Clash of the Antiheroes: Dexter Morgan and Walter White

breaking bad dexterNote: This is a mostly spoiler-free post about the TV shows Dexter and Breaking Bad. Any spoilers below are general spoilers and include nothing specific from the past several seasons.

Over the past several years, we’ve gotten to know two nuanced, fascinating TV characters by the name of Dexter Morgan and Walter White. Dexter is a serial killer who tries to only target bad guys that have slipped under the radar of the law, and Walter is a former chemistry teacher who started making and selling meth to pay for his cancer treatments and provide for his family after he dies.

They’re antiheroes: They do bad things that seem justified. We root for them even though we know what they’re doing is wrong.

That statement has mostly held true over the course of these two shows, but like any well-written show, the main characters have evolved over time. In some ways, Dexter has become more human and relatable, but he’s also stepped outside of his “code” more and more. Walter White has showed us that hard work and patience can pay off, but in doing so, he’s exposed a much darker side of himself.

I’m fascinated every week by these characters. Antiheroes do that–you know you shouldn’t root for them because of the terrible things they do, and yet I just can’t help myself. I want Dexter to get rid of the bad guys. I want Walter White to outwit the other drug dealers.

Because we’re dealing with antiheroes, as we draw near the end of these two shows, they both raise the same big question that most shows never get to raise: Will they die in the end? After all that they’ve done, should they die? Is that the only way to set the world right again?

I’m curious what you think, either about these antiheroes or other antiheroes. The comments are fair games for spoilers, but please don’t say anything specific about the most recent episode.

10 thoughts on “Clash of the Antiheroes: Dexter Morgan and Walter White”

  1. I. Love. Both. Shows.

    No really, my best guy friend and I are having a Dexter finale party (just him, me and my hubsman) on Sunday. We’re going to eat steaks and drink beer (as Dexter and Deb often have done) and wring our hands as the end draws nigh.

    I’m still on season 3 of Breaking Bad, but I find that I like Dexter much more than I like Walter. Walter seems darker while Dex has become so much more human and emotional (as you stated).

    I’m so sad that these shows are ending…such fantastic writing (most seasons) and deeply flawed but relatable characters.

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  2. I have only watched these shows on Netflix, since we don’t buy subscription TV. I’ve learned that watching back-to-back (and, if we’re being honest, -to-back-to-back-to-back…) episodes of this kind of show can be extremely disturbing. Once-a-week viewing gives you a chance to recover, rediscover your own morality, forget the ugly darkness. I had to stop watching Breaking Bad when setting up a meth lab in my basement somehow became a not-entirely-insane idea. And Dexter…? More than one at a time is just darn creepy, no matter how much you like the guy!

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  3. For some reason, I’ve always been Team Walter as well. I think it’s because his reasons for entering into the meth business were pretty noble. He had a grim cancer diagnosis and wanted to be able to take care of his family if he didn’t survive. I can’t help but wonder if he still would have done it if he had been able to foresee even a little bit of the path he would end up going down (say, maybe just the events of season 1). It’s clear that he loves his success and it has fed into his ego, but it’s had some devastating consequences as well.

    But even as his morals have gone from cloudy to murky to downright black, I think there is some part of me that knows the old chemistry teacher in his tighty-whities is still in there somewhere. Without spoiling anything, we got a taste of the old Walter at the end of the last episode with the phone call he made. Whether that will side will emerge more in the final two episodes is hard to tell.

    At this point, even though I’m rooting for him, I think I’ll be ok if he dies. It does seem like kind of a natural consequence for what has been building over the past few seasons. That’s not to say that I want him to go exactly, but I understand how it may be necessary for the plot. I think it’s too late for him to fully redeem himself at this point, and he’s going to have to live with the consequences of his actions. That could mean going to Belize, or perhaps just being miserable by losing the one thing that made him start this madness: his family.

    I could talk about BB all day if you’d let me, so I’ll try to stop there. Although I did have a strange dream the other night where I was part of the last few episodes, and the ending was that it basically turned into The Walking Dead and we were all fighting zombies. Only baby Holly got to safety, but I got to make out with Jesse before we both got killed, so it wasn’t a total loss. I really hope everything turns out ok for him! I’m a total Jesse’s girl.

    I remember being disappointed and thinking, “Man, I’ve had a lot of theories about what is going to happen during this show, and I’m almost always wrong…but I REALLY didn’t expect it to go this route!”

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    • This is news to me that you (or anyone) are “Jesse’s girl.” Are women attracted to Jesse?!

      I loved that phone call. That was brilliant writing–it assumed that the audience was smart enough to hear what he was really saying. I love it when a show treats the audience intelligently.

      The one aspect of this season I haven’t been a huge fan of was the first scene of the season. I didn’t want to know that. I’m sure it’s misleading, but it was too much. It lowered the stakes for every other episode, in my opinion.

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      • I loved the phone call at the end. Someone else on the internet somewhere pointed out that in one of the scenes (I don’t know if saying which scene is a spoiler or not? But it comes right after the phone call) there is a chess board, and it appears as if the King is in check, but really, “he’s got a few more moves”. I LOVE the hidden things like that. I never ever see them myself, I rely on the brilliant people of the internet to point them out to me. Another one, and this isn’t spoiler-y, it’s still just a theory, is that there is a scene where Jesse is drinking coffee from a DEA mug, and the way he holds the handle, it appears to spell DEAD, with the handle forming the last D.

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  4. Jesse is the ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold. Despite being a murdering meth head, he’s vulnerable and cares about people, especially kids. That’s like heroin to women. “He just needs someone to really love him and he’ll change!” Also, when he’s not all drugged out or beat to hell, he’s pretty darn cute.

    I don’t go for bad boys in real life, so I get my fix this way. 🙂 Plus, my favorite gif of all time is the one of him blowing air into his yellow meth lab suit until it’s all puffy and then dancing around. Makes me giggle every single time!

    https://www.funnyordie.com/lists/51e11b74ab/the-60-best-breaking-bad-gifs

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