Giant note: I said I was not going to cover season five of Breaking Bad just yet as I work on my Shakespearean Analysis. However Sunday’s mid-season finale thrust itself into my analysis with one tiny moment. I’m going to have to discuss it, briefly. Season Five Spoilers ahead.
So we’ve covered the comic fool, the wife, and the overall feel of the series Breaking Bad that make it truly a Shakespearean piece. Now let’s talk about classic Shakespearean character: the Brother-In-Law.
Ok, so maybe not the CLASSIC Shakespearean character. (The most famous being Hamlet’s Uncle, who ends up killing his brother and marrying his sister-in-law.) But in this case our “hero” (or the only truly good guy in the story) is Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank. What makes Hank interesting is that there is so much potential to make Hank a giant joke. Because Hank is a DEA agent. And Hank is constantly looking for Heisenberg, Walt’s meth drug lord legend/alter-ego. And Hank constantly asks Walt for assistance with some of the finer details in finding Heisenberg.
But Hank isn’t an idiot. He’s a good guy. Buy “good guy” I mean that he actually cares for his family, and doesn’t suspect Walt for the simple reason that Walt is a good man. (To him.) There are several moments in the series where Hank could easily bust Walt: early theft of lab equipment, the initials W.W. found in the notebook of a man that Walt had murdered so he couldn’t steal his formula. (Note: This is where season five has thrown us a curve. While Hank ignored this fact initially, he found further evidence and put two and two together. This is our proof that Hank isn’t an idiot.)
But what is it that pushes Hank from “character” to “Shakespearean influence on the show?” Because he’s driven to action. Most characters would play him off as a joke. As mentioned, that would be the easiest way to go with the character. Whoops, his brother-in-law is cooking meth! Right under this nose! Hilarity ensues. (The movie version would star Adam Sandler in both roles.) But they don’t. They make him a complex character that cares about his family. But Hank wants to keep people safe any way he can, especially his own family.
Hank is also a symbol of how far Walt is willing to go. It’s clear that Walt, Jr, idolizes his DEA, action thriving Uncle. It’s also clear that Walt is jealous of that. At one point, Hank is attacked and nearly killed in a hit that was meant for Walt. (Yes, Walt didn’t order the attack, but he is indirectly responsible, particularly since Hank was put in the position to be attacked by Walt.) This drives him into action. Hank is our Macduff. Hank is not our focus, but he is our hero.
So where do we go from here? A happy ending for our protagonist is for Walt to get away and live happily ever after. A happy ending for Hank, the “hero” role is for him to catch Walt and be validated that “Heisenberg” is off the streets. There are a million places to go. While we have a direction (and eight freakin’ months to find out what happens) but at this point literally anything is going to happen.