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The One Breaking Bad Character Who Could Have Changed Walt's Life

Breaking Bad shows audiences how a good man can sink shockingly low. The series follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as he goes from an unassuming high school chemistry teacher to a meth kingpin. During the series finale, as Walter lies there on the floor in a puddle of his own blood, we have to wonder if he was imagining other ways his life could have turned out. Was he always destined to turn to a life of crime, or could have another character saved him? 

In the first season, we're introduced to Elliott (Adam Godley) and Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). Walter and Elliott started their own company, Gray Matter Technologies, when they were younger. Walter struck up a relationship with Gretchen when she was his lab assistant. However, after Walter met her very wealthy family, he felt inferior and promptly broke up with her. Shortly thereafter, he sold his shares in Gray Matter for a few thousand dollars and left. The company went on to become insanely successful, making Elliott and Gretchen billionaires while Walter settled into a lower-middle class lifestyle with his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). 

All this backstory raises an important question: Could Gretchen have saved Walter? Is there something she could have said to him to make him feel better about joining such a rich family when he didn't have anything to his name? The idea has sparked quite a fruitful discussion among Breaking Bad fans on Reddit

Walter could've had a much better life with Gretchen if he wasn't filled with so much pride

In a discussion about who the worst character on Breaking Bad is, Redditor u/hondaguy1998 was the first to bring up Walt's relationship with Gretchen and Elliott: "Walt was bitter because he lost his company, now even though I will say that Gretchen and Elliott did f*** screw Walt over, Walt was foolish enough to actually sell his company for what, like 10K? How dumb can you possibly be!" The comment brings up a good point about Walt's character. He was too filled with pride to have a good relationship and life with Gretchen just because she came from a rich family. He wanted to build something all on his own, and after the pain of breaking up with her, he left Gray Matter, which would have given him his best shot of morally-acquired wealth. 

Redditor u/mynameisthrowaway911 brought up interviews with Hecht and showrunner Vince Gilligan in which they both confirmed that Walt broke up with Gretchen due to her family's wealth. A lot of people seem to have a hard time understanding why that would be any reason to break up with someone, and the Redditor re-entered the chat to ask, "Have you ever dated a woman from an extremely wealthy family, when your family is not? I assure you that [there] is a feeling of inadequacy. And as we know, Walt has a lot of shame and inadequacy." Walt clearly does have inadequacy issues, as evidenced when he turns down Elliott's offer to pay for his cancer treatments. There's no reason Walt had to turn to a life of crime when his old friend could have covered the cost, but money was only one reason why Walt started making meth. He wanted to secure his legacy.

He very well could've had that with Gretchen. If he hadn't let his inadequacy issues get the better of him, the two of them could have married and built Gray Matter from the ground up alongside Elliott. All of them would've been rich beyond their wildest dreams. Conversely, Walt's fate could have been avoided if he had never dated Gretchen in the first place. If the two of them remained friends, then Walt's issues would've never bubbled to the surface. He would've remained with Gray Matter and became a multi-billionaire just like Elliott. 

It all goes to show how one person completely changed the trajectory of Walt's life. In the end, Gretchen and Elliott become Walter's pawns, giving sizable chunks of money to his children later in life to make sure they're taken care of after he's gone. They may have broken up a long time ago, but she'll never be able to escape the shadow of her former fling.