Your Favorite ‘Breaking Bad’ Character Is Telling [Video]

Posted September 26, 2013 in Criminal Law On the Lighter Side Video by

Walt’s Narcissism

Photo by Ursula Coyote/ AMC

In the AMC TV program, “Breaking Bad,” Walt exhibits narcissistic traits, according to clinical and forensic psychiatrist, Ankur Saraiya. Driven by a feeling that something is missing in their lives, narcissists have haughty attitudes, behave selfishly and desire fame. Saraiya says the show explains Walt’s disorder. His business partners kicked him out of their pharmaceutical company that later made millions of dollars. “At least a part of him is trying to capture that fame and fortune that he just narrowly missed out on.” 

Ankur Saraiya, M.D.

Saraiya graduated from Harvard University, then Columbia University School of Medicine, where he did his residency. He completed a fellowship in forensic psychiatry with NYU/Bellevue Hospital, where he was also an attending physician for 10 years, before establishing his private practice. He has evaluated many criminals, like those in “Breaking Bad.”

If you root for Walt, it doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist. But Saraiya says the character you are drawn to can tell you a little bit about your personality.



Your Favorite “Breaking Bad” Character

Saraiya cautions people must be careful and not extrapolate too much. You cannot completely define someone’s personality by a favorite character choice. He acknowledges it’s more of a fun question that can provide general insight, as many factors dictate our tastes in people.

“Walt is certainly a leader and a driver of the action, so people who kind of see themselves as driving the action perhaps might relate a bit to Walt,” says Saraiya.

Photo by Ursula Coyote/AMC

He believes people who like Hank tend to like law and order and root for the guy in the white hat. They want to see justice prevail. Those who like Jesse are attracted to the more innocent person, who follows others.

Your favorite character can be someone with whom you identify. But it can also be someone who is a good counterpart to your personality. For example, a nurturing person might be drawn to the more helpless character.


Psychiatry and Legal Mitigation

“With Todd, he was pretty much destined to become a criminal of some kind,” says Saraiya. “It’s pretty clear that Todd has sociopathic tendencies. He seems to lack any sort of conscience.”

Having diagnosed patients with Todd’s disorder, Saraiya says, “They are probably the most frightening individuals that I’ve encountered.”

He did not see psychiatry as mitigating the crimes of Todd, Gus, Uncle Jack or Walt. However, Sklyer could possibly present an abused spouse syndrome.  There could also be mitigation for Jesse, as Walt’s former student, someone easily influenced by others, and a genuinely remorseful person.


Sympathy in “Granite State”

Photo by Usula Coyote/AMC

In “Granite State,” assisted by “the cleaner,” Walt hides out in New Hampshire. In an isolated, crudely furnished cabin, similar to the Unabomber’s lodgings, Walt lives in exile, de facto solitary confinement. He telephones Junior, trying to send money. But his son rejects him, screaming wishes that Walt would die. Crying and broken-hearted, realizing the money from his drug trade will never support his family, Walt slumps into a depression. He calls law enforcement to surrender. But he then sees his former business partners on television, denying any of his contributions to their enterprise. Walt disappears from the bar, with implications of being roused into taking Heisenberg’s last stand – for the show’s finale.

Regardless of his wrongdoings, it is almost impossible not to pity Walt.

Saraiya explains Walt’s initial circumstance made him extremely sympathetic. He gets cancer. He’s a new father who needs money. He’s unfairly cut out of his company. He loses the girl. “[E]ven when he completely crosses the line and becomes this incredibly evil persona, we still have a hard time forgetting the sympathy we felt for him and we try to connect to that initial feeling that we had,” says Saraiya. This same phenomenon of not letting go and not accepting people have changed frequently occurs with Saraiya’s actual patients.


Final Episode

Saraiya makes no prognosis of how “Breaking Bad” ends. However, he believes if Skyler forgives Walt, this may be enough for his redemption.  What’s your prediction for the last episode? Share your views below and Tweet them on Sunday night to @Lawyerscom and @BetsyKim.

For additional psychiatric insights, watch Saraiya’s interview in the video box above.

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