Breaking Bad

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass, all the sudden, age -- what, sixty? He's just gonna break bad?


Breaking Bad -- AMC's first substantial success with original programming -- debuted in 2008 with a seven-episode season (shortened because of the writers' strike) and soon found itself renewed for a second, full season. The show would go on to run for five seasons, ultimately ending on September 29, 2013 after a sixteen episode juggernaut of a final season.

Kindly Albuquerque, New Mexico high school chemistry teacher Walter White receives a diagnosis of lung cancer after a meager lifetime of playing it safe; his world begins to fall apart as he realizes how the medical bills will cripple the finances for his family (a pregnant wife and a son afflicted with Cerebral Palsy). After going on a ride-along with his lovable Jerkass DEA agent brother-in-law, Walter learns of the money to be made in the highly dangerous world of illegal methamphetamine. Later the same night, Walter enlists the aid of one of his former students -- who managed to escape the DEA raid by sheer dumb luck -- and hatches a plan to manufacture and sell crystal meth in order to provide for his family. As Walter's journey stretches forth, bodies begin to pile up, and dark, violent Hilarity Ensues.

Walter becomes known as the high-level drug dealer Heisenberg, as nobody knows who he is, what he looks like, where he produces his product, or where he is other than they suspect he is in the Albuquerque area. Walter is rather amused at times when his completely clueless DEA Agent brother in law tells Walter about his efforts to catch Heisenberg or asks Walter for tips they might use to find Heisenberg since Walter knows chemical production and chemistry.

How awesome is this series? It transformed Bryan Cranston -- a man best known for playing a Bumbling Dad -- into the virtual lock for the "Best Actor" Emmy each time he's nominated. Cranston has already won three in a row, which ties the record set by Bill Cosby.

It also proved awesome enough to secure a spinoff series and a movie. Better Call Saul is a prequel starring hotshot lawyer and bonafide Ensemble Darkhorse Saul Goodman, detailing both his own hero-to-villain transformation and the state of Albuquerque's pre-Heisenberg criminal underworld as a whole. Meanwhile, El Camino is a movie that ties up loose ends from Breaking Bad's last season while serving as its Grand Finale.

Tropes used in Breaking Bad include:
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Cousins' axe falls out of its weilder's hands and cuts into the asphalt far enough to stay upright. Keep in mind that it wasn't even swung downwards -- it just fell about seven feet and landed on the blade.
  • Abusive Parents: In season 2 Jesse encounters a couple of meth addicts who do nothing but rob people and get high living together in a filthy, dilapidated house -- along with their horribly neglected young son. He is suitably disgusted.
    • Walt himself flirts with this trope. While he never hurts his own children (aside from a moment where he forced Walt Jr. to drink tequila to the point of vomiting purely to spite Hank), he's incredibly cruel to Jesse, who he sees as a foster son. He verbally and mentally abuses him, demeaning him and making him feel stupid on a regular basis. And when he does treat him nicely, it's usually under the pretense of manipulating him for his own ends.
  • Affably Evil: Most notably, there is Saul Goodman, the cheerfully corrupt lawyer. Gus is a ruthless drug lord, but most of the time he comes off a polite, soft-spoken, genteel businessman (until you piss him off...). Also, Mike, a personable, world-weary grandfather who'll still straight-up murder you if Gus wants it done. And finally, Todd's sociopathy doesn't stop him from acting genuinely chummy towards his "friends" and family, albeit in a warped and twisted way.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Both Walt and Gale plead for their lives during the very end of Season 3. Jesse also breaks down and begs for help when Tuco's ready to kill him, at least before he fights back and turns the tables on him.
    • Interestingly, when Hank's about to die, he isn't the one begging for his life. Walt is, since he still loves Hank in spite of everything that went down between them. Knowing that Walt's pleas are useless against Jack, he simply tells him to go fuck himself and demands him to just shoot him and get it over with.
  • Alliterative Name: Both father and son are named Walter White. The name was deliberately chosen for its blandness.
  • Analogy Backfire:
    • Hank talks about how he wanted to bring Heisenberg in himself, like Popeye Doyle. Walt points out that in The French Connection, Doyle never successfully arrested anyone.
    • Hank also makes references to Rocky that seem to ignore the fact that Rocky actually loses in the first film.
  • And Some Other Stuff: Mostly done quite subtly, we're never shown entire recipes for anything particularly dangerous.
  • Anti-Hero: Or is it Anti-Villain? Where Walt falls is unclear, and he keeps seeming to slip further down the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes. Jesse envisions himself as a kind of Anti-Villain, but it's probably a pose.
    • Hank may fit the "bully with a badge" stereotype that bad cops fall under, but he's genuinely committed to doing the right thing and protecting the innocent.
  • Artistic License Law: In-universe example: Badger is tricked into believing the urban myth that undercover cops have to identify themselves as such when asked. He quickly learns that this not how the law works.
  • Ax Crazy:
    • Tuco takes this trope Up to Eleven. He will take any and every excuse he can get to beat someone up, especially when he's high on meth. Walt tells him, "We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die."
    • The Salamanca Cousins, quite literally. One of them carries around a chromed fire-axe with which they kill several people. One of them even refuses to shoot Hank in the head when he had the chance, choosing instead to go back to the car to get the axe.
    • Todd's flavor of Ax Crazy is closer to the Cousins, where he commits horrible atrocities such as torture and murdering children without so much as blinking an eye. But instead of being a near-mute Terminator wannabe like them, he acts like any moderately friendly guy you'd meet on the street, which might make him the scariest of them all.
  • Baby Got Back: Carmen, at least according to Hank.

"Damn. Chick's got an ass like an onion: it makes me want to cry."

  • Badass Boast:
    • Walt: "I am the one who knocks!"
    • In "Crawl Space", Gus delivers one to Hector Salamanca at the retirement home, saying that he killed off all members of the cartel and Jesse killed his grandson, making him the last of the Salamanca line.
    • Walt gets a one line Badass Boast in the season 4 finale after pulling off a double Batman Gambit and defeating Gus: "I won."
  • Badass: A number of characters get their time to shine.
    • Walt walking straight into Tuco's office and blowing it up with homemade explosives.
    • Walt tracking down some local meth pushers and kicking them out of his turf.
    • Mike taking on multiple cartel assassins.
    • Gus walking into a hail of sniperfire, daring the assassins to shoot him.
    • Gus poisoning himself in order to assassinate the entire cartel leadership.
    • Jesse bending a cartel meth lab to his will.
    • Hank taking on Tuco and then the Salamanca twins.
  • Badass Family: The Salamanca family.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Tuco. Shortly after we're introduced to him, we get to see him beat one of his henchmen to death.
    • Gus is a much less psychotic, much more cold-blooded Bad Boss. While he doesn't go out of his way to abuse his employees, he can and will kill them in the most brutal way possible if they prove to be an active liability to his business.
    • Bogdan is a more... well, maybe "common" example is better. While not a murderous druglord, he's about as bad a boss as any normal people are likely to have.
  • Bald of Awesome: Quite a few characters. Hank and Mike are naturally bald, Walt shaves his head early in the show. Gus trims his hair almost down to scalp level. The Salamanca brothers also sport shaved heads. Jesse also crops his hair down after a traumatic event in an apparent effort to toughen himself up.
  • Batman Gambit: Two of epic proportions in the last two episodes of season 4 by Walt. First, he gives Brock a non-lethal poison and steals Jesse's ricin cigarette; Pinkman storms his house wanting to kill him, since only the two of them knew about the poison, but Walt convinces him at gunpoint that he would have nothing to gain and that it's a ploy by Gus to gain Jesse's compliance in killing Walt. When he initial attempt to kill Gus fails, he acquires Tio Salamanca as an ally, convinces him to talk to the DEA so Gus will think he's snitching, then booby-traps his wheelchair. This plan hinges on the hopes that a) Hector hates Gus more than he hates Walt, b)Gus will insist on killing Hector in person and c) Hector is willing to kill himself to take Gus down with him. Amazingly, it all works.
  • Because I'm Good At It: What ultimately keeps Walt cooking, his pride and ego from realizing that he has a unique skill that has created an empire that would rival that of Steve Jobs both in its value and impact on the meth industry. He's not a failure anymore and has become "the one who knocks."
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Jesse has his two drug dealing cronies join a 12 step program to sell meth to the addicts. They can't bring themselves to do it, and end up going sober instead.
    • Weak Walter White pretends to be the ruthless Heisenberg until he becomes ruthless for real. Then Heisenberg starts pretending to be the weak Walter White.
  • Beneath the Mask: When Walt meets with Gretchen, he reveals years of pent-up bitterness and malice that provokes the question: what sort of man had Walter quietly, secretly become even before his 50th birthday? How many of us remain good people on the surface, but end up becoming ripe for the sort of trigger events that launched Walt's career?
  • Berserk Button: Walt is incredibly defensive of his son in the first season. Jesse, on the other hand, gets protective of anyone's kids.
  • Best Served Cold: Gus once saw his friend and partner murdered in front of him by the cartel. He then proceeds to bide his time and establish trust for twenty years. Then, when the man who pulled the trigger is finally in his power, he still doesn't kill him, but visits him again and again, each time telling him that another one of his relatives has been killed, until he's the last member of his family alive.
  • Big Bad: Tuco in season 1 and the very beginning of season 2, Gus in seasons 3 and 4. The two are polar opposites; Tuco is violent and erratic while Gus is cold and calculating. Each time, Walt and Jesse come to believe it is necessary to kill the Big Bad, and each time they eventually succeed.
    • Season 5, on the other hand, has something of a Big Bad pileup. There's Hank by way of being the Hero Antagonist who manages to pick up Heisenberg's scent, then there's the duo of Jack Welker and his nephew Todd, both of which being very personal villains to Walt and Jesse for different reasons. And finally, Walt himself is responsible for a good deal of the season's conflict due to being too arrogant and greedy to know when to walk away from the meth business.
  • Big No: Jesse delivers an impressive one the second he realizes that Todd is going to shoot a kid.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Bogdan, as pointed out by Walt in the pilot.

