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The Good, the Bad and the Ambivalent: The Evolving Protagonist in U.S Television

By Rhys Wilson-Plant 

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“Say my name” – The Anti-Hero sweep in prime-time Television

Why do you and me have such high levels of empathy towards anti-heroes?

Anti-hero shows use many different techniques to attract the audience. From changing of point of view, to voice-over narration (or aside in House of Cards case), these stories provoke or ask the audience into empathising or identifying with these characters who in retrospect, we consider to be ‘bad’ and the reasons why the viewers sometimes do exactly that.

However is there anywhere that points towards an ideological change in society? Jeffrey E. Stephenson seems to think that our current economic situation following the recession and our ideology towards materialism is an interesting place to look.

“The corrupting influence of the American capitalist ethos, as currently manifest is pervasive in Breaking Bad. Walt is engaged in a system where he’s pressured constantly to think in terms of financial success, and the sense of empathy with which we approach Walt leads us blindly to embrace the fact that our economic system in its current form is acceptable.”

“We all suffer under the delusion that success in terms of material gain is the appropriate measure of a good life; we too are obsessed with material wealth and the status that attaches to it, which leads us to a distorted sense of understanding of Walt’s plight, and the consequent warped judgement that this vicious man is morally virtuous. “

How can an audience come to identify and/or empathise with a serial killer or a meth dealer/murderer? Note, “Of the last fourteen ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series’ Primetime Emmy Awards, twelve have been given to actors playing blatant antiheroes” (up to Feb 2013). In a Deadline article, they say that ‘Audiences seem to embrace protagonists that are flawed, scarred and imperfect, but there has to be nobility to them’.

Serial killers are motivated simply by their lust to kill, drug kingpins and mob bosses by power, reputation and the insatiable lust for capital and sovereignty right? However, Dexter, Walter and Tony were portrayed each with a shred of humanity.

Dexter was left as a toddler in his mother’s blood after being murdered violently. Walter went into meth production to provide for his family that he’d soon be departing and Tony sat on a couch with a shrink and confessed to his increasing anxiety and his mommy issues.

These characters are people we actually like, these are characters we root for, despite their goals going against our idea of what is deemed ‘good’ and worthy of a protagonist. Because these stories are presenting these characters with something the audience can really identify with, like the future of their children, or their ability as a father or a husband, the audience can then start to understand why they do the things they do. Understanding their motives is paramount for a character and audience relationship. Without understanding, there is no relationship. It’s at this juncture where many anti-hero shows fail.

Television offers an advantage to audiences that film never can, it has the opportunity of spreading a story over ten hours in a season rather than the conventional two-hour narrative film. The aspect of time is critical to televisions success, allowing audiences to identify or at least empathise with these unconventional characters and the world they inhabit. When thinking about Walter White’s character in Breaking Bad, it becomes apparent that such a character could never appear in a film due to this very aspect. The audience needs time to make a conclusion on the character to decide for themselves whether he is good or not, but most importantly, whether they empathise with him or not.

It’s therefore apparent that despite these protagonists being evil, it’s their portrayal of humility that allows audiences to understand them and their motives. After understanding this, you come to understand the mysterious world of the anti-hero and the audience psychology behind it.

The interesting question to propose is whether the anti-hero phase is now slowly coming to an end. After huge hit-shows like Breaking Bad and Dexter finishing, will that drag along with it shows or propel even more to follow suit? What can be said is that these characters have revolutionised the TV industry, although I can’t help but say “Don’t milk it”.

FULL ESSAY

In US Television, the reader is asked to identify, or at least empathise, with a character whose morals and behaviour can be in conflict with conventional ideas of the ‘good.’ How are such conflicts handled?

Abstract:

This dissertation seeks to examine the new golden age of television, in which I will primarily be looking at the appearing morally corrupt protagonist that the new wave of television writers has established, and the way in which audiences are asked to identify, or at least empathise, with these protagonists. To come to understand how the audience identify with characters, I will present different theories suggested by authors as to the types of identification an audience can have with an on-screen text, to better understand how the viewer perceives this new era of television.

To analyse the new wave of U.S television, I have decided to look closely at four different U.S shows. This new age of television asks the audience to identify or empathise with these characters in so many different ways. Because of this, I will be dissecting these four shows in two different chapters. In particular, I will be looking at Breaking Bad and The Americans, and how the writer’s use point of view to constantly change our approach to these characters, asking the audience to consistently change their alignment. Finally, I will be analysing the use of narration in Dexter and House of Cards and how this affects the audience’s perception of the protagonists.

Contents:

  1. Introduction/ Literature Review ……………………. pp 4-13
  2. Breaking Bad & The Americans – I love him, I hate him …………………. pp. 14-30
  3.  Dexter and House of Cards – The Unheard Voice of the Dark Passenger and Mr President …………………………. pp. 31-43
  4. Conclusion …………………………….. pp. 44-46

Introduction:

To understand the present, we must look at the past and see how that plays a part in the audience’s identification with these shows. Through this, I will uncover why some protagonists are becoming morally corrupt. As well as this, I plan to investigate the different techniques these antihero shows use to provoke or ask the audience into empathising or identifying with these characters who in retrospect, we consider to be ‘bad’ and the reasons why the viewers sometimes do exactly that. To conduct this investigation, I will be using a qualitative approach.

The Antihero can be first seen as far back as Moses[1]. “Moses was, by all accounts, the world’s first anti-hero – a man with blood on his hands and dark deeds to perform”[2]. The idea behind a flawed protagonist is not a newly constructed idea. It has been there to be seen for millennia, however this idea of a character not being what we consider to be naturally ‘good’, is something that is predominately new in this young industry. What I seek to investigate is why the audience empathise or identify with these characters at all.

According to Brett Martin, “Television is now in its third golden age” [3]. There are many different notions as to how and why the era came about, in a BBC article, they suggest,

“The moral shift in television characters was undoubtedly facilitated by the rise of the American TV cable networks. Networks gave programme makers freedom to create content that didn’t need such wide appeal, and allowed programme-makers to push boundaries of what could be shown” [4]

Alan Sepinwall suggests that shows like NYPD Blue[5], Homicide[6], Hill Street Blues[7] and St. Elsewhere[8] were the pioneering shows that opened the floodgates for the new era (Sepinwall 2013: 2). Soon, shows like The Sopranos[9], Oz[10], The Shield[11], and Battlestar Gallactica[12] would not only follow, but also revolutionise the industry.

Brett Martin suggests that the new structure of shows was also appealing to the audience.

“The cable shows had shorter seasons than those on traditional networks. Thirteen episodes meant more time and care devoted to the writing of each. It meant tighter, more focused serial stories. Translated, it meant less financial risk for the cable shows but much more creative risk on-screen”.[13]

This no doubt had an appeal to audiences who wanted to watch new and exciting stories never before seen. As well as this, television offers an advantage to audiences that film never can, it has the opportunity of spreading a story over ten hours in a season rather than the conventional two-hour narrative film. The aspect of time is critical to televisions success, allowing audiences to identify or at least empathise with these unconventional characters and the world they inhabit. When thinking about Walter White’s character in Breaking Bad[14], it becomes apparent that such a character could never appear in a film due to this very aspect. The audience needs time to make a conclusion on the character to decide for themselves whether he is good or not, but most importantly, whether they empathise with him or not.

