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These are the tropes that knock:

  • 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 pulls off the crust, causing Walter to cut the crusts off every other sandwich he gives him. Ever since killing Krazy 8, when Walt makes a sandwich, he cuts off the crust.
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    • 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."
    • In the Season 5 premiere, Walt makes the number '52' with his bacon to mark his 52nd birthday. Just like Skyler did for him making a '50' on his 50th birthday in the first ever episode, albeit with veggie bacon.
    • The bacon tradition appears again three episodes later in "Fifty-One" with the titular number. This also stands to remind us that at least one more year passes over the course of the last 12 episodes of the series.
    • The unsliced pizza sits atop the White garage for quite a long time.
    • Early in the series a student tries to talk Walt into giving him a passing grade because he got a 58% and says he was "close." Walt refuses. A few episodes later Walt is grading papers and the student gets a 40%. Walter writes "Not even close" on it. In Season 3 when the school is discussing the air crash we see the student again trying to weasel his way into a passing grade by claiming that if a college student's roommate dies he gets passing grades and think that the school here should do the same.
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    • In Season 5, "Confessions", Walt records a video of himself opening with "My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104", just as he did in the Cold Open to the pilot episode. However, in the first tape, he explicitly says that the tape is not to be considered a confession of anything; in the second one, he proceeds "this is my confession", before proceeding to pin everything on Hank.
    • In "Rabid Dog", Skyler says "I knew this would happen! I told you someday someone would show up at our door", a callback to the "I am the one who knocks" speech. Meanwhile, Saul describing Jesse as a rabid dog that needs to be put down echoes Jesse in rehab, confessing to putting down a dog when he's really talking about killing Gale.
    • Also in "Rabid Dog", the attempted setup at the end mirrors the setup from "Better Call Saul" - Jesse, like Badger, is supposed to meet Heisenberg on a bench in a public setting, but is misdirected by a simple coincidence involving another bald man nearby.
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    • The end of "To'hajiilee", when a huge shootout occurs, mirrors a larger-scale version of Hank's shootout with Tuco from "Grilled", the event that first sparked his PTSD and set him on the downward spiral he's been in the entire series.
    • "To'hajiilee" is also the second time in the series Walt stood in that desert with a handgun awaiting a standoff, and the second time he couldn't bring himself to do it.
    • Not long into "Ozymandias", when Walt is rolling his last cash barrel away in the middle of the desert, the pair of pants that blew away in the first episode are visible if you keep an eye on the foreground.
    • A more obvious "Ozymandias" example is the pilot flashback during the intro, returning to show how far Walt has come from the pilot to the ante-penultimate episode.
    • "Granite State": Walt tries to threaten Saul into working for him, like he did in "Live Free or Die", but he's interrupted by a coughing fit. Skyler being interrogated by the cops strongly parallels the scene where Walt finds out about the cancer and Walt Jr tells his father to "fucking die already" - but for different, much darker reasons.
    • In the series finale, Jesse daydreams about building a box, referencing his monologue in "Kafkaesque" where he tells the support worker about the one time he put everything he had into a school project.
    • Also in the finale, the shot of Jesse crying while pointing a gun at Walt is almost identical to the shot from the season 3 finale of him about to kill Gale.
    • The titles of the episodes "Live Free or Die" and "Granite State" are meant to parallel each other, as they're named after the State Motto and State Nickname of New Hampshire, respectively. In the former, we get our first Flash Forward to Walt on the run from the police after moving to New Hampshire. In the latter, we finally get to see how he got there.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • When trying to convince Walter to go into therapy, Walter Jr. delivers one so poignant, it's almost a Tear Jerker.
    • And in Season 5B, he delivers a second one, considerably harsher, after Walter calls him from hiding and tries to arrange for him to receive some of the money he has left.
  • Camera Abuse: When Walter offs Uncle Jack with a headshot, the camera is positioned so that the latter's brains splatter all over it.
  • Camera Tricks:
    • Lots of fancy ones, including camera POV shots. In one POV shot the camera takes the place of a shovel's blade; in another the camera takes the POV of money being put into safe deposit boxes.
    • This show absolutely loves the POV shot up through a solid object and the time lapse shot.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The theme of the series. All characters who do the wrong thing, regardless of their intentions, they pay. Dearly. And their families, too.
    Vince Gilligan: I like to believe there is some comeuppance, that karma kicks in at some point, even if it takes years or decades to happen.
  • 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 when he kills Gale so that Gus can't kill Walt.
    • The characters like to take advantage of this trope by forcibly extending it to cover other characters; Walt knows he's needed, so he refuses to work if Jesse's killed, thereby also making him indirectly "needed". Later, Jesse does the same for Walt.
    • At the end of "Ozymandias", Jesse has become this to Todd.
    • In "Madrigal," Lydia escapes death at Mike's hands because she can provide methylamine. (Yet another "half measure" he should've avoided.)
  • Can't Take Criticism: This goes hand in hand with Walt's ego. When Mike calls him out for his ego getting in the way of business, Walt ultimately kills him.
  • Captain Ersatz: Despite being obviously based on the Aryan Brotherhood, the name of Jack's gang is never stated and the gang's tattoos don't match up with the real-life gang. Of course, their swastika tattoos are meant to primarily communicate this to the viewer.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • In S3 "No Más":
      Jesse: Your windshield’s broken.
