Hey yo, bitches! Let’s do this!
So, to pass the time between now and next summer, I’ll be going back through the old episodes of Breaking Bad and just giving little commentaries and whatnot.
That beautiful hour of television that, somehow or other, got us all hooked. That first little taste of what would one day become Crystal Blue Persuasion. While watching, I was trying to remember what it felt like the first time I saw it, back when I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mean, before this, I never would’ve imagined that I would be blogging so heavily about a TV show, writing posts about poisons, restraining the urge to include chemistry lessons on the difference between meth and methylamine or starting posts with, “Hey yo, bitches.”
When did you first watch? Who or what got you to try this first episode?
For me, it was a culmination of a lot of things. People had been telling me for over a year that I’d love Breaking Bad. Fellow science students, friends, the professor and several students in a TV scriptwriting class all kept singing its praises. I don’t know why I held off for so long. I think partly because I knew it would be intense, and my life at school–taking about 18 credits per term, tutoring 10-20 hours a week on top of that, along with doing my own writing, having a social life and other commitments–is intense enough as it is.
But then we got to the chapter on amines in organic chemistry class and started talking about reductive amination. My prof mentioned this was the reaction they always talked about on Breaking Bad and went on to say that Walter White doesn’t get his formula exactly right because his process is not stereoselective (both the R and S enantiomers would be made). That put the show in mind again. Then that afternoon, I was hanging with a friend and she (again) told me how much I’d like Breaking Bad.
So that night, I was laying in bed trying to find something to watch on Netflix. You know, something to fall asleep to essentially. Breaking Bad came up in my top 10 recommendations. I thought what the hell, I’ll try it. Needless to say there was NO falling asleep during that episode. I actually can’t remember if I watched more that night or not, but I know the next day, as soon as I got home from class, it was all Breaking Bad all the time, for like a week straight.
There was just no going back. I don’t think I’ve ever been into a show this much, and I have really loved the shit outta some shows. But this one just gives you so much to think about and chew on, so much to study in the characters, so much to debate or ponder. And there’s the brilliant writing, the gorgeous cinematography, the out-of-this-world acting, and on and on.
Speaking of cinematography, what a way to start the show. That perfect sky with a few cirrus clouds and the pants falling down. I love the way this show creates images like that, images that will stay with you long after they fade from the screen. And then Walt in his tighty-whities and gas mask, Jesse passed out with his gas mask, the two “dead” guys rolling around in the back as the RV barrels along.
Walt’s message in the video recorder, I think, is very sincere. I kinda miss that Walt.
One thing I noticed this time around is kinda paradoxical. In one way, all the characters are simpler than what we know of them now, five seasons later. But on the other hand, you can see parts of them that emerge later are evident even this early on.
Skyler and Hank are the two characters that I think come off a little less rounded here in the pilot than they eventually become. Hank really seems simple in these early days, a blowhard.
Later on in the series, we see Skyler’s ability to lie in the scene with the IRS guy, or when she tells Marie about Walt’s “gambling problem,” but there’s some of that even in the pilot. She lies to the credit card company about paying her bill, pretends that they must’ve misplaced it or maybe it got lost in the mail.
I had forgotten how much there was early on about their financial predicament. In the ambulance after Walt passes out, he asks if he can just get dropped off on a corner because he doesn’t have great insurance.
As for Walt, I do think the Heisenberg in him was always lurking below the surface. I especially felt it in the scene where he’s cleaning the tires and the kids from his class see him and take pictures. Maybe I was projecting, but I could feel this inner rage in Walt at that point.
Another interesting thing was that Walt asks Hank about how much money meth cooks make (while they’re watching the news at his birthday party) BEFORE he got his cancer diagnosis. It’s probably something that was in the back of his head for awhile. He hated working at the carwash, his students didn’t care at all about learning chemistry, he had contributed to work that went on to win a Nobel Prize and now was working these two jobs and barely making ends meet. You could kinda see that in the back of his mind, he might’ve been thinking, man if I really wanted to make a ton of money, I should just cook some meth.
