Breaking Bad is one of the most enduring shows in modern television, and it's largely because of the rich character that is Walter White (Bryan Cranston). The show masterfully shows the dark path one can tumble down when desperate—as Walter must come to terms with terminal cancer while providing for his family.
The intriguing events that play out in Breaking Bad help set the stage for one of most memorable antiheroes on TV. While Walt—aka "Heisenberg"—has engaged in some truly malicious and downright evil acts, he's also had bouts of heroism, which usually allow us to ultimately pull for him.
Let's take a look at Walter White's most villainous moments, as well as some of his glimpses of heroism.
10 Villain: Allowing Jane To Die From A Heroin Overdose
Much like the decision to choke Krazy-8 to death in the debut season of Breaking Bad, this is a similar heavy moment in which White takes another large step towards the malicious "Heisenberg." While Krazy-8 at least stood as a direct threat to his life when trying to stab him, Jane's threat was merely a financial one.
This makes it all the more gut-wrenching when we see Jane choke to death as she rather squeamishly overdoes from Heroin, while Walter - who could have been the hero - does nothing and lets her die. This produces a ripple effect that shakes Jesse to his core. It also deeply shocks her father; an Air Traffic Controller who absent-mindedly crashes two planes into eachother from his trauma. This is powerful in that it shows the devastating effects of Walter's malignant actions; even the more subtle ones.
9 Hero: Getting Jesse Back On His Feet
Much like with his own son, Walter does take on a sort of "fatherly" role with Jesse; albeit a twisted, and often destructive one. Still, he does have his moments in which he lifts him up, particularly in the episode following the tragic death of his girlfriend Jane, called "ABQ." Walter pulls Jesse out of the depths of despair as he's passed out in a run-down trap house crawling with delinquents and druggies. He then tries to get him to recover - both in terms of his Heroin usage and his mental state - as he sends him to a tranquil rehab center called Serenity.
Granted, you might say Walt is doing this for his own personal gain, and he's largely the reason for Jesse's decent in the first place. Still, it's an act that brings out a touch of Walt's humanity.
8 Villain: Involvement In The Murder And Disposal Of Drew Sharp
Sure, the title for "Most Evil" actually can be given to fellow meth cook Todd in this particular scenario, given that he was the one that pulled the trigger on the unwanted guest following their train heist. Yet, Walter was essentially in charge at this point; deciding to keep Todd working for them. What's worse, he took it upon himself to dispose of the boy's body with hydrofluoric acid, wiping out any trace of the child.
The episode, "Buyout" begins to illustrate the truly sadistic lengths Walter will go to - or at least take part in - to achieve his ends. Even Jesse, Walt's cohort - who's not exactly a model citizen - begins to question his role in this sinister operation at this point.
7 Hero: Standing Up For Walter Jr.
Walt's commitment to his family pretty much remains his biggest - if not his only - heroic quality he retains, similar to GoT's Cersei Lannister.
Walter Jr., in particular, is a character that Walt continues to nurture and support, even after he's gone well down the dark path of "Heisenberg." Perhaps the biggest example comes during the pilot episode, where a few teenagers rather blatantly make fun of Jr. for clothes shopping with his parents. After confronting them in a manner that's both admirable and a bit excessive, Walt stands up for his son and essentially chases the boys out of the shop.
It's a minor example of heroism in the scheme of things, but it does subtly convey a sympathetic, fatherly quality that he holds on to.
6 Villain: Killing Mike
In an act that rings more of incompetence than evil, Walter panics when Mike, his partner in crime and former associate to Gus Fring, tells of his intent to flee without giving the names of the "loose ends" in Fring's business. Walter shoots Mike point-blank as he pursues him inside his car, causing him to bleed out.
This is a rather sadistic move, largely because Mike had a granddaughter to take care of, but also because Walt's decision to kill him was unnecessary. As Mike intended to "get out of dodge," Walt had no need to worry about him. Thanks to Lydia, he simply could have gotten the list from her rather than dealing with Ehrmantraut. Walt quickly realizes the error of his ways, but it's too late.
5 Hero: Saving Jesse's Life From The Drug Dealers
In a pretty thrilling conclusion to a late episode of season 3, "Half Measures," Jesse's on a mission to kill the two drug dealers who corrupted a young boy; the brother of his girlfriend Andrea. Just as Jesse is approaching these men in the dead of night, holding a weapon with clearly every intention to use it, Walter swoops in and runs them down.
Now, this could be seen as a villainous move, yet Walter managed to prevent a shootout and a potential bloodbath from both parties, and he very likely saves Jesse's life in the process. On top of this, these dealers were far from innocent; as it's implied they at least indirectly caused the death of the boy, Tomás.
4 Villain: Poisoning Brock To Manipulate Jesse
In a pretty underhanded move to manipulate Jesse and turn him against Gus, who Walter is trying to bring down, Walt poisons Andrea's son Brock, making the innocent boy a pawn in Walt's game in his struggle for power.
Seasoned viewers could point to the motivations of Walt's actions being "for the greater good" in a round-about way, as this cooperation seemed to be the only viable way to bring down Fring's drug empire. Still, all it really achieved was to put a similarly destructive Heisenberg in its place. And regardless of the motive, it doesn't get more depraved than poisoning a child, even non-lethally.
3 Hero: Taking Out The Aryan Crime Syndicate
The series 5 episode "Felina" marks a thrilling and satisfying conclusion in which Walter, with one fell swoop, wipes out Jack and the neo-Nazi group that stole the majority of his money and shot Hank. White arranges to meet in their hideout and rigs the trunk of his car to trigger what's essentially a one-man army of gunfire, reminding us of both his wit and his drive. He also manages to save Jesse yet again in the process.
While Walter has achieved the status of a deeply flawed "antihero" at best, he's certainly heroic by comparison here; and is no-doubt cheered on by most viewers as we see his elaborate plot unfold; a plan that's both gutsy and cunning.
2 Villain: Having Mike's Men Killed
This scene, which is very "Godfather" in its attributes, basically marks the point at which Walt goes full-on Heisenberg. After Lydia provides the list for White, who has now been elevated to "drug kingpin" status, he calls on Jack and his cohorts to help "take care of" each of the nine remaining loose ends of Gus and Mike's prior meth operation.
The gruesome way in which many are murdered in cold blood, coupled with Walt's look of satisfaction once the job is done, really paints him in a more villainous light than we've ever seen him.
1 Hero: Providing For His Family
Despite the increasingly amount of blood that both literally and figuratively saturates Walt's hands, ultimately, the one trait that allows the viewer to at least partially empathize with this antihero is his drive to provide for his family.
While you can make the argument that Skyler has at least been slightly compromised, his kids remain 100% pure and innocent. We want to see them cared for, hence our tendency to root for Walt, even when he engages in destructive acts. While it came at great cost, Walt managed to provide for them (at least covertly) and overcame a number of obstacles to do so. Thus, his journey is, at its core, a heroic one - it's just one that's marred with evil acts.