    • In S4:
      Walt: What are you doing?
      Skyler: I'm negotiating.
      Walt: Why??
      Skyler: Because I want to pay less.
  • 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: A very violent Mexican one.
  • Cassandra Truth: Whenever Walt protests that he didn't kill Hank. By this point he's known as a Consummate Liar and the murderous kingpin of a meth empire, so no one believes him.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: The Salamanca cousins give away a car they had been using to a family in exchange for some of their clothes. They could've just taken the clothes, but they apparently didn't need the car anymore.
  • Catchphrase: Not so much a specific phrase, but Walter will regularly say something along the lines of "It had to be done" or "That's the last time we'll have to kill anyone".
    • Jesse's "...Bitch!" and "Yo!", with the latter bordering on a Verbal Tic.
    • Walt has said "Everything I've done, I've done for my family" so many times his neighbors might assume it's his ringtone. Of course, he gets constantly called on it, as the more time passes, the less people buy that excuse.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • In one episode, Walt and Jr. watch Scarface (1983), which features Steven Bauer (Don Eladio) in his most famous role, Manny. Mark Margolis, who plays Héctor Salamanca, also appears as Alberto in the film.
    • "Rabid Dog" reveals that the Schraders have the complete Deadwood box set. One wonders if Hank and Marie ever think that the actress who played Martha Bullock looks familiar.
    • Also in "Rabid Dog", Kuby bugs Badger in an attempt to track down Jesse and has to endure three hours of him talking about Babylon 5, of which a pre-fame Bryan Cranston appeared in one episode.
    • One which doubles as an Actor Allusion: in "Face Off," when Jesse is being interrogated by the FBI about Brock's ricin poisoning, Jesse explains that he'd heard about ricin on House. Gonzalo Menendez, who plays one of the FBI agents in that very scene, guest-starred in one episode of House.
  • Celebrity Resemblance:
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Not exactly a light and fluffy show to begin with, but with each successive season the tone becomes tenser and more paranoid, the villains become more powerful and relentless, the characters slip deeper and deeper into amorality and instability, and the comic relief is spread increasingly thin.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The ricin: Having used their original vial in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Tuco during season 2, Walt and Jesse cooked up a new ricin cigarette in season 4 to kill Gus. Walt tried convincing Jesse, ultimately without success, to use it on Gus, and later Walt convinced Jesse that Gus had stolen it and used it to poison Brock, even though Walt was responsible for poisoning the boy, and he actually used Lily of the Valley. In the first part of season 5, Walt planned to use it on Lydia, but changed his mind. Later, Jesse realised that Walt was responsible for stealing the cigarette, and finally turned against him. Over a year later, Walt retrieves it from its hiding place in his now-abandoned home, seals it in a sweetener that Lydia prefers in her tea and places it in the jar at the table where Lydia always sits at the cafe. The last we see of Lydia is her in bed, dealing with the symptoms of ricin poisoning.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • In "Crazy Handful of Nothin", Walt teaches about fulminate of mercury when he tries to explain reactions to his high school students. At the end of the episode, Walt uses the same chemicals to blow up Tuco's lair.
    • Played straight in "One Minute" where the "on the house" bullet that the Cousins got from the arms dealer is used by Hank to shoot Marco in the face.
    • Also see the Season 4 premiere we get Chekhov's Box Cutter and the final shot quite possibly gives us Chekhov's Folder.
    • Saul's identity-eraser guy. When Walt tries to use him in "Crawl Space" he finds out that all their money's been given to Ted by Skyler without his knowledge. In Season 5, Walt suggests that Jesse use him, and he almost does until he finds out about the ricin cigarette. In "Ozymandias", Walt finally uses him in the run from the cops after his family abandons him.
    • Walter's gun, 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.
    • Ted's rug.
    • Jesse's Roomba vacuum robot, which Walt plants the re-doctored ricin cigarette in to make him think it was just dropped on the floor instead of stolen.
    • The gun Mike kept in his getaway bag in "Say My Name".
    • Walt's copy of Leaves of Grass, which the camera makes sure to show in the bathroom in "Gliding Over All" before it becomes very important later.
    • The knives in the flashback that opens "Ozymandias" come into play in the present day when Walt gets home.
    • Lydia's Stevia obsession becomes her undoing.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Seemingly one-shot characters would routinely come back with more importance to the story, such as Skinny Pete, Badger, Combo, Todd, "Uncle" Jack, and the Schwartzes.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Walt's chemistry lectures often foreshadow later events in the episode, either by referring to a chemical process that will be exploited or by metaphorically describing relationships among characters.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • In "Gray Matter", Badger learning the "helicopter" move from working as a sign-spinner. Later in the episode, when Badger and Jesse are fighting over one batch of rejected meth too many (for Badger, at least), he utilizes the move... using Jesse as the "sign".
    • 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 arranges the death of a leader in the cartel and the elimination of two of the relatives of the man he holds responsible for the death of his friend two decades ago.
    • Walt gradually becomes one as well as terribly revealed in the last shot of Season 4. Season 4 is a chess match between Walt and Gus, which Walt wins.
