Tropes A-B | Tropes C-D | Tropes E-L | Tropes M-R | Tropes S-Z | Main Page
These are the tropes that knock:
- Sad Clown: Hank suffers from panic attacks and later PTSD, but he hides his suffering with his gregarious personality.
- Sarcastic Confession:
- Say My Name: This show is the trope's quote source, from Season 5A's "Say My Name".
Walt: Now... say my name.
Declan: (Quietly) Heisenberg.
Walt: You're goddamn right.
- Scenery Porn: This show has done quite a lot for Albuquerque, New Mexico's tourism market, showing off the scenery of this part of New Mexico.
- Seamless Spontaneous Lie: When Skyler needs to justify the large amount of cash Walter earned from making meth, she spins a tale about Walt gambling that also explains the fallings-out they had. It's so good Walter himself begins to listen in awe.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The final shot of season 3 has Jesse pointing the gun at Gale from an angle, but it gradually pans so that Jesse is pointing the gun at the camera just as he fires.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Walt is paranoid when working with Gus that he has listening bugs planted throughout the superlab. After falling out of Gus's favor by having Gale killed, Gus does one better and sets up surveillance cameras in the lab.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Walter has this dynamic going on with two other characters:
- He's the Manly Man to Jesse's Sensitive Guy. Walt's cold and calculating personality contrasts with Jesse's compassion, empathy, and uninhibited vulnerability.
- Conversely, he's the Sensitive Guy to Hank Schrader's Manly Man, at first. Hank is brash, crude and boisterous, an avid sports fan and gun enthusiast, and his work as a DEA agent often puts him in danger. Walt is a mild-mannered and milquetoast high school chemistry teacher, much more of an intellectual and something of a dork. As the show progresses, however, they both shift around the spectrum: Hank reveals an increasing amount of emotional problems and insecurities, as well as some nerdy interests, while Walter becomes increasingly cold, ruthless and dangerous.
- Serendipitous Survival:
- While the Cousins are waiting in Walter's bedroom for him to finish his shower, they get a text from Gus telling them to meet him right away, and they leave. Had Gus not sent that text when he did, or if the Cousins had been about 20 seconds faster in the house, or had decided to kill Walt in the shower instead of waiting for him to finish, Walter would've been murdered.
- A behind-the-scenes example occurred during the filming of season one. Aaron Paul was standing by the RV, which had a tarp of the roof that was being held in place by a large rock. He moved out of the way for an unrelated reason moments before a large gust of wind blew the rock off the RV, landing right where he'd been standing.
- Series Fauxnale: Season 4's ending. While the show's writers knew that it'd probably be coming back for a fifth season, there was just enough doubt lingering over a renewal that they decided to wrap up the major story arcs that had been going until that point, while leaving plenty of avenues open for future stories. If you do truly want a Happy Ending of this show, it is highly recommended to stop here.
- Serious Business: You can't have a fly in your meth lab. It taints the product.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: In "Green Light", we hear Skyler moaning as she has sex with Ted for the second time as the camera pans over a series of photos, but on the last photo, you can just make out a blurry reflection of Skyler riding Ted.
- Shaped Like Itself: In "Sunset", a panicked Walt is talking to Saul on the phone on how he can hide his RV meth lab from Hank. He states the RV is "the size of a... the size of... it's RV sized!"
- Sherlock Scan: Hank is a very smart investigator who manages to pick up a lot through keen observation. For example, he is able to determine that the mysterious Heisenberg has book smarts but no street smarts by viewing the tape of his chemical factory robbery. He also grows suspicious of Lydia after noticing that her shoes are mismatched — a good sign that the investigation is causing her more stress than she lets on.
- She's Got Legs: Lydia. She gets a lot of Feet First Introductions, and in general, the camera spends a disproportionate amount of time focusing on her ankles.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Comic relief characters Badger and Skinny Pete start to make significantly less frequent appearances as of season 4.
- Shoot the Dog: In "Ozymandias", a thoroughly-compromised Walt drops almost completely into his Heisenberg persona in his last call to Skyler, which it's implied he knows is being monitored by the police. He yells at her and abuses her worse than he ever has in the series, coming across as a deranged psychopath, but in doing so he also takes the full weight for everything that's happened, absolving Skyler of her complicity in his crimes and making her look like far more of a straightforward victim.
