Breaking Bad: The 10 essential moments from the first episode
From cancer to cooking
Breaking Bad turned 10 years old at the beginning of 2018, and in celebration of its decade in existence, the cast reunited on the cover of EW (check out more from out Breaking Bad cast reunion right here).
Furthermore, to mark the milestone anniversary of AMC’s critically acclaimed drama centering on high school teacher-turned-meth lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston), we present, in chronological order, the 10 most important scenes from the episode in which the darkness in Walter White first came to light.
Walt's wild ride
Can you name a show that offered a more disturbing and disorienting opening sequence? We see a pair of khakis flying through the air, an RV driving over them, a man in tighty whities (whom we’ll come to know as Walt) in a gas mask behind the wheel, a dude passed out beside him (whom we'll come to know as his partner, Jesse) chemicals spilling behind them and two guys sliding around the floor before the RV crashes. Walt hops out and records a goodbye video to his family — which is not an admission of guilt!— and then stands on a desert road, his gun pointed in the direction of approaching sirens. One question: What the f—?
Wash and (emotionally) fold
You could argue that Walt set his course straight for hell once he became a murderous drug kingpin, but his lowest moment — at least in a sadsack sense — came when he was just a high school teacher moonlighting at a carwash to make ends meet. When one of the washers called in sick, he was demoted from manning the cashier to cleaning a car belonging to one of his students, who, with his girlfriend, laughed at Walt while he toiled away. For the time being, he was the one who buffs.
Walt’s surprise 50th birthday party serves as both our introduction to his loud, cocky, DEA brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) and the first time we’ll see a gun in the hands of the man who will soon be known as Heisenberg. Upon becoming a lethal cook, he’ll look the part when armed (i.e., the finale’s Nazi-killing machine gun), but here, he appears as uncomfortable holding a weapon as a high school science teacher should.
Stage 4 denial
Just when things can’t get worse in his cruddy life, Walt receives some truly terrible news: he is diagnosed with an inoperable tumor, and is told that with chemotherapy, he might be able to eke out a few more years before lung cancer will claim him. Walt is not really listening, though. After numbly summarizing back to the doctor what he was just told, he points out the tiny mustard stain on the doctor’s jacket that occupied his attention while the grim death sentence was delivered. In that moment, Walt became fractured from his old life.
Awkward high school reunion
Imagine running into an old teacher at the worst possible moment? Such was the case for Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), who, while attempting to escape undetected from a DEA raid, is spotted by Mr. White. This gives the dying, aspiring meth manufacturer the idea to visit his former burnout student with an ultimatum: team up or get locked up. “You know the business... and I know the chemistry,” declares Walt. Jesse, a.k.a. Cap'n Cook, is right: This definitely isn’t an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Open eyes, open road
Why does a 60-year-old, er, 50-year-old with a “giant stick up his ass” suddenly break bad? Before they buy their mobile lab and officially become partners in the drug trade, Jesse needs to know the answer. “I am awake,” answers Walt with a smile and shrug. Funny what a death sentence can do to you.
Walt gets a leg up on a bully
After a life of being walked over and humiliated, Walt has had enough. The White family’s shopping trip (big pants episode!) is interrupted by nearby teenagers mocking the disability of Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte). In what appears to be the norm, Walt does nothing and walks away, leaving the defense of their son to Skyler (Anna Gunn). But just as she approaches the group, Walt reemerges through the front door, kicking the leader’s leg out from under him. When the bully gets back on his feet, Walt dares him, "Take it! Take your shot!" Still, not even close to the worst thing he’s done to a kid.
This recipe is a real life-saver
When Emilio (John Koyama) and Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) jump to the erroneous conclusion that Walt and Jesse are working with the DEA, they draw their guns, ready to shoot. Walt switches into frantic negotiating mode, pleading with them to spare their lives and he’ll show them how to cook meth the artful way. It’s the first time we see Walt sandwiched desperately between a desert rock and a hard place — and certainly not the last time he’d bargain his way out.
Things don’t look good for Walt as he takes Krazy-8 and Emilio into the TV and through his cooking process — they’ll likely kill him once he shares the final step of his recipe — but Walt has an old friend on his side: chemistry. Remembering that a meth-making misstep will result in phosphine gas, he creates an explosion that stuns the duo, and runs out of the RV, leaving them inside to inhale the deadly gas and presumably perish. (Though come episode 2, Walt is in for a nasty surprise.) It also foreshadows another chemical explosion that Walt throws in front of another drug lord.
A new man
The recent love life of Walt and Skyler has been less than inspiring, as evidenced by his 50th birthday ending with Skyler trying her hand at pleasuring her husband in a very business-like fashion. But riding the adrenaline of his recent death-defying stunt, Walt returns home with renewed vigor. The couple begin passionately kissing in bed, leading Walt to turn her over and initiate sex, causing a shocked Skyler to moan and ask, “Oh, Walt, is that you?” This scene really takes you, well, behind the transformation.