Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Tag: noirvember

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0004

Another well cooked edition of:


This is a worn paperback edition of the back cover of 0004:


There’s a record in an old shop that’s got some seriously bad knowledge on the B side. A young woman bought it in a stack, and last night she got around to listening to it with a few quiet ciders. This morning, she’s as dead as disco.

It’s been six hours since her demise and the record has changed hands 5 times, leaving a path of over a dozen dead bodies – some identifiable, some…well, a little scratched up.

Melissa Daye is a deaf detective who’s been paid handsomely to locate an oil magnate’s daughter. But his daughter went shopping last weekend, and has a penchant for vinyl, and now Melissa is on the trail of the platter that matters the most in a case that’s going to leave Melissa with some very hard choices to make.

If you captured the devil’s voice, would you ever listen to it?


Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0003

Okay, crack open the whiskey, it’s time for tonight’s:


This time, add in some of those Millennium Falcon ice cubes, we’re getting intergalactic with our noir for 0003 in:


A festival of death, ascension, and rebirth looms over Nula Pontoom, a small slum on Coruscant, home planet of the Empire, as the locals use it as an excuse to allow their abusive tendencies to escalate for two days.

Palanda Ormell returns, in shadow, to infiltrate the festival and extract the murderer of a high ranking Empire official. However, she is shocked to discover her father hiding in Nula’s back alleys because she’s assumed him dead for half her life.

Yet here he stands, ready to reconnect, because he’s been stabbed. By a lightsaber. Which he now has. And he knows the price on his head just trebled and he’s going to need his daughter’s help to get off Coruscant and away from the people who want that lightsaber back, because it’s the murder weapon in the case Nula is trying to solve.

The Festival of Sins has begun, Nula, may it not eat your soul before dawn.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge – 0002

Welcome back to tonight’s regularly scheduled:


A month-long writing exercise where I propose a pulp noir story title and idea/blurb for it. We hope that you enjoy instalment 0002…


Nicole Raimi inherits her grandmother’s rural estate and moves in with a plan to flip it to fund a trip to Europe. But when she pulls the sheet to reveal the mirror in the sunroom, her whole worldview shifts as she stands looking at herself, only ten years in the future.

Through arcane mysticism, the woman Nicole will become is able to communicate with her, and tip her off as to what lies in wait forever in tomorrow, through this antique structure of wood and glass.

Nicole’s life starts to turn around as she has the heads up on problems and opportunities well in advance, and while she doesn’t know how her older self communicates through the looking glass, she never once considers that maybe she’s ended up trapped in there. And will do anything to earn or steal passage back to the real world.

When a pretty, young, transient painter named Molly moves in to upgrade the mansion’s facade, she falls in love with the Nicole in the mirror and thus begins a brutal and passionate dance that will see only one of the three women survive, and the other two cast into a half-life in this world’s reflection.

Noirvember 2016 Challenge

Okay, because I’m dumb, and I like to keep real busy, and because #noirvember is my writerly way of doing something anywhere near as cool as #inktober or any of those rad artist sketch things, I’m throwing down a Challenge for the month of November.

#noirvember is a month-long celebration of noir. Watch some old flicks, listen to some Bernard Hermann, and just ride the downward spiral.

So what if we turned this noir event into something a writer could tackle on the fly? Oh, yes, enter the:


For the month of #noirvember, I’m going to write a noir story title and idea [written as a blurb whenever I can] every day and post them around for a bit of dark fun. Nothing too long, maybe add the opening line of the story if you’re feeling nasty. But that’s the challenge.

I like setting challenges for myself, as a writer, it keeps me fresh. As such:

#noirvember2016 0001


Erica Farrell is a loving housewife and mother saved by a heart transplant, but afterwards she discovers she’s lost all emotion.

Packing a gun into her belt, she steals a car and sets off for her solution.

It’s not going to be an easy heist, but Erica always knew a good heart these days is hard to find.

And even harder to remove.

NOIRVEMBER 2015 ebook coming!

My series of NOIRVEMBER posts from Noirvember last year will be available as an ebook on the 19th of January for 99c on Smash Words from Four Colour Ray Gun. You can pre-order it now, if’n you like. It’s in multiple formats and represents nearly 40k of my thoughts and words and misconceptions about life and art.


I’ve tidied up the posts a touch, and added a CURRICULUM ADDENDUM section at the end of each chapter to give you the boring deets I didn’t want to didactically drop into the essays – plus sometimes some links to scripts and rad pdfs and other cool stuff.