      • Walt becomes an even bigger chessmaster in the series finale.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Played with. Tomás is an 11-year old murderer, but he was coerced into it. Though when we see him later in the series, he doesn't seem all that broken up about it. His sister even claims that he calmly told her that he killed someone.
    • 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.
  • Choke Holds:
    • How Walter finally eliminates Domingo (AKA Crazy Eight) in the third episode. It takes a minute or two and Domingo has time to stab Walter a few times with a shard of broken plate.
    • Jesse finally exacting his revenge on Todd by choking him as well as breaking his neck with the chains he was bound up in at the end of "Felina".
  • Chronic Villainy: Walt would always go back to making meth no matter how dangerous the situation is. He gives up his drug business at the end of "Gliding Over All," intending to keep his head down and quietly launder the money he has for the rest of his life. Then Hank realizes that Heisenberg has been right under his nose the whole time...
    • In "Granite State", faced with the realisation that all his actions were for nothing, Walt calls the DEA to give himself up... and then he sees the Schwartzes on TV, saying just the right thing to remind Walt why he felt bitter and angry enough to become Heisenberg in the first place. By the time the DEA shows up to arrest him, Walt is gone. Somewhat subverted when he actually gets back as it turns out he's becomes an admittedly dark Atoner.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Skyler starts lighting up again as the stress of her marriage and Walt's illegal activities get to her. Walt bums a smoke off of Jesse one stressful episode, which leads the latter to ask if Walt "has enough cancer already."
  • City People Eat Sushi: The simple, low-brow Hank gives his fancy wife Marie grief for eating it in one episode by pointing out that they live nowhere near the ocean. Accordingly, sushi must be seen as even more exotic in Albuquerque than in coastal communities.
  • Closed Circle: "Fly" has Jesse and Walt trapped in an airtight lab trying to kill a fly to prevent contamination; since they can't cook meth with the contaminant, and they can't leave until they've cooked, they spend the episode trapped.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • A number of episodes, though only season 3 has come close to having the season finale variety.
    • Probably the most dramatic one is at the end of the season 5 episode "To'hajiilee", when the episode ends with Hank and Gomez in a shoot-out with Jack and his men, in the middle of the desert with nobody to help them. The episode ending without a death probably conned a lot of viewers into assuming that Vince Gilligan would have killed them off at the end of the episode if he was going to do it, rather than at the start of the following episode...
    • The mid-season finale for Season 5, "Gliding Over All," in which Hank at long last finds out that Walt is Heisenberg.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Four episodes in season 2 open with flashforwards to the ending of the season, depicting workers in hazmat suits retrieving objects and debris from Walter's house and two corpses in body bags in his front driveway. Many viewers speculated that there had been some sort of explosion in Walter's house related to his meth cooking and that at least one major character may have been killed off. Instead, the Twist Ending of season 2 is a plane crash which kills 167 people but otherwise has no real impact on the main characters at all.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: In "Granite State", Walt has finally decided to turn himself in. Then he notices the bartender flipping through channels and sees an interview with his old partners, specifically talking about him. Keep in mind that this is the first TV broadcast he's seen in months, and that's the show that happens to be on.
  • Cold Open / The Teaser: A staple of the show. Many episodes open with a scene that is utterly fascinating, beautifully shot, almost a work of art in itself — and sometimes without a single word being spoken. Sometimes ends up being crucial to The Reveal for the episode (most recently in "Dead Freight"), or for the entire season (Season 2).
  • Color-Coded Characters: described here
    • Walter - Green
    • Jesse - Red or Yellow
    • Skyler - Blue
    • Hank - Brown/Orange
    • Marie - Purple. Easily the most dramatic example. Clothes, accessories, kitchen decor, purple, purple, purple.
    • Walt Jr. - Orange, but not tied as closely to it
  • Compound Title:
    • "The Cat's in the Bag..."/"...And the Bag's in the River"
    • There's the "737"/"Down"/"Over"/"ABQ" foreshadowing.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Pretty thoroughly averted throughout the series. Probably the most notable example is the finale, wherein Walt kills off nearly all the Aryan Brotherhood group with an M60 parked outside the building they were in. The trope is possibly played straight in the Tuco/Hank shootout, although Tuco was wounded (and firing a rifle one-handed), and both were firing pretty wildly at first.
  • Confess in Confidence:
    • Shady attorney Saul invokes this trope by having his kidnappers give him a dollar so that they become his clients. However, once he becomes a partner in their criminal enterprise, they are no longer protected by attorney–client privilege, which he fails to mention to them. It is implied that Walt and Jesse do not really know much about the law.
    • Played more straight when Walt's wife Skyler begins to see through his lies and visits a divorce lawyer to discuss how she can separate from him without hurting their family in the process. Before confessing that she knows Walt is a drug dealer, she asks the lawyer in question about the confidentiality issue, who points out that since she's a lawyer and not a cop, she only has her client's best interests at heart.
    • In season 2, Walt uses this trope in combination with Confess to a Lesser Crime in order to convince his psychiatrist to approve his release from the hospital. After assuring that the therapist is ethics-bound to keep his secret, Walt admits that there was no fugue state, but lies and says he simply ran away because he was overwhelmed by the combination of his disease, Skylar's unplanned pregnancy, and their financial troubles.