- Shouldn't You Stop Stealing?: Thoroughly explored with Walt. His initial attempts to start up a meth business end up catastrophically, with him forced to kill two people. Soon afterwords, his former colleagues offer to financially support him as he undergoes treatment for his cancer, but he brushes them aside due to his pride and resentment towards them. After committing to the meth trade, once he achieves his original goal, he attempts to make good on his initial promise to get out of the business. His cancer temporarily going into remission means he's not going to die when he expected to (a rare case where somebody gets upset that they're not dying of cancer) and Skyler doesn't just accept the "I did it for my family" motive at face value. He goes back to cooking at one point because being the world's best meth cook is the only thing he still has pride in. Lampshaded in season 5 when Jesse points out that they have an opportunity to sell their raw materials, risk-free, for $5 million each, far more than Walt ever set out to make in the first place. Brought up again not long after when Skyler shows Walt all the cash he had earned, more than she could count, kept in a storage container, and asks him "How big does this pile have to be?"
- Walter's choice of that black porkpie hat might have been inspired from Gene Hackman.
- Juan Bolsa: Juan is Spanish for John. Bolsa means "bag" in Spanish. John + Bag = "Johnny Sack".
- The name of the last episode of season one is "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal", after a line from Fargo.
- Looking for a weapon, Jesse walks along a set of shelves picking up progressively more intimidating implements, like Butch in Pulp Fiction. Guess they were out of katanas.
- In "Phoenix", Jane explains away her bloodshot eyes by saying she's exhausted from working on a tattoo complex enough for the Sistine Chapel.
- In "Caballo Sin Nombre", the prospect of Walter giving up cooking meth is compared to Michelangelo giving up painting.
- Another Pulp Fiction reference: "Box Cutter" ends with Walt and Jesse getting breakfast in a diner, wearing t-shirts after their other clothes got covered in Victor's blood, with Jesse getting a plate piled high with pancakes and bacon while Walt just settles for coffee.
- Ted bangs his head on a table, sending several oranges falling onto his body. In the flash-forward that opens "Blood Money", Carol the neighbor drops a grocery bag full of oranges after seeing Walt again. Remember that the presence of oranges in The Godfather indicated when someone was about to have their day messed up.
- Vince Gilligan stated that his goal with Walter is to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface. In "Hazard Pay", Walt and his son watch the "say hello to my little friend" scene in Scarface. This might be setting up a later shout-out when we finally find out why Walt's buying that giant machine gun.
- The collar◊ on Walt's blue shirt in "Buyout" (the episode where he gives his "empire business" speech) is a bit larger than the ones he usually wears, a subdued resemblance to Tona Montana's flashy shirts. Walt's sitting pose during the dinner and living room scenes are also reminiscent of Tony's sitting pose◊.
- In season 5 episode "Dead Freight" there are actually shout outs to quite a few movies (and, cutely, the line "You've been watching too many movies"). Hank says they're going to watch Heat. Todd's murder of Drew Sharp at the end of the episode is like Waingro's execution of a guard during the armored car robbery. Mike's speech about having to kill witnesses is similar to Vincent Hanna's comment while investigating the armored car robbery scene about how Neil McCauley and his crew didn't hesitate for a second to kill the other two guards once Waingro shot the first guard, because "why leave a living witness?" The ending is also a double-shout out to Once Upon a Time in the West and The Great Train Robbery. A few more subtle shots here and there shout out to other films, such as High Noon.
- Saul compares his services to what Tom Hagen did for Vito Corleone. When Walter replies that he's no Vito, Saul retorts that Walt is Fredo.
- In telling Skyler not to talk to the cops (first or second episode of Season 5A), Saul says "When you talk to the cops, just be thinking one thing: Hogan's Heroes. Remember Sergeant Schultz?" [Skyler's blank look] "I see nothing! I know NOTHING!"
- When Jesse is sent to the hospital and badly mauled, Saul jokes about his bruised appearance by doing a reference to Rocky.
- In "Ozymandias", Hank's death is a reference to a similar death in The Wild Bunch, when Bishop kills a man in the middle of saying "Just do it alrea—" (or similar)
- From the same scene in "Ozymandias": Hank claiming Jack made his decision "ten minutes ago" majorly parallels Adrian "Ozymandias" Veidt's infamous "thirty-five minutes ago" line in Watchmen. Both situations give a hopeless vibe to the characters desperate to stop a horrifying event from happening (Walt preventing Hank's death, and Rorschach/Night Owl preventing Ozymandias from killing half of New York's population)... only for those tragic events to happen anyway.