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David Chase, creator of The Sopranos felt like “Movies went from something really interesting to what we have now”, Alan Sepinwall believes that ‘TV stepped into that void. If you wanted thoughtful drama for adults, you didn’t go the multiplex, you went to your living room couch”.[15]

Den of Geek website concludes that the era was ushered in because “these on-screen characters were breaking stereotypes that we were inundated with as we grew up”. We were no longer watching traditional heroes, but we were watching serial killers in Dexter, Meth dealers in Breaking Bad, a corrupt murderous U.S President in House of Cards[16] and Soviet secret agents fighting in a war of ideology in Cold-War USA in The Americans[17]. “These are not people we expected. These characters shattered our pre-conceived notions.”[18]

As well as these changes within the industry, is there anywhere that points towards an ideological change in society? Jeffrey E. Stephenson seems to think that our current economic situation following the recession and our ideology towards materialism is an interesting place to look.

The corrupting influence of the American capitalist ethos, as currently manifest is pervasive in Breaking Bad. Walt is engaged in a system where he’s pressured constantly to think in terms of financial success, and the sense of empathy with which we approach Walt leads us blindly to embrace the fact that our economic system in its current form is acceptable.

We all suffer under the delusion that success in terms of material gain is the appropriate measure of a good life; we too are obsessed with material wealth and the status that attaches to it, which leads us to a distorted sense of understanding of Walt’s plight, and the consequent warped judgement that this vicious man is morally virtuous. [19]

This quote reveals to us our desires of wealth in this world that we live in today; the viewer empathises with this man because they too are on a plight of wealth accumulation in hope they can be consumerists and attain the power that comes with it like Walt. The audience consider some of Walt’s drastic decisions to be ‘ok’ because he is doing it in return of capital. Capital which is supposedly for his family.

How can an audience come to identify and/or empathise with a serial killer or a meth dealer/murderer? Note, “Of the last fourteen ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series’ Primetime Emmy Awards, twelve have been given to actors playing blatant antiheroes”[20] (up to Feb 2013). In a Deadline article, they say that ‘Audiences seem to embrace protagonists that are flawed, scarred and imperfect, but there has to be nobility to them’[21]. Hadjucky from Den of Geek also echoes that same similarity,

Serial killers are motivated simply by their lust to kill, drug kingpins and mob bosses by power, reputation and the insatiable lust for capital and sovereignty right? However, Dexter, Walter and Tony were portrayed each with a shred of humanity.

Dexter was left as a toddler in his mother’s blood after being murdered violently. Walter went into meth production to provide for his family that he’d soon be departing and Tony sat on a couch with a shrink and confessed to his increasing anxiety and his mommy issues.

Hadjucky compares the love for our cat that constantly scratches our furniture, but that we’d miss them if they were gone, towards these complex characters. [22]

I consider that comparison as an interesting one. These characters are people we actually like, these are characters we root for, despite their goals going against our idea of what is deemed ‘good’ and worthy of a protagonist. Because these stories are presenting these characters with something the audience can really identify with, like the future of their children, or their ability as a father or a husband, the audience can then start to understand why they do the things they do. Understanding their motives is paramount for a character and audience relationship. Without understanding, there is no relationship.

Sepinwall states, “No matter what heinous things Walt does, for some viewers he remains the unquestionable hero of the piece, the guy they like and root for no matter what.” He also adds,

Because viewers tend to bond most with the main character of the show, there was a side effect to the era, where characters on paper should be the sympathetic ones become hated by viewers for opposing the protagonist. The greatest vitriol has been unfortunately saved by wives like Skyler White, Corrine Mackey, Carmela Soprano and Betty Draper, who are viewed by some viewers as irredeemable bitches, no matter how poorly they’re treated by their husbands.”[23]

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of this new era of television, the viewer sides with the people they should turn their backs on, and they turn their backs on the people they should sympathise with. Because these women are essentially obstacles to their husband’s goals, the majority of the audience tend to dislike them for these reasons.

Now that I have established a basic overview of the background of the third golden age of television, as well as some of the fundamental ways in which the materials asks the audience to identify with these characters, it’s important to look into theories of character identification to see if we can get a better understanding of the unconscious mind of the viewer.

Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema, is a book by Film Studies lecturer Murray Smith. He queries, “There are many different senses of the term ‘identification’, and how can they be developed into a systematic explanation of emotional response to fictional character?” He proceeds to break it down into three areas, “Recognition, alignment and allegiance.” These concepts constitute in his terms, “structure of sympathy”.

Recognition describes the spectator’s construction of character. While understanding that character are artifices, and are literally no more than collections of inert, textually described traits, we assume that these traits correspond to analogical ones we find in person in the real world, until this is explicitly contradicted by a description in the text, forcing us to revise a particular mimetic hypothesis. [24]

“The term alignment describes the process by which spectators are placed in relation to characters in terms of access to their actions, and to what they know and feel.” This encompasses how a narrative may give the viewer information through the eyes of a particular character. The ways in which Smith measures alignment is through “spatio-temporal attachment and subjective access”. “Attachment concerns, the way in which the narration restricts itself to the actions of a single character, or moves more freely among the spatio-temporal paths of two or more characters”. “Subjective access pertains to the degree of access we have to the subjectivity of characters, a function which may vary from character to character within a narrative.” “Together these two functions control the apportioning of knowledge among characters and the spectator; the systematic regulation of narrative knowledge results in a structure of alignment”[25].

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If we look at The Americans, we can see how alignment refers to this show. In terms of spatio-temporal (space and time) attachment, the viewer can see that they are mainly positioned with the Soviet ‘married’ couple of Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings. However in the subplot, the viewer is also positioned with Stan Beeman of the FBI. Considering that he is not only the couple’s neighbour, but also a man whose sole job is to identify and eliminate Soviet spies despite him not knowing his neighbours real identities. Therefore The Americans is a ‘free flowing’ narrative, but as well as this, the script also allows for a great deal of ‘subjective access’. A big part of Season two in The Americans follows Stan Beeman’s tragic affair with a Soviet woman who he believes he has against the wall working in the Soviet Rezidentura, only for her to be working him. Through this the viewer is not only aligned with Stan, but the viewer sympathises with him, as his life seems to crumble around him. Through the two different sides of the story, KGB versus FBI, the viewer is gifted a great deal of narrative information creating a complex story of mixed alignment.

A free flowing narrative of two or more people seems to be a trait in most antihero hit shows. Using a person on the opposition, a person whose job is to stop the protagonist. Because of this, the viewer is strangely aligned with them when positioned in their story. This can also be seen in Breaking Bad and Dexter.

Finally, Smith irons out the definition of allegiance. “Allegiance pertains to the moral evaluation of characters by the spectator”.

“Allegiance depends upon the spectator having what he/she takes to be reliable access to the characters state of mind, on understanding the context of the characters actions, and having morally evaluated the character on the basis of this knowledge.”[26]

Consider Breaking Bad and the theory of consequentialism. Defined, “When we judge an act as right or wrong based primarily upon its consequences”. Consequentialists use rational cost-benefit analysis as the primary way to determine whether an action is good or bad.”