  • 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.
    • At the beginning of the second season, Walt confesses to changing the channel on Tio's soaps rather than attempting to poison Tuco.
    • A few episodes later, Walt admits the true nature of his "fugue state" to his therapist, but leaves out the meth, kidnapping, and gun battle.
    • 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.
    • In Season 5, Walt lets Marie know about Skyler's affair with Ted, so that it would appear that she was stressing about Ted's visit to the hospital, and not Walt's descent into ruthlessness.
    • Walt threatens to do this later in the fifth season to get Hank off his back: he confesses (on a videotape) to being the methamphetamine cook who created and produced Blue Sky... on the orders of Hank Schrader, the real Heisenberg, who used what he learned as a DEA agent to create a successful meth empire.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • Walt, who lies in order to conceal his drug activities as well as out of a sense of pride. He's frequently placed on the spot, however, and his lies vary in quality from rather lame to masterful.
    • Skyler eventually shows that she can sometimes improve on Walt's lies when required.
    • Marie is shown to have a hobby of showing up at open houses and making up elaborate lies about her life. She goes to these open houses in order to steal things from the homeowners. This topic is never really expanded upon, though.
  • 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.
    • A number of subtle ones emerge in "Gliding Over All":
      • The Cold Open features a close up of a fly not unlike the cold open of the episode "Fly" (with which this episode shares a writer).
      • The ricin vial that Walt hid back in "Madrigal" makes an appearance.
      • Walt has a bandage on his wrist, covering the burn he gave himself two episodes ago.
      • In a run-down hotel room we see a copy of the same painting that Walt looks at while getting treatment for cancer.
      • We see all nine of Mike's hazard pay recipients in prison as they are getting murdered.
      • The paper towel holder that Walt punched repeatedly at the end of "4 Days Out" back in Season 2.
      • Gale's Walt Whitman obsession and the letters W.W.
    • "Blood Money" has a whole slew of them when Hank goes over case files while trying to piece together an investigation against Walt. Among the case files we see a slew of photographs of many dead past characters as well as the the surveillance tape of Walt and Jesse stealing methylamine back at the end of Season 1.
    • Walt's pants (which he ditched in the desert in the pilot episode) make an appearance in "Ozymandias" as Walt is rolling the barrel across the desert.
    • In "Felina", after retrieving the ricin, Walt stands in the middle of his now-wrecked living room, on the exact same spot where he first got the idea to cook meth two years before.
    • Walt's appearance during the latter half of "Felina" (full head of hair, green shirt, white undershirt, beige pants and jacket) mirrors his appearance in the pilot.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Every major plot beat in Season 2 contributes something, in one way or another, to the events that lead up to the season finale, leading to several instances of this trope. In particular, the conflict Left Hanging with Tuco at the end of Season 1 had to be dealt with quickly, as his actor was uncomfortable playing the character and asked to be killed off.
    • In Season 2, Jesse's friend Combo gets killed by Tomás. In Season 3, Jesse's new girlfriend Andrea turns out to be Tomás's sister.
    • In "Granite State", just moments after Walt decides to turn himself in to the police, he just so happens to turns his attention to a television interview of Gretchen and Elliot minimizing his role in the founding of Grey Matter Technology, which angers him so much, he decides to resurrect Heisenberg one more time.
    • In "Felina", Lydia phones Todd moments after Walt has killed all the neo-Nazis. Walt picks up the phone and tells her he's poisoned her. There'd be no other way of her (and the viewers) learning this.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mike is one of the most dangerous characters on the show, as he has an entire career's worth of experience and is exceptionally well trained. One of the main reasons he saves up money is to set it aside for his granddaughter.
  • Cop/Criminal Family: Walter White becomes a drug dealer and his brother-in-law, Hank, is a DEA cop. Emphasized when Walt's wife, Skyler, becomes a white-collar criminal through her boss's fraud, and then Skyler joins in on Walt's "business." When Walter's criminal lifestyle is exposed in season 5B, this even causes a rift with Skyler's sister Marie, who sides firmly with Hank.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Skyler is a straight arrow in Season 1, but as Walt's behavior is revealed to her, she engages in increasingly sketchy business dealings, shows herself to be a talented money-launderer, and even advocates murdering Jesse when he becomes a direct threat to their family.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Two drug dealers have the 11-year-old Tomas Cantillo involved in their operation.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Walt almost immediately realizes this about the tense showdown with Mike Ehrmantraut that ends in the latter's death. As soon as he calms down, it occurs to him that he could have gotten the names he wanted from Lydia, who was the one who wanted them dead in the first place.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Subverted — after beating one of his men senseless to make a point, Tuco demands Walt perform CPR on the basis that he's "smart". He clearly knows as much about CPR as Walt does about drug deals, and it doesn't work anyway.
    Tuco: Breathe into his mouth!
    Walt: NO, THEY DON'T TEACH THAT ANYMORE! It doesn't work!
  • 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.
    • Walt still holds on to his wedding ring during his time of isolation in the middle of New Hampshire. When it doesn't fit his finger anymore due to the chemotherapy and harsh living conditions, he ties it around his neck.