"Fuck you! And your eyebrows!"

  • Black and Grey Morality: "Heisenberg" vs the Cartel. The Cartel is pure evil, there's no question about it, but Walt's far from a saint himself.
  • Black Comedy: Comedy so black, no light can escape it.
  • Bloody Hilarious: In the first season, Jesse tries to dispose of a body using hydrofluoric acid. In a bathtub. It doesn't work out well for the body, the bathtub or the floor underneath. By the time the floor's weakened enough for the remains of the body to fall through, it's no longer recognizable as human. As long as you don't vomit, you'll bust a gut laughing. Also, the head getting crushed by the ATM.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Where to begin? The drug-cooking school teacher, his attempted Stepford Smiler wife, the Gung-ho DEA agent brother-in-law, the kooky kleptomaniac sister... No wonder "Flynn" wants to change his name.
  • Blofeld Ploy: In the season 4 premiere "Box Cutter", Gus kills a mook just to make a point.
  • Boredom Montage: Used in the episode "Shotgun" when Jesse begins working for Mike.
  • Born Lucky: The amount of things that work out for Walt due to sheer luck are insane. In fact, when Jesse finally turns against him, this is initially why he thinks Hank's plan to corner and Arrest Walt is pointless. As he tells Hank and Gomez, he's practically got the devil's luck on his side.
  • Bottle Episode: "And the Bag's in the River", "Four Days Out" and especially "Fly".
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Jesse, over the course of the show.
    • Skyler in the 3rd season.
  • Break the Haughty: Hank and Jesse. Both go from gung-ho and cocky to grim and introspective as they're beaten down by traumatic moment after traumatic moment.
  • Bribe Backfire: Walt and Jesse's first meeting with Saul.
  • Brutal Honesty: For better or for worse, Walt Jr. is not the type to mince words. If he thinks Walt is being a pussy over his cancer diagnosis, he'll tell him. If he thinks Skyler's a bitch, he'll tell her.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Cousins purchase a pair from an illegal arms dealer before shooting him to see if they work. They do, and the poor schmuck ends up being one of the very lucky few to meet the Cousins and live.
  • But He Sounds Handsome: Walt commenting on Gale to Hank who thinks he was Heisenberg, telling Hank that his "genius might still be out there."
  • Butt Monkey: Jesse's first scene is him falling out of a window with no pants on. His humiliation grows with his success. Walt has been the Butt Monkey his whole life, but the events of the show make him more assertive and aggressive. Which is not really a good thing, it turns out.
  • Call Back:
    • In episode 2, Jesse fails to appreciate how important a plastic bin is when dissolving a body in hydrofluoric acid. Three seasons later, he finally gets to do it properly, saying "Trust us" when Mike questions if it'll work.
    • When Walt serves Krazy 8 a sandwich, Krazy 8 plucks off the crust, which Walter makes a point to cut off when he gives him another sandwich. Ever since killing Krazy 8, when Walt makes a sandwich, he cuts off the crust.
    • A season after they needed it, Jesse tells Badger that the RV should have "one of those buzzers that tells you when you leave the key in the ignition"
    • The scene where Gus fires Walter is pretty reminiscent of Mike's backstory from "Half Measure". One wonders if Gus would have gotten the same speech from Mike if he was around at the time.
  • Call Forward: Jane in "Abiquiú". "I think I just threw up in my mouth a little"
  • Can't Kill You - Still Need You: The main plot of season 4. Gus can't kill Walt and Jesse because he has no one else to cook meth for him. Enforced by Jesse in Season 3 when he kills Gale so that Gus can't kill Walt.
  • Car Fu:
    • Delivered by Walt to two child-murdering dealers.
    • Hank cripples one of the Cousins with it, with just one minute's warning.
  • The Cartel
  • Cassandra Truth: In season three, when Hank helps Walt move his belongings into his van, he lifts one particularly heavy bag, wondering what was inside. Walt's reply? "Half of a million dollars". Hank thought Walt was kidding about it and laughs off his presumed optimism.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: A rare case of the show starting out as a black comedy and the comedy getting blacker and blacker and slightly more sparse in favor of the drama.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • Played straight in "One Minute" where The "on the house" bullet that the Cousins got from the arms dealer is used by Hank to kill one of the Cousins.
    • Also see the season 4 premiere we get Chekhov's Box Cutter and the final shot quit possibly gives us Chekhov's Folder.
    • Subverted in the episode "Crawl Space" when Walt tells Saul to set things up with the man that he said could help him disappear under a new identity if necessary. When Walt goes home to retrieve the necessary money it's been given to Ted by Skyler without his knowledge.
      • However, we finally do meet that man in "Granite State" when Walt gets a new identity and skips town. He's a very prominent character in that episode, too!
    • Walter's gun, literally, throughout all of Season 4. It is however used as a prominent prop in various scenes where its presence alone has either thematic or plot-relevant resonance. However, he doesn't actually use it until the end of the final episode.
    • Subverted with the ricin-poisoned cigarette in season 4, which disappears. Walt makes Jesse believe that Gus used it on Brock, but he was lying.
      • Much like with Saul's "disappearing guy", the ricin cigarette is finally used in Season 5. Walt uses it to kill Lydia as a way to tie up loose ends involving her and Madrigal.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Seemingly one-shot characters would routinely come back with more importance to the story, such as Skinny Pete and Badger.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Walt training himself to fast draw his pistol in season 4 apparently becomes a waste of time when he realizes he'll never get a chance to use this ability against Gus, but then he uses it to rescue Jesse at the end of the season.
  • Chessmaster:
    • Gus is gradually revealed to be one of these, a reputation cemented halfway through Season 3 when he architects the death of the leader of the cartel.
    • Walt gradually becomes one as well as horrifically revealed in the last shot of Season 4. Season 4 is basically a chess match between Walt and Gus, which Walt wins.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Played with. Tomas is an 11-year old murderer, but he was coerced into it.
    • Jesse strongly believes in this trope. For one, when Jesse's family's housemaid found a marijuana joint that his parents initially believed was his but actually belonged to his overachieving younger brother, he took the fall, and later stomped on it to prevent him from smoking it. Jesse also pulled out on selling meth to a woman he met in rehab when he discovered she had a child. Both his exit from the meth business as well as his later betrayal of Walt are prompted by events where children were hurt: when Todd murdered an innocent boy for the former, and when he found out Walt poisoned Brock for the latter.
  • Cliff Hanger: A number of episodes, though only season 3 has come close to having the season finale variety.
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime:
    • In the first season, Skyler confronts Walt about his odd behavior and consorting with Jesse Pinkman. He tells her he's been buying pot from Pinkman. She immediately confronts Pinkman at his house.