- In "Granite State", Charlie Rose, in his interview with Gretchen and Elliot Schwarz, mentions that Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a New York Times column about Gray Matter's connection to Walt. Sorkin, who has called Breaking Bad his "favorite show", responded by writing an in-universe column about Gray Matter in Real Life.
- In the final Talking Bad, Vince says that in "Felina", Walt's final reaction to Jesse — of wanting to kill him, but then realizing that he still cares about him (by shielding him with his body) — was directly inspired by John Wayne's finally finding Natalie Wood's character in The Searchers. Additionally, Walt's final look at Junior — watching him walk back into the home that he (Walt) cannot ever go home to again — may also be an allusion to the final shot of the same film.
- Both Tuco's name and comically paranoid attitude is reminiscent to another Tuco we know.
- In "Problem Dog", Walt Jr. complains to Hank that he only had his Dodge Challenger for 15 hours.
- The bank used to deposit hazard pay for Gus's former employees is the Craddock Marine Bank, Fox Mulder's bank in several episodes of The X-Files, a series that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan wrote 29 episodes for, and was a show runner.
- Walt assembling a remote-controlled mount for an automatic BFG in the middle of nowhere, then installing it in the trunk of a car, is quite similar to a certain signature scene in The Jackal.
- In "Rabid Dog", Saul compares Jesse to Old Yeller when he suggests to Walt that it might be time to have Jesse killed.
- After a hard few days of partying in "Thirty-Eight Snub", Badger mentions that he feels like he's turning into a Sleestak.
- Shown Their Work:
- While the accuracy varies from episode to episode, the writers have clearly done some research into the chemistry involved in all of Walt's plans. A very subtle example is the first episode of season 5, when Walt is cleaning up after his bombmaking and picks up a bunch of wrappers from cold packs. Cold packs contain ammonium nitrate, a commonly used oxidizer and catalyst in manufacturing improvised bombs. Additionally, Bryan Cranston really was taught how to make methamphetamine by the show's DEA advisers, so he really did understand the chemistry behind it.
- While it's a much smaller example than understanding an entire meth operation, every time Badger and Skinny Pete have any sort of sci-fi/"geeky" argument, the arguments they bring up are all valid, such as their multiple debates on Star Trek and the different types of zombies in video games like Resident Evil 4 and Left 4 Dead.
- Siblings in Crime: The Salamanca brothers, Leonel and Marco.
- Significant Anagram: The name of the last episode, "Felina", is not only an anagram of the word "Finale," but is also a shout-out to a song about a cowboy who returns to town when his lover Felina is captured, despite knowing he will be killed trying to rescue her.
- The Simple Gesture Wins: During Elliot's birthday party, most of the guests bring extravagant presents. One guest gives Elliot a Stratocaster signed by Eric Clapton. Walt gives him a package of the dirt-cheap ramen noodles they subsisted on while they were working on their thesis. Elliot absolutely loves it, and gushes about how those noodles were responsible for his success.
- Skeletons in the Coat Closet: Leather cowboy boots with skulls on the toes would look silly on some people. But on Leonel and Marco, they make them badass and creepy.
- Slapstick: Used infrequently.
- Jesse falling off the roof in season 1.
- Walt falling off of the lab catwalk in "Fly", slamming into a tank and then dropping to the concrete floor below.
- Ted Beneke tripping over a carpet, sliding across the polished floor and smashing head-first into a wall, with the camera lingering for quite some time on his prone body, then cutting to some of his fingers twitching slightly. Black Comedy at its finest.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: In a show full of all kinds of terrible people, the Neo-Nazi gang led by "Uncle" Jack is established as a Darker Shade of Black when they capture Jesse and treat him as a slave, forcing him to cook meth in terrible conditions.
- Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 5 (Full Lockout). Or, Two Years In The Life of Walter White. And boy, are they eventful ones.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Definitely towards the cynical side. But being idealistic about this particular subject matter would be rather disingenuous.
- Space Whale Aesop: The creators would have us believe that Walter is to blame for the Twist Ending of season 2, however indirectly. Ergo, the moral of the season is: don't deal drugs, kill people, and then fail to intervene when you find someone choking to death on her own vomit, because that will always lead to a chain of events that culminate in a mid-air collision which kills 167 people. Even Vince Gilligan lampshaded the Diabolus ex Machina in an interview.
- Snowball Lie: Every lie Walt feeds Skyler in Seasons 1 thru 3.