  • Creature of Habit: Lydia, who always sits at the same table in the same cafe at the same time and day every week, and orders the same drink and insists on the same brand of sweetener. This turns out to be a Fatal Flaw; Walt is able to arrange her death just by replacing a single packet of Stevia with ricin.
  • Crocodile Tears
    • Walt tells Hank a sob story about his marriage and fakes tears, reckoning that Hank will contrive a reason to leave for a moment while Walt composes himself. When Hank goes to bring them both coffee, Walt plants bugs in his office.
    • Used by Walt again masterfully in Season Five's "Confessions" in a recording to be released in the event of his death, to blatantly implicate Hank as the mastermind behind Heisenberg.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: "No Más"/"Más", "Half-Measures"/"Full Measure".
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Walt does this twice in "Ozymandias". First, during the phone call with Skyler, he makes himself appear as abusive and monstrous as possible to the police listening in, hoping to make the police believe that Skyler was an unwilling accomplice to his crimes instead of a willing participant. Second, knowing that Marie was likely present as well, he specifically makes it seem as though he killed Hank to confirm to her that he really is dead and give her some form of closure.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Krazy-8 steals a shard of the plate Walt served his food on after Walt breaks it, planning to use it to stab Walt later.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check:
    • We establish pretty early on that Walter is a highly competent chemist, with the knowledge necessary to help found a highly successful high tech startup, who has a chip on his shoulder about being having to settle for a modest life as a science teacher. So, it's a bit strange that in the 20 years or so between cashing out of his start up and being diagnosed with cancer it apparently never occurred to him to become a chemical engineer or something, which would be well within his competency, stable, and probably well paying enough to satisfy his ego (at least Season 1 Walter's ego, anyways).
      • Adding to this, his co-founders from his highly successful startup do, quite literally, offer to write him a check at one point
    • 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.
    • Walter lampshades this when commenting on Gale's amazing coffee-making skills:
      Walt: Why the hell are we making meth?
    • In Season 5, now that the Cartel and Gus are both gone and the Whites own a prosperous car wash (and more cash than they can reasonably launder through it in years), Walt could just quit. He doesn't, emphasizing how far his priorities have changed.
  • Cutting Back to Reality:
    • In the episode "Cancer Man", a paranoid and hopelessly methed-up Jesse Pinkman flees through the back yard after seeing two menacing-looking bikers approaching his house with machetes and grenades. A cut to outside the house reveals that they were just Mormon missionaries.
    • Jesse's first scene in "Felina" features him daydreaming of carpentry, putting the finishing touches on a beautifully handcrafted box. Satisfied with his work, he steps away from the bench with the box still in hand - and then we cut back to reality with a loud clank. He's still chained to the ceiling in Jack Welker's meth lab, bearded, scarred and traumatized for life; the "box" is actually the latest ingredient of the meth that the neo-Nazis are forcing him to cook.
  • Cutting the Knot / Stating the Simple Solution:
    • While discussing methods of recovering/destroying Gus Fring's laptop from a police evidence locker, Walt suggests several complex methods of doing so — infiltration, smuggling in an explosive or incendiary device, breaking in from the outside using explosive charges — which Mike dismisses as impractical due to the vault's construction and countermeasures. Jesse's suggestion — use a powerful electromagnet to wipe the hard drive and destroy the laptop (and countless other items) through blunt force. Crude but ultimately effective.
    • In "Four Days Out", while stranded in the wilderness due to the RV's battery running flat, Jesse frustratedly tries to coax Walt into figuring out a means of escape by MacGyvering something together. Among several laughable suggestions — including building a robot or an alternate vehicle from the RV's chassis — comes the sensible (and actually doable) notion of building a new battery out of the assorted contents of their rolling lab.
    • After committing to make 4 lbs of meth for Tuco — impossible due to the restriction on purchasing pseudoephedrine in bulk — Walt indicates they will switch to a P2P cook, which relies on them being able to obtain methylamine as a precursor. When hiring a group of professionals to steal the precursor proves too expensive, Walt suggests they steal it themselves using homemade thermite. He then goes on to describe how a German WWII cannon — the Gustav gun — was able to withstand sustained bombing, but could be crippled through the same application of thermite.
    • In "Felina", Walt tries and fails to hotwire a car, managing to give himself a minor shock in the process. After a brief panic when he thinks a cop is going to hassle him, he thinks to check above the sun screen, and the keys drop straight into his lap.
  • Daddy's Girl / Manipulative Bastard: Jane to her father in Season 2's Phoenix when he finds she and Jesse are back on drugs and goes to call the police. She uses a variety of techniques, including emotional blackmail, reminding him of the time she left and he didn't water her houseplants so they died, overreacting to 'being judged', and telling her father that she and Jesse talked about rehab every night. It worked.
  • Dark Reprise: When Walter calls the DEA from the bar in New Hampshire, the opening theme returns, sounding quite a bit darker than it usually did.
  • Darker and Edgier: Seasons 2, 4 and 5B are considerably darker than their odd number counterparts.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Walt starts making meth trying to help his family and pay for his cancer treatment, but keeps cooking out of pure pride and greed.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: The entire series is an exploration and deconstruction of this trope.