Jesse: "And why'd you go and tell her I was selling you weed?"
Walt: "Because somehow it seemed preferable to admitting that I cook crystal meth and killed a man."

    • Skyler explains away all of Walt's bizarre behavior and sudden, inexplicable funds with an elaborate lie about a card counting spree in underground casinos.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • Walt, who lies in order to conceal his drug activities as well as out of a sense of pride.
    • Skyler eventually shows that she's a much better liar than Walt when she wants to be.
  • Continuity Nod: The teddy bear eye in season 2, and Walt's method for disposing of a body with acid in the season 4 premiere.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Everything involving the midair collision in the season 2 finale.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: After Jane's death Jesse can be seen cradling his cell phone, then calling her number just to hear her speaking on her voice mail, until her line is finally disconnected.
  • Creepy Twins: Marco and Leonel Salamanca. They rarely ever say a word, and will gun down scores of people without a second thought when they're in pursuit of a target.
  • Crime-Time TV
  • Cross Referenced Titles: "The Cat's in the Bag..."/"...And the Bag's in the River", "No Mas"/"Mas", "Half-Measures"/"Full Measure". There's also the "737"/"Down"/"Over"/"ABQ" foreshadowing.
    • Extra props to the "737" title because within a few minutes of the episode, Walt has calculated that he'll need roughly $737,000 to support his family for up to ten years after he's gone.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Walt is mad at his wife for being upset about his being a crystal meth manufacturer, that when she won't let him come in the house, he takes the pizza he bought on the way over (which he ordered uncut) out of the box and flings it on the roof. It lands perfectly. It's reported that the actor Cranston actually got the pizza on the roof perfectly on the first try.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Gus owns quite a few legitimate businesses that would see him living quite comfortably on their own. The fact that he must "hide in plain sight" means that he cannot actually spend all the millions that he's raking in through his illegal meth trade. What's the point of it, then? A flashback episode in season 4 suggests that his entire meth enterprise has been fueled out of a desire for revenge against the cartels that murdered his partner and humiliated him.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Hermanos" in season 4 for Gus. The episode focuses more on him than any other character and gives a look into his Mysterious Past and provides a lot of subtext for his relationship with the Cartel, Tio in particular.
  • Description Cut: Done several times; one particularly notable one involves a couple of addicts who have stolen an ATM machine saying that they've committed a "victimless crime", followed by a cut to a shot of the clerk at the store from which they stole the ATM lying shot to death in a pool of blood.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Walt seems to have reached one in the beginning of the episode "Salud", after getting the shit beaten out of him by his surrogate son Jesse. However, his real son helps him through it. He promptly returns to it in "Crawl Space", when he learns that Gus declared him and his family free game and all of the money they had was given to Ted Beneke by Skyler. And Ted is now dead, with the money given to the IRS. He slips into this one last time in "Ozymandias", when he's forced to watch Jack Welker gun down Hank and goes catatonic as a result.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: Not related to the main plot, but honestly, can you say anything else about the end of "ABQ"?
  • Dies Wide Open: Jane starts choking when she's asleep. When she finally dies, her eyelids slide partially open. She's seen later with her eyes still open.
  • Directed by Cast Member: As if being the best actor on TV wasn't enough, Cranston also directed the Season 2 and 3 premieres.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • During the climax of Season 3's finale, Walt pretends to be one when Mike is about to kill him. He acts like he's going to sell Jesse out, only to order him to kill Gale right before going from panicky to smug as Mike and Victor realize that they've been had.
    • If you're looking for a proper example though, there's Lydia, one of Gus' main co-conspirators among the higher ups at Madrigal. She's a jittery nervous wreck who's willing to sell out her allies and have them arrested or killed in order to save her own skin.
    • When Walt guns his gang down and Jesse strangles his nephew to death, Jack shows no concern for them in his final moments. He's shot in the middle of bargaining with Walt for his life. With that being said, he does go out with some dignity since he keeps his cool even with a gun pointed at him.
  • Disposing of a Body: Walter and Jesse dispose of bodies with acid, to the point that Mike decides that it's their specialty.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: When Walt refuses some charity from an old friend out of pride and a lingering grudge, the friend can only react with shock and pity. This enfuriates Walt into delivering a Precision F-Strike.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Drugs Are Bad, m'kay... but a guy in a gas mask pouring a beaker of pure Mad Science into a bubbling flask of Technicolor Science with thick white clouds of Deadly Gas pouring over the sides, all mixed into a Hard Work Montage set to funky music... that's pretty damn cool.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Hank asks Walt to place a tracking bug on Gus's vehicle, he utters this remark:

"Walt, don't make me beg here. Just stick it in there!"

  • Dramatic Irony: The show is absolutely filled with dramatic irony. It's difficult to count the number of times a major drug dealer or manufacturer has a casual, friendly chat with a DEA agent or someone they intend to kill.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him Ted's exit from the show is exceptionally anticlimactic and hilarious. When two of Saul's Mooks confront him in his home and he runs away only to trip on a rug, bang his head on a table and end up crippled for life, much to the Mooks' dismay.
  • Dropped a Bridget On Him: Hank's prewedding jitter Hank still doesn't seem to understand...
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Walt dealing with the awful news that his cancer is in remission. Dragging his underage son into his tequila-slugging match is something of a Kick the Dog moment.
    • Walt does it again with Jane's father.
    • Walt attempts to do this with Mike as a way of cooling off tensions between them. Mike goes along with it... and then beats him up.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A major theme of the show. Walter makes a deal with the devil to provide for his family after his death with drug money. As a result, he becomes a hardened murderer and manipulator, his relationship with his family is irreparably damaged, and his brother-in-law is nearly killed. Jesse, for his part, loses his family, kills a person, gets his girlfriend killed, and almost dies several times. Jesse's addiction and attempts to cope with his suffering also locks him into a downward spiral.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: When Walt and Jesse are stuck in the desert in the RV after the battery dies, Jesse starts throwing out suggestions including stripping down the vehicle to make either a robot or a dune buggy (he was a bit delirious). Believe it or not, this helps Walt strike on the solution that actually does save their lives.
  • Dumb Blonde: Skyler pretends to be a ditzy, slutty secretary in order to keep Ted from getting audited by the IRS. Specifically, she acts like a complete idiot so the guy they sent will think his books were cooked by complete accident as opposed to willful malice. It works.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Hector Salamanca of all people gets one, giving Gus one last look of hate before blowing himself up and taking Gus with him.
    • Just after that, Gus walks out of the room, alive and well, not aware that he's lost half of his face. He straightens his tie before falling over, dead.
  • Ear Worm: In-universe example, for Walt the catchy theme song for a furniture store’s late-night commercials where he bought Walter Junior’s crib 16 years ago. "Don’t let shopping strain your brain-o, Just sing this short refrain-o, Our furniture is buen-o, Tampico is the name-o!"
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Bryan Cranston's Bald of Awesome and Beard of Evil are now iconic for the show, so people might be a little startled to see him with a full head of hair and a particularly bad mustache in the first few episodes.
  • Easily Forgiven: Despite trying to kill Jesse in a meth-hungry rage during the climax of "Gray Matter", he welcomes Badger back to the fold with open arms. The same goes with Badger, who isn't too eaten up about Jesse ditching him in the desert and leaving him to die. Safe to say that the writers hadn't quite decided how their relationship would work back then.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Walt's hilarious attempt to shatter a glass office door with a potted palm tree; the only thing that broke was the tree. Well, and Walt's composure. Oh, and then he got dragged outside by staff
    • Walt discovers a housefly in the meth lab. He begins trying to swat the fly, but it's just too fast for him. Growing increasingly frustrated, he spots the fly on the ceiling and throws his shoe at it--and ends up breaking an overhead light, raining glass down on himself. His shoe gets stuck in the light fixture. THEN, he goes up on the catwalk to dislodge his stuck shoe... and falls off the catwalk, landing painfully on the floor. Just to make things worse, the fly then lands on his glasses.
    • Literally referred to in Season 4. "Epic fail, I believe that's what the kids call it these days".
    • When Huell and Kuby force him to pay his taxes, Ted makes a run for it the first chance he gets. Except the idiot doesn't even make it out the front door. He trips over a mat, falls, and bangs his head on a table so hard that he's crippled for life. Then a bowl of oranges falls off the table and hits him just to add insult to (literal) injury.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The teddy bear in the pool, as well as a doll in the background of a derelict junkie house in season 2.
  • Enemy Mine: How Walter gets Hector Salamanca to kill Gus.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • A flashback reveals that the Salamanca kids have had this stomped into them by Hector. Tuco cares for his tio in spite of being an Axe Crazy meth-head drug lord, and the Salamanca twins make an arduous journey into America to avenge Tuco. Even Hector seems to genuinely love the younger Salamancas despite his horrible parenting: the Cousins come to America to avenge Tuco's death on his orders, and when Gus torments him with the knowledge of their deaths, he seems to be genuinely heartbroken.
    • Walter, rapidly losing any moral high ground he might have started with, still loves his family.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • For all his faults, Walt will not kill anyone in his family no matter how much of a risk they pose to his operations. When Saul suggests sending Hank on "a trip to Belize" once he finds out that Walt is Heisenberg, he's genuinely disgusted with him.
    • Saul himself is disgusted with the idea of hurting children. When Walt used him and Huell to poison Brock, he's absolutely livid when he realies what he did.
    • Subverted. Gus acts insulted when Walt accuses him of murdering a child, then later reveals that he's quite willing to such a thing, and more, if it suits his purposes.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In-Universe.