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: Gus Fring fails to realize that Hector's wheelchair has been rigged with a bomb until a moment before it detonates. Cue Oh, Crap! moment.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: As befits a series with The X-Files ancestry, the show is quite fond of this trope.
- Used to great effect in "Half Measures," in which The Association's bouncy sunshine pop song "Windy" plays over a montage of Wendy the hooker's sad daily routine.
- In "Gliding Over All", a soft and gentle crooner song (Nat King Cole's "Pick Yourself Up") is played while several loose ends are being shanked in their jails. Even better: in the same episode, a cooking and dealing montage is set to Tommy James and the Shondells' peace'n'love anthem, "Crystal Blue Persuasion".
- Spiritual Successor: Breaking Bad is one for many Stepford Suburbia dramas about patriarchs trying to honor The American Dream but suffering a mid-life crisis on account of his failure. Predecessors include Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Sam Mendes' American Beauty and Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life.
- It's also a spiritual successor to the Spaghetti Western Faccia a Faccia, about an asthmatic professor, played by Gian Maria Volonte, who bonds with an outlaw and becomes one himself, while the outlaw (played by Tomas Milian) finds some redemption.
- Spiteful Spit: Jesse spits in Walt's face after Walt, arrested and handcuffed by Hank in "To'hajiilee", calls him a coward.
- Splash of Color: The creepy scene that opens several episodes of Season 2 — someone in hazmat gear fishes a burnt teddy bear out of Walt's pool, two people lie on the front lawn in body bags — is shot in black and white, except for the teddy bear, which is pink.
- Spousal Privilege: Brought up when Skyler decides to involve herself in Walt's criminal life.
- Deconstructed in "Granite State". Skyler is left by herself to face Walter's legal consequences, and if she doesn't comply with some info she will be held accountable to some degree despite Walt's phone call. Skyler has nothing to exchange and is seized of all assets, including her home and car wash business. In "Felina", Walt gives her the location of Hank and Gomez's dead bodies to trade for a deal with a prosecutor for clearance of the crimes.
- Staging an Intervention: Skyler calls the family over for an intervention to try to get Walt to take the chemotherapy treatment (and the money offered by Gretchen and Elliot to pay for it) for his cancer, since Walt was unwilling to do that.
- Stalker Shot: In the Season 3 finale "Full Measure", Saul takes Walt to a laser tag arena that he's trying to get Walt to buy. Before they enter the building, a red car can be seen driving in the background and coming to a complete stop, and as they enter the building, the camera remains focused on the red car. The camera changes shot of the car to reveal Victor is tracking Walt as his reflection can be seen in the side view mirror. It turns out Walt and Saul suspected they were being tracked and only went to the arena to meet Jesse where he's being hidden so they can think up their next plan.
- Steal the Surroundings: Two crooks steal an ATM. They are shown having difficulty actually breaking into the machine. And then it gets worse, as usual for the show.
- Stealth Pun:
- Saul Goodman = S'all good, man! Explicitly lampshaded in one of the 'Better Call Saul' promos for Season 4. Badger ends his account by saying that 'S'all good man, cause I called Saul Goodman.'
- Walt takes the name Heisenberg as his pseudonym. So the show is all about Heisenberg's uncertainty principles.
- Gus uses a Laundromat, the Lavandería Brillante, as a front for the superlab. Despite all the discussion of "money laundering" in other circumstances, no-one ever points out the irony of the situation.
- Ted's company is named Beneke Fabricators. He has been illegally lying about his company's profits for years.
- After a scene showing Hank being coddled by Marie, the camera cuts to his bedside table. On it is a small statue of a child riding on a pig's back. "On the pig's back" is an obscure saying meaning "to have it good".
- In Saul Goodman's website, the page "Dress Like Saul" promotes clothes from a fictitious company called McGill and McGill's. Saul's real name (in the series) is Jimmy McGill.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: In "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal", Jesse criticizes Walt's choice of meeting with Tuco at a junkyard to make a deal; saying it's actually safer to make these types of deals in open and public areas. His go-to places were usually the "Taco Cabeza" or the mall. Moments later when Tuco and his gang arrive, he too questions the junkyard and asks "Was the mall closed?"
- Stuffed into the Fridge: Both of Jesse's girlfriends, Jane and Andrea, are killed off in order to sink Jesse into deeper depths of anguish: Jane by overdose, Andrea by getting shot in the head by Todd Alquist.