It also features this ace cover from Christopher Kosek!


If you want, all the posts are still right here [LINK] but there’s something cool about being able to have this on your tablet, just waiting for you, or maybe you just buy a copy to share with friends. Or maybe you have that site-to-pdf Chrome extension. Or maybe I die destitute and alone.

NOIRVEMBER, the ebook, coming January 19th – tell your friends [who don’t already read this site, follow my twitter, like me] – [LINK] for the preorder, or the order if you are accessing this post post-Jan 19.

NOIRVEMBER 030 ~ Lark/Brubaker Daredevil

Daredevil has been walking down a long slow trip for decades and Michael Lark and Ed Brubaker finally showed him what was down there.

And what was down there was his downfall. Which I think he knew all along.


The character of Matt Murdock has been a fascinating decades long study of how to constantly orbit that noir black hole. He would have slipped in long before but narrative cycles never end in comics and so no one could ever truly just lay Matt to rest in the darkness. But then Lark/Brubaker had the stones to do it and they took months to delicately and intricately exact their midnight plan.

When Daredevil was handed to them by Alex Maleev and Brian Michael Bendis, they had outed the superhero’s secret identity and so Lark/Brubaker had to figure out how to make that work. Their response was to have Murdock suffer even worse in an excruciating plan that’s partially happening to him and partially happening because of him.

Because Murdock’s past is littered with the mess and entrails of his poor decisions. The women he left in his wake, the friends he bailed on, and the countless times he sold pieces of his soul to the wind. No one is more haunted by themselves than Matt Murdock.

Except when he’s positioning himself into a love square where he comprises 3 of the points around Karen Page. Because that’s not weird at all, Mr Mike Murdock, not in the slightest. Well, actually, not for you.

The thing about Murdock is that he’s cognizant of his choices every time he makes them and he knows where they will lead him. But he’s willing to shoulder the burden because he’s a born martyr, and I don’t believe he thinks he can actually survive the mountain of sludge he piles on himself, instead it seems he deserves the just desserts at the end of it. Which is just about the saddest thing ever.

This run opens strong with Murdock in jail for his dual identity sins and while there he starts to break bad. How else do you survive prison? Murdock wants to hold fast but he’s soon showing a hyperviolent side, and he’s making deals with his well sworn enemy, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.

By the time of his escape, he’s broken an alarming amount of bones, he’s double-crossed the villain he was dealing with, and he’s absconding with the Punisher, not exactly someone he would normally be teaming up with. Frank Castle even comments that it looks like Murdock is finally becoming more like him, which is your first step in knowing a hero is falling.

Upon reentry to the real world, though not exactly legally yet, Murdock takes off to Europe on a lead. He doesn’t stop to see his estranged wife who herself is blind and fears for him, he makes the choice to play hero first. Because his sense of duty is what too often leads him to making the wrong choice. And breaking out of jail and running away to Europe instead of seeing your wife even once is most certainly the incorrect decision.

Once there, Murdock is lured in by a woman whose special perfume makes her smell like whatever a man’s heart might desire, love, remember, cherish. To Murdock, she smells like Karen Page, a previous love. Because Murdock’s body and mind, even on a subconscious and cellular level, is betraying him and making the wrong choice. The noir path is something ingrained in his DNA.

The entire run is a series of poor choices from Murdock. And it all comes crashing down midway through when Mr Fear, a fear toxin using villain whose only intent is to destroy Murdock, is victorious. Daredevil loses, and had already lost, before the real fighting even took place. And could he have prevented it? I say yes.

The fact Murdock farmed his wife out to other people, the fact he left her alone and unloved, the fact his attention and priorities are well away from where they should be left Milla open and the right villain pounced on that avenue to destroy Daredevil.

When you are a hero, in spandex, keeping a city safe, you still need to make the smart small decisions. Daredevil has been thinking too long in burroughs and not in relationships. He misses the hard calls and it costs him, no less how much it costs his wife who ends up incarcerated and quite literally insane.

From this pivot point, the defeat of a superhero, Lark/Brubaker begin the downward slide to the inevitable. Something Frank Miller commented on years prior was that Matt Murdock had the perfect villain origin story. And yet he never gave up. But eventually he’d have to give in and this is the run where that happens. Much like Lark/Brubaker were handed a narrative bomb, they too handed off something explosive. After a few arcs trying to piece his life back together, Murdock eventually falls too far away and by the end of their final issue, he has become a villain himself. For the greater good.