    • Don Eladio plays it straight, with an opulent house and swimming pool, exotic jewelery and liquor, and a bevy of bikini-clad girls at his disposal. Notably he never crosses the border, remaining in Mexico where it's safe to flaunt his wealth.
    • The most successful criminals on the show make a point of averting this trope, laundering their money through legitimate businesses and avoiding extravagant purchases to keep from being noticed by the law. Walt starts off this way before beginning to believe his own hype in Season 5, buying expensive cars and inadvertantly leaving a clue that makes Hank realize Walt is Heisenberg.
    • Jesse tries to embrace this trope several times, buying an expensive house and running a 24/7 party in it; however he ends up alienating his friends, wasting his money because he can't possibly spend all of it, and the girls he meets are meth-heads with no real interest in him.
  • The Dandy: Saul wears very colorful suits that are often adorned with a flower, ribbon or other ornament.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Before he was solidified as basically being the show's co-lead Jesse gets a lot of focus in season 1's "Cancer Man" which goes into his home life and family background more than any episode up to that point.
    • "Peekaboo" also counts for Jesse.
    • "Negro Y Azul" in Season 2 and "One Minute" in Season 3 for Hank.
    • "Open House" features an oddly heavy amount of focus on Marie.
    • "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.
    • "Madrigal" features a lot of Mike being a badass.
    • "Fifty One" is this for Skyler. Unsurprisingly, it is also the episode that won Anna Gunn her Emmy.
    • "Better Call Saul" obviously serves as a day in the limelight for Saul, and to a lesser extent, Badger.
  • Deadly Euphemism:
    • In "Buried", when Saul wants to suggest that Walt have someone killed:
      Saul: Have you given any thought to sending him on a trip to Belize?
      Walt: Belize?
      Saul: Yeah. Belize. You know, where, uh, where Mike went to. Off on a trip to... Belize.
    • In "Rabid Dog", Walt criticises Saul's mealy-mouthed circumlocutions in the area of having people killed; "You're full of colourful metaphors, aren't you, Saul. 'Belize', 'Old Yeller'..." Later in the same episode, Skyler has to clarify whether Walt is using these when he's talking about Jesse.
      Walt: I'm gonna... I'm gonna talk to him. Make him see reason.
      Skyler: Talk to him. Make him see reason. [beat] So, I'm clear... these are just euphemisms you're using here, right?
  • Death Montage: In "Gliding Over All", there's a prison montage of the 9 "legacy" members of Gus' drug cartel being shanked or burned alive.
  • Decapitation Strike: Big Bad Gus Fring ostensibly surrenders his entire business to a rival Mexican cartel. He is invited to the Don's hacienda in Mexico, and after the 'negotiation' ends, Gus poisons himself, the Don and all his lieutenants with a laced bottle of rare tequila. He then escapes quickly enough to get himself medically treated before the poison kills him too.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Walt has a chance to pin the whole "Heisenberg" thing on Gale... but alcohol and pride make him tell Hank that the guy doesn't seem like he's smart enough, and he must be working for someone else.
  • Defiant to the End: Even with an injured leg and Walt's pleadings to save his life from Jack, Hank refuses to take any of his offers and gets killed by Jack. Though he's likely right that it was going to end the same anyway.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Hank's boisterous, wise-cracking personality can seem downright racist, sexist, classist, or otherwise politically incorrect all around; and yet, when the chips are down, he is a cop of true integrity and probably the most morally responsible character in the show. Until perhaps the second half of season five.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: After hearing the term 'Kafkaesque" in rehab, Jesse assumes it means bad in general because he's Book Dumb. The few times he says it, the word makes no sense in context.
  • Descent into Addiction: An early story arc depicts Jesse (already a habitual user of crystal meth and weed) being introduced to heroin by his girlfriend Jane and slowly becoming addicted. After Jane overdoses, Walt sends Jesse to a rehab facility and he remains clean for most of the rest of the series.
  • Description Cut: Done several times; one particularly notable one involves a couple of addicts who have stolen an ATM 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 stabbed 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.
    • The moment in season two when Walt learns that his cancer is in remission. Usually, this is incredible news, but for Walt, it's outright tragic, which Walt later explains to Jesse in "Fly". He would've much preferred if he succumbed to the cancer after his daughter's birth. It's implied that this ideal death would enable Walt to avoid any heavy consequences with his drug manufacturing, but with the remission, Walt will probably be alive a little longer than he assumed. Cue Walt beating his fists on a towel dispenser.
    • It now seems that Walt has finally gone beyond the line of despair when in "Granite State", his son insults him multiple times for supposedly killing Hank and disowns him as a father, even when Walt tearfully begs him to receive the money he's giving to him through a conduit. He lets the DEA know about his location and stays a bit longer until his pride is hit by an appearance on Charlie Rose by Gray Matter in which they discuss his involvement in the company. He leaves immediately afterwards.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Several times in the show Walter will cover his tracks. It works, as even after Hank figures out that Walt is Heisenberg, he is unable to arrest him due to having only circumstantial evidence. That is, until he and Jesse trick Walt into confessing to multiple murders over the phone.
  • Destructive Romance: Walter and Skyler's relationship becomes this.
