A Courseload of [Breaking Bad]

The concept of Breaking Bad is so tantalizing as we shuffle through life, wishing it was more exciting, imagining a path to greater success, praying that which hinders would disappear. Amidst the slog, Vince Gilligan creates a show that makes it appear like we are one break from unbridled wealth and a life’s storyline worthy of television. Walter White’s life becomes the alternate reality none of us dares take, but instead choose to imagine peeking out, just around the corner. 

When I watch a mundane chemistry teacher, so talented and so gifted, trapped in the confines of social expectation and morality, and then find release from those ties that bind, I wonder what teachers of other subjects would do if morality and social restraint were no longer considerations.

Below is the summation of the pilot episode for Breaking Bad and a few more that imagine the main character as teachers of other subjects.

Pilot

Walter White was a very ordinary, middle-class chemistry teacher, who also worked a second job at a car wash in order to make enough money to feed his family. But one day, he collapses, and is given a terrible diagnosis: stage-3 inoperable lung cancer. While watching the news along with his family and friends on his 50th birthday, namely a segment on a methamphetamine drug bust, he discovers the amount of profit in the meth business. His DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader offers Walter a ride-along to a methhouse sting. A while later, Walter accepts, and accompanies Hank on a drug bust. While on the ride-along, he finds out that his former school student Jesse Pinkman is part of the drug house operation and watches him escape. As Walter considers the financial benefits of drug trafficking for his pregnant wife Skyler, and his physically disabled son, Walter Junior, he sees only one way out; forcing Jesse to teach him about the drug trade. Using his chemistry knowledge, Walter ends up making the purest methamphetamine that anyone has ever seen. Thus, both are drawn deeper and deeper into the abyss of organized drug trafficking.

Gym

Hunter Hanks was a very ordinary, middle-class PE teacher, who also worked a second job at a car wash in order to make enough money to feed his family. But one day, he collapses, and is given a terrible diagnosis: stage-3 inoperable lung cancer. While watching the news along with his family, he sees an old college football buddy, Carl Elfmann, signed a new multi-million-dollar deal to play football for the Broncos. After receiving pressure from his pregnant wife, Hanks called up Elfmann to see if he could help him out financially. What he receives is a mutually beneficial offer to “scare” one of Elfmann’s childhood friends who is blackmailing him. In return, Elfmann will help him pay his upcoming medical bills. Hanks agrees, but the scare goes terribly wrong, Hanks ends up killing the blackmailer, and he gets away with it. Elfmann was elated with the unanticipated result and paid him more than the agreed upon price. When Elfmann starts telling friends about how Hanks helped him out, Hunter Hanks enlists the help of a particularly aggressive student, Bobby Scopes, who is on the verge of getting kicked out of school, and becomes a blacklist bounty hunter. As his ‘favors’ to Elfmann’s friends become more and more lucrative, they start to push the boundaries of what Hanks is able to justify.

Math

Adam Arn was a very ordinary, middle-class math teacher, who also worked a second job at a car wash in order to make enough money to feed his family. But one day, he collapses, and is given a terrible diagnosis: stage-3 inoperable lung cancer. While watching basketball on TV he noticed the money line posted on the HUD. As an avid watcher of sports, he thinks he can make a better one using his sport’s knowledge and mathematic calculations. Soon after he was watching his school’s basketball team play and noticed parents making jokes about who would score first and the over/under at halftime. The next day he pulls a player from the basketball team, Ricky Levins, who was going to fail his class, into the hallway and offers him an ultimatum: give him all the information he has on his own team and all the teams in their division and get an A or end up becoming ineligible for the rest of the season. Together knowledge they compile a ‘big board’ for bets for all the team’s games, which grows into one of the most lucrative sports books in town. As his book grows, Adam finds out he is not the only bookie in town, but he is the least connected.

Art

Turner Tate was a very ordinary, middle-class art teacher, who also worked a second job at a car wash in order to make enough money to feed his family. But one day, he collapses, and is given a terrible diagnosis: stage-3 inoperable lung cancer. While lying at home convalescing he watches a documentary on art forgery. He marvels at how much money is in the business. As the bills mount, he catches a student, Mikey Redman, using the art studio to make Fake IDs and Hall Passes. In exchange for not reporting him, Turner offers to team up with him and start forging artwork. As their pile of forged art grows, Turner turns to sketchy art dealer, Lucas Yeats, to find buyers. Yeats finds the buyers, but Turner may not like the way they do business. And when one of the forgeries ends up in the hands of government officials, Turner must dive deeper into a world he didn’t even know existed.

History

Arthur Abe was a very ordinary, middle-class history teacher, who also worked a second job at a car wash in order to make enough money to feed his family. But one day, he collapses, and is given a terrible diagnosis: stage-3 inoperable lung cancer. While watching the news he sees a speech given by a former friend, Rob Martins, who was now heavily involved in state politics. He calls Martins up to talk about the speech and ask if he had any opportunities for work to help pay medical bills. After they both decided his speech was a dud, Abe was put in charge of writing the next one. It was a resounding success, and Martins began entrusting Abe with more and more responsibilities. As a thank you, Martins offered Abe the opportunity to bring a student to the capital. When they arrive, Abe and his student, Johnny Connors, walk in on Martins making underhanded political maneuvers with local law enforcement. As Martins explains himself, Abe realizes he is in deep trouble. When Connors helps using something Abe had just taught in class, Abe and Connors become involved in the darker side of politics. What at first seemed to be helping Martins navigate local squabbles with a few corrupt local agencies, turns into political corruption that reaches all the way to the federal level.

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