In trying to best The Hand organisation of ninja, Murdock gives himself to them to stop the Kingpin taking control of them, which he knows will be bad for him and everyone. But suddenly becoming the leader of a known assassin squad is apparently also detrimental to your health and so Murdock suffers. But that all comes later, in SHADOWLAND, and such, but Lark/Brubaker leave him doing what he’s always done best, we leave Murdock walking down, forever down, certain he can make it work.

The next we see him, he’s wearing a black suit. The French would describe it was noir.

NOIRVEMBER 029 ~ Chinatown

This flick only gets better with age, and you appreciate that vintage also the older you are. As such, I want to ensure we time it just right that CHINATOWN is the last flick I watch right before I die.


A bunch of the 70s cinema new wave casting their hands over the old gumshoe trope was always going to be something interesting but no one could imagine how masterful they’d get with so many of the old toys.

Robert Towne wrote a script about a P.I. caught up in intrigue and sinister people involved in shady water dealings. From there, a tale unravels where the ugly beauty of the downfall is that it’s a noir for us all. It’s a real world spiral. Because the narrative should have us following the intrigue, the political mess, and Jack Nicholson’s Jake Gittes certainly does. But that’s not the problem. That’s not the problem at all.

The problem is that people are worse than you ever expect them to be, even the nice ones, and especially the bad ones. The bad ones become something nearly demonic. Roman Polanski touches upon this in ROSEMARY’S BABY where a husband sells his wife and unborn child to the devil and it’s all very theatrical and weird but here, in CHINATOWN, it still feels real. Hell, it could be ripped from today’s headlines quite easily if you know where you are looking.

And when bastard fiction starts to appear under our newspaper masthead then you know we’re all digging deep down.

Once this story moves past the water, we get to the incest. And it blindsides you, because it shouldn’t happen that way, but that’s sadly exactly how it happens. The real world doesn’t lay neat clues, and it doesn’t just do one bad thing and stick to it. The worst of us are Lernean hydras and we lash out indiscriminately, tearing flesh and spraying venom in glorious hi-def 360 leaving no one unscathed.

Jake Gittes thought he lived in a bad world, but one with rules, and by the movie’s end, he’s completely broken because not only are things worse, well, they’re also completely unmanageable, and he’s being told to just accept it. Because it is easier to not think about it, or to walk away. If you die on every sour headline or problematic retweet then your empathy is going to bury you early and hard. You need to armour up. You cannot be completely empathic because the world is an emotional vampire and you will be left as a husk of a human.

This is what stares Gittes in the face as he watches Faye Dunaway’s Evelyn Mulwray keep on down the street, despite being slumped, probably dead, and definitely about to go unavenged for her trials.

CHINATOWN perfectly encapsulates the fact we all live in a noir globe, and we are slowly spinning down and down and around and around and we simply ride it out because what other choice do we have?

NOIRVEMBER 028 ~ The RKL Trilogy

Haven’t you always wondered why people make the worst decisions sometimes? I have. I also desperately want to avoid walking their paths. So, for me, writing is therapy and through it I figure out the world and my place in it. There is truth in fiction and storytelling doesn’t have to be pain free.

In the stories I tell, I want to dig deep into the darkness and spend time analysing the things my hands hold but my eyes can’t see and my brain can’t yet comprehend.

This is why my characters are often broken and even more regularly stupid. Baring their flaws to the world and justifying them helps me to understand them.


In FATHERHOOD [with gorgeous art by Daniel Schneider, colours by Paulina Ganucheau, and letters by Brandon DeStefano], I was writing through the demons of being a new father, so we got sad pages of a fatherhood noir. I was terribly afraid of making the wrong decisions so I followed one father down a series of bad decisions. A bad day that breaks the man until he’s completely screwed.

This one-shot was my way of working through things, pouring it onto the page, and then I’d be fine. Because that’s how it works for me.

When the father – he is scripted with no name – finally snaps, he enters a delusion but what he’s really doing is not filtering his choices. He’s acting irrationally, he’s lashing out in action, and it’s all in service of the one job he feels is left to him and that’s to provide for and please his estranged daughter. The problem is, he’s doing it all wrong.

