Vince Gilligan’s wildly acclaimed series "Breaking Bad" has been called the best show of all time on more than one occasion (via Forbes). If awards are anything to go off of, the series’ Emmy wins align with this assessment, seeing as "Breaking Bad" won 16 of them — out of 58 total nominations in its five-season run. Between its skilled cast, impeccable writing, and a plot arc that is captivating from start to finish, the show has been so widely praised with good reason. The series centers on Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a dispirited high school chemistry teacher who finds out he has lung cancer. With the proclaimed motivation of providing for his family, Walt teams up with former student and current drug dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to manufacture and sell crystal meth. However, Walt’s connection to cooking meth soon becomes about much more than his family.
If you’re one of the many fans who have indulged in a rewatch — or several — of the show, you’ll know that the strong, intricate writing makes for countless small details that you only notice the second time around. Out of the countless subtle details in the plot of "Breaking Bad," here are a few of the most interesting ones you’ll pick up on a second watch.
A major death foreshadowed
We all remember the death of Jesse’s girlfriend, Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter); it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments of the show — even in a series that’s full of them. As Goliath reported, Jane’s demise is among the heavily hinted-at twists and is foreshadowed in several moments. The first is a moment in which Jesse is making breakfast for the two of them, intending to bring it to Jane in bed as a surprise. But she gets up before he expects and catches Jesse in the kitchen in the midst of cooking. When Jesse sees her, he sighs and says, "You weren’t supposed to wake up." To this, Jane responds, "Ever?" — a retort that becomes a reality when Jesse wakes up the morning after her overdose to find Jane has died.
The second moment is in the same episode as Jane’s death and involves Walt — who we know actually witnesses Jane overdosing and, deciding that gaining control over Jesse again would be easier with her out of the picture, lets her die. Well, earlier in the episode, Walt and his sister-in-law Marie (Betsy Brandt) are looking over his newborn baby, Holly, whom he has just laid down in her crib. He makes a point of turning Holly onto her side just in case she "decides to do a little spit-up." It’s an easily overlooked moment the first time around, but, during the second, it proves a stark example of the ways in which Walt is living two very separate lives — one of which has become so ruthless that he’ll stand by as an innocent woman, whom his partner loves, dies.
Parallels between Walt and Gus
Walt is, undeniably, an antihero; in fact, his narrative is one of the most skillfully done protagonist-to-antagonist arcs out there. But even antiheroes have antagonists of their own and the major adversary in "Breaking Bad" is none other than Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the drug kingpin who uses his chain restaurant business as a front for his seedy crime ventures. Even though they start off working together, Gus quickly becomes Walt’s enemy, ultimately leading to Gus’ death. This makes it all the more interesting to examine the parallels between the two of them.
In one episode, we see Gus put a towel on the floor in front of the toilet, before he kneels and forces himself to throw up. This towel ritual is later acted out again, but this time by Walt, before he himself vomits. It’s often a cited example for the popular fan theory that Walt takes on characteristics from each person he kills, as laid out in the "Breaking Bad" Fandom site. But, it’s not the only detail that links Walt to Gus.
In the Season 4 episode, "Hermanos," viewers get a look into Gus’ backstory, including the death of his business partner — and heavily implied romantic partner — Max (James Martinez). After Max is killed by Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) right in front of him, Gus is pushed to the ground and forced to look at his dead partner. The shot of Gus’ weeping, bloody face on the concrete is one of the most memorable of the show. This shot then appears again — this time of Walt — in one of the final episodes of the show, after he watches Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) and his gang kill Hank right in front of him. Walt falls to the ground and the close up shot of his traumatized face on the dirt is eerily similar to that of Gus grieving the fate of his partner. It’s a subtle moment that truly bridges the gap between the two drug kingpins — and cements the fact that Walt became as bad as Gus.
"Live free or die"
The first episode of Season 5 is titled "Live Free or Die." The opening of this episode is a flashforward, in which we see Walt using an alias at a diner and driving a car with a New Hampshire license plate. In one moment, there’s a closeup of the plate, which reads the state’s motto: live free or die.
It’s a passing moment, although the close up shot of the plate is attention grabbing, and is of course more meaningful than you would first think, which can be realized when watching the show through again. As the first episode of the final season, it signals that the story is quickly heading toward its climatic ending, something of which those watching the episode for the first time are unaware; viewers have no idea what to expect for the fates of the two main characters, Walt and Jesse. But their endings are directly alluded to in the license plate — one of them lives free and the other dies.
The final shot was mirrored in an earlier episode
In a Season 4 episode, "Crawl Space," Gus not only fires Walt but also threatens him, telling Walt he’ll kill his entire family if he gets in his way again. Panicked, Walt goes to his shady lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), asking about the man he knows who can put him and his family into hiding. Saul begins the process, telling Walt he’ll need $500,000. When Walt returns home, expecting to find the money in the house’s crawl space, it’s gone — Skylar (Anna Gunn) has given the money to her boss to pay off the IRS; if she didn’t, the money owed could possibly expose Walt’s meth business. The episode ends on a shot of Walt from above, lying on the dirt in the crawl space.
It’s eerily similar to the final shot of the whole series that sees Walt bleeding in a meth lab, dying, as the series comes to a close. Some theories, such as from a video from Netflix UK & Ireland about the show’s small details, suggest that the moment in crawl space is the death of Walt, as he becomes fully consumed by his hunger for power and position as the powerful Heisenberg; this would make the final shot the death of Heisenberg, rather than of Walt. Regardless, the parallel image is striking.
The famous pants make a cameo
One of the most famous shots of the series is of Walt’s khaki pants blowing through the wind in the pilot episode. After taking them off and leaving them outside of the RV-turned-meth-lab so that his clothes don’t reek of meth when he goes home to Skylar, the pants fly off when Walt has to unexpectedly drive the RV away in a haste. After all the chaos, he doesn’t get the pants back and the viewers don’t see them again — until the Season 5 episode, "Ozymandias."
In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment: Walt, rolling a barrel of money through the desert, passes directly by a pair of lost khaki pants, almost blending into the dirt. These pants, we can presume, are the same pants that Walt lost several seasons ago. It’s a clever cameo and a satisfying full circle moment for the show that, by "Ozymandias," is coming to a close.