- Stupid Crooks: Jesse can't see the value in laundering his drug money through a legitimate tax paying business.
Jesse You want me to buy this place so that I can pay taxes? I'm a criminal, yo.
- Stylistic Suck: Saul Goodman's commercials ("I better call Saul!") could not possibly be any cheesier.
- Suicide by Cop: Subverted in the very first scene of the pilot. Walt prepares to commit suicide by cop, but they aren't coming.
- Suicide Dare: In the finale, Walter asks Jesse to kill him. Jesse doesn't oblige, and tells Walter he should do it himself. Walter doesn't, and spends some time in the lab while he bleeds out and Jesse escapes.
- Super Dickery: The Flash Forward shots at the beginning of most episodes almost always mean something entirely different in the context of the scene they actually happen later in the episode or season.
- Suspicious Spending: Walt's attempting to justify his ability to pay his medical bills is a continuous problem. Finding ways to launder the money from his booming drug trade accounts for much of the conflict in many episodes.
- Season 5 frequently frames shots to put Jesse literally between Walt and Mike, making his metaphorical situation literal.
- In the end, the one thing that causes Hank to realize the truth of Walt's crimes is the book that Gale gave Walt as a present, meaning that Walt is ultimately brought down posthumously by the (relatively) innocent man he had murdered to save his own ass.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Decorated DEA Agent Hank is always in pursuit of the elusive "Heisenberg"... his brother-in-law.
- Take That, Audience!:
- Walt's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Skyler in "Ozymandias", taking every argument her haters have made against her and displaying how horrible they are. It looks like the Take That! has gone unnoticed, however, and the hatred continues.
- To those who really dislike Skyler (for whatever reason), the scene comes across as more Villain Has a Point.
- Walt's rant to Jesse when he was high on heroin and food stuff can be interpreted as criticising the younger viewers.
- Taking the Heat:
- Edward James Kilkelly does this for money. ("The outside hasn't been too kind to old Jimmy.")
- Jesse took the heat for his younger over-achieving brother Jake after their housemaid found a joint that he smoked, and whose parents initially assumed it to be Jesse's.
- Posthumously, Gale. Hank starts to believe Gale was Heisenberg, which actually seems to piss Walt off to no end.
- Walt does this in a subtle manner in "Ozymandias" in his police tapped call towards Skyler when he claims that he committed all the crimes and built his own empire by himself, freeing her of any suspicion that she may have been involved in Walt's criminal activities.
- Taking You with Me:
- Hector's final confrontation with Gus.
- In the finale, Walt's original intention when setting up the automatic machine gun to kill everyone in the supremacist gang's club house is this. Jesse is included in the count until Walt discovers what has been done to him. He tackles Jesse to the ground to distract the others and then activates the gun while shielding Jesse's body, taking a hit that eventually kills him.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Walt and Jesse for the first few seasons. Later, Walt, Jesse, and Mike.
- Tempting Fate:
- When a strung-out meth-head says, "Call me a skank one more time," she is not issuing an invitation.
- Don't brag to your wife you've been lying to for the past few months about the benefits of honesty. She might just admit to having an affair with her boss.
- Jesse building a contraption to reach the ceiling in the lab and standing on top of it trying to swat a fly.
- Tension-Cutting Laughter:
- Tuco is the master of this.
- Uncle Jack pulls it on Todd in "Granite State" when he asks him to spare Jesse's life. He stares him down, gun in hand, calling him a "piece of shit"... and then bursts out laughing and tousles his hair.
- That Man Is Dead: An example of one character saying this about another. Gretchen Schwartz says during a television interview that while Heisenberg may still be out there, the Walter White she knew so many years ago is gone forever.
- Theme Music Power-Up: A villainous example at the end of "Granite State": when Walt breaks out of his Despair Event Horizon by watching Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz insult his pride by claiming he had no hand in the success of Gray Matter, the extended intro theme kicks in and continues as we see the police close in on an empty bar.
- There Are No Therapists: Walt is forced to see one after his fugue state incident, but it wasn't a psychological problem to begin with. After suffering a work-related trauma, Hank refuses to see a therapist, claiming that doing so would destroy his career. Skyler tells Marie that she is seeing a therapist, but that is a lie. The only aversion may be Marie herself, who says she sees a therapist for her kleptomania issues, but finds it frustrating that after discovering the truth about Walt, for Hank's sake she can't really share any of the details, without which there's not much she can say.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Jesse, especially at the first episodes. Much less frequent in later seasons.