“Walt’s approach to ethical dilemmas shows that he’s a consequentialist thinker. In the first season, he very clearly does a reason cost-benefit analysis prior to killing Krayz-8, writing out a list of reasons to let him live versus reasons to kill him. Looked at more closely on the let him live side he writes, Murder is wrong! On the other side he writes, He’ll kill your entire family if you let him go”.[27]

This is without doubt the most obvious of examples in how the viewer is allowed to see Walt’s approach to situations. Through the list, the viewer can come to the conclusion that he is a consequentialist. However despite the list, Walt can’t bring himself to do it, he is not morally corrupt enough to take a life. However despite this, Walt is forced to eventually kill him by strangling Krazy-8 with a bike lock because of a shard of plate Krazy-8 had picked up earlier with a violent intention after Walt had broken it[28]. Because of this, the viewer comes to understand why he has done what he has done and to some degree accepts it; we have sworn allegiance to this man. We as an audience know to some degree, that this is the tip of the iceberg and know more moral questions will be asked of Walt that will make Krazy-8 look like a Jaywalking violation.

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Chapter 2: Breaking Bad & The Americans – “I love him, I hate him”.

Within film, television and novels, there are always smaller stories revolving around other characters in the constructed world. For this chapter, we will define this as subplot. In order for the audience to understand and identify with a character, they must see them being active. These characters pasts can be revealed, uncovering an event that allows the audience to finally understand why they are like they are and do the things they do. Or we see these character’s lives and the troubles and obstacles they come to face whether they are big or small. Characters that are active are pivotal for a story to construct impact on the audience, because without this the viewer cannot come to attach themselves to these characters and care for them in the overall story.

Over the course of this chapter, I will try to prove that in fact the reason why the viewer is emotionally attached to these characters is because of a shifting point of view given to the viewer by the written text.

With this being said, the use of subplots has been harnessed by some shows in a different manor, rarely seen in conventional television. Looking at Breaking Bad and The Americans I can come to highlight this. When we look at these stories on paper, it seems as though the viewer is given the point of view of characters the wrong way round. Previously, the viewer would have been situated with the authorities as the protagonist, the FBI agent trying desperately to catch illegals from the devil empire in the East or from the perspective of the DEA agent hunting down a vile drug-king. These are the stories we are used to, but not only are shows positioning us with the other side of the story, the audience now have the privilege of seeing both sides. It’s now become hard to pinpoint who the antagonist is and who the protagonists are. Morally so, it’s usually black and white, we shouldn’t hope the drug king succeeds in safety or that illegal Soviet spies are trying to bring an end to capitalism and Western ideology, but we do. Therefore the resulting effect on the audience is an abyss of mixed alignment, hoping for one to succeed and fail the next, the result of this is that the audience comes to pledge allegiance to both of these apposing forces. Because of this, there are scenes that arise where the viewer want both antagonist and protagonist to succeed and fail at the same time. Can the viewer really ever have any satisfaction?

Richard Allen recites a quote, “Plato considers that art is essentially illusory because, rather than being masters of what we see, we are placed at the mercy of a point of view upon the world that is given to us by the artwork”[29]. Murray Smith states, “I wish to argue that our ‘entry into’ narrative structures is mediated by character”[30]. However when you then bring politics into the equation, it becomes tricky. Alyssa Rosenberg writes on The Americans.

That particular show employs a cleverly shifty kind of moral logic, where Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are anti-heroes if you watch them hoping for the Americans to win the Cold War, but tragic heroes if you shift perspective to adopt sympathy for the Soviets. Their neighbour Stan Beeman may be a tragic hero from both directions, a man who’s compromised his marriage and his values as a Government agent if you’re backing the Americans, and a decent man flailing in the dark with deadly consequences, unaware of how badly he’s duped if you’re a Soviet observer.[31]

If the viewer is as passive as Plato and Smith suggests, then the viewer must accept things given to them through the characters and the story itself. Therefore when politics is brought into the foreground, it can be a powerful tool in the kit for manipulation and control. This therefore mediates how the audience interacts with the material. Consider this quote, “After the war (2nd World War), the Russian and Chinese communists were the enemy, then the Arab’s after that”[32]. Consider briefly the arrival of the hit show, Homeland[33] and the war against terror set in the US and the Middle East. “Even President Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the evil empire”[34]. Franklin also indicates certain films that were inspired by the Cold War,

“Not only is political culture reflected in historical film, but movies also often reflect modern sensibilities through metaphor. In the 1950’s, The Thing (1951) and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) came to underscore the communist menace. Whilst the Planet of the Apes series reflects the fear of nuclear war”[35].

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Consider a scene from Ep. 13 of Season 1 in The Americans [36] where this very war happens on screen between the two ideological sides. Stan Beeman’s (FBI) boss is Frank Gaad, who opens with the fact that they have found a Soviet bug in the office of a Government official that the Soviet protagonists planted. He also refers to the recording device in a car nearby which the Soviets will have to come and collect, unknowing of the FBI presence (including Stan). The suspenseful dramatic irony that is accumulated explodes when Phillip Jennings saves his wife just before she reaches the device in his car, resulting in a pulsating car chase in which the Soviets just about prevail.

Note that in the previous scene Stan has engaged in an affair with a Soviet mole (Nina) in the Soviet Rezidentura (Soviet base for espionage in the US). When first contacted, the original game plan was to have her give him information on the Soviets movements in the US otherwise the FBI would report her for stealing Caviar from the Rezidentura, and trading it for high end stereo equipment before sending it to her family in the USSR. She would have to spend time in a Serbian prison for engaging in a materialistic/ capitalist way of life. Despite this, the two formed a powerful attraction, going against all of Nina’s pre-conceived ideas on Americans. What Stan doesn’t know is she’s ‘playing’ double agent, she has informed the Soviets of what she is doing and feeds back to them telling them that the FBI are doing a big sting which ultimately saves Phillip and Elizabeth. Despite this however, like the audiences mixed alignment, Nina has developed an attraction to Stan after so long and knows it will hurt him resulting in a feeling of guilt.

What this means is we have a scene in which the viewer is aligned with a cheating man who is inept at his job and two spies trying to eradicate a way of life.

Consider Aristotle’s Poetics and his first deduction on the best type of Tragedy. “It is clear first of all that all decent men should not be seen undergoing a change from good fortune to bad, this does not evoke fear or pity, but disgust”. Aristotle adds “The change from good fortune to bad must not be due to depravity but to a serious error”[37].

When referring to my own allegiance towards Stan, I can feel nothing more than disappointment in his character as he falls undoubtedly into this category. His relatively good marriage from the opening to the finale of Season 1 transitions to deception and isolation due to his escape in Nina and their affair, whilst his credibility as a counter-intelligence officer dwindles because of it. Therefore, the viewer tends to shift their prospective towards Phillip and Elizabeth.

Aristotle suggests, “Tragedy should be an imitation of events that evoke fear and pity”[38]. The final act of the episode revolves around the trap put in place by the Americans and is unique due to the constant change of alignment. The scene of revelation when talking about the Soviets creates, to quote Aristotle “Fear and pity”. Because the audience is aligned with Philip (Elizabeth’s husband), the viewer comes to a state of recognition when the viewer understands Phillips fear after being informed about the abort signal. It is not for his secret meeting, it’s for his wife’s mission.