Whenever I hand sell the book at cons, I always say “It’s about a guy who tries to get the doll for his daughter and doesn’t and so he snaps. And we show his mental breakdown through a crime lens. So it’s like JINGLE ALL THE WAY except instead of turning into a terrible flick it becomes SIN CITY.” And this always gets the point across but then if the customer is pausing still I knock them over with the real talk, which is: “It’s also about how far would you go to please your kids, and could you go too far?”

Because what crazier and sadder way is there to script your own noir ending than in service of the only people who need you to stick around. It’s heartbreaking purely because it happens, all the time, and I’m determined to not fall that way. So far, so good.

negative space 1 logo

My next foray into the spiral was a suicide noir called NEGATIVE SPACE. Because it sounds like an oxymoron of sadness and who doesn’t want that, right?

But this series with insane art from Owen Gieni, letters by Ryan Ferrier, and published by Dark Horse Comics, is about depression and choice and megacorporations controlling our emotions and it is exactly the sort of downward spiral I want to inspect. At its heart, it ponders over the problem that if something/someone else is making us depressed, and so our depression is fabricated by an external force, then does that invalidate our feelings at all? Aren’t all feelings caused and informed by external forces? Don’t they merely unlock a hollow chest already inside us?

It’s a quagmire to peer into and once I drag in underwater creatures and countercultural happiness cults, you can feel the PKD vibe wash over it all. And at the centre, just like he did, I have one man searching for the truth. Even if it’s just to know specifically what to obscure.

Guy Harris is our lead and when he sits down to write his suicide note he gets writer’s block [yes, you are allowed to smirk at that, he’s not real and it is funny] so he goes for a walk to clear his head and from there things get funky. Like ‘what if AFTER HOURS was directed by David Cronenberg?’ funky.

It’s then my job to drop, between the funk and the nasty, I have to drop globs of melancholia which lead Guy all the way down. And he has to be his own downfall. This isn’t a story where he blames the corporation. This isn’t a story where he gets the guy and runs into the sunset holding hands and is cured of his depression. This is not a happy tale and I like to pride myself on the fact I’ve found a new way to make suicide sad. At present, half the series has come out and I look forward to breaking hearts over the next two issues as I deliver on the premise of suicide noir in a way that’s a true bastard act.

page 1 - establishing panel pencils

My final noir in the trilogy [surely I’ll move onto some romcoms now] is my BEACH NOIR PROJECT. It’s a pulp paperback crime tale with Sami Kivelä on art, Mark Dale on colorus, Nic J Shaw on letters [and will be announced soon] about a bunch of people on a beach island caught up in each other’s webs and you know it’s not going to end well for the femme, or the cop, or the hulk of a boy toy, or the drug kingpin. This is my chance to play with tropes from the oldest noirs and twist them through a relatively modern setting that’s also timeless and then work out how to best make everyone ruin their lives while helping cause the ruination of all around them.

It’s been fun to write a story that’s a true web of only black threads. A town of characters who are not nice people and all they do is drag down the good people or else grind them under their heel. There is little good happening in this book but there are levels of depravity and mischievousness at play.

Here’s hoping I stick the landing because noir is all about that end. You don’t drag out, you don’t miss a beat. The effectiveness of every line before it hinges on the end. You have to swing that haymaker around like you are knocking out Galactus. And you have to land that impossible punch.

So far, I’m usually happy with my endings. I try my best to completely earn them. I build to them like I’m erecting a temple and it all needs to align. Even in HEADSPACE, which would be a responsibility noir if I felt like stretching things, Eric Zawadzki and Sebastian Piriz and I worked our asses off to make an ending that wrapped everything and had heart. With these three noirs, they all hinge on that very last beat.

From here, I think I need to write some happy endings. I need to try and let my characters have a win. But there’s something so much more satisfying in planning to have it all fall to pieces on them in the final moment than having it all come together. It feels more intricate, like you can do anything.

Or maybe I’m just an asshole.

NOIRVEMBER 027 ~ The Town

This tale of Boston robberies and broken men is the sort of narrative you know is noir because you feel it in the creak of your bones. You and I know the score but everyone else could be forgiven for thinking this was just another Hollywood flick featuring some crime. I mean, it stars [and is directed by] Ben Affleck, a guy who seemed for a long time to be living out his own noir tale IRL. I don’t know where SURVIVING CHRISTMAS fits into a noir flick visually but we all know it’s one of the lower rungs in the spiral.