Walt: Ice Road Truckers. What happens on that one?
Jesse: Guys drive on ice.

  • Face Framed in Shadow: Very often; numerous important conversations have the lighting do this for both characters, switching back and forth between shots of their faces.
  • Face Heel Turn:
    • The whole series is one big one for Walt.
    • Gus, who initially appears to be a nice friendly man who runs a chicken restaurant and sells drugs on the side to being revealed as an utterly ruthless drug overlord who uses the restaurant as a front Of course, he's able to switch back and forth between his two personalities within the same scene.
  • Facial Horror: Gus' death.
  • Fake American: Walt's former friend Elliot is played by Brit Adam Godley with a mostly flawless accent. He does slip up a few times, but only when Walt confronts him in the finale.
  • Fan Service:
    • Jane does quite a bit of it in the second season, since she's often wearing clothes that flatter her figure or nothing at all.
    • The boob shot in the pilot. An erotic sight, but it can also be a startling one if you're rewatching the series and forgot there was actual uncensored female nudity here since there isn't anywhere else in the show.
  • Filler: Walt and Jesse spend an entire episode trying to kill a fly. There's a lot of characterization going on, but this is probably the closest this series is ever going to get to a pure filler episode (and textbook Bottle Episode).
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Walt and Jesse.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Skylar threatens to tell the police about Walt's uh... drug problem if he doesn't sign the paperwork, which he refuses to do.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Several Cold Opens in season 2 reveal progressively more of a mysterious crime scene, the circumstances of which are not revealed until the finale. Moreover, the titles of the episodes spell out the impending disaster: "737"/"Down"/"Over"/"ABQ"
    • A lot of the chemistry classes in the first season, like the one about explosions. Walt's lecture on chirality doesn't appear to have any relevance on anything later in the episode until your remember that methamphetamine is a chiral molecule.
    • "Lie on your side, or you might choke."
    • In "Over", Jesse wants to bring Jane breakfast in bed, but she walks on him in the kitchen. He says "You weren't supposed to wake up", and she responds "Ever, or...?"
    • The water heater. Walt Jr. mentions it in the first episode of the first season, and its breakdown in Season 2 starts Walt Sr. on a home repair spree.
    • You can tell Hector wants Gus dead early in their confrontations, but it doesn't appear to mean much as Hector can't do anything. Come the Season 4 finale, however, he finally gets his revenge... and sorts out Walt's problems at the same time.
    • In the season 2 premiere, you see Skyler looking fondly of old photos of her and Ted after she and Walt start having marriage troubles. Ted isn't even introduced at that point and doesn't appear till 6 episodes after.
    • Madrigal Electromotive Gmb H, a faceless international conglomerate, was first mentioned significantly in Season 4, when it is revealed that the company owns the industrial laundry that houses the superlab. Interestingly, though, it was stated as the owners of Los Pollos Hermanos in the fine print of a television ad in Season 3. Come Season 5, the company itself gets quite a bit of focus when the feds come knocking in the wake of Gus' death, and employee Lydia Rudarte-Quayle becomes an important supporting character.
  • Gambit Roulette:
    • Walt poisoned Brock with a not-quite lethal poison and stole the ricin cigarette from Jesse, hoping that Jesse would realize he was poisoned, assume Walt did it and come after him. Then he had to convince Jesse that Gus had planned to the whole thing, right up to Jesse holding a gun to his head. It worked (almost) perfectly, but relied on a lot of luck.
    • Gus' wholesale poisoning of the cartel in "Salud" also depended on a lot of luck.
  • Genius Bruiser: Hank initially comes off as tough, over-bearing cop who's main skills are kicking down doors and surviving gun battles. As time goes on, however, he reveals himself to be a pretty brilliant investigator. He basically deduces Gus's entire operation from his hospital bed, when no one else suspected a thing.
  • Genre Savvy: Badger correctly susses that a customer looking to buy meth is a police officer, and also spots the two conspicuously inconspicuous vans parked nearby. Immediately subverted when Badger falls for the old "A police officer can't deny he's one if you ask him directly" urban legend.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • After Marie's bet with Hank over whether he can still get erect after being hospitalized.
    • Also in the season 4 finale, when Marie forbids Hank to leave the house and go to the DEA after they receive a tip about an assassination planned on him.. Cue Hank in the DEA. Also doubles as an ironic echo for the previous situation.
  • "Glad to Be Alive" Sex:
    • In the first episode, Walt with Skyler after just escaping two drug dealers who were about to kill him and a fire that one of them set accidentally. A few more times in later episodes as well.
    • Subverted in the season 2 premiere, Walt returns home from a traumatic ordeal and needs some sexual healing from his wife. His abrupt and unwelcome advances escalate into a Near-Rape Experience.
  • Gorn: Not every episode, but at least once or twice a season something mind-blowingly gruesome happens.
    • Several dissolved corpses over the course of the show.
    • Gus Fring's death.
  • Hate Sink: While most of the show's big villains are cool or have something resembling a redeeming quality, that isn't the case for these guys.
    • Tuco is the first big example, being a terrifying nutcase who brutalizes people at the drop of a hat and spends most of his screentime terrorizing Jesse and generally acting like a standoffish dick at best. Try not to cheer when Jesse finally fights back and shoots him in the gut. Or when Hank pumps him full of lead.
    • "Spooge" and "Skank" are psychotic meth heads who horribly neglect their very young son, and care far more about bickering with each other, getting high, and ripping off ATM's than they do about making sure his needs are met. When Jesse is forced to break into their house and make them give up the meth they stole, they spend every second acting as obnoxious and crude as humanly possible, culminating in Skank crushing Spooge's head with an ATM after he called her "skank" one too many times.
    • Gus and Mike's henchmen Victor and Tyrus lack their bosses' many cool or likeable traits, and are cold, creepy dickheads who love belittling and antagonizing Walt and Jesse.
    • While he's a white-collar criminal who never physically hurts people, Ted Beneke makes up for it by being spineless, cowardly, and moronic to ludicrous extremes. Whether it's hiding from Walt when he has an affair with Skyler, nearly destroying their lives as a consequence of being audited, or being responsible for Skyler's cringeworthy "Happy Birthday" scene, you will absolutely want to reach through the screen and strangle this idiot for making everyone's lives worse with his bullheaded stupidity.
  • The Hero Dies: The show ends with Walt's death
  • Heroic Blue Screen of Death:
    • Jesse when he finds Jane dead. He has to be slapped out of it by Mike who wants him to tell police that he "woke up, he found her, that's all he knows."
    • Jesse in the Season 4 premiere, too shaken up to even flee the crime scene.
    • Walt at the end of "Crawl Space" after Skyler tells him she gave the money they needed to escape Gus to Ted Beneke.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Hank in Season 3.
    • Jesse's soft-heartedness is also unexpected for Walt as well as the audience.
    • The flashback to Gus' past may count as well.
  • Hollywood Acid: Hydrofluoric acid, Used twice in the series to dispose of bodies by Walt and Jessie. Hydroflouric acid is highly corrosive and will dissolve a human body completely. Its effects are portrayed more or less realistically, though the handling of it is Hollywood Science.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Skyler tracks Jesse's number through a website and somehow ends up on his homepage.
  • Hollywood Science:
    • Hydrofluoric acid will kill you dead if you breathe the gas it produces or get any on your skin. Using the chemical safely in real life requires a full body suit, as opposed to casually wearing aprons and masks. The less lethal sodium hydroxide would work much better.
    • Mercury-(II) Fulminate is normally a powder. Mind you, Walt is meant to be a badass crystallographer, but even assuming he could make it into crystals and somehow not accidentally cause a reaction and somehow make it potent enough to wreak that much havoc, he'd still be dealing with lungfuls of poisonous gas.
    • Walt suggesting he's gonna make phenylacetone in a tube furnace like it's the most natural thing in the world. It isn't. However, this is in reference to Uncle Festers' Guide to Making Amphetamine, which advocates the use of this process as it evades several legal restrictions on ingredients and even has instructions to building your own furnace. Of course, Walt is enough of a badass chemist to know how to do this without reference material.
    • Some of this is probably deliberate, as they likely didn't want to give real life criminals too much help. Though that didn't stop a handful of Moral Guardians and complete idiot celebrities from claiming the show actually teaches people to make meth. The rest is likely Rule of Cool and Acceptable Breaks From Reality.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted in Episode 313, "Full Measure."
  • Hope Spot: Inverted with Gus Fring's death. After Tio detonates himself, Gus Fring walks out of the gutted room, seemingly fine...and the viewer's stomachs drop as they think the plan failed. Then the camera pans to show half of Gus's face gone.
    • Played soul-crushingly straight with Jesse's attempt at escaping the neo-nazi compound in "Granite State". He saws off his chains, slips out of his cell, and makes a run for it... only to be met with a barb-wire fence and security cameras. Jack and his men corner him, but instead of the physical torture they inflicted him with earlier, they go for the emotional kind by killing Andrea as punishment. While forcing him to watch.