Walter: [whispering] ...private domicile and I won't be harassed.
Jesse: This is my own private domicile and I will not be harassed. [beat] Bitch!
- Aaron Paul even stated on Conan that every single "bitch" he said on the show was scripted, with the screenwriters precisely deciding when it would be appropriate for Jesse to say it.
- Those Two Guys:
- Badger and Skinny Pete become this after Combo's death in Season 3.
- Huell and Kuby, Saul's "A-Team."
- The two Deadpan Snarker detectives that interrogate Jesse about Brock's poisoning in season 4 and again about the drug money he's been throwing away in season 5.
- Thwarted Coup de Grâce: Marco Salamanca has Hank at gunpoint, but decides it's "too easy" and goes to fetch an axe. While he's gone, Hank manages to retrieve and reload Leonel's gun, and shoots him in the head just as he's raising the axe, which lands edge-first in the pavement.
- Tiger by the Tail: Walt could have just taken the money from Gretchen. But instead he got into selling drugs, either not realising or not caring just how dangerous it was going to be, and most of S1 and S2 plays this trope straight, as he gets in with increasingly volatile people. However, by Season 3, it's actually flipped around that Jesse, who got in with Walt thinking he was a timid chemistry teacher, seriously underestimated him.
- Time Passes Montage: About three months pass during "Gliding Over All"'s second montage.
- Title Drop:
- In the first episode, Jesse uses the expression "break bad," and it also appears in one of the webisodes.
- Plenty of the episodes have title drops. See, for example, Season 4, Episode 10 — "Salud".
- The real-life phone number for Saul's firm asks the caller if the cops have accused them of "breaking bad."
- In a Season 3 episode, Jesse's father declares "Breaking even's not so bad".
- Tone Shift: Not only did the series gradually become Darker and Edgier over the course of the series, but the first season was primarily Black Comedy with a darkly satirical edge, an aspect of the show that had all but vanished by the second season, as the show developed into more of a straightforward tragic crime drama. Several critics remarked that the first season feels like a completely different show compared to the following seasons.
- Too Dumb to Live: Ted. When he gets audited by the IRS, he does almost nothing to try to cover up his embezzlements. When he gets lucky enough to get money to pay off his taxes, he decides to buy a new Mercedes instead. After he finds out where the money came from, he decides to not even use it, because apparently money from gambling is worse than embezzlement. Finally, he's rendered quadriplegic because he tripped on his own rug.
- Spooge, full stop... egging on his wife by ridiculing her as he works on cracking the ATM from the bottom with HIM UNDERNEATH isn't a very sound idea.
- Took a Level in Badass: Several characters, most notably Walt and Jesse.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Walt, following his slow descent into evil.
- The Topic of Cancer: The series revolves around the protagonist, Walter White, discovering during the pilot that he has terminal lung cancer. It is this discovery that kick-starts the action of the show.
- Totally Radical: Veers towards this sometimes, particularly with the younger characters like Jesse, Skinny Pete and Combo. The writers seem to be under the impression that peppering every other line of dialogue with "mad", "bitch" and "yo" makes for convincing diction in its own right.
- Tragedy: It's become a sort of modern codifier, with many literary and television critics even comparing it to Shakespeare's tragedies.
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: The Show.
- Train Job: Walt and company pull one in the episode "Dead Freight", plotting an elaborate heist in order to steal a load of methylamine from a freight train.
- Tranquil Fury: Gus hardly ever even raises his voice, yet he's been on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for years.
- Trash the Set: Season 3 has Walt and Jesse crushing the RV, and Season 4 ends with them blowing up the laundromat superlab.
- Translation: "Yes": A bit with Mike has him telling his target to see if a non-English speaking coworker is still in the building. He calls for her and she responds with a very long sentence. He helpfully clarifies "She said yes".
- Trauma Conga Line: Everybody. If they're not dancing the Conga, then they're playing the tune. For example:
- Hank suffers panic attacks, a bombing, and a near-fatal assassination attempt.
- Jane's dad might take the cake. First he found out that his daughter relapsed into her old drug habit, then he finds her dead. When he goes back to work, he's distracted by his daughter's death and causes an airplane crash, killing hundreds of people. He attempts suicide, but he might have survived to suffer longer.
- Things just keep getting worse for Jesse. And just when you think they can't possibly get any worse... they get worse.
- Trespassing to Talk: Walter White confronts Gretchen and Elliot inside their house.