    • Jesse and Jane count as well, as Jesse pulls Jane back into her addiction and Jane introduces him to heroin.
  • Deuteragonist: Jesse Pinkman, whose character arc and development are given just as much importance and later runs parallel to Walt's character arc.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Not related to the main plot, but honestly, can you say anything else about the end of "ABQ"? Fittingly for the trope, Vince Gilligan himself described it as a "Lucifer ex machina".
    • Though it's obliquely foreshadowed by the first scene of the episode in which it happens, the discovery that some random kid saw the methylamine heist, followed immediately by seemingly mild-mannered Todd gunning the boy down is a horrifying left-field turn from Walt and Jesse's perspective.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Walt starts manufacturing crystal meth without ever really considering how his family might react when they discover he is a drug kingpin and a murderer, the consequences for them should he get caught, how he could safely launder the huge sums of money he is earning without attracting suspicion, or that his DEA agent brother in-law would eventually deduce that he is the biggest meth dealer in the south west USA.
  • 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.
    • Walt himself, in the closing shot of "Felina", lying on his back and staring at the ceiling of the Neo-Nazi meth lab.
  • Disaster Dominoes: In "4 Days Out", Walter tells Jesse to not put the keys to the RV on the counter where they're cooking to avoid losing them, so he puts them in the ignition which results in the battery dying. Then they try to use the generator to jump it, but the generator catches fire, and Jesse uses the last of their drinking water to extinguish it right before Walter gets a fire extinguisher.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Tuco in season 2, the Cousins in season 3, Don Eladio in Season 4, Hank in season 5. Gus for the whole series.
  • Disposing of a Body: Walter and Jesse dispose of bodies with acid, to the point that Mike decides that it's their specialty.
  • The Dividual: Whether it's down to Twintuition or simply excellent planning, the Salamanca brothers do everything they do together, with a chilling commonality of purpose, and barely speaking a word. Brr.
  • The Don: Gus is a white-collar version of this trope, as well as one of best examples of a white-collar criminal in modern television. As the undisputed leader of a large criminal organization whose illicit businesses are money laundering and meth distribution, he's incredibly professional in keeping a low profile and presenting himself as a honest businessman and philanthropist who gladhands with high-ranking DEA agents. Basically, he's everything Heisenberg wants to be: Feared, powerful, rich, and one of the biggest drug kingpins in the region, with state-of-the-art infrastructure.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: When Walt refuses some charity from Gretchen Schwartz out of pride and a lingering grudge, Gretchen can only react with shock and pity. This infuriates Walt into delivering a Precision F-Strike.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • When Hank asks Walt to place a tracking bug on Gus's vehicle, he utters this remark:
      Hank: Walt, don't make me beg here. Just stick it in there!
    • The scene where Jesse tries heroin for the first time plays out very much like he's losing his virginity. It even takes place on his bed, with his girlfriend.
      Jesse: [with breathless anticipation] What's it feel like?
      Jane: There's a chill, and then... You'll see. I'll meet you there...
      [they kiss, he gives her a small nod before she pushes the needle into his arm]
    • During the episode "Over," Walt finds fungus in the floorboards and becomes fixated on cutting out the rot before it undermines his home, which is practically a Literal Metaphor.
    • In a show about the drug trade, much of Walt's character arc parallels the behavior of a drug addict. He starts out small, but begins gradually cooking progressively larger batches of meth, committing progressively more violent crimes, and sinking progressively deeper into the criminal underworld after discovers the thrill of being a meth cook. He starts out trying to rationalize his actions by claiming that he needs the money for legitimate reasons (first to leave money for his family, then to pay for cancer treatments), but those reasons eventually collapse after his cancer is cured, his family leaves him, and he ends up with more money than he can spend in a single lifetime. By the end of the show, he has ceased to cook meth for logical reasons, and only does it because he can't stop.
  • Dope Slap: Mike gives Jesse one in "ABQ" when he refuses to say "I woke up, I found her, that's all I know", which is what he'll be saying to the people that arrive.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Many episodes.
    • The titles "737", "Down", "Over", "ABQ" all refer to events within those episodes, but also foreshadow the plane crash.
    • "Phoenix" is Jane's birthplace, the name of the Mars Lander shown on TV, a reference to Birth/Death Juxtaposition (Holly is born, Jane dies) and a Cross Referenced Title with "ABQ".
    • "I See You" has Leonel recognising Walt and attempting to kill him, and also plays on the term "ICU".
    • "Open House" has Jesse's open-house party and Marie's open-house viewings.
    • "Shotgun" has Jesse riding shotgun for Mike, and being threatened with one by a stick-up guy.
    • "Face-Off" has Gus' conflicts with both Walt and Tio Salamanca come to a head, and ends with half his head being blown away.
    • "Buried" refers to both Walt burying his money at the To'hajiilee reservation, and Declan's buried meth lab in which Lydia takes shelter while Declan's crew is massacred.
    • "Rabid Dog" makes an explicit parallel between Jesse Pinkman and Old Yeller... but also shows Hank continuing to act outside police protocol and betraying a more ruthless streak than we've seen from him before.