  • Hot Mom: Skyler's definitely got it going on. The same goes for Andrea, Brock's mom.
  • How We Got Here: The episodes "Pilot", "Crazy Handful of Nothin'", "Grilled", "Breakage", "ABQ", and "Bug".
  • Humiliation Conga: Season 4 is one long one for Walt.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Several season 2 episodes basically clue the viewer in on the initially out-of-the-blue disaster which closes the season.
    • Several episodes such as "Negro Y Azul", "Mandala", "No Mas" and "Salud" among others have titles in spanish.
    • "I.F.T", "I fucked Ted."
    • Season 4 has had the habit of naming a lot of its episodes after objects that play into that episode's story to some degree: "Box Cutter", "Thirty-Eight Snub", "Shotgun", "Bug," "Crawl Space" and "Face Off"
  • The Igor: Jesse; Gale.
  • Implied Death Threat: While it's made clear that actually killing Hank is, and always will be off the table, Walt exits the conversation where Hank reveals that he knows he's Heisenberg by dropping one of these.
  • Incurable Cough of Death:
    • Walt's coughing in the pilot is a sign of his cancer.
    • Subverted; in the episode where he starts coughing up blood, it turns out that his cancer is going into remission and that was just a relatively minor secondary condition.
    • Averted by Mike, who's got a chronic cough but is otherwise a textbook example of a Badass Grandpa. When he bites it, it isn't because he got sick.
  • Indy Ploy: Walt's "thinking on his feet" attempts to obscure the truth about his second life. Much of it in the first season revolves around making up lies to tell his wife. She gets wise after a while. He comes up with more dramatic ones to throw off Hank. In one episode he drives up in front of him and to say hello in order to block his view during a sting. In season three, he pulls some spectacular shit out of his ass to get Hank away from the RV in the salvage yard. In the fourth season, he gets into an auto accident to prevent Hank from scoping out the laundry.
  • Infant Immortality:
    • Subverted towards the end of Season 3.
    • But then played straight in Season 4.
  • In-Joke: In the pilot, Hank's irresponsible and unsafe demonstration of the .40 caliber Glock 22, followed by his interview on Channel 3, is a reference to this video.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hank collects "minerals," not "rocks."
  • In Vino Veritas:
    • Walt lets it slip that he has a second cell phone whilst under the influence of anesthetics prior to his cancer surgery, thus beginning the unraveling of his web of lies.
    • Walt also lets his pride get the better of him while drunk and shoots down Hank's notion that Gale is Heisenberg.
    • Subverted in "Fly" when Walt comes this close to telling Jesse about his role in Jane's death.
    • After taking prescription pain medication, Walt calls his son by Jesse's name.
  • It Got Worse: This is pretty much the show's M.O.
  • It's for a Book: When Skylar thinks that Walt is smoking pot, she asks Marie about how could it affect someone, claiming that it's for a short story she's writing. Marie doesn't fall for it, but she thinks it's Walt Jr. who is smoking pot.
  • It Will Never Catch On: When Gus and his brotherly friend pitch the idea of mass producing meth to a cartel don in Mexico in a flashback to the 1980s, the don and his associates laugh it off.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Walter's brother-in-law, Hank, is a loud, lewd and frequently obnoxious DEA agent. This is partly due to the culture of the police department and partly due to being a Sad Clown. He's a decent man underneath the bluster.
    • Jesse is an abrasive, thickheaded junkie, but underneath it all he's far gentler than Walt.
  • Jittercam: The show is shot mostly on handheld cameras, with the camera operators told to be as still as possible when filming, which results in minor but noticeable jitter.
  • Justified Criminal: The main crux of the series, though pride is a big factor too, showing justification really only exists in Walter's mind. The show is arguably a Deconstruction of this concept.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Normally the Big Bad poisoning an about a dozen unarmed people in one sitting would be harrowing, but when it's the governing body of the Mexican cartel its hard not to give him a pass.
  • Killed Off for Real: Any characters that die on the show stay dead, though some return in flashbacks. As of season 5 that list includes: Krazy 8, Tuco, Tortuga, Combo, Jane, The Cousins, Gale, Victor, the Cartel bosses, Hector Salamanca, Tyrus, Gus, Drew Sharp, Mike, Declan, Gomez, Hank, Andrea, Todd, Jack, Lydia, and finally, Walter White himself. Needless to say if you take a supporting role on this show you should probably keep your resume current.
  • Kitschy Local Commercial: Saul Goodman's ads. "Better Call Saul!"
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: In "Fly," Walt tellingly adds the birth of his daughter as an after-thought, seeming to place more importance on the first million he made as a reason to have not dropped dead.
  • Laughing Mad: Walt's reaction when Skyler tells him she gave Ted the $600,000 they needed to escape Gus, who said he would kill them all if he interfered in tipping off the DEA about the hit on Hank... which Saul had done on his orders mere minutes before.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "High school teacher turned meth dealer, brother-in-law's in the DEA? That'd make one hell of a story..."
  • Let's Get Dangerous: A big draw of the show is watching the timid, suburban dad with a bit of a chip on his shoulder turn into a diabolical mastermind when his back is to the wall or he's just had enough.
  • Locked in a Freezer: "4 Days Out", where Walt and Jesse are lost in the desert with no water and a flat battery.
  • Logical Fallacies: When Skyler and Walt are practicing blackjack, Skyler acts like Walt knows nothing about the game because Walt lost the few hands they played. Actually, Walt made decent to good plays, but simply got unlucky twice.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The central premise of the show, with a side order of crazy.
  • MacGyvering: Walt often uses his chemistry to solve practical problems,
    • Walt makes thermite with the aluminum powder from an Etch-a-Sketch.
    • The makeshift battery made from sponges, bolts and brake pads was pure grade-A vintage MacGyvering.
    • Walt makes a bomb, mostly from stuff he's got lying around.
    • Walt makes ricin from the chemicals he's got in his lab.
    • When Mike uses a plastic zip-tie to cuff him to a radiator in "Buyout", Walt tries to break a coffee pot and use the broken glass to cut himself free. Unfortunately, he knocks the pot too far way to reach. So instead, he bites open the cable and uses the wires to burn the ziptie off.
    • We get perhaps the show's grandest example in the series finale, where Walt booby traps the trunk of his car with a mechanism that will fire sweeping rounds of automatic machinegun fire when he pops it open. He uses this to clear out Jack Welker's entire neo-nazi compound. And he succeeds!
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Subverted by Gus. He doesn't believe in using fear as a motivator as Mike suggests. Season 4 on the other hand...
  • Marijuana Is LSD: Jesse sees two men in white shirts who want to talk to him about Jesus as hulking, leather-clad thugs with machetes and hand grenades after smoking methamphetamine. Meth isn't a hallucinagen, but it can cause paranoia and long periods of sleep deprivation, which can cause hallucinations.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Heisenberg is the quantum physicist who came up with the 'uncertainty principle': Walt's diagnosis with cancer means his future is uncertain (and that of his family). Also, his nefarious activities and constant lies to Skyler indicate that his character is uncertain, even to those closest to him.
    • Saul Goodman's name is pronounced like "'S all good, man". This may be intentional on Saul's part, as he tells Walter that his real surname is McGill, and he changed it to appeal to Albuquerque's criminal underclass.
  • Mega Corp: The German company Madrigal Electromotive, which owns Los Pollos Hermanos and the laundromat hiding the superlab.
  • Midair Collision: Season 2 finale.
  • Mood Whiplash: So, so much. The show goes from comedy to tragedy and back at the drop of a hat.
  • Motivational Lie: In the season 4 finale: Walt convinces Jesse that Gus tried to poison a child with Ricin to get Jesse on his side.
  • My Rule Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Hank gets into a legal debate with the junkyard owner while Hank is trying to break into the RV, which contains Walt, Jesse and their meth lab.
  • Naked Apron: Walt wears a lab apron over his tighty whities in the pilot. He still gets confused for being a nudist, though.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Tuco is very fond of this.
    • In season 3, Hank does this to Jesse.
    • In season 4, Mike does this to Walter.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine:
    • Gus invites Walt to his house to cook dinner with him in one episode. Which at the time seems harmless, but in retrospect...
    • A season later, Gus invites Jesse for dinner while Walt and Jesse are actively conspiring to kill him and Gus is trying to manipulate Jesse into letting Walt be killed.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Something that happened on a 4th of July weekend at Gretchen's father's place that precipitated Walt and Gretchen's falling out. Vince Gilligan and Gretchen's actress Jessica Hecht later confirmed that Walt cut ties with Gretchen due to feeling inadequate after realizing that she came from old money.
    • Gus's history in Chile causes the cartel to spare him even though they just killed his partner in front of him.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: A lot of it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • After the CID catches onto Ted's book cooking, Skyler saves him from prison time by acting like a Dumb Blonde who hopelessly screwed up the company's ledgers completely by accident.
    • People that only know of Saul Goodman's public persona as a sleazy ambulance chaser tend to rather underestimate his competence in serious matters. Badger getting arrested and Jesse buying his house back are just two examples.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: In "Cat's In The Bag..." Hot Mom Skyler inadvertently enters a "certain" website.