The scene just after is of the FBI watching the car closely, then cross-cut to Phillip driving down the road at dangerous speeds, weaving in and out, the expression of his uncertainty and fear comes through and bleeds into the audience sub-conscious, they’re also impatient and nervous. What’s fascinating about this scene is that because of Stan’s error and oblivious comprehension that it’s down to him that the Soviets got away, the viewer unshakeably aligns themselves with the competent Phillip and Elizabeth, and to some degree pities Stan. Morally, Stan has depraved, he has done wrong, Stan has committed adultery to someone from his ideological enemy. At this moment, the viewer believes in the highly un-conventional marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth and their underlying love for each other. The viewer believes that is what they fight for in this scene; it’s undoubtedly what Phillip fights for, not for communism, not for politics of any kind, but for love.

However when considering the pro-soviet messages through this point-of-view, it would have been interesting to have observed what the American Government would have done back in the cold war era, most probably exile of the entire production.

Aristotle suggests the best character for a tragedy,

“We are left therefore, with the person intermediate between good and bad. This is the sort of person who is not outstanding in moral excellence or justice.”[39]

When we talk about Walter White, the thing that most people think of straight away is the transformation. In the beginning ‘Walt’ is an average Joe. Walt is a way over-qualified high-school chemistry teacher, a passive husband but a good man. Towards the final episode, he is one of the most wanted men in Northern America and a man who is worth an uncountable amount of capital. Vince Gilligan stated in most pitches, “I wanted to transform Mr Chips into Scarface”[40]. When Walt gets the information that he has got cancer of the lungs in the first episode, he comes to the conclusion that the only way he can come up with the money and to keep his pride is to utilise his talent and produce Methamphetamine with a former drop-out student of his, Jesse, to provide money for his family and for his own treatment.

Emmy Nominations

Early on, Walt produces a list and comes to the conclusion that he needs to make about $737,000 for his family before he dies so they can be comfortable and so that Walter Junior can go to college[41]. Alan Sepinwall suggests, “He is on the surface, the recession era’s everyman. Walt’s chosen method for solving his problems is horrifying, but the impulse behind it is understandable”[42].

After a short period, Walt soon earns a far superior number to $737,000 and still continues to produce even after he gets the ok after chemo and surgery. Patricia Brace and Robert Arp in Breaking Bad and Philosophy[43] reference Walt’s refusal of money from his ex-partners,

“Walt had a real choice this time – a way out of his moral dilemma, and he chose the unethical path. If ones moral life is based in always choosing the correct centre path, Walt continually breaks sinister, to the bad side”.

Why would a person do such a thing? Could pride really push a man to kill and kill so many through his product?

Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray comes to a very interesting conclusion,

Walt found great strength, pride and satisfaction in cooking meth: he had a position of power and control over his lab and product. Being Heisenberg became less about making money and more about feeling an ownership over his shortening life, a sense of control over what he does and what direction the end of his life will take.

Walt’s turn to meth cooking is also a revolt against his life he has led so far. Walt was a guy who did everything he was supposed to and ended up being trodden on and broke. Heisenberg is the complete opposite of the old Walt in every way: he lives by his own rules, he engages in illegal activity with dangerous individuals, and he isn’t afraid to threaten, hurt or kill others to get what he wants.[44]

Despite Walt’s positive attitude in turning his short life around, what he does is unspeakable. Yet as an audience, this new man is appealing, it could be argued that the viewer is aligned with him because his change is what some of us seek, a chance at grabbing our lives by the horns, living by our rules and having power which every man naturally desires. This new man is a man the viewer can look up to and essentially admire compared to the passive man who followed rules and never lived up to his ability. The question of whether we can pledge allegiance to this man is another question, can the viewer really overlook the terrible things he does to preserve this new lifestyle?

Two scenes that I consider the finest in the show that highlight this transformation revolve around the finale of the show, Felina[45] & Cornered[46] that occurs in Season 4. Both scenes include just Walt and Skyler and tell the viewer a lot about the man Walt has become. Analysing chronologically, in Cornered, Skyler tells Walt in their bedroom that Walt should go to the police and tell them everything, that he is way over his head and that he is being threatened in desperate attempt to save his life. Walt replies, Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? I mean even if I told you right now, you wouldn’t believe it. Do you know what would happen right now if I stopped going into work? A business that big it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly-up, disappears, it ceases to exist without me, no. You clearly, don’t know whom you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger Skyler, I am the danger, a guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No, I am the one who knocks.

Walt’s reaction indicates that he knows he has unleashed Heisenberg into his home and onto his wife, Skyler for the first time sees who Walter White really is. At this point the viewers reaction is much the same as Skyler’s, shock. However the viewer admires the power and confidence that this new man possesses. They have pledged allegiance. Alan Sepinwall writes, “Walt’s criminal career begins to reveal an ugly side of his personality, that was again, likely always there but constrained by circumstance”[47]. The audience at this point identify with Walter; Walter puts his wife, who has always had power over him in the household into her place. It is the moment he reveals not only to Skyler but also to himself, the new man he has become. He has taken up the reigns of his life and is on a path to power and fulfilment, whether he will ever achieve the latter is another question.

Finally we come to Felina. The FBI is aware of Heisenberg’s identity and is guarding Skyler’s family in a safe house 24/7. Despite this, Walt’s experience at deception get’s him in; it’s a scene that has your heart racing despite the quiet surroundings. Skyler tells him “If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family”, Walt cuts her off and states “I did it for me, I liked it, I was good at it. I was really, alive.”

Despite our allegiance to Walter White, one thing that can possibly give the human race hope is the fact that in the final season, after all the collateral damage and the collapse of his family, the viewer wanted Walt to be put down. The writers clearly knew that this was really the only way they could bring this tragedy to a complete close; there could be no loose ends. His redemption in sacrificing his life for Jesse’s was the ultimate moral redemption, he redeemed the wrong he did him, not just in the final season, but also throughout their entire journey. It seems as though Walt has come to realise the man he has made Jesse, a vacant shell that has been tossed around for years, thrown into danger at every junction and lost loved ones along the way. Walt ends his morally bad soul for Jesse’s good soul to remain, for a chance for Jesse to start again. I also believe that it was an attempted suicide attempt, Walt had lost the only thing he cared for in the beginning, his family. He knew there was nothing left to live for. Despite the audience’s empathy with this character, at the back of our minds the viewer knew that this was a man who was evil and needed to be put down for justice to prevail.

Aristotle considers the best series of events that appear terrible or pitiable in tragedy,

Necessarily, we are concerned with interactions between people who are closely concerned with each other, or between enemies, or between neutrals. If enemy attacks enemy, there is nothing pitiable, neither in the action itself nor in its imminence. What one should look for are situations in which sufferings arise within close relationships.[48]

Season two of Breaking Bad provokes the audience into questioning their allegiance with Walter and instead to look towards Jesse. Sepinwall writes, “Walt goes from ordering Jesse around to flat-out bullying him, and a remarkable role reversal occurs thanks to the writing”[49]. “Jesse Pinkman turns into the conscience of the series, and each unpleasant turn in the Walt/ Jesse relationship makes us empathise with Jesse more and Walt less.”

