When I was a kid I begged my parents to buy me what was billed as a 'scultping' toy. The ads showed cool kids with berets chipping away at small square blocks of stone and then, voila! - the stone would reveal a figure. Never mind that the sculpture was actually pre-made and your job was just to peel away the outside, no creativity required.
I never did get my longed for toy, but I'm reminded of it now that I'm into the next season of Breaking Bad. Why? Because sometimes art is just about uncovering what's already there. At first blush, Walt seems like a good-natured sort, a sometimes overly moralistic guy affected by bad circumstances, always trying to do the right thing for his family. But as time goes by the real Walt is revealed. I would argue that the pragmatic guy who views the murder of one of his dealers as collateral damage is in fact the real Walt, the one who has always been there and who uses his upright personna as a cloak for his real self.
Is Walt corrupted by his desperate circumstances, or do his circumstances just uncover the true Walt? I think the criminal mastermind was always lurking in the stone. It's an interesting question to ponder, and the fact that Walt inspires that kind of inquiry is a credit to how well-crafted the character is.
I find myself wondering if the character of Piper in Orange is the New Black will follow a similar arc. (The show is not yet availble on DVD.) I'm referring to the series and not the original, non-fiction book - you can hear what Piper Kerman thinks of the liberties the show has taken with her memoir on a recent Fresh Air interview; I wonder if the character will do a 'Walter White' and the softness of her constructed self will be peeled away by prison life. What do you think?