In last week's article
, we had nice guy Aussie Hugh Jackman vs. troublemaker Aussie Russell Crowe in a heated battle which most of you decided should go to Jackman. Our Australian edition of the Face-Off did so well that I’m considering a future article pitting Air Supply’s Russell Hitchcock versus his band mate Graham Russell. It’ll be up to you to choose...the one that you love. Stay tuned!
With the superb AMC series BREAKING BAD airing its series finale this Sunday, it was a no-brainer to face-off mild-mannered chemistry teacher turned Meth drug lord Walter White with arguably the best mob boss in television history, Tony Soprano (from HBO’s THE SOPRANOS).
Base of Operations
Like most mafia bosses, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) called Joisey his home. The stink of the Garden State and its proximity to New York provided a setting which reminded us of some great mob movies and gave us characters and accents that made it all seem very familiar and cozy. New Jersey became a character on its own and complimented “T’ perfectly as he conducted his business, avoided the spotlight and smoked his cigars.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) took a wrong left turn somewhere and calls the city of Albuquerque in the Land of Enchantment his home. The low-profile nature of the city and the state suits W.W. perfectly as he slowly starts breaking bad in order to provide for his family in the eventuality that he dies from cancer. The barren desert scenes and the beautiful vistas are a great setting as our antihero begins creating his drug empire one blue batch at a time as he contemplates his actions and his life. All that being said, I found Jersey to be more exciting a setting for Tony's shenanigans so he gets the edge and the victory in this category.
Tony was usually referred to as “T” and on occasion “Tone”, “Skip” or “Skipper.” These are okay but when you don’t even have the coolest nickname in the series (“Big Pussy”, “Little Paulie”, “Philly Spoons” and “Johnny Boy”) then you have your work cut out for you.
“Heisenberg” wins by a landslide.
Satrialie’s Pork Store and strip joint Bada-Bing! were a couple of the usual hangouts where Tony met with his crew, chewed people out and messed around on his wife. Good sandwiches and naked ladies are not only perfect for any crime boss, but also for pretty much anybody else.
Mr. White is usually cooking in a high-tech meth lab or a low-down meth trailer and when he isn’t doing that he is either at the A1A Car Wash or meeting with his sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman in his snazzy office. The office is actually the niftiest looking place in the series but it’s still nowhere near good enough to give Walter White the win in this category.
Second in Command
Tony’s protégé was Christopher Moltisani (Michael Imperioli) who was the ambitious cousin of Tony’s wife Carmela. They had a very close relationship and although Tony often called Chris his nephew their relationship was closer to that of a father and son. Chris caused much grief for Tony in the series as he struggled with drug and alcohol addition, pestered Tony incessantly about being a “made” man not to mention dating a girl that became an informant for the FBI.
Their relationship revealed much of Tony’s character in the series as "T" struggled with the love and pride he had for the kid with the trouble Chris’ recklessness was causing him and the “family”. In the end, Tony wacked Chris in one of the most memorable scenes in the entire series.
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was Walter White’s student in his high school chemistry class before they hooked up years later to become business partners and cook some of the best meth in the land. Their relationship grows steadily as Walter teaches Jesse how to cook the drug to perfection and begins treating Jesse like his own son (in fact, Walter often seems to be more concerned about Jesse than how his own actions may affect his actual son).
In turn, Jesse shows much respect towards Walter always calling him Mr. White and feeling truly sorry for him and the situation life has dealt him. Their love and respect for one another often turns to hate, suspicion and misunderstanding as they go through a rollercoaster of emotions which results in the same dilemma Tony Soprano had with his second-in-command, Christopher – to kill or not to kill? Jesse actually has a moral centre which makes their relationship just a little more interesting as the series develops.
Crime Boss Report Card
Tony Soprano made it cool again to root for the mobster. His emotional issues, “family” and family pressures and wandering eye made us all relate with him just like he was a regular Joe. He had charm, power and a look that would put the fear of God into you if he got angry. He was born into the family business with his uncle and father having been “connected” so he didn’t necessarily build his crime empire from scratch. He also had the luxury of having a bunch of soldiers and capos on the streets doing his dirty work for him most of the time.
None of this takes away from the fact that he was a cold-blooded killer, a shrewd businessman and one of the funniest and most fascinating mob bosses ever on the small screen. It’s not clear if he survived or not at the end of the series which makes it very difficult to judge his merits as a crime boss. After all, there is no greater way to measure success in the criminal world than not dying. Since I don’t know if W.W. will die or not either, this issue becomes moot in my grading process. What earned Tony some major points in this category are his therapy sessions which revealed to us what made him tick and the many reasons he is the man that he became.
Tony gets an A+ on his report card.
Walter White’s transformation from a meek chemistry teacher to a ruthless drug kingpin who leaves a trail of bodies behind him is truly remarkable. All Walter wants to do is provide for his family before the cancer that is in him kills him. This honorable goal of his slowly had him turn his back on his humanity as he killed people and made drugs that killed people. He never expected to become the business mastermind that he became or the feared mythical drug lord either. It’s the fact that he learned the ropes so quickly and with hardly any help from anyone that makes his accomplishments just as impressive than those of Tony Soprano’s.
You can never quite hate Walter because at the end of the day he loves his family and their well-being has always been his only motivation. He started off with the right intentions and then accidentally became a brilliant criminal monster and for that, he also gets an A+.
IT'S A TIE!
I actually prefer the series THE SOPRANOS more than BREAKING BAD but it was very difficult for me to choose which of these two characters is better than the other. Although the character of Walter White is one in a million it doesn't change the fact that Gandolfini's Tony Soprano has became a legend and revolutionized how we look at mob bosses on TV and in the movies. Considering how iconic the character of Tony Soprano has become it's a win in itself for Walter White just to have earned a draw with him. The final call is yours so let's see which way you're leaning...