How Breaking Bad's Walter White Went From Chemistry Teacher to Meth Kingpin


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Do they mention how decent, universal healthcare would have prevented the whole thing?


Tou ch’e!

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Walt had healthcare coverage. It just didn’t cover the “best” doctor. And universal healthcare can’t possibly make the “best” doctor available to everyone, because the best doctor just doesn’t have time to be everyone’s doctor.

(Which isn’t to say I’m against universal healthcare.)


You are misrepresenting my position.n I never mentioned “the best doctor.”

He had coverage from the high school that would not have created large amounts of debt for him and his family?

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Yes, he did. But he wanted to see somebody else not covered by his plan.

But that’s the status quo. When my in-laws triumphantly say “If American health-care is so bad, why do rich foreigners come to our country for treatment?!!!” they are referring to specialty practictioners that neither you nor I nor pre-meth Walter White have available in our health-plans.


I’m very much for universal health care but it would not have prevented the whole thing. Walt had medical debt worries, sure, but he thought he was going to die. He was worried about ensuring his wife and children would be financially secure after he was dead (his ego not allowing him to see that it would’ve been more difficult without him but that Skyler would’ve taken care of them). From AMC’s Breaking Bad About page: “White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given a prognosis of two years left to live. With a new sense of fearlessness based on his medical prognosis, and a desire to secure his family’s financial security, White chooses to enter a dangerous world of drugs and crime and ascends to power in this world.”

Maybe. I’d have to see it again. I’m not sure if he realized he could provide for his family before or after it occurred to him he could make money making meth (to pay his health bills)

So there you have it, from an FBI representative: if you only make meth for 4 years it’s fine.


His family was insistent on him getting that care.

She seems quite insistent on weaving a narrative that justifies her involvement in the drug war. Rather a lot of unresolved guilt on display there.

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Yes. The show implied that Walt would have accepted the care of the doctors that were on his plan. But his family insisted he get the “best” care, no matter what it cost. Rather than fighting them on seeing the more expensive doctor, or leaving them financially ruined, or swallowing his pride and accepting the offer of his former friends Gretchen and Elliot to pay for the expensive doctor, he chose to cook meth.

There were several things that could have prevented him from choosing to cook meth, but universal healthcare (unless it was some sort of totalitarian universal healthcare that outlawed paying extra for things not covered by the universal plan) wasn’t one of them.

He was also struggling with his finances before the cancer diagnosis (recall all those collection calls Skyler was fielding).

I just took the show of my Netflix list after watching the entire series for the third time. And I still can’t answer for sure. sigh But we might be confusing Walt’s situation with Hank’s need for physiotherapy. Marie (Hank’s wife) definitely insisted on going outside their health coverage to get the best physiotherapist and more frequent sessions.

As for Walt, he didn’t tell his family about the cancer diagnosis for a while, and I think his health plan didn’t cover the necessary treatment. I don’t remember it being a case of insisting on the best.

I think the initial diagnosis and his financial situation unfolds in the first episode. I’ll watch it again, but if I end up watching the entire series again, this is your fault.


I only watched the first two episodes. As I recall, he receives the diagnosis, and broods about it silently. Then he sees a news program about meth labs, expresses surprise at the estimate of the street value of the drugs that were seized, and then calls up his brother-in-law to take up his offer of a ridealong on a drug bust.

Anyway, while it’s strongly implied that he’s got financial difficulties, the main evidence of that is that he’s working at a car wash despite it being humiliating. I don’t remember any direct statement, in the first two episodes, about his motivations.

I couldn’t bear to keep watching, as I just didn’t feel any sympathy for the character. Of all the courses of action he might have chosen, he decides to blackmail a former student, who was trying to get out of the illegal drug trade, to help him get in. At that point, any sympathy I might have felt for him, because of his cancer diagnosis, was already lost.

I think there was some discussion on BoingBoing about at what point people lost sympathy with Walter White, and most people said something like, I think, third or fourth season. And from what I can make out, that’s pretty much the way the producers intended it, and the way audiences responded.

It actually worries me that I can’t stomach the most popular shows on television – shows that have a reputation for intelligence, that are popular with my friends and people I respect.

Wow. It’s like you’re reading Jesse Pinkman’s mind.

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Well, that was my reading of the situation, as of episode 2, or at least what I thought the situation must have looked like to White. The thing was, White decided to blackmail Pinkman into working for him.

Walter lost my sympathy after he lets Jesse’s girlfriend Jane Margolis die. After that it was just about watching the slow moving train wreck careening out of control.

Say goodnight to the bad guy.

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Well, after skimming the first four episodes: (1) we don’t know, and (2) yes: After Walt reveals his cancer to the family, Marie hooks him up with a top oncologist, and further discussion with Skyler ends agreeing that they’ll get the money some way, and to go with the best available.

There’s nothing specific, though, about what his insurance would cover. (Pre-diagnosis, he comments he “doesn’t have the best insurance”). And there’s nothing on how Walt would have treated it otherwise. The “best available” strategy is the only option shown under discussion, and Walt doesn’t give any contrary opinions.