Yet THE TOWN sparked redemption for Affleck while only bringing a metal curtain down on his character and anyone he touches around him. Because Affleck’s character of Doug MacRay is god’s lonely man, he’s just very good looking so we don’t believe it straight up.

the town

He spends his nights sculpting his body – which we see in one scene that has no narrative relevance except to show us Affleck’s superb physique, though it also holds reason, because you have to wonder why would he bother? He’s an isolated man, he robs banks, and while he’s externally doing great, his inside is hollow. He is working towards nothing until one aspect of a score goes sideways.

Affleck and his crew are successful in their heist but they take a hostage, bank manager Claire Keesey. They ensure their safety, and her blindness to them, and they release her onto the sand and tell her to keep walking until she hits water and then she can stop and look. It’s a terrifying moment – or series of moments – for Claire and it’s a perfect way for her to meet Affleck, even though she doesn’t know that’s what she’s doing at the time. She is reduced to raw emotion, she is connected to the world in a visceral contact way, and she is assuming she is a second away from death the entire time. With him, this is all true and will be forevermore.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, Affleck begins a relationship with Claire after the heist and we instantly see the conflict this brings and knowing how volatile his best friend, Jem Coughlin played by Jeremy Renner, is then there’s no escaping the fact we are walking the plank blindfolded and waiting to fall much as Claire was on the beach that day her life changed.

Watching the love blossom in this bleak environment is hard because you want it to give you hope but the signals are all there to point to the rather more honest truth of where this is all heading. Through a tapestry of events involving the FBI, the crumbling heist crew solidarity, and the knowledge that the one main truth can shatter a relationship, none of this plays out well.

And it’s all Affleck’s fault. Because he chose crime over ice hockey as a youth. Because he sticks by his toxic friend when he should have cut him loose many years before. Because he is so intrigued by this woman that he thinks he can make the one thing work that’s the one worst choice in the world he could make after having used her as a hostage. Because he was nice to the local girl he used to make time with who had a kid and he wanted to help her out when he had no reason to do so at all.

Because he starts the flick alone, and he needs to end the flick alone. Because he’s made all his important decisions alone and he is god’s lonely man. And we get a crime flick that’s slick and violent and dark and is most certainly one of the modern noir masterpieces.

And this works as a slick double bill with Affleck’s later GONE GIRL, directed by David Fincher. Wherein he plays a husband investigated for the murder of his wife. It’s actually not the sort of story I’d want to spoil but I will applaud it for being a surprise in tone because the flick looks like yet another Hollywood thriller and instead it is very much a throwback to the lurid paperback days of old where shit got real and everyone sank under the waves by the final page.

It would appear Ben Affleck is another one of today’s noir stars, a different version from Joseph Gordon-Levitt but still as handy, and mostly because though Affleck’s size should make him an imposition, he rarely uses it in these flicks, and the realest noir is about decision anyway. It is Affleck’s handsomeness that works against him, that disarm people in the worst ways, and that lead his path between others and locations until he’s too far gone.

And if you are wondering, yes, this makes me excited to see him tackle an aging Batman on screen because we might just get the tone and ending we deserve.

NOIRVEMBER 026 ~ Breaking Bad

The idea of ‘breaking bad’ is to really embrace and fuel your own noir narrative. You are choosing to do the wrong thing, you are delusional, and it’s just always going to travel in one direction.

I mean, no one expected Walter White to come out of this rich, in remission, and happy, did they?

breaking bad

I like the ambition of this show to take someone so milquetoast and make them a noir lead because it really comes down to the core of the fact that all people have the propensity to be the bad guy – some hidden, some just restrained – and we can all end up in situations where this is what we see as our best, and sometimes even only, choice.

It’s very reminiscent of the Joker’s concept in THE KILLING JOKE [a brutal Batman novella by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore – that despite being a classic has not actually aged well at all with its rape and nastiness] and in it the grinning villain believes anyone is just one bad day away from cracking. From breaking bad. And so he sets out to do this to the best man he knows, Jim Gordon [incidentally, a character Bryan Cranston would voice in the BATMAN: YEAR ONE cartoon adaptation].

Walter White’s villain is cancer. And an indescribably average life. From this dull warm ember, Walter rises like a dark phoenix to become something horribly monstrous. because any villain is just a confluence of unfortunate events and a handful of poorly judged choices. And they so rarely set out to become a villain. The good villains, the really flawed things, set out on their downward path with good intentions.