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There is no better scene to bring up than in the episode of season two, Phoenix [50]. Season two, see’s Walter go to the dark side in which he secretly betrays Jesse by keeping his cut of five million dollars after cooking a batch for Fring due to Jesse being addicted to heroin again. Walt lets himself into Jesse’s house to talk to Jesse about it where he finds Jesse and his girlfriend, Jane sleeping off a high. After pushing them to wake up, he pushes Jane into a position (supposedly by accident) where she starts throwing up and choking on her own vomit to death. Walt just stands there in tears and watches as he eradicates a severe obstacle. It’s this moment where the audience loses recognition of this character and where Walt possibly loses recognition of himself. He will betray even his closest friend to continue his newly found life.

According to creator, Vince Gilligan, “AMC asked, Wait, Walt lets her choke to death on her own vomit? Are they going to lose their empathy for him forever?’ Gilligan replied, I don’t know[51]. However when the viewer thinks of the next episode and final to Season 2, ABQ[52], the audience somehow redevelops some form of allegiance to Walt once again. Walt can’t track down Jesse and gets Mike to do it for him, which he does to an abandoned crack house. Against Mike’s advice, Walt goes in to look for him. As he tries to haul him up, Jesse starts crying in a high state of delirium, telling Walt that her death is his own fault, that he killed her. Jesse wraps his arms round Walt like a boy does in the middle of the night to his father after a bad nightmare, he hugs him for dear life and comfort. Walt’s face contains guilt beyond anything the audience could ever come to imagine, Walt even tells Jesse as he tries to get him up “Come on son”. The scene itself is one of the strongest in the entire show; it’s a moment where Walt really comes to understand that he is the monster children cry about. He has torn apart a young man who he considers more than a friend. However the audience empathises with Walt as he tries to redeem himself and keep Jesse on the straight and narrow. However like most of Walt’s actions, they are usually motivated by selfishness and he needs Jesse to assist his operation.

“Gilligan had cast Cranston because he wanted someone who could find the humanity inside a monster, but it turned out that Cranston was even better at showing the monster struggling to escape its frail human cage.”[53]

This final episode brings me onto Skyler and her role in Breaking Bad. On my first watch of Breaking Bad, I observed Skyler as a nagging wife who presents obstacles to Walt. “Viewers tend to bond most with the main character of the show” – states Sepinwall[54]. The viewer most of the time identifies with Walt when referring to his relationship with Skyler and at times I found myself almost hating this woman for pulling Walt’s personal life apart from the seams. Was it her returning to a passive state what I wanted so his family could remain intact? However on my second viewing of the show, I started to see a different side to her and possibly why I disliked her as a person.

There is no doubt on a plot level that Skyler creates obstacles for Walt, either by cheating, leaving to stay at her sisters, giving the kids to he sister or by inquiring certain things that she feels Walt is hiding. Sepinwall suggests,

“Male antagonists get more of a pass from these viewers, because they’re just doing their job. None of the wives are entirely uncompromised, but it can be disheartening to see these great shows encourage some of their fans sexist impulses.” [55]

Could this be a commentary on convention? Convention after all is what fans are used to, its what is unconsciously imprinted in their brains, and what is conventional to the audience in terms of film and television is that women are often presented as passive. When looking at Skyler, to some degree she is passive, but she is also active, in a way being the audience’s moral compass, asking him questions that the audience is also asking. For example, Skyler takes Walt to a storage unit before revealing a mountain of cash and asks, “How much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?”[56] Is it perhaps the fact that this goes against what the audience is used to that creates such an uncomfortable relationship between her character and the audience?

Anna Gunn (who plays Skyler) said in an interview,

I finally realised most people’s hatred for Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives,” Gunn concluded. “Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypal female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.

Gunn also notes the Skyler haters that arose after finding out about Walt’s meth dealing felt as though she was a ‘ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew.” “To some, almost immediately, Skyler committed the cardinal sin of the stereotypical awful wife: She was a nag.”[57]

Therefore as Gunn states, her character was going against the convention, this no doubt controls the level of allegiance certain fans can develop for Skyler’s character, this very aspect puts them exact people in the point of view of Walt and his goals which Skyler stands in the way of. A conclusion can be brought up because of this, that certain viewers are in fact bias of Walt and his character due to the mass media’s focus on early twentieth century sexist ideology.

What this chapter can be reduced down to is Plato’s conception of art, “Plato considers that art is essentially illusory because, rather than being masters of what we see, we are placed at the mercy of a point of view upon the world that is given to us by the artwork”[58]. We are given a world of character(s) and are informed to follow a story that connects these two things. We are constantly given new information and new scenes in which the audience must come to conclusions on, however to a certain degree, we are being un-consciously directed towards the point of view that the artists have set out. That being said, artists are now finding new ways to direct us at not just one person, but many, forcing the audience to contradict their initial opinions and create a world of constantly revolving alignments.

Chapter 3: The Unheard Voice of the Dark Passenger and Mr President

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Narration (Voiceover) is a technique that is sometimes used in film and television. It is when the audience hear the non-diegetic voice of a character, often allowing the audience to come to understand that particular characters emotions or observations. However there are variations on narration and the unheard voice.

The aside is a literary device that is renowned for Shakespeare[59] and his use of it. According to Warren Smith, “Previous discussion assumes that the aside can be defined in two distinct types: 1. The aside exchanged between characters on stage, and 2. That which is directly addressed to the audience”[60]. House of Cards utilises the second type but instead of a stage, Frank Underwood (protagonist) directs his asides to the lens.

Zac Seward opens with, “The audience is the show’s most interesting character. Whom is Frank talking to, and what does that make us?” Seward also notes a scene, in which this idea becomes apparent, Frank meets with Donald Blyth, a man who wrote the first draft of the education bill that Frank has just leaked in order to squash it. Donald is distraught and unaware the culprit is Frank, who says picking up the phone, I’ll fall on this grenade myself just to piss them off. Get me John King at CNN. Frank turns to the camera and says, “What a martyr craves more than anything is a sword to fall on. So you sharpen the blade, hold it at the right angle, and then 3, 2, 1. At which point Donald confirms Frank’s plan and states, “It should be me”.

What results from this plan is Frank Underwood taking control of the education bill, his whole plan from the start. As Seward rightfully says, “It turns us into Franks protégés, which is an unusually compromising position for an audience to find itself in and all the more fraught because Frank is an unholy character”.[61]

Therefore this tactic essentially assigns the audience to Mr Underwood’s ranks. The viewer is under his command and they will follow him into battle. This technique could be used because without the aside, it could prove difficult for an audience to empathise with this man who is cold and remorseless. However the audience admires Frank’s pedagogical thinking that seeps into the asides and the power that this gives him in understanding and predicting situations. Through Frank’s understanding and tactics, he more often than not, manipulates or exploits (usually unknowingly to the target) into giving Frank what he wants to progress.

