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Breaking Bad's new teaser trailer: why is Walter White reading Percy Shelley? | Paul MacInnes


Two weeks ahead of the final run of episodes, AMC teases us all with an ad in which teacher-turned-kingpin reads romantic poetry

As far as I can see, everyone watches Breaking Bad. Me, my mum and dad, my colleague Sheila, Pope Francis. We're all highly excited about the imminent arrival of the final eight episodes of this engrossing drama serial (11 August on US television, the following day on UK Netflix). Naturally, therefore, we are watching all the teaser trailers and reading far too much into their content. (This applies especially to Francis. He's crazy for it).

The latest brief ad for Breaking Bad has Bryan Cranston, aka mild-mannered family man Walter White, aka ruthless crystal meth kingpin Heisenberg, reading Percy Shelley's poem Ozymandias. He does so over footage of New Mexico, where the show is set. While White and his family live in Albuquerque, his criminal alter ego of Heisenberg was born in the Chihuahuan desert that lies just south of the city.

Those of you who are familiar with Ozymandias will know that it too is set in a desert, or at least the recollection of one, as a traveller recounts his discovery of an ancient piece of statuary:

'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies

That shattered face still carries an expression that in its 'sneer of cold command', the traveller believes, accurately captured the character of its subject.

So it's the image of a powerful, disdainful man. But that man is long dead, his grand statue smashed to pieces. In fact all that remains intact is the legend that runs beneath the statue, a couplet now synonymous with both historical irony and grand hubris. It reads:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Now what could a mild-mannered chemistry teacher turned egomaniacal drug lord have to learn from such a poem? I guess we'll just have to wait and find out.

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