- Tropaholics Anonymous: In Season 3, Jesse and his cronies attempt to infiltrate recovery meetings to find potential customers. In the end, none of them can bring themselves to actually sell anything to these people: "It's like shooting a baby in the face." In fact, Jesse's cronies end up actually going into recovery.
- True Companions:
- Walt and Jesse, until season 5B.
- Jesse and Mike seem to have potential for this, until Walter kills Mike.
- Tuco, Tio, and The Cousins make up an evil version.
- Ultimate Evil: The cartel. We rarely get exposition on how they relate to the story, and we often see the results of their acts rather than such acts themselves — Tortuga and the decapitated head-turtle bomb incident, for instance. It's only in season 3 where they start taking an active role in the plot and we begin seeing glimpses of the inner workings of their organization.
- Unexpected Inheritance: Skyler arranges through Saul for Ted to receive a large sum to pay off his debts to prevent her from being audited.
- Unexplained Accent:
- Benicio Fuentes, the cartel chemist, inexplicably has a prominent Home Counties accent. In Real Life, it's because his actor Carlo Rota is from London and, if The Boondock Saints is anything to go by, he's not great at doing accents that aren't his own.
- In a Foreign Language example, many of the Spanish-speaking characters don't attempt to put on an accent other than their native one, which leaves the Mexican cartel kingpin Don Eladio sounding conspicuously Cuban.
- Unflinching Walk:
- The Cousins. No matter what's happening.
- Walt does one after blowing up KEN WINS's car.
- Gus does this after being the one to GET blown up.
- Gus also does this straight into a hail of bullets. He guesses correctly that the cartel gunmen don't want to kill him.
- Yet another one occurs right after Walt and Jesse blow up the superlab and before they pull the fire alarm to warn the laundry workers to escape.
- Subverted when Walt sets up a car to explode and starts calmly walking away. But it takes longer than he was expecting, so eventually he just awkwardly sits down and waits for it.
- Un-person: Walt's fear of becoming one kicks off the series finale. In the penultimate episode of the series, his family wants him to die, his former colleagues deny his contribution to Gray Matter, and his signature blue meth remains in the market despite Heisenberg's disappearance. Not for nothing is the tag for the final season "Remember My Name."
- The Unreveal:
- We never do find out if Gus ordered the murder of the child meth dealer, or whether Gus's other dealers did that on their own hook.
- Just what led to Walt's disastrous decision to accept a $5000 buyout and leave Gray Matter is never explained, even when Walt admits to Jesse that the whole Gray Matter incident is the reason he wants to keep cooking meth. There are small hints here and there to why, such as the never-fully-explained rift in Gretchen and Walt.
- Many things about Walt's backstory are left unexplained, such as why he became a high school chemistry teacher despite being an overqualified genius.
- The Un-Smile: In "ABQ", as Junior is being interviewed about his successful charity website he set up for Walt, an offscreen Marie motions for Walt to smile, as he had a notable poker face. Walt's lips crease into the most uncomfortable and forced smile on the planet.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: The minisode "Wedding Day" (Marie and Hank's wedding, that is) shows Hank having a crisis over cheating on Marie the night before — specifically, he received a blowjob from a woman calling herself Joan Crawford, who was singing at a bar full of men called the Ivory Swallow. Hank never realizes what happened, but Walt puts two and two together.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: After Hank kills Tuco, the audience isn't shown Walt and Jesse's plan to explain away their mysterious absence, so of course it goes off without a hitch.
- Unwanted Gift Plot: Marie gives Skyler a white gold baby tiara for Holly at the baby shower in Season One. It turns out to be stolen when Skyler tries to return it.
- Useless Security Camera: DEA Agent Hank Schrader is trying to interrogate a gas station clerk to find out who sold her some meth. When he finally realizes she knows nothing, he looks up and asks if the security camera is regularly on. It isn't. However, shortly thereafter, he finds a working security camera on the ATM outside.
- Vanity License Plate: KEN WINS, LWYR UP, THECAPN, and GRAYMTR.
- [Verb] This!: Both Walt and Jesse have an infrequent habit of grabbing their crotch and saying "X this!"
- Verbal Tic: It's less emphasized in later seasons, yo, but Jesse has one, bitch.