Expanding on Seward’s question, “Whom is Frank talking to?” I bring to light a scene that highlights for the first and only time, the entity behind the lens, Franks aside is directed at the audience through a mirrored reflection. “Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you’d hoped I had. Don’t waste a breath mourning Miss Barnes, every kitten grows up to be a cat.”[62]

Frank looks towards the lens through a mirror. For the first time, Frank has verbally acknowledged the entity behind the lens. It’s therefore clear that there is someone out there. In reference to my own response, I had grown wary at the power Frank was ultimately capable of. I had hoped Frank had forgotten me, I hoped that the guilt of admiring such a man had come to an end. For what was about to occur throughout the duration of season two, I would soon become much more detached to this man. Therefore it could be argued that he is in fact talking to the audience, narrating his story to us. However at the same time, I believe that the use of the mirror is of no mistake. The use of the mirror could be a way of looking back into his soul, hoping that this part of him had died off, but older people are always stuck in their ways.

Murray Smith writes,

We watch a film, and find ourselves becoming attached to a particular character or characters on the basis of values or qualities roughly congruent with those we possess, or those that we wish to possess, and experience vicariously the emotional experiences of the character: we identify with the character.[63]

Franks comprehension of situations is what the viewer admires about him, and the power he has over people often unknowingly to them. The audience watch and ponder the bliss of having control over situations in which we have been in where Frank’s skills would be applicable for exploitation or manipulation for our own guilty desires. This very aspect is what drives the audience into feeling empathetic towards Frank in his darkest moments. We admire him, and we tend to forgive those that we admire more so than people we don’t know or don’t empathise with. However, of the anti-hero era, Frank has a solid shout at being the most evil. Frank may not have killed tens of people, or dealt grade-A drugs, but he also seems to lack a humane side of him that we see in characters like Walter White, Tony Soprano and Phillip Jennings. His only drive is for power; he oozes selfishness and will do anything to get it, including murder, espionage and sabotage.

Frank is at the election party after Garret Walker has been voted President of the United States. He is introducing the audience to his world through an aside.

As for me I’m just a lowly House Majority Whip, I keep things moving in congress choked by pettiness and lassitude, my job is to clear the pipes and keep the sludge moving, but I won’t have to be a plumber for much longer, I’ve done my time, I’ve backed the right man. [64]

This quote sums up Franks approach to politics; exploitation. He has helped put that man in charge because he knows that he can manipulate him into getting Frank higher up the food chain where he feels he belongs. His plan is in motion.

Referring back to Zac Stewards statement, “We become Franks protégés” I want to open up a point of argument. If the viewer is passive and has felt like they’re also ‘in on the plans’ that Frank sets out, does that provoke the audience into pledging allegiance to Frank? The audience is clearly aligned with Frank; the viewer is given un-restricted access to Frank that possibly forms as Murray Smith states, attachment. Subjective access is something Frank never allows almost anyone to ever see, for he is pedagogical and ruthless. However like Dexter, his narration allows the audience to peek inside the dark abyss of Frank’s mind and see how it ticks. We are never treated with narration with any other character and therefore have unquestionable alignment. It’s this very aspect that makes me believe that the audience pledges allegiance to Frank and cares for him within the narrative.

Dexter is perhaps the anti-hero era at it’s most ambitious, provoking the audience to form an onscreen relationship with a mass serial killer. Why would the viewer do that? Because he kills bad people, so it’s ok right? Morally so, this show could be the most challenging for the audience, on paper it’s clear that the viewer shouldn’t need to make a decision on whether it’s right or wrong, murder has been presented as wrong for two millennia after God wrote the ten commandments.[65] The viewer understands that Dexter ends people’s lives in his own time; it’s an unshakeable truth that Dexter is psychotically scarred. So why does the viewer come to empathise with this man?

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In the episode, Seeing Red[66], Dexter is provoked into a flashback in which he for the first time, remembers his mother being brutally murdered whilst Dexter (then a toddler), sat and watched helplessly in his mothers blood. The audience can rest easier as they come to realise that this man is not of his own creation, this was something that was forced upon him in the most emotionally damaging of ways. Dexter’s Father wasn’t helpful along the way either. Instead of placing him in a mental illness hospital for treatment, he instead taught him how to be a cop, and how to use his ‘dark passenger’ as Dexter calls it, to good use by ridding Miami of the filth on the streets. Therefore it’s difficult to simply refuse Dexter’s character, he was shoved into this scarred man through the people that love him. However you could say that his father just accepted his son the way he was.

The main aspect however that allows the audience to come to understand Dexter, is through the narration. Unlike House of Cards, the narration in Dexter is primarily subjective focusing on emotion rather than tactics.

Dexter’s life is one of two separate lives. He has the face of a hard-working forensic scientist collaborating to catch criminals with a wife and kids at home, and he has the face of a mass-serial killer that he keeps close to his chest until the last seasons, (and only then is it revealed against his will). The use of narration not only symbolises this drastic separation of his self, but it also allows the viewer to come to understand Dexter in each life. This subjective access allows the audience to hear what he’s thinking in moments where the audience would have no idea what someone would be thinking, for example as he towers over a human he deems ‘bad’ moments before he plunges a blade into their chest. However the times that usually uncover most about Dexter is moments where his dark passenger who is Dexter’s true self, narrates in moments where the average person is at ease but where Dexter feels isolated and uncomfortable. Because of this, the audience empathises with Dexter, to some degree they feel bad for the problems he has, the only way he can go on in life is by killing people, ‘bad’ people.

A clever technique used by the developers of Dexter is within the narration; often Harry (Dexter’s father) appears physically, resulting in a conversation to and fro. The viewer understands that Harry is not real; he has died, but that he is a personification of Dexter’s mind that was harnessed by Harry. In turn this transforms Harry into a foil character, (A character that asks questions the audience needs the answers to). Without him, Dexter would be venting the conflict in his mind to and fro, which would be incredibly un-dramatic and almost comical. It’s through some of these narration segments that produce some of the most emotionally moving of scenes. Note for example the episode, ‘Do You Take Dexter Morgan?’ [67].

In this scene George King – a serial killer that is on the run from the police has kidnapped Dexter. Before Dexter murdered his once friend Miguel Prado because he had become ‘bad’, Miguel appointed King to protect himself. Dexter lies strapped to a table in the all too familiar position that Dexter places all of his victims in by King. The audience asks themselves whether Dexter deserves to be there or not, whether in fact Dexter is a bad person which the viewer knows, of course he is. A conversation between Dexter and Harry appears as Dexter awaits his death:

Dexter: This is the part where my fear is supposed to build.
Harry: But you’re not afraid?

Dexter: I’m not
Harry: I am, I’ve been scared of coming to this your whole life, a violent end. I tried to protect you.

Dexter: You did, this is my fault for not trusting you, instead I trusted Miguel fucking Prado.
Harry: You did the best you could. I need you to understand something Dexter, So did I. I did the very best I could.

Dexter: I hope to be half as good a father to my son as you are.
Harry: Your son…

Dexter: Dad, I forgive you. I’ve never seen you cry before
Harry: They’re not my tears – they’re yours Dex

Dexter: I know, but I’ve never felt this
Harry: You’ve never had a son before; you want to see him come into the world…

Dexter: Yes, raise him with Rita. Watch him grow up. To protect him. I didn’t till now, when it’s all about to be taken away. I want to be there for him, I’ve never wanted something so much in my life.

