I Am the Danger: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse as Told by Breaking Bad

“Every life comes with a death sentence.”

In a very special double post, let’s look at the psychology of the Breaking Bad saga. The story behind the story is one of devilish proportions.

According to The Book of Revelation (which is apparently in this book called The Bible and if you’ve read it, feel free to correct me), there are four horsemen that precede the apocalypse. In order of appearance, there is the white horse who represents pestilence; the red horse represents war; the black horse represents famine; and the pale green horse represents death. If we watch Breaking Bad with the horsemen in mind, there is no mistaking their presence throughout the show.

The White Horse: Walter White as Pestilence
The tale of Walter White begins with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis. Spreading the news of his illness comes with a price, as Walter believes that cooking crystal meth will harvest a nest egg he will be proud to leave to his growing family. As the series progresses, flies (which symbolize plague and are sometimes featured as harbingers of the devil) swarm around Walter:

  • Season 3, Episode 10: Fly
    Jesse and Walt try to annihilate a lone fly that has contaminated the lab.
    In this episode, yellow flies are present on the barrels of methylamine. The flies tag each barrel until the end of the series.
  • Season 5, Episode 3: Hazard Pay
    The fake band that Badger and Pete make up is called “Vamonos Pest.” Correctly spelled, Vamanos means “Let’s go,” or, “Get out,” indicating that they, as Jesse’s friends, are trying to get rid of something that is bugging them.
  • Season 5, Episode 4: Fifty-One
    When Walt is sitting on a couch talking to his colleagues, there is a chart behind him that outlines the anatomy of a fly, shot in such a way that the fly appears to be resting on Walt’s shoulder like a friend.

The Red Horse: Jesse Pinkman as War
Jesse Pinkman represents antagonism. From the introduction to Walt’s former student, we know he has a bad attitude and he’s emotionally hijacked by the slightest provocation. It’s no secret that colors play an important role in Breaking Bad and here is where Jesse fits the bill of War the most: He wears A LOT of red – significantly more so than the rest of the characters. He is also at the heart of pivotal moments that change the course of conflict during the series, not the least of which is his agreement to make crystal meth with Walter White in the first place.

  • Season 3, Episode 13: Full Measure
    Jesse murders Gale, setting Gus against himself and against Walter.
  • Season 5, Episode 12: Rabid Dog
    Jesse talks to the DEA, lying to Walt that he is going to set his money aflame. The events set in motion lead to the death of Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank.

The Black Horse: Gustavo Fring as Famine
Admittedly, this is the one I had the hardest time identifying. Gus’s time on the show is relatively short-lived, existing for much of season four as a shadow watching Walt and Jesse’s every move. Unlike Gale or Mike, Gus is definitely a bad guy. He murders for revenge; he manufactures and sells an illegal drug; and he does not show emotion for others. Gus likes to cook for guests at his home, meaning that famine is literal because no guests means no home-cooked food. Also, Gus’s cover is that he runs…fast food restaurants, which are under the umbrella of a bigger, German food company. The death of Gus means the relocation and rebranding of the blue crystal, illustrating “famine” in the sense that the business is starved for new ownership that was previously occupied by companies that represent satiated appetites.

See? It’s not such a stretch.

The Pale Green Horse: Heisenberg as Death
I know, I know, Walter White IS Heisenberg. What gives?! The idea is that Walt, the orchestrator of the whole story, is also the death of the whole story. When he puts on his trusty hat, Walt assumes the identity of someone else and that someone else brings destruction, chaos, and death. By putting on his “crown,” Walt becomes Heisenberg and in doing so, takes up the mantle of death.

The Devil in the Details
What started as a vague idea while watching the show materialized in other imagery that supports the notion of the four horsemen, and specifically, Walter White as the devil. Now would be a good time to mention that some Christians believe that the white horse may represent alternatives to pestilence such as Conquest, Christ, or The Antichrist.

Twists of Fate
Luck, chance, and trickery have sometimes been linked to the devil. Fate through chance features in Breaking Bad, from a story about gambling used to cover a meth empire to a coin toss that determines who kills a man and who burns a body in acid. Luck of the draw whispers through the show.

Seeing Double
There are mirror images throughout Breaking Bad. An old idea suggests that the devil can assume many personalities or manifest within other individuals, so mirrors are a way to visualize this principle.

  • Jane & Lydia – Namely through red lipstick (and Lydia has red soles on her shoes), the dark-haired ladies in red have both been “kissed” by War, the red horse. Jesse loved Jane and Todd, a double to Jesse as a transient partner of Walt’s, loves Lydia.
  • Skyler & Gretchen – Both women were wooed and then gaslit by Walter White. Though he was likely to blame for the ends of the relationships, he assumed no responsibility and left both women without a substantial explanation. Both relationships ended due to conflicts related to money.
  • Hank & Mike – They are both bald.
    Just kidding, Readers! They ARE both bald (in fact, it could have been called Breaking Bald for all  of its bare-headed appreciation), but they are both former or current law enforcement professionals that actually care about their loved ones. Each man dies as the result of Walt’s impulsivity.

Names and Numbers
Walter White of course is the white horse in part because of his last name, though he also drives at one time a pale green car, then a white car. The RV he and Jesse use to cook is also, arguably, white. Meanwhile, Jesse’s last name is Pinkman; pink is a watered-down version of red. Jess drives red cars throughout Breaking Bad. Gustavo Fring’s last name in Latin means fire. He drives a black car. Heisenberg doesn’t have a pale green “horse,” but he does have pale green stack of cash.

Devilish aficionados know that ol’ diablo goes by many names. Beelzebub, Lucifer, and Satan are just a few of his monikers, but the meaning is the same. Like the devil, Walt goes by more than one name. And like the devil with his 666 branding, Walt has some fiendish numbers to go along with his alter ego.

  • Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot
    Walter White lives at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane. Negra Arroyo means black stream. In Greek mythology, The River Styx was a black river that led to Hades (Hell). Thus, Walt’s address connotes the destination of his journey before he even puts on that black hat of his.
  • Season 2, Episodes 1, 4, 10, and 13: Seven-Thirty Seven Down Over ABQ
    A Reddit user found that the titles of the episodes in season two that start with a flash-forward to the plane crash predict the crash in the titles! Dark prophecies are associated with the devil and plane crashes or other disasters also have ties to Satanic forces. (Check out the Sources page for the Reddit post).
  • Season 3, Episode 7: One Minute
    Hank gets a phone call informing him that he has one minute to evade his would-be assassins. The clock changes from 3:07 to 3:08, the address of one, Walter White.
  • Season 5, Episode 6: Buyout
    On the terms of the company buyout for only two-thirds instead of the total business, Declan mutters, “666, I thought that was an odd number.” It’s not odd when you know who’s involved.
  • Season 5, Episode 9: Blood Money
    As Hank walks outside to rejoin the family just after realizing (while on the toilet, making it all the more humiliating) that Walter White is the Heisenberg he has been chasing this whole time, Marie says to Walt, “You. Are. The devil.”
  • Season 5, Episode 12: Rabid Dog
    Jesse confesses to the DEA and while explaining to them the urgency of the situation, he states, “Mr. White – He’s the devil.”

You know what, Jesse?

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