Let’s face facts; in the criminal world, Walter White did nothing wrong. He was superior to Mike Ehrmantraut and that is why Mike ended-up failing at everything and Walter White succeeded near his endgame for the series. And in fact… they are a parallel! 🙂
Think about it: Mike “knew his place”, followed his superiors, and . . . left his granddaughter with absolutely nothing and absolutely none of his efforts of knowing his place and following his code of ethics accomplished anything that he wanted it to. His granddaughter’s final memory is him leaving her in the park, he leaves his remaining family nothing, and the close associates that he cared for and was trying to protect get killed a few days later and Walt makes an apology explaining how he can get the names to kill them from Lydia. What a perfect ending to a piece of garbage human being.
Walter White had an “ego” and “pride” and – from the trigger for the entire series itself – is Walter White walking away from “knowing his place” as a milk-toast harmless family man and rising higher, and higher, and higher, and higher! Sure, his ego gets him into trouble, but his ego also gets him right out of that trouble. It’s actually a double-edged sword and the consequences are always like a roulette wheel for viewers. Nevertheless, at the end of the series, he goes to Gretchen and Elliot’s place because of his ego and had hatched a plan to give his family the remaining money that he had. By the end of it, he decides to protect Jesse as well and takes the bullet for him; protecting him while Mike had failed to protect his men. The story has him achieve exactly what Mike could not. Walt’s ego was always a double-edged sword. He ends-up gaining superiority over Gretchen and Elliot (something he’d secretly craved for years, heavily implied when he tells Jesse that he watched Gray Matter’s stock every week). Compare the final season to Mike’s ending; he gets to see his daughter one last time whereas Mike will never see Hailey again, Skylar and him come to an understanding of sorts whereas his daughter-in-law will never know why Hailey was left at the park, and Jesse lives by the end while all the men that Mike protected die. What a wonderful ending to the greatest American hero. 🙂
Also note the following:
Gus Fring did not know “his place” in the cartel business and challenged those who killed the man who was like a brother to him. He acts as if he follows the rules, but he successfully plots the downfall of his enemies in the cartel business. He ends-up slaughtering all his enemies after careful planning and – unless BCS has a certain someone survive in their final season – he’s killed all or nearly all of the Salamanca family as revenge for his brother’s murder at the hands of Hector. He died after winning.
Jesse Pinkman never knew his place due to his impulsiveness. He goes hard on everything that he does. When those drug dealers kill Tomas, he goes right after them causing Walter to act on his behalf. He did not know his place. When he discovers that Walt poisoned Brock, he goes after him because he did not know his place. When he squeals on Walt to Hank, he did not know his place. He also goes from giving the gun back to Todd and “knowing his place”, to choking Todd with chains and killing him and finally breaking out of “knowing his place” under them. Freed by the greatest American, Walter White. 🙂
What did Walter White, Gus Fring, and Jesse Pinkman all have in common that Mike Ehrmantraut lacked? They didn’t let the societal views on how they should behave (whether in the regular world or the criminal world) define who they are or what they should want from their lives.