'Breaking Bad': Is a Shelley reference a hint about future plot developments?(Read article summary)
The next 'Breaking Bad' episode is titled 'Ozymandias,' which is also the name of a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem that reflects on the fleeting nature of power and glory.
With â€śBreaking Bad,â€ť his wildly successful cable TV series about Walter White, a dying high school teacher who begins selling crystal meth to build a family nest egg, producer Vince Gilligan has been giving some poetry classics a heightened profile in the popular culture.
The 19th-century bardâ€™s masterwork figured into a major plot development when Walterâ€™s brother-in-law Hank, played by Dean Norris, realized that Waltâ€™s copy of â€śLeaves of Grassâ€ťÂ was evidence of Waltâ€™s crimes.Â Â Â
Now, with Sundayâ€™s upcoming â€śBreaking Bad,â€ť episode, titled â€śOzymandias,â€ť Gilligan has given the nod to another great poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Sundayâ€™s episode takes its name from one of the most famous poems by Shelley, the celebrated English poet who lived between 1792-1822.
In â€śOzymandias,â€ť a desert adventurer recalls coming across a deteriorated and long-neglected statue of a once-great ruler named Ozymandias. The statue bears a chilling message relayed in the poemâ€™s last stanza:
â€śMy name is Ozymandias, King of Kings
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
You can read the full poem and some biographical information about Shelley here.
Shelleyâ€™s poem is widely revered as a compelling reflection on the fleeting nature of power and glory. The poem got renewed attention after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein from power, which prompted the tearing down of Saddamâ€™s huge statue in Firdos Square. Video footage of the incident inspired lots of comparisons between Saddam and Shelleyâ€™s fictional Ozymandias.
In naming Sundayâ€™s episode of â€śBreaking Badâ€ť after Shelleyâ€™s doomed ruler, Gilligan has hinted that Walt, too, is going to continue to see his empire collapse before his eyes.
Although Gilligan has been tight-lipped about crucial plot developments for the final episodes of the show, fans of the series can watch this clip featuring Bryan Cranston, who plays Walt, performing a dramatic reading of Shelleyâ€™s poem.
What would Shelley think of his hipster status as a creative element in â€śBreaking Badâ€ť?
We can only speculate, although Shelley, described by â€śThe Norton Anthology of English Literatureâ€ť as â€śa radical conformist in every aspect of his life and thought,â€ť might have gotten a kick out of keeping company with Walter White.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper, is the author of â€śA Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.â€ť