The other day, we had a discussion about the moral depth of the characters on each show. Personally, I find Breaking Bad to be far more depressing and disturbing than Dexter because I see very little conscience in any of the characters. Granted, Walter White may feel guilt when he realizes that he is the indirect cause of the death of an entire plane load of people, and he may say something to the effect of, "I'm not cut out to be the bad guy," yet time and time again he pushes conscience aside and embraces increasingly brutal behavior. Jessie struggles with conscience, and we as an audience see opportunities for his escape. (Jessie's character forced me to face that I think like a mom now, because I feel something akin to a mother's grief with each poor choices he makes). The parade of characters in the drug world range from psychopathic to criminally stupid. I'm only on Season 4, Episode 9, so I'm obviously coming from a place of incomplete knowledge. I don't know how corruptible his family will be, and I don't know the future of the DEA brother in law (who I find to be mostly sympathetic). My perception at this point, though, is that the majority of the viewing minutes are filled with scenes of soulless scheming, plotting, concealing, and brutal violence. I see less moral struggle and vulnerability than I do with Dexter.
With Dexter, we are regularly reminded of Dexter's conflict. We can see this good, nerdy guy who would be only that if he hadn't been so deeply traumatized as a child. With Debra, we see a woman attempting to please a deceased Daddy, struggling to connect with her brother, and making all kinds of stupid choices (usually brought about by her big, dumb heart). When her loyalty to her brother leads her to become a murderer, she does not just suffer a few bad days and move on. The pain nearly destroys her, and when she does manage to come out the other side of it she is forever damaged. We sense that she will carry her guilt with her forever and devote the rest of her life to righting her wrongs -- but it will never be enough for her to forgive herself. Other characters: Quinn, LaGuerta, Doakes, Batista, Rita, etc. have their flaws but to me, they are also fundamentally good people. The various bad guys that move into Dexter's life (and out via his table) are on a spectrum from completely antisocial to deeply conflicted and disturbed.
So, my opinion is that majority of characters in Dexter are people with spiritual dimension (souls?) and the dishonorable or even evil choices they make are not borne of an antisocial personality. Breaking Bad has far too many people who are seem to have perverse, easily corruptible souls, and it is difficult to care about them. I care about Walter White Jr., Hank, and Jesse (in the aforementioned grieving mom style), but if my husband were not watching it, I wouldn't have gotten past the first few episodes (if that).
On the other hand, I am deeply devoted to the characters in Dexter. I felt the effects of Rita's death days after I viewed it. My heart broke for Dexter when Lumen dumped him. Every time I look at Angel I feel that I have a friend in the room. And I even cried with dumb Debra when Lundy died. I do not want to live in Dexter's complex, messy world, but I would much rather move to Miami than live in Walter's perverted, savage world.
My husband's opinion is that the psychopathic characters portrayed on Dexter are worse because they kill for the sake of killing -- for the urge of seeing the body mutilated and damaged. In Walter White's world it is about profit -- or at least that is the excuse.
Perhaps I'll change my attitude about all of this when I have finished Breaking Bad. If I do, I will dutifully update my opinions as soon as possible. I am very curious about the thoughts that others have on this discussion. I see that I can create a survey here. If you get this far, please try the survey! I would love to hear the opinions of other viewers on this subject.