MILFs? What the hell is a MILF?

  • Obstructive Vigilantism: Hector Salamanca goes in to testify against Jesse, but he doesn't actually tell the cops anything. He takes a nasty shit in the interrogation room and immediately leaves.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Walt and Jesse when they discover that Krazy-8 wasn't killed by the fluorine gas.
    • Gus noticing that Tio's bell isn't chiming, because the clapper's been replaced with a bomb that he's just triggered.
  • One-Dollar Retainer: Kidnapped by Walt and Jesse, shady lawyer Saul Goodman essentially solicits a one-dollar retainer from both of them in the second season episode "Better Call Saul", in a bid to keep them from killing him by becoming their lawyer.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Old Joe, the crooked owner of the junkyard where Walt wants to dispose of the RV. When Hank gets mixed up in the action, Joe stalls him long enough with some pretty extensive knowledge of law.
    • Also, the weapons dealer in "One Minute."
  • The Oner:
    • In the final scene of the episode "Bug," Jesse begs Walt to teach him the full formula, going through a long, tortured explanation of how Gus wants him to teach it to the Cartel in Mexico, all shot in one take. Quite an acting tour de force by Aaron Paul.
    • Also, the final shot of "Crawl Space."
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Injuries and healing times are depicted generally quite realistically on this show. Hank's road to recovery is unusually (but realistically) long and grueling.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Walt thinks he's this, because he's the only one who hasn't forgotten the drug business is just that, a business.
    • Mike clearly thinks he is, always behaving rationally on the job and looking annoyed when people start going off the rails.
  • Out of Focus: Used to create the twist ending in Season 4.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Drug deals take place in public places, but for another reason in addition to secrecy: if negotiations go badly, people are less likely to shoot each other in public in broad daylight. Walt, in the first drug deal he participates in, sets it in an abandoned junkyard because that's where drug deals take place in the movies.
  • Pac-Man Fever:
    • Averted in one episode. Jesse plays Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing with a girl in a realistic manner; i.e., no button-mashing.
    • Averted again in Season 4 when Badger and Skinny Pete discuss differences in the zombies of Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead with actual references to the games' content.
    • And later, in "Thirty-Eight Snub," Jesse is seen playing Rage. Granted, it's not the real Rage (it's depicted as an on-rails shooter), but hey, it's a real game being played in a real way.
  • Parodic Table of the Elements: The logo plays with the periodic-table boxes for Bromine (Br) and Barium (Ba). An element is also highlighted in each actor's name in the opening credits.
  • A Party - Also Known as an Orgy: Jesse holds quite a few of these. In Season 4 he has a constant, increasingly out of control party at his house 24 hours a day because he can't stand being alone for even a few hours.
  • Past Victim Showcase: Gus Fring likes to screw with Tio Salamanca's head, even going as far as personally delivering Don Elaido's pendant to him after killing him in "Salud."
  • Pet the Dog: Walt and his relationship with Jesse. Jesse has a few moments too.
  • Playing Sick: Walt's fugue state.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Gonzo gets himself killed (funny story), the DEA raid Tuco's headquarters. Walt and Jesse incorrectly believe that Tuco is killing any witness to No Doze's murder and Tuco believed Gonzo disappeared and sold him out. As a result, Walt and Jesse make a plan to kill Tuco, Tuco kidnaps Walt and Jesse and wants them to go to Mexico with him to cook meth.
  • Precision F-Strike: Occasionally used despite being blanked out for broadcast on basic cable.
    • "I fucked Ted."
    • Again in Season 4. "Get the fuck out of here and never come back."
    • Also, way back in the pilot, Walt delivers one to Bogdan when he quits the car wash "Fuck you and your eyebrows!"
    • In "Peekaboo", Walt says "fuck you" to Gretchen.
    • Mike delivers two impressive ones in Season 5. In "Buyoff", he tricks the DEA agents tailing him into thinking he left a dead drop, only for them to be left with a note saying "FUCK YOU". Then there's the end of "Say My Name"...

"Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace".

    • And perhaps the most glorious example comes to us with Hank's last words.

My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself.

