Frankenstein References in Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias”

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Breaking Bad’s reference streak continued on Sunday, with a number of homages to “Frankenstein”

From recreating shots from Reservoir Dogs to the Schraders owning the complete Deadwood book series, we know that the crew of Breaking Bad likes to put subtle references in the show. In “Ozymandias,” last week’s carpet-watering episode, they built up a huge reference to the novel “Frankenstein” without ever being upfront about it.

For a long time, Walt has been kind of an anti-hero, a murderous criminal who is written in a way that still brings sympathy (something that has been waning for a long time, but I guess some people still support him). Frankenstein’s monster is, in a way, an anti-hero. He kills, he’s shunned, but he’s sympathetic and he means well. Now, this is pretty broad, but the writers might be trying to tell us something.

Viewers might remember last week’s least important scene, where Walt buys a car off of a semi-conveniently placed older man. Walt buying cars seems to be a recurring theme through the show (b-b-b-b-b bonfire), but you have to wonder why Walt doesn’t just steal the car, by this point, and save as much of his valued money as he can?

The answer, aside from being “After watching Hank die, maybe he doesn’t want to kill anymore,” lies in the cinematography. Walt is rolling that barrel all through the desert, and when he gets there, he’s tired and walking awkwardly. An older man living alone comes out to greet him. This is all directly parallel to a scene in the film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” when the monster approaches a house after being shunned by many, many people to find an older man living alone in the forest, who helps him. Neither really have any real importance to the story, other than acting as a convenient aid. Walt is the Creature, the taller one and walking rigidly. Walt is the monster.

Let’s not also forget the state that Jesse is in currently. When we left him, he was chained inside the lab, as Todd was forcing him out of retirement. The famous character of Igor came from a film sequel to “Frankenstein,” deformed from a botched hanging. Jesse’s deformed, having suffered beatings or burns to his face. And he’s stumbling around, as if hunched. Igor is never forced to participate, where Jesse is, but both are the smaller, less-than-equal associates in the creation business.

The monster in Shelley’s novel is not inherently evil, he is deemed evil because of reactions to his horrific appearance that cause him to commit evil acts. Walt’s original involvement with kingpins almost felt accidental, and led to a war with Tuco. He was, in a way, dragged into this evil like the Creature, and people are rebelling against him. The Creature is well-versed, intelligent, and hyper-aware of the evils of the world. Also, in the novel, Victor spends about two years creating his monster, just as the show’s progression is approaching the two-year mark. At two years, we see the monster fully formed, resurrected from the dead. The connection between Walt and Frankenstein’s monster hasn’t been an ongoing one, because their goals are totally opposite, but it was there and palpable in “Ozymandias.”

Now, if these references hold up, then there might both good and bad fates. The Creature comes across a young boy, William, and he ends up killing the boy to save him from a world of prejudice. William’s last name was Frankenstein, a relative of the Creature’s creator, Victor. It’s a stretch to say this will be a continuing reference, but it’s not a stretch to say Walt might murder his own son for who knows why. The Creature also saves a young girl from drowning in a river and makes sure she’s okay, just as Walt took Holly away from the White home (he didn’t save her, of course, but he did keep her from danger).

The poem “Ozymandias” deals with the fall of an empire, and has nothing to do with the novel “Frankenstein.” But “Ozymandias” was written by Percy Shelley, husband of Mary Shelley, and the show’s continuing references to Walt as an unfortunate and avoidable monster are too frequent not to be a reference. The monster in the novel simply wants a mate, Walt just wants to help his family, but both go very, very awry and both end in a number of bodies.

Also, for what it’s worth, “Ozymandias” is a sonnet, meaning it has fourteen lines. The episode was the fourteenth of season 5. But that could just be a coincidence.

-By Andrew McNally

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