Poetics of the Problem of Evil and Gilligan’s Theodicy: Raising the Stakes

My interest in the minds of artistic creators—including authors, show runners on television programs, screenwriters, and directors—lies in teasing out a deeper wisdom from their comments, the implications of which they may not have considered despite the very real insights resulting from their creations. During Breaking Bad's run, I found myself speculating that Gus Fring was the show’s answer to what God might be. The nagging ideation of Gus as God is plausible only because he’s always several moves ahead of Walt to a terrifying degree (much as the character of O’Brien is depicted in Orwell’s 1984 in relation to Winston Smith). It is almost as if Gus’s mind contains Walter’s inside of it. Shortly after considering such aesthetic intention, I saw that one participant in an online threaded discussion on the program was zealously evangelizing “Gus Is God!”—prompting me to retreat from such a crude teleology. But it didn’t help that in Season Three’s “Mas,” as Walt descends for the first time into an obvious subterranean hell of a meth lab designed just for him, glimmering white equipment greets his and our gaze, and eerie celestial strings trill ironically.

Gilligan confirms that such a finalistic religious vision, however ironic, really isn’t his style:

Every now and then in the writer’s room we say to ourselves “Gus seems to be getting a little close to Darth Vader..and we pull him back and say to ourselves, we don’t want this guy to be all knowing and all powerful, he’s still a human with feet of clay. He has his flaws but he is also very smart. He’s a chess player.2

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