  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted; use a hollow point and it gets messy.
  • "Previously On...": Used to recap events seen in previous episodes, as well as give us brief events that are never seen in the show.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain
  • Punch Clock Villain:
    • Mike, a loving grandfather and hitman for the Meth King of South-West USA. Don't make him beat you till your legs don't work.
    • Walt and Jesse become examples as clock-in and clock-out meth manufacturers for Gus, despite being comparatively moral people. It's lampshaded by Jesse. As they walk in to the industrial laundromat that houses their hidden meth lab, he sees the line of workers punching a clock and says, "I'm surprised he doesn't make us do that."
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: OK, so Walt has his money, earned it his way and has survived. But in the process he's killed several people, put massive amounts of drugs on the street, become permanently entangled with dangerous organized crime, and caused the wife and family he was earning the money for to leave him.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Walt, after finding out that he's in remission.
  • Ramming Always Works: Hank only has a few seconds to react before he's about to be shot, so he just puts the SUV in reverse and rams the guy. It works.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The house used as Jesse's house was sold during season two, so they made do with a set of the kitchen for a couple episodes (with the RV blocking the view out the window) before Jesse's parents kick him out. In the next season, they were able to use it again and Jesse moves back in.
    • Krazy-8 was going to be killed in the pilot, but was kept around for two more episodes just because everyone loved working with the actor so much.
    • Vince Gilligan originally planned on killing off Jesse in the first season, but Aaron Paul was so good in the role that he essentially became the second main character.
    • Had it not been for contract issues with Raymond Cruz, Gus would never have been introduced, and Tuco wouldn't have been killed off.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Many people complained that Gus' death scene, in which he walks out of Hector's room and straightens his tie with half his face blown off before falling over dead, was over-the-top. In truth, bombing victims do often survive briefly, and sometimes do weird things like calmly walk around looking for their own severed limbs, before they bleed to death. The body can behave strangely when it's in shock.
    • Walt rigging a mechanism in the trunk of his car so it can fire a machine gun remotely in the Grand Finale likewise tends to come under fire for being way too outlandish, even by the standards of this show. Mythbusters, however, proved that such a thing is indeed possible to make should you have the technical know-how.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: plays around with this. For starters, Jesse and Walt epitomize recklessness (youth) vs. calculation (experience). Hank and Walt similarly reflect this, mainly with the former's direct, almost obnoxious way of dealing with his family and job. However, Jesse plays Blue when dealing with his less smart cohorts Badger and Skinny Pete. Walt and Gus also flip this around: the first acts more out of emotion and concern for his family and (sometimes) Jesse. The latter, who has no emotional attachments the audience knows of (or at least living ones), conducts business the way only a cold-blooded monster would, taking extreme caution to keep his respectable businessman facade while not minding his underlings' (or anyone else's) deaths to keep his outfit operating.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: An entire show of one.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Gustavo's whole life since entering America seems to have been one long plan to position himself for revenge against the cartels. His final coup is quite impressive. He also visits Hector Salamanca regularly to gloat about it.
  • Sad Clown: Hank suffers from panic attacks and later PTSD, but he hides his suffering with his gregarious personality.
  • Sarcastic Confession: In the 3rd season premiere, brother-in-law Hank is helping Walter move out of his home after a falling out with his wife. One black duffel bag is heavy, and Walter isn't supposed to do any heavy lifting. Hank insists, and feels the heft. "What have you got in there, cinder blocks?" Without a drop of Irony, Walter replies, "Half a million dollars in cash." Hank only chuckles and says, "That's the spirit." It happens again in season four, when Hank speculates that the "W.W." dedication in Gale's notebook is "Walter White". Walt jokingly "confesses".
  • Scary Black Man: As polite and friendly as he may seem, Gus is still a drug kingpin and is every bit as brutal as you'd expect a man in his position to be. His henchman Tyrus is cut from a similar cloth, though he doesn't even bother to act friendly. And finally, Huell's not afraid to use his height and weight to intimidate people, though he's a far goofier take on this trope than Gus and Tyrus.
  • Scenery Porn: Makes me want to live in New Mexico.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: When Skyler needs to justify the large amount of cash Walter earned from making meth, she spins a tale about Walt gambling that also explains the fallings-out they had. It's so good Walter himself begins to listen in awe.
  • Series Fauxnale: The fourth season's ending, as well as "Felina", the show's third-to-last episode.
  • Serious Business: You can't have a fly in your meth lab, it taints the product.
  • Shown Their Work: The usage of hydrofluoric acid to dispose a body is actually realistic, since the character of Walt happens to been a chemistry teacher prior to the events of series.
    • In one episode, cold packs were used in the making of improvised bombs. Ammonium nitrate is a common oxidizer, which are found in cold packs.
  • Shouldn't You Stop Stealing?: Thoroughly explored with Walt. Once he achieves his original goal, he attempts to make good on his initial promise to get out of the business. Of course, his cancer temporarily going into remission means he's not going to die when he expected to (a rare case where somebody gets upset that they're not dying of cancer) and Skyler doesn't just accept the "I did it for my family" motive at face value. He goes back to cooking at one point because being the world's best meth cook is the only thing he still has pride in.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Definitely towards the cynical side.
  • Snowball Lie: Pretty much every lie Walt feeds Skyler in Seasons 1 through 3.
  • The Sociopath: Quite a few.
    • Tuco's a terrifying Mood Swinger with non-existent impulse control, often going from soft-spoken or even jokey to screaming and raging at the drop of a hat while beating people bloody for small or even imagined slights. When his beatdown of No-Doze results in his death, he seems genuinely unable to tell that it's his fault and blames Walt and Jesse for not saving him.
    • Tuco's cousins Marco and Leonel are a different flavor of sociopath, specifically the ruthless and emotionless type. They'll slaughter innocent people, even children, without blinking an eye, usually out of convenience or the person being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They also had shitty childhoods, with Hector instilling loyalty to their family through horrific child abuse that molded two innocent children into the monsters they are today. It might explain Tuco's own sociopathic behavior, since all Salamanca children are subjected to Hector's cruel tutelage. Well, that and his meth abuse.
    • While a charming and reasonable man on the surface, make no mistake: Gus is a textbook example of an ice-cold, high functioning sociopath. He's a master manipulator who wins people over with superficial charm, but if anyone earns his ire, whether it's his rivals in the drug trade or employees that are proving to be a liability, he can and will commit horrific atrocities with no trace of emotion or humanity whatsoever. He does have a close friend/possible lover who he mourns to this day, but it's very clear that any goodness in his heart died with Max.
    • Todd Alquist is as nice and soft spoken as they come. But it becomes painfully clear that he has no moral compass whatsoever once he murders a boy who may have been a risk to Walt's carefully-planned train heist and dismisses it with a blunt "Shit happens". He displays no emotion beyond muted, polite stoicism, and empathy is a completely alien concept to him. He isn't malicious or sadistic about it though. In his mind, he's simply doing what needs to be done, the morality of his actions be damned.
      • It's safe to say that a lot of Todd's unsavory traits probably come from being raised by his neo-nazi uncle Jack Welker for most of his life, with Jack himself being a textbook sociopath. He's a competent manipulator who will charm you with his winning smile and "cool uncle" demeanor, only to put a bullet in your head the second you stop being useful to him. He openly laughs at Jesse's tearful confession to the awful crimes he had committed or witnessed, and his morals and values are tied to pragmatism far more than they are to genuine moral scruples. Even though he seems to get along with his gang and nephew, he doesn't even react to their deaths and is more focused on saving his own skin in his final moments.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: Gus Fring fails to realize that Hector's wheelchair has been rigged with a bomb until a moment before it detonates. Cue Oh Crap moment.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: This show is quite fond of this trope. Used to great effect in "Half Measures," in which The Association's bouncy sunshine pop song "Windy" plays over a montage of Wendy the hooker's sad daily routine.
  • Spiders Are Scary: None are used for outright horror, but tarantulas are seen wandering around the New Mexican desert every now and then, and one caught in a jar is used prominently as a twisted Empathy Doll Shot when Todd shoots the boy who caught it.
  • Steal the Surroundings: Two crooks steal an ATM machine. They are shown having difficulty actually breaking into the machine. And then it gets worse, as usual for the show.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Saul Goodman = S'all good, man! Explicitly lampshaded in one of the 'Better Call Saul' promos for Season 4. Badger ends his account by saying that 'S'all good man, cause I called Saul Goodman.'
    • Walt takes the name Heisenberg as his pseudonym. So the show is all about Heisengerg's principles.
    • Minor character Drew Sharp has a name that doesn't seem punny at first until you look at his death scene. You could say that Todd "drew sharp" when he saw him.
  • Stout Strength: While he looks the part of a stereotypical fat cop, Hank's in excellent physical condition and comes out on top in more than his fair share of fights. Huell is also every bit as wide as he is tall, and uses his girth to intimidate people into complying with the demands of his employers.
  • Suicide by Cop: Subverted; the very first scene of the pilot has Walt stand in the middle of the desert road with his gun drawn, consumed with guilt over his meth cooking and killing of Emilio and Krazy-8 (until it's revealed that the latter is Not Quite Dead) while what seems to be police sirens seem to be drawing closer... only for it to be a false alarm.
  • Suspicious Spending: Walt's attempts to justify his ability to pay his medical bills and leave a maassive fortune for his family is a continuous problem. Finding ways to launder the money from his booming drug trade accounts for much of the conflict in many episodes. He never truly solved this problem by the time of his death, and ultimately had to trick Gretchen and Elliott into giving his massive surplus of money to his family in the guise of a generous donation by making them think that his "hired killers" with laser sights trained on them (really Badger and Skinny Pete with laser pointers) would kill them if they refused.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Hank is always in pursuit of the elusive "Heisenberg"...his brother-in-law. Yeah, he's never really close to figuring it out. Or Is He?
  • Taking the Heat:
    • Edward James Kilkelly does this for money. ("The outside hasn't been too kind to old Jimmy").
    • Jesse took the heat for his younger over-achieving brother Jake after their housemaid found a joint that he smoked, and whose parents initially assumed it to be Jesse's.
    • Posthumously, Gale. Hank seems to believe Gale was Heisenberg.
  • Taking You with Me: Hector's final confrontation with Gus.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Walt and Jesse. They do get better over time though. And then a whole lot worse.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • When she says, "Call me a skank one more time," it is not an invitation.
    • Jesse building a contraption to reach the ceiling in the lab and standing on top of it trying to swat a fly.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Tuco is the master of this.
  • There Are No Therapists: Walt is forced to see one after his fugue state incident, but it wasn't a psychological problem to begin with. On the other hand, Hank clearly suffers physchological trauma from his many violence job incidents, yet is never seen getting therapy. He'd probably pretend to be fine anyway.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Jack Welker and his gang are neo-nazis connected to the Aryan Brotherhood. While Jack is as cunning as they come and not without a few Evil Virtues, his Mooks, most prominently Kenny, are your stereotypical dumb and sadistic thugs.
  • Title Drop:
    • In the first episode, Jesse uses the expression "break bad," and it also appears in one of the webisodes.
    • Plenty of the episodes have title drops. See, for example, Season 4, Episode 10 - "Salud".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ted absolutely refuses to pay his taxes, even when the IRS is preparing to audit him and Skyler practically drops the money needed to pay them off in his lap. His stupidity ends up getting him crippled for life when he tries to flee from Huell and Kuby so he can cancel the check they forced him to sign, only to slip, fall, and bang his head.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Show. Walt and Jesse are complete fuckups at first. But the more they immerse themselves in the criminal underworld, the more dangerous and conniving they become.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The season 4 trailer ends with the narrator claiming that "Walter White is not in danger. He is the danger", echoing his speech in "Cornered". It's obvious since the season premiere that in this season Walt is totally, totally in danger.
  • Trash the Set: Walt and Jesse blow up the laundromat superlab at the end of Season 4.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Everybody. If they're not dancing the Conga, then they're playing the tune.
  • Troll: Anytime Hector Salamanca visits the DEA to testify about something, he takes genuine joy out of wasting their time and being as unhelpful as possible. He shits himself out of contempt the first time, and tries to make his interpreter spell out "SUCK MY DICK" and "FUCK YOU" the second.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: In Season 3 Jesse and his cronies attempt to sell methamphetamine to people at recovery meetings. In the end, none of them can bring themselves to do it. "It's like shooting a baby in the face." In fact, Jesse's cronies end up actually going into recovery.
  • True Companions:
    • Walt and Jesse.