    • The series finale "Felina" has a doozy. It's a reference to Marty Robbins' song "El Paso" (the song playing on Walt's car radio in the opening scene), which is about a cowboy who dies in his lover's arms after being gunned down by his enemies. It's also an anagram of "Finale", and a sly reference to the chemical formula "FeLiNa" ("Iron, Lithium, and Sodium", which can be seen as shorthand for "Blood, Meth, and Tears").
  • Downer Ending:
    • Season 2 ends with Jane dead, Jesse in rehab, Skyler leaving Walt, and the plane crash over Albuquerque.
    • "Ozymandias" is a downer episode: Hank and Gomez are dead, all but one of Walt's money barrels has been taken by the Aryans, who have also taken Jesse into captivity and forced him to cook for them, and Walt has lost his family, and is forced to go into hiding alone.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Subverted. After Gus is killed, Mike's immediate reaction is to go kill Walt. He's talked out of it when Walt reveals there's evidence that could implicate them both which needs to be destroyed.
  • Drama Bomb: "Ozymandias" goes further than the usual Wham Episode, being the ultimate conversation of everything the series has been building up to since the first season.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded: By Season 5, Walt is feared by everyone who knows him as Heisenberg.
    Jesse: He's the devil!
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Lydia, a creature of routine, always orders tea with the exact same ingredients. Her habit becomes her undoing.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In a season 3 episode it is revealed to Walt and the audience that Donald Margolis shot himself after the death of his daughter Jane and subsequent mid-air collision caused by this distraction. We never find out if he survives the attempt.
    • After Gus Fring was murdered, the DEA began investigating Madrigal Electromotive. Peter Schuler, a criminal business partner, committed suicide by sticking one end of a defibrillator in his mouth and the other over his heart.
    • Skyler attempts to drown herself in the pool when she becomes too terrified of Walt.
    • Walt actually attempts suicide near the end of the very first episode, when his capture by police seems imminent. It's only his unfamiliarity with firearms that saves him, and thus dooms all of his future victims.
  • Drunk with Power: After killing Gus, Walt feels invincible, as if he can do no wrong.
  • Drop What You Are Doing: In the flash-forward in "Blood Money", Walt's neighbor sees him returning to his now boarded-up house, and freezes, shocked, in the middle of unloading her groceries. He looks across at her and simply says "Hello, Carol," and she drops the bag on the ground.
  • 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 is actually pretty warm to the idea, until Walt suggests killing their boss. Cue a punch in the face.
  • Drugs Are Bad: A major theme of the show, but not exactly the Aesop conveyed. 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 (and later on, actually gets killed). Jesse, for his part, loses his family, kills a person, gets his girlfriend killed, gets another girlfriend killed, and almost dies several times. Jesse's addiction and attempts to cope with his suffering also locks him into a downward spiral. Drugs are also seen having a destructive effect on various minor characters throughout the show. On the flip side, Jesse in particular can keep his drug habit while still functioning, and Gale Boetticher, a drug manufacturer, maintains a very neat lifestyle. Generally, it’s not the drugs themselves that bring the characters’ downfall, but all of the criminal activity and dishonesty and physical danger that comes with it and using them to the point of inability to function that do.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: In "Ozymandias", Walt wraps his hand in duct tape to bandage a knife wound. By the next episode "Granite State", he's swapped it for a real bandage.
  • 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.
    • Jesse comes up with a plan to destroy the laptop that can put him, Walt, and Mike away, and then has a hell of a time trying to get Walt and Mike to pay attention to him.
    • Again, Jesse suggests robbing a train in such a way that no one ever suspects anything was missing. (In fact, the DVD extras see the writers say that Jesse started as "a doofus" and gets much smarter over time.)
    • Even early on, Jesse showed hints that he wasn't completely idiotic; in 2.01 he is rightfully terrified about Tuco murdering him and Walt to tie up loose ends after what happened in the junkyard.
      Jesse: What is that? Conjecture? Are you basing that on that he's got like a normal, healthy brain or something? [...] And that way — that way he just kept staring at us... Saying, You're done. Wh- You're done? You wanna know what that means — I will tell you what that means. That means exactly how it sounds, yo! [...] Right now Tuco's thinking 'Yeah, hey, they cook good meth, but, can I trust them?' What happens, when he decides no?
  • Dumb Blonde: Invoked by Skyler when she pretends to be Ted's ditzy accountant, in the hope that the IRS investigator will attribute the company's financial irregularities to incompetence rather than fraud. It works.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Héctor Salamanca of all people gets one, giving Gus one last look of hate before blowing them all up.
    • Hank's absolute refusal to accept Walt's attempts to save his life, and final words of "My name is ASAC Schrader. And you can go fuck yourself" followed shortly by "Do what you're going to-" before being shot through the head.
    • Mike: "Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace."
    • Gus walks out of the room where a bomb has gone off, calmly straightens his tie — and falls over dead with half of his face burned down to the skull.
  • The Dying Walk: The show loved this trope. Gus walks out of the room after it was blown up and then adjusts his tie so he can Face Death with Dignity, Mike walks away from the spot where Walter shot him and finds a peaceful place to die, and Walt walks away from his final confrontation with the Nazis and goes to the nearby chemistry lab (chemistry labs having been the place where he was probably always happiest in his life) and dies there.


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