Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed & Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag…” – click here
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A large Winnebago is barreling down a road out in the desert surrounding New Mexico. Inside there’s a man driving wearing a gas mask and only tighty whitey underwear, in the passenger seat is a passed out man wearing the same (gas mask; not tighty whiteys). After a minor crash, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) runs out and frantically, at the sound of sirens, records a message to his family, tears in his eyes. Then he heads out onto the road confidently, with only a shirt and underwear on, brandishing a gun at the sound nearing him.
Intense opener to a favourite show of mine.


Walt: “My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now.”
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Switching gears, we’re back with Walter lying in bed next to his sleeping wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). There are baby things everywhere. Colour swatches, likely for a baby’s room. On his wall in another room are commendations for scientific work in his name. In the morning, Skyler has a cute 50 spelled in veggie bacon over his eggs – Happy Birthday. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t impressed with that.
At school, Walt drops his son off. Inside, he teaches chemistry to uninterested teenagers. We’ve all been in that position, as teens; I’m sure chemistry teachers know the feeling on the other side. Then there’s the real dick kid who makes it tough on Mr. White, if only for a moment. Part-time Walt also works for a caterpillar-browed man named Bogdan Wolynetz (Marius Stan). Humiliatingly enough the dick student from earlier ends up having his car cleaned by Walt after Bogdan needs him to do a bit of extra work.
It’s after this event, on the way home, we see a great subtle little moment with Walt alone in the car – his glovebox will not close and he repeatedly bangs it up, frustrated. Sort of symbolizes his life at the moment.


A surprise party really does take Walt by surprise at home, late to his own party. Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) is there, along with her husband Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and a ton of others. Everyone’s drinking and having fun. Meanwhile, the loud and boisterous Hank gives a toast to the birthday boy. Then quickly brings everyone to the television where he’s on talking about a big bust. Here is the first mention of meth we see in Breaking Bad. The seizure was big, tons of money. Walt takes notice. Even further, Hank tells him to get a bit of “excitement in your life” offering to take him out on a raid someday. Later, Skyler flicks around on her laptop in bed while trying to jerk Walt off with one hand.
The next day at work Walt has a short coughing fit, which puts him on his face in the car wash. He wakes up in an ambulance with an EMT asking if he smokes cigarettes and Walt has laboured, heavy breaths. Tests at the hospital lead to a cancer diagnosis, naturally leaving the poor guy reeling: inoperable lung cancer.
Only Walt can’t help but focus on the doctor’s mustard stained white overcoat. Then he’s back at home, not telling his wife about what happened yet. Slowly, things begin to feel different for Walt. He’s outside himself almost. Nothing else is important compared to the whopper of a diagnosis he received.


Walt: “Fuck you, Bogdan.”
Bogdan: “What?”
Walt: “I said fuck you, and your eyebrows! Wipe down this.”
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Quitting his part-time job at the wash, Walt has Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steve Michael Quezada) take him for a ride along. They stay stashed outside a house supposedly run by a Captain Cook: he puts a dash of chili powder in his methamphetamine. A SWAT team shows up from the DEA, busting the place in. Out in the jeep, Walt gets information on the way meth operations run, et cetera, from an eager Hank.
But when Hank and Steve head in for a minute, a guy in his underwear slips out the top window of the house, pulling on pants while falling off the roof. A familiar face to Mr. White – former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He takes off in his car, license plate THE CAPN.
Walt catches up with Jesse later, the latter covering his car to avoid any heat. The older of the two makes an offer to “partner up” in the meth business. Walt’s looking for a quick payday cooking crystal.
The relationship between Jesse and Walt in this episode is perfect. “Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?” asks Walt. “No,” replies Jesse, “you flunked me. Remember?”. As a scientist, Mr. White wants to do things perfectly, to make the most excellent product on the market. Only problem is they need a proper place to cook. Jesse knows someone needing to sell a Winnebago. Supposedly. Handing over every last bit of his money to Jesse, Walt puts his trust in him.


Jesse: “Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all a sudden at age, what, 60, hes just gonna break bad?”
Walt: “Im 50
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We start to see a tough side to Walt when he and his wife take Walt Jr out to get clothes. Some people are making fun of Junior who has trouble trying on some pants, due to problems with his disability. But Walt takes the guy down from behind, grinding his foot into the guy’s knee on the floor. He intimidates the guy and his friends, who leave. Junior looks impressed with his father. Is this the change in Walter budding?
Cut to Jesse and Walt out in the desert with a Winnebago. This is their new place to cook. Walt starts to take his clothes off and Jesse’s a little weirded out. In they go with Walt in his tighty whiteys. They start to get things ready and the cook begins. The yield? Glass grace crystal meth.


Jesse: “This is art, Mr. White.”


Trying to sell some of their new work, Jesse goes to see an acquaintance, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Their meeting happens to be a bit tense, ending in a sequence which will bring us back to the episode’s opener.
With Jesse along, Krazy-8 and his cousin go to see Walt with a bag of cash. Not exactly friendly, though. When the cousin, Emilio, recognizes Walt from being with DEA Agents Schrader and Gomez, things go sideways. Using a bit of basic chemistry, Walt outwits the would-be captors and  locks them inside the Winnebago until they suffocate, or at least pass out. Grabbing a passed out Pinkman, the panicking Walt tries to tame a fire started from Emilio tossing a cigarette earlier.
Now, we’re back in the driver’s seat with Walt at the start of the pilot.
I love everything about the episode. Because how it’s filmed has a certain charm to it: both visually appealing, though, it’s not overly complex most of the time. The music, both soundtrack and score, is totally fun. And the plot is just incredibly wild, as well as darkly humorous. This episode sets up a ton of things to come in a vivid, interesting fashion.


A final shot sees Walt running money through his dryer. Then crawl into bed, late, to a worried Skyler. This new life, plus the cancer, is creating a divide between them already. It’s bound to widen. For now, Walt assuages any guilt of his and worry on her part with sex.


The following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag”, will be reviewed shortly. Stay tuned, fellow fans. I know most have already seen this, but hopefully you may find something worth re-reading. I’ve watched the series a few times over, so I want to see if there is anything I might spot a third or fourth time around.

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