The Rise and Fall of Walter White's Empire

Douglas Eric Rasmussen


Breaking Bad highlights the  poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose poem “Ozymandias” is also the title of the third-to-last episode in the final season of the series (5.14). The use of Shelley’s poem is indicative of Walt’s crumbling empire. In both Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and the Breaking Bad episode of the same name the concept of hubris and being punished for grandiose projects that serve an individual’s egotism are central aspects of the each work. The imagery of the poem centers around a singular character, the despot Ramses II, who serves a similar role in “Ozymandias” as Walter White does in Breaking Bad. This short look at some of the imagery used in the episode "Ozymandias" illustrates how hubris and ego lead to an inevitable and violent end for both Gus Fring and Walter White.

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Breaking Bad: The Complete Series. Vince Gilligan (executive

producer Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks (performers), Sony Home Entertainment, 2014.

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Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Poems of Shelley Volume Two 1817-1819. Ed. by Kevin Everest and Geoffrey Mathews, Routledge, 2000.

Stephens, Walter. “‘Ozymandias’: Or, Writing, Lost Libraries, and Wonder.” Modern Language Notes 124.5 (2009); S155-S168.


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