What keeps people coming back week after week to watch the exploits and drama associated with Walter White? Among all of the many factors that no doubt contribute to the popularity of "Breaking Bad," one of the foremost is the element of tragedy in the series, which is characterized by moments of truly heartbreaking, emotional intensity. These scenes, full of the emotionally overwhelming power of the tragic, keep us coming back time and again.
The death of Mike
If the first half of the fifth season will be remembered for anything, it will be for the death of Mike at the hands of Walter, the last definitive piece of evidence that Walter has completely turned to the dark side. To see Mike brought low by this one moment of oversight (giving a gun to Walter, however unwittingly and unwillingly), just highlights how much this series enjoys playing with the tragic, drawing us along on a painful trip that we, nevertheless, keep returning to time and time again.
Walter's first murder
Although it is hard to remember, there was a time when Walter was not a killer, when he actually felt moral and ethical compunction and agony over the taking of another human life. Seen in retrospect, his strangling of Krazy-8 is all the more tragic, in that it showed Walter was, indeed, capable of dark acts that in later seasons would come in greater frequency. As a result, we can now read this scene as the first step on a tragic trajectory that set Walter up for his final, inexorable, yet eminently watchable descent into the darkness of his own soul.
Skyler's descent into madness
If the gods first make mad those they wish to destroy, then they have clearly intended to take down Skyler and destroy her. Throughout the most recent season, we have watched her teeter and then begin in earnest a descent into madness from which there ultimately may be no escape. When all is said and done, who can say whether Skyler will emerge either alive or emotionally complete when Walter has fallen? We can only hope she will be able to salvage something from the ruins of her life.
Clearly, there are some very powerful and emotionally charged moments throughout the history of "Breaking Bad," moments that make it compulsively watchable and, in the end, may characterize its final season as well.