler not only loses the expensive baby tiara but narrowly escapes from a night in prison.