Watching Walter slowly push himself further and further was always the clickbait for your eyes. Every season, every week, he pushed his own boundaries. And more galling, he found reason to push his own boundaries. But the man we know at the start, sullen, moustached, walking wallpaper, slowly steps into the darkness. He attacks. Then he kills. Then he slaughters. It’s a study in the progression of noir, what pushes you into it, and what pulls you into it from the other side.

As Walter grows in drug making stature, the legend of his prowess spreads but so does the fear of him. He transmogrifies into a genuine drug lord and soon there is nothing he won’t do. There is no scene of human horror he won’t orchestrate to serve himself.

And that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Initially, the whole reason to break bad is to provide for his family – a pregnant wife and disabled son. But after a while, you know he’s done enough and yet he’s always finding reason to do more. It’s fascinating, but it’s sad. And it’s so very real. Especially when, at the end of the whole mess, Walter admits to his wife, Skyler, that he stuck at it because he was good at it.

He was pushed into it by perceived necessity but then he was pulled into it by the sense of self-esteem he took from it. The wallpaper was finally seen, and appreciated, and he could not go back to being so dull. All of it was sidelined because of his fear that he had prolonged his life and the reality was he had prolonged the life he had lived previously. A life barely worth living. A noir paradox.

And so Walter marches into the final spiral curve, ready for what is to come, and in his final moments, as he dies, he smiles. He smiles because it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees. To try and steal another Batman line and then horribly paraphrase/adapt it [this from the brilliant Nolan adaptation THE DARK KNIGHT], it’s better to die feeling like a hero than to live long enough to have everyone make you feel like the villain.

Because Walter knows he’s the villain, that’s fact, but he doesn’t have to feel like it. He doesn’t need to see it reflected at him where from the inside he still held some pride for what he did and how he did it. He still feels most of those steps down were the right ones to make, or at least the best ones. They gave him some months of good times instead of years marking time.

Then the beautiful thing about the show becomes Jesse Pinkman, in a career making role from Aaron Paul that is going to be insanely difficult to top because he is so supremely good in it. Pinkman is a junkie, a fool, but almost a savant at making drugs which means he’s malleable for Walter’s needs. Both chemically and socially.

Pinkman just shouldn’t care, he shouldn’t be noir because he’s already fallen, he’s already living his unhappily ever after. He gets high, he gets paranoid, he gets mouth favours from unsavoury ladies in the night and none of it comes anywhere close to fulfilling him. He should be the opposite kind of wallpaper to Walter, he’s the dirty, greasy stuff you don’t lean on, the gross surface you know can only be torn down, it’s the only way.

And yet Pinkman refuses to be stripped and tossed aside. He refuses to lie down. At first, he’s a pushover, Walter has it over him, and through this he’s bullied into some stupid places and decisions. But they’re nothing worse than the way he was already living so it doesn’t matter, right?

Wrong. Because while we watched, and fawned over, Walter’s transformation through the spiral, we neglected to fully realise that we were witnessing the opposite of noir: redemption.

Jesse Pinkman slowly starts making more moral choices despite the fact the world is giving him every opportunity to also break bad. Or break worse. He is put in danger, he still takes drugs, the new love of his life dies, he is beaten, and the hits just keep on coming. His life is made so terribly unmanageable once he falls in league with Walter and yet he never yields. Perhaps seeing one fall makes him want to rise up. Perhaps he knows where Walter’s journey ends and he doesn’t want to join him.

Finally, he is held hostage, brutalised, and forced into slavery. But even this doesn’t break him. By the end, he has become mentally strong. He has become unbreakable. His body might be making meth in the worst conditions for what might feel eternity but his mind is free, he imagines he’s crafting a fine wooden relic, something to be proud of. He has the mental strategies to survive.

In the final moments, after all that has transpired, so much bad, you’d not forgive him taking this out on Walter, you’d understand him lashing out and making the wrong choice for what might feel like the right reasons. But he doesn’t. He is not going to slide down.

Jesse Pinkman ends the show free, and he uses his freedom to drive off into the distance, his future preserved, his soul purified. Beyond us or society or anyone else, to himself he is redeemed and that sense of true worth is all that really matters. That we know we are right, no excuses, is the litmus test of the soul.

BREAKING BAD is that rare study of noir that perfectly showcases, in excruciating and slow detail, how the spiral works, and also how to escape the pit and ride valiant into the light.

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