Vince Gilligan didn’t initially plan on including Walt Whitman as a significant parallel to his protagonist in Breaking Bad. (Reacting to spontaneity has been one of the greatest strengths of the Breaking Bad writers’ room.) But ever since Gale Boetticher uttered “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer” back in season three, the classic American poet and Walter White have been linked.
This week, Kera Bolonik has an essay examining the two Walts over at Poetry, entitled “Leaves Of Glass,” comparing the meth cook and would-be kingpin to some of Whitman’s famous poetry, and connecting the multitudinous drafts of Leaves Of Grass to Walter White’s ever-changing stance within the underworld. Bolonik wisely highlights Mike Chasar’s work examining the Walt Whitman references that have popped up more frequently from the third season right up to the fifth season first-half cliffhanger “Gliding Over All,” a reference to a fragment in the 1881 edition of Leaves Of Grass that portends less-than-happy tidings for the final eight episodes:
Gliding o’er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul—not life alone,
Death, many deaths I’ll sing.