And then he gets his cancer diagnosis, and that’s the catalyst he needs. I guess my argument is that I don’t think that when Walt is out back by the pool (great, great visuals there) and calls Hank to ask about the ride-along, that this was the first time he contemplated this criminal endeavor. I just think the cancer diagnosis is what made him go from thinking about it to actually doing it. I don’t think the cancer changed him, I think it revealed him. Like drinking often does.
The most “Heisenberg” moment we have in this episode is when he blackmails Jesse into working with him. “You lost your partner today. The DEA took your lab and your money. You have nothing.” Doesn’t that sound eerily similar to some of the things Walt says to Jesse in Season 5? And there’s the coldness in Walt’s voice as he delivers the line. This blackmailing is thought out. Other things Walt does in the episode–as he’s quitting the carwash, after the guys make fun of Jr, even “killing” Emilio and Krazy 8–are all sort of off the cuff, in the moment decisions. But the blackmail is something he decides to do, then tracks down Jesse’s address and does it. Premeditated. And that’s when Walt’s real coldness comes in.
And Jesse. He’s changed a lot from these early days. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is how much Jesse was acting in the early days. In that scene where he goes to see Krazy 8 while Krazy 8 is training the dog, Jesse is acting much tougher than he really is, and I just think it was such brilliant acting on Aaron Paul’s part to be able to portray those layers of Jesse.
And since Saul isn’t around yet for wardrobe commentary, I just gotta say that I love Jesse in red. And I miss his big crazy hoodies and hats from the early seasons.
I’m kinda surprised that the topic of Jr. getting picked on hasn’t resurfaced since this pilot episode. I mean, high school kids can be pretty cruel. I had forgotten how tense that scene was.
We get a really great action sequence in this episode, once Emilio and Krazy 8 show up. I think it’s this part that got a lot of us more hooked than ever, there’s so much drama and suspense as Jesse gets knocked out and Walt cooks the meth and sets off the explosion, then runs out of the RV and the guys are trying to shoot through the door, the fire starts, Walt drives the RV barreling along with Jesse still passed out in the passenger seat in his gas mask, and then there’s the whole scene when he hears the sirens, makes the tape, tries to shoot himself and fails and then stands there in defiance ready to take someone out.
But he gets a pass. The sirens aren’t coming for him. I think there’s something very real about all this. A lot of times, when you do something new, or bad, or dangerous, or whatever, the first time you’re just sure you’re going to get caught, that those sirens are for you. They found you out, you’re a goner. He makes that tape for his family and in it is very sincere, apologetic almost. He thinks about suicide. But then, he doesn’t get caught. I think a lot of the fear, the thinking those sirens were coming for him is because as it’s his first time breaking bad, he’s uncomfortable with it, afraid. But now that he didn’t get caught, he’ll eventually do it again, and become less and less uncomfortable with what he’s doing. He’ll find himself in much more dangerous situations and not be nearly as scared. I just think that whole process of events is very real. There’s a certain paranoia in the beginning that fades with time.
Favorite quotes and sayings from the episode:
“You wanna cook crystal meth?” – Jesse
“At age like what, sixty, you’re just gonna break bad?” – Jesse
“I am awake.” – Walter
“What?!” – Jesse
“cow house” – Jesse
“We’re also going to need an emergency eyewash station.” – Walter – reminded me of chem labs so much. So did seeing all the glassware and Walt’s descriptions of what was used for which processes.
Walt’s whole speech about how chemistry is the study of change. How apropos that is for this series, which is all about change and transformation. I like Walt the chemistry teacher.
Some random factoids about the actual script:
It was originally set in Southern California, not New Mexico.
Jesse Pinkman was named Marion Dupree (so glad they changed that).
There’s a scene where Walt flirts with a sexy physics teacher at the high school.
Hank and Marie’s last name was Weld instead of Schrader.
Walt was 40 not 50. In that scene with Jesse/Marion, he asks Walt if he’s going to break bad at age fifty and Walt replies that he’s forty.
The cancer for Walt was originally multiple myeloma rather than lung cancer.
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