Brow Beat

Walter White Reads Percy Shelley

Walter White’s story will end with the upcoming season of Breaking Bad. 


There’s a crucial moment in Breaking Bad when Jesse, unsure of his partner’s motivations, asks Walt a simple question: “Are we in the meth business or the money business?” Walt’s chilling reply: “Neither. I’m in the empire business.”

That answer in many ways defined the show’s direction, and the new teaser for the final season, premiering Aug. 11, somehow conjures the scope of Walter’s maniacal ambition in a little over a minute and without spoilers:

The idea is brilliant: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) reading Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ominous “Ozymandias” in gravelly tones. The poem echoes all the show’s big themes: the mythology of evil, the nuances of morality, the arc of coronation and decay. The images, on the other hand, are fleeting—mostly New Mexico desert and suburbia, though we end with a lingering shot of Heisenberg’s dusty, worn hat resting, like the poem’s once-colossal statue, where “the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Is this a hint at Walt’s impending doom? Or just a parallel drawn for dramatic effect?

It’s all pretty heavy stuff. If you’re in need of lighter (albeit more spoiler heavy) fare after viewing, check out Brooklyn-based artist Alex Coulombe’s mashup of Breaking Bad and Weird Al’s “Albuquerque.” (And yes, there’s one with Neil Young’s “Albuquerque,” too.)