Dexter frees himself and ends up killing King just as the police arrive before escaping out one of the windows. The episode culminates in Dexter marrying a pregnant Rita.

Because Dexter’s dark passenger is kept secret to everyone, it is revealed to the viewer always in narration. Through externalisation, the audience can come to understand the character and his emotions and thoughts. Harry’s presence is pivotal to the show working, without the narration, the audience would never fully be able to understand that side of the character and therefore never be able to accept him as an anti-hero. In the scene above, a huge change in emotion occurs in Dexter, a change that will affect the entire future of the show, the only way to externalise it, is through this conversation with his father, it allows the audience to understand that he has in some way changed, he has come to realise that he isn’t an empty shell and that his family is important to him and that he doesn’t want to miss it. Therefore in this scene above, the audience identifies with Dexter, they come to recognise the trait of parenthood and the uncertainty going into it, the feeling of complete fear but utter devotion at the same time. Dexter’s revelation opens up the things he will lose to himself and the audience construct sympathy towards Dexter. Suddenly the audience desperately wants him to escape so he can fulfil his dreams in hope it may change him for the good.

At the very end of Do You Take Dexter Morgan? Dexter narrates a large segment of dialogue that paves the way for his life and indeed next season:

Dexter Morgan, family man. All my previous attempts at human connection have ended in death. Now I have a partner for life, how did that happen? Am I drawn to the safety of belonging or being a part of something bigger than me? Either way I’m a married man, soon to be a father. But what do I have to offer a child? Just me, demented daddy Dexter. Maybe I’m making the biggest mistake of my life, but whose perfect, certainly not me, certainly not Harry. Sure I’m still who I was, who I am, question is what do I become? There are so many blanks to fill in, but right now at this point, I’m content. Maybe even, happy. I’d have to admit, when all is said and done, life is good.

As filmmakers using the methodology of Cinema vérité would attest to, narration manipulates the audience into seeing and hearing what the filmmaker wants you to see and hear. Therefore it would never be present. Removing a subjective approach to the material, Vérité filmmakers would form what they believed to be realism/ truth.[68]

Narration in Dexter and also House of Cards manipulates the audience into restricting narrative information. Genette uses the metaphor screening to describe the subjective access the audience is presented, “An even screening is produced by narration which gives us equal access to the internal states of all characters”[69]. This restricts the audience to just Dexter’s point of view that results in a bias narrative. However Smith argues,

Point of view (POV) neither entails, nor is essential to recognition, alignment or allegiance. All three levels of structure can operate without POV, and with the self evident exception of perceptual alignment, the use of POV does not necessarily result in our recognising a character, being aligned with a character, or being allied with a character.[70]

However, unlike House of Cards, the spatio-temporal path of Dexter’s narratives are not only aligned to just Dexter, they follow the paths of sometimes three or more characters in an episode.

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There are also many other characters that the viewers follow through the series, for example Debra, Angel, Quinn, Laguerta and more. The audience witnesses the relationships that these characters get involved with as well as their social problems in and outside the office, giving these characters depth, whilst also developing their disruptions and resolutions during the episode(s). However with that being said, we are never given the luxury to hear the narration of these characters that distances us in a way that the character of Dexter doesn’t.

One thing to note that can be observed in many ways is the final shot of Dexter in Remember the Monsters[71]. Dexter has abandoned his children and his partner, he has pulled the plug on his brain-dead sister in the hospital and ditched her in the ocean like all of his other victims, but this time she is in an angelic white sheet instead of black bags that symbolises her good soul. He is now a lumberjack and by his appearances he is not looking too well after himself. As the camera tracks in, he looks up right into the lens of the camera, right into the souls of the audience. Could it be that Dexter knew the entire time that he was narrating a story to someone or some entity, telling a story of another life?

The uses of Narration in Dexter and House of Cards allow the audience to see a side of someone we never get to see in our own lives. At times these narrations draw the audience into being empathetic towards the protagonists, sometimes like Dexter in Do You Take Dexter Morgan? The audience can even come to identify with these characters because of our similarities to them, whether it is in parenthood, or providing for a family. These narrations provide insight into their hopes and their fears. Because of this intimacy, we become protégés. First rule of being a protégé, is don’t tell on the master.

Final Conclusions:

Often, these modern masterpieces were first written under the assumption that no one would ever see them. That combination of regret and abandonment led to a wave of bold and exciting new dramas the likes of which TV had never seen before. [72]

Many critics seem to think that the anti-hero era is coming to a close, some wanting it to.

There is a general sense that Breaking Bad represents (or should represent) the end of an entire “antihero” genre – and that the simultaneous disappointment of Dexter’s home stretch and the non-starting new series Low Winter Sun[73] and Ray Donovan[74] are further expressions of just how boring “antiheros” are now.[75]

From my research of literary sources and endless television shows in this modern era it seems evident that there is a very basic formula at large in these shows. These shows that have become huge hits because the writing has made the audience empathise with the characters because of their situation. Maureen Ryan writes,

…There’s much more flexibility on where even mainstream comedies and dramas can draw that line. And at places like HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX and other cable networks the line can be about anywhere, as long as the story behind the transgressive behaviour is compelling and the actions the characters take are, in some way or other, justifiable. [76]

What these characters all display in abundance is complexity. These characters are third-dimensional artifices that are placed into situations we could never perceive. “Referring to them all as antiheros – indeed, acting like antihero is a genre instead an incredibly vague descriptive term – reduces an exciting TV era into a binary hero/antihero equation”. [77]

I believe this era now has to fall under a genre, with it’s own conventions which ultimately broke the original fundamental convention of a story; the protagonist has to be good.

Lesser shows make you pump your fist and root for the lead characters, no matter what they’ve done. But first rate shows never let you forget that the lead character is not someone you want to emulate, and at times, they make you question why you empathise with them at all”. [78]

This quote by Ryan emulates the anti-hero genre. It is a genre that provokes moral questions of the audience by their connection with a character that goes against our idea of the good. It’s this tug of war that is the most attractive thing for the genre, it’s the idea of going against a convention and doing something that you know is not good. Mankind has always seemed to get a kick out of that, going against the stream, knowing you could get caught at any moment, but that’s what makes it so fun.

 

[1] Bible: The New King James Version (Containing the Old and New Testaments) 1982. Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Woods, A. (2014). ‘Moses: The Worlds First Anti-hero’. Accessed 3 December 2014: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/culture/exodus-gods-kings-film/11270334/story-of-moses.html

[3] (Martin 2013: 21).

[4] Maloney, A. (2013). ‘Why are there so many TV anti-heroes?’. Accessed 24 Oct. 2014: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130920-when-tv-characters-break-bad.

