Theology and Breaking Bad explores the brutal and seemingly nihilistic moral landscape of the AMC neo-Western crime drama Breaking Bad (2008–2013) with insights into the characters, their struggles, and the moral consequences resulting from their actions. Throughout the book, the contributors find telltale traces of theological themes woven into the storylines by the writers and directors and bring them out for the reader in ten essays spanning topics from Greek mythology to the Hebrew Bible, and extending into Eastern and Western Christendom. Readers will find provocative reflections that will add to their appreciation of this show, as well as its spinoff series, Better Call Saul (2015–2022). This volume also advances academic inquiries in such fields as popular culture and theology, hermeneutics, biblical studies, Patristics, film studies, diasporic and colonial studies, and explores such themes as antihero redemption, penance, salvation, and forgiveness. This book will be of interest to both academics and fans alike.
David K. Goodin is a Professeur Associé at the Université Laval, Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe de Montréal.
George Tsakiridis is senior lecturer of philosophy and religion at South Dakota State University.
Act I: The Theological World of Breaking Bad
1 Doing Theology with Non-Theological Resources: The Breaking Bad Canon and Contemporary Notions of Sin
2 Can Antiheroes Find Redemption? Breaking Bad and the Warrior Saints of Byzantium David K. Goodin
3 The Inevitable Man: Todd Alquist as a Fulfillment of C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man Cherish Nelson
4 Crying in Vain: A Diasporic Reading of Moral Chaos in Ecclesiastes and Breaking Bad
Brian Fiu Kolia
Act II: Sin and Salvation
5 The Eight Vices of the Breaking Bad Universe
6 Heisenberg and the Darkened Heart: An Augustinian Interpretation of Breaking Bad
Trevor B. Williams
7 The Search for Rest: Desire and Disordered Love in Walter White and Saul Goodman
Act III: Rebirth and Hope
8 The Predestination of Jesse Pinkman: Clues to Jesse Pinkman’s Failure-to-Evade Salvation
9 The Penance of Mike Ehrmantraut: A Flawed Road to Redemption
10 Psychopomp and Circumstance: “The Disappearer” of Breaking Bad as Charon the Ferryman
David K. Goodin
David K. Goodin and George Tsakiridis have gathered a collection of creative, deeply knowledgeable essays that help us rethink what the relationship between theology and pop culture can be. These essays are the ones who knock, opening up new ways of seeing the moral worldview of the Breaking Bad universe in all its messy, uncomfortable complexity.
This book pushes past simple notions of heroes and antiheroes to consider Breaking Bad and its spinoffs in all their moral complexity. The contributors demonstrate convincingly that, far from being "morally barren," Vince Gilligan's universe offers rich resources for thinking about both vice and virtue, and about truths both moral and metaphysical.
As the editors of the essays included in Theology and Breaking Bad skillfully argue, and as the volume of essays aptly demonstrate, the series is not just an American ‘crime-caper’ but a serious exploration of intriguing and provocative questions of theological concern with regard to Walter White and his world: themes such as sin, regret, family, loyalty, moral equivocation, evil and redemption are compelling, universal, and timeless. The essays are well- written and happily free of the academic jargon that usually precludes readership outside the academy, and making the volume an excellent resource for anyone interested in the intersection of popular narrative and serious (here, theological) analysis.