"I've got this... nephew..."

    • Jesse and Mike end up becoming fairly close themselves, when the former is taken under the latter's wing in season 4.
    • Tuco, Tio and The Cousins make up an evil version.
  • Ultimate Evil: The cartel. We rarely get exposition on how they relate to the story, and we often see the results of their acts rather than such acts themselves (like the tortoise incident). It's only in season 3 where they start taking an active role in the plot and we begin seeing glimpses of the inner workings of their organization.
  • Unflinching Walk:
    • The Cousins. No matter what's happening.
    • Walt does one after blowing up a Jerkass lawyer's car.
    • Gus does this after being the one to GET blown up.
    • Yet another one occurs right after Walt and Jesse blow up the superlab and before they pull the fire alarm to warn the laundry workers to escape.
    • Subverted when Walt sets up a car to explode and starts calmly walking away. But it takes longer than he was expecting, so eventually he just awkwardly sits down and waits for it.
  • Useless Security Camera: DEA Agent Hank Schrader is trying to interrogate a gas station clerk to find out who sold her some meth. When he finally realizes she knows nothing, he looks up and asks if the security camera is regularly on. It isn't.
  • Vanity License Plate: KEN WINS, LWYR UP, THECAPN, and GRAYMTR
  • Villainous Breakdown: Walt has one in "Crawl Space" when he begins laughing hysterically, though it's more of an anti-hero/villain breakdown.
  • Villain Song:
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Gus, a firm believer in 'hiding in plain sight'.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Skyler's role as an antagonist early on stems purely from her concern for Walt's health and her wish for him to be honest with her.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Used several times in "Crazy Handful of Nothin", when Walt is throwing up because of the chemotherapy.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Walt's son pukes in the pool sick on tequila with Walt and Hank. It's Walt's fault. Then there's Worst Aid...
  • Watering Down: Jesse initially spiked his meth with chili powder before Walt put a stop to that.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: The juxtaposition with meth and other class A drugs only makes Skyler's horror at Walt smoking pot look even more naive. On the other hand, that could be the point - emphasizing the rift between her own and her husband's worlds.
  • Wham! Episode: "Crazy Handful of Nothing", "Phoenix"
    • The endings to "One Minute", "Half-Measures" and "Full-Measure" respectively.
    • "Salud"-after four seasons of build up and some flashbacks we finally get to see some of the main characters in Mexico interacting with the cartel right before Gus wipes out the Don and all his captains in one fell swoop with some poison.
    • Followed immediately by another, even more terrifying Wham! Episode, "Crawl Space".
    • With the deaths of Gus, Tyrus, and Hector and The Reveal that not Gus but Walter poisoned Brock thus finally making the jump to Villain Protagonist the season 4 finale "Face Off" is the latest and perhaps whammiest of all.
  • Wham! Line:

Skyler: Walt, where's your cell phone, did you bring your cell phone?
Walt: {While high on painkillers} Which one?


Hank: Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?


Gus: I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter.

    • It's not spoken aloud, but:

Lily of the Valley


Skyler: Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.

  • Women's Mysteries: When Skyler is detained by a jeweler on suspicion of shoplifting, she fakes going into labor to scare them into letting her go. Or possibly just to get her to stop Lamaze-ing at them.
  • Worst Aid: Walt just let Jane choke on her own vomit, even when he had a chance to prevent it from happening. Especially subtle since he dealt with the same problem just prior with his own daughter and prevented it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A child is among the victims to be killed by Todd, which includes being dissolved in hydrofluoric acid.
  • X Meets Y:
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Season 3 finale "Full Measure" is basically a protracted game played between Walt and Gus.
  • Your Head Asplode:
    • When it's shot with a hollow point bullet, it does.
    • For Gus this happens only halfway.
  • Your Mom: In "Better Call Saul":

Saul: I sense you're discussing my client. Anything you care to share with me?
Hank: Sure, your commercials? They suck ass. I've seen better acting in an epileptic whorehouse.
Saul: Is that like the one your mom works at? Is she still offering the two for one discount?