BREAKING BAD: Flynn is This Year’s Greatest Superhero
This article contains major spoilers for the Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias.”
We’ve always needed heroes. Since at least the beginning of recorded history, and probably dating back well past the primordial ooze, we’ve been telling stories of great men and their homoerotic crews taking on the greatest and meanest beasties our imaginations could conjure from inside an ocean of ooze.
These heroes have come in different forms over the years: the legendary heroes of Greek and Roman legend, the folk heroes of the old west, the no-holds-barred action heroes of the 80’s… Most recently, we’ve been treated to an overwhelming number of superheroes that have dominated our popular culture since 2000, when Hugh Jackman first showed up on the scene, drew his claws, and made mother and daughter alike quake with anticipation. But recently our heroes have been failing us. Superman did so many questionable and recklessly irresponsible things in pursuit of his goal in this year’s stinker Man of Steel that he hardly seemed like the beacon of truth and hope he was always supposed to be. And that’s why, when we get down to it, Flynn has been this summer’s greatest superhero.
Now, I say this as a huge fan of Iron Man 3. I thought that that film was a triumph of the genre and will stand with Nolan’s Batman trilogy as the paragons of their kind. But Tony Stark didn’t do much heroism in that film. Most of it was a hugely personal journey for Stark, with some high-quality snooping done along the way. It was a marvelous film, and a great performance from Downey, but he wasn’t the hero we’ve been searching for this past year. Little did we know, we’d find our savior on Breaking Bad.
The first and most obvious choice for a superhero would be Hank Schrader. With strong determination and a hell of a performance from Dean Norris, we’ve been with Hank every step of the way this season. We celebrated each victory and championed every moment where he was getting closer to catching Walt. It was amazing to watch. But it wasn’t true heroism. Hank did some very shady things in his pursuit of Walter White. He lied, snuck, and stole his way to putting those handcuffs on Heisenberg. We loved him for it, but he was far from a hero. Hank was losing some of his self as he chased after his devious brother-in-law. Perhaps it was what needed to be done, but never was he a true out-and-out hero to be looked up to.
Our real hero is Flynn. Immediately in the wake of learning that his father was a deadly meth kingpin behind the murders of multiple people, and his mother the one laundering his money for him, he managed to keep his head. When his mother was in danger, the knife she sought to use against her husband almost turned on herself, Flynn (RJ Mitte) leapt in to save the day, tackling his long gone father and knocking him off to the side. But the next part is my favorite. Seeing that his father is still a huge and present threat, he throws his body in front of his poor mother, picks up the phone, and calls the police on a man he once developed a website for so that people could give him money for his cancer treatment. The man Flynn knew as a high school chemistry teacher had become a monster, and he kept his head, making sure everyone was going to leave this alive. He didn’t resort to using the knife himself, or to further assaulting his dad. He stayed calm and called the people he knew could really help.
I don’t want to linger on this too long, but it’s also of note that Flynn is a person with disabilities. Crippled physically, Flynn still had the courage to throw himself directly into a fight and end it.
The writers have wisely kept Walter, Jr. naïve until now. He spent almost five full seasons ignorant to the criminal dealings going on around him, going through the normal problems any teenager might (forging your own identity, trying to get someone to buy you beer). That’s what makes his punch and intervention into the criminal world so powerful, so strong. We’ve seen Hank do heroic things, and Skylar, and even Jesse to a certain extent, but Flynn has been almost entirely neutral, kept blissfully unaware of the meth trade going on in his father’s life.
Here’s the clincher for me. If I was a billionaire with the mind to build a suit of iron and fight crime, I know in my mind that I would have the courage to do that. If I was Superman, blessed with literally every superpower, I know that I could defeat some giant gravity machines and Michael Shannon doing his best with some bad script material. But if I were a person with disabilities, and found out that my father was the meth kingpin, and saw that man trying to attack my also criminal mother with a knife, I don’t know how much courage I would have. I don’t know if I would have questioned him in the first place when he told me to pack my bags. That’s what makes Flynn the hero that he is. He had the courage to do those things that not everyone could do.
Let it also be noted that Rian Johnson did some absolutely Emmy-worthy directorial work on the episode, and I don’t think there’s any way he’s walking home without the prize. Dean Norris and Anna Gunn also deserve special commendation. It was truly glorious television.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of posts about Walter, Jr. that don’t mention breakfast until the end. Be sure to comment below with your thoughts, and follow or subscribe above.
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