[5] NYPD Blue. ABC, Steven Bochco & David Milch

[6] Homicide: Life on the Streets. National Broadcasting Company, Paul Attanasio

[7] Hill Street Blues. National Broadcasting Company, Steve Bochco & Michael Kozoll

[8] St. Elsewhere. National Broadcasting Company, Joshua Brand & John Falsey

[9] The Sopranos. Home Box Office, David Chase

[10] Oz. Home Box Office, Tom Fontana

[11] The Shield. FX Network, Shawn Ryan

[12] Battlestar Gallactica. Sky One, Ronald D. Moore

[13] (Martin 2013: 6)

[14] Breaking Bad. American Movie Classics, Vince Gilligan

[15] (Sepinwall 2013: 5)

[16] House of Cards. Netflix, Beau Willimon

[17] The Americans. FX Network, Joseph Weisberg

[18] Hadjucky, D. (2014). ‘The Anti-Hero Era: Why Do the Bad Guys Rule TV?’. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2014 from: http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/breaking-bad/202110/the-anti-hero-era-why-do-the-bad-guys-rule-tv.

[19] Stephenson, J.E. ‘Walter White’s American Vice’. Breaking bad and Philosophy pp. 203-213. Chicago: Open Court Publishing

[20] Hadjucky, D. (2014). ‘The Anti-Hero Era: Why Do the Bad Guys Rule TV?’. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2014 from: http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/breaking-bad/202110/the-anti-hero-era-why-do-the-bad-guys-rule-tv.

[21] Andreeva, N. (2014). ‘The Challenges Of Dramas With Antihero Lead On Broadcast TV’. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2014 from: http://deadline.com/2014/02/challenges-dramas-with-antihero-lead-broadcast-tv-674985/.

[22] Hadjucky, D. (2014). ‘The Anti-Hero Era: Why Do the Bad Guys Rule TV?’. Retrieved 23 Oct. 2014 from: http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/breaking-bad/202110/the-anti-hero-era-why-do-the-bad-guys-rule-tv.

[23] (Sepinwall 2013: 359)

[24] (Smith 1995: 82)

[25] (Smith 1995: 83)

[26] (Smith 1995: 84)

[27] Donhauser, J.C. ‘If Walt’s Breaking Bad, Maybe We Are Too’. Breaking Bad and Philosophy pp.113-125. Chicago: Open Court Publishing

[28] Breaking Bad, …And the Bag’s in the River: AMC, Adam Bernstein, Vince Gilligan. Transmitted 10 February 2008

[29] (Allen 1997: 81)

[30] (Smith 1995: 18)

[31] Rosenberg, A. (2013). ‘The Death Of James Gandolfini And The Twilight Of Television’s Anti-Hero Era’. Retrieved 24 Oct. 2014 from: http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/06/27/2227271/the-death-of-james-gandolfini-and-the-twilight-of-televisions-anti-hero-era/.

[32] (Franklin 2006: 130)

[33] Homeland. Showtime, Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa

[34] (Franklin 2006: 130)

[35] (Franklin 2006: 26)

[36] The Americans, The Colonel: FX, Adam Arkin, Joseph Weinberg, Joel Fields and Mike Batistick. Transmitted 1 May 2013

[37] (Aristotle 1996: 20)

[38] (Aristotle 1996: 20)

[39] (Aristotle, 1996: 21)

[40] Maloney, A. (2013). ‘Why are there so many TV anti-heroes?’. Accessed 24 Oct. 2014: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130920-when-tv-characters-break-bad.

[41] Breaking Bad, Seven Thirty-Seven: AMC, dir. Bryan Cranson. Vince Gilligan, J. Roberts. Transmitted 8 March 2009

[42] (Sepinwall 2013: 357)

[43] Brace, P and Arp, R. ‘What’s so Bad About Meth?”. Breaking Bad and Philosophy pp. 139-149. Chicago: Open Court Publishing

[44] Baltzer-Jaray, K. ‘Finding Happiness in a Black Hat’. Breaking Bad and Philosophy

  1. 43-55. Chicago: Open Court Publishing

[45] Breaking Bad, Felina: AMC, Vince Gilligan, Vince Gilligan. Transmitted 29 September 2013

[46] Breaking Bad, Cornered: AMC, Michael Slovis, Vince Gilligan and Gennifer Hutchinson. Transmitted 21 May 2011.

[47] (Sepinwall 2013: 357)

[48] (Aristotle 1996: 23)

[49] (Sepinwall, 2013: 357)

[50] Breaking Bad, Phoenix: AMC, Colin Bucksey, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban. Transmitted 24 May 2009

[51] (Sepinwall, 2013:358)

[52] Breaking Bad, ABQ: AMC, Adam Bernstein, Vince Gilligan. Transmitted 31 May 2009.

[53] (Sepinwall 2013: 357)

[54] (Sepinwall 2013: 359)

[55] (Sepinwall 2013: 359)

[56] Breaking Bad, Gliding All Over: AMC, Michael MacLaren, Vince Gilligan and Moira Walley-Beckett. Transmitted Sep 2 2012

[57] Chaney, J. (2014) ‘Why You Hate Skyler White’. Retrieved 26 October 2014 from: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/why-you-hate-skyler-white

[58] (Allen 1997: 81).

[59] Seward, Z. (2013). ‘House of Cards’ fourth wall’. Retrieved 23 Nov. 2014 from https://medium.com/@zseward/house-of-cardss-fourth-wall-b54a60143519

[60] (Smith 1949: 510)

[61] Seward, Z. (2013). ‘House of Cards’ fourth wall’. Retrieved 23 Nov. 2014 from https://medium.com/@zseward/house-of-cardss-fourth-wall-b54a60143519

[62] House of Cards, Chapter 14: Netflix, Carl Franklin, Michael Dobbs, Andre Davies, Beau Willimon

[63] (Smith 1995: 2)

[64] House of Cards, Chapter 14: Netflix, Carl Franklin, Michael Dobbs, Andre Davies, Beau Willimon

[65] Bible: The New King James Version (Containing the Old and New Testaments) 1982. Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[66] Dexter, Seeing Red: Showtime, Michael Cuesta, James Manos Jr, Jeff Lindsay and Kevin Maynard. Transmitted 3 December 2006

[67] Dexter, Do You Take Dexter Morgan: Showtime, Keith Gordon, James Manos Jr, Jeff Lindsay and Scott Buck. Transmitted 14 December 2008

[68] Speller, K. (2000). ‘Cinema Vérité: Defining the Moment’, retrieved 1st November 2014 from: http://sensesofcinema.com/2000/documentary-11/verite/

[69] (Smith 1995:83)

[70] (1995:84)

[71] Dexter, Remember the Monsters: Showtime, Steve Shill, James Manos Jr, Jeff Lindsay, Scott Buck, Manny Coto and Jennifer Yale. Transmitted 22 September 2013.

[72] (Sepinwall 2013: 4)

[73] Low Winter Sun. American Movie Classics, Chris Mundy

[74] Ray Donovan. Showtime, Ann Biderman

[75] Franich, D. (2013). The Myth of the Antihero Fatigue and the Revisionist/reductionist history of TV’s golden age’. Retrieved 27th October 2014 from: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/10/03/breaking-bad-sopranos-antihero/

[76] Maloney, A. (2013). ‘Why are there so many TV anti-heroes?’. Accessed 24 Oct. 2014: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20130920-when-tv-characters-break-bad.

[77] Franich, D. (2013). The Myth of the Antihero Fatigue and the Revisionist/reductionist history of TV’s golden age’. Retrieved 27th October 2014 from: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/10/03/breaking-bad-sopranos-antihero/

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