- Vertigo Effect: Done very briefly with Walt in the desert in "Ozymandias" after Hank gets shot.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
- The mid-air collision at the end of Season 2 bears a few resemblances to a couple of real life events in Southern California history. The former is referenced by name during Walt's impromptu "speech" at the high school assembly in "No Mas". For irony, the Cerritos plane crash happened while the planes were under the control of an air traffic controller named Walter White.
- The central regret of Walt's life — impulsively taking a $5000 buyout for his share of Gray Matter, then watching it grow into a $2 billion company — is reminiscent of Ronald Wayne, a co-founder of Apple. Wayne co-founded Apple Computers with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in April 1976, but sold his share of the company back less than two weeks later for $800.
- Villainous Breakdown:
- Walt has one in "Crawl Space" when he begins laughing hysterically, though it's more of an anti-hero/villain breakdown.
- Walt appears to have a truly vicious one in "Ozymandias" when he calls Skyler on the phone and lays into her with a snarling, vitriolic rant that makes it seem like any hint of love he ever showed for her was either a lie to begin with or had dissolved into hatred long ago. However, he knew the phone was being tapped, and it was mostly an act to convince the police that Skyler was a wholly innocent victim... but it remains ambiguous to the viewer (and to Skyler) how much, if any, of the stuff he said was a reflection of what he really thought. Certainly, parts of it are only exaggerations of criticisms he's previously made to her in more restrained terms.
- Villainous Virtues: The Cousins are obsessively loyal to each other and their family in general. A flashback scene shows Hector instilling the lesson that "la familia es todo", forcing one of the boys to fight for his brother's life to punish him for saying "I wish he was dead."
- Villain Protagonist: Walt slowly evolves toward this over the course of the first four seasons, but remains an Anti-Villain at worst by always struggling against someone worse. By the fifth season, however, Walter has become a cruel, ruthless man, manipulating and lying to allies and family, and the transformation is complete.
- Villain Song:
- Villain with Good Publicity: Gus, a firm believer in "hiding in plain sight".
- Visual Pun: In the first episode, Walt is seen literally laundering money in a clothes dryer.
- When Walt teaches Walt Jr. to drive he's having lots of trouble slowing the car down. In other words he's braking bad.
- Vocal Evolution: A bit of a minor example, but as the series goes on, Walt and Jesse's voices both change, to coincide with their Character Development. As Walt's actions become more and more reprehensible, the rather quiet tone he has at the beginning of the series is replaced with a deeper, more snarling voice. As Jesse becomes more and more competent, the rather nasal tone and Pretty Fly for a White Guy vernacular that he had in the first season is gradually replaced with a deeper, more mature-sounding voice.
- Walt's voice in everyday life also changes considerably, starting out unsure and unconfident. This is especially apparent in scenes when he's talking to Skyler. By season five, everything that he says sounds not only more confident but also far more sinister and manipulative, especially when talking to Skyler.
- The Voiceless: The child-murdering rival drug dealers, who never speak a word in all of their appearances. The Salamanca brothers avoid this by the narrowest of margins, speaking in only a few key scenes (and as children in flashbacks).
- Volatile Second Tier Position: Walt finds himself saddled with one of these after accepting Gus Fring's job offer - due to a series of mishaps that are mainly Walter's fault. Among other things, the Twins are after him, his relationship with Jesse has tanked, and over time, Fring's patience with Walt's foibles beings to run dangerously thin.
- Vomit Discretion Shot
- Used in the pilot when Walt throws up after the confrontation in the RV.
- Used several times in "Crazy Handful of Nothin", when Walt is throwing up because of the chemotherapy.
- Used again in "Salud" when Gus himself purges the poisoned tequila he shared with the Mexican cartel leaders.
- Used once more in "Blood Money", after Walt begins his chemotherapy again.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
- Walter Jr. pukes in the pool, sick on tequila.
- Jane dies by choking to death on her own vomit.
- Wardrobe Flaw of Characterization: Walter's (otherwise professional-looking) button-up shirts are always two sizes too big, lending him a disheveled appearance and making him appear scrawny and sickly even when he is in relatively good health given his condition. It also fits his characterization as a very intelligent and competent man who has a bad habit of missing small but crucial details.
- Watering Down: Jesse initially spiked his meth with chili powder before Walt put a stop to that.
- In early season 5, a plan to rob methylamine uses this technique — replace the methylamine in a tanker car with water during an emergency stop.
- Webcomic Time: The show started on Walt's 50th birthday. He turns 51 in the season 5 episode "Fifty-One", broadcast more than four and a half years after the pilot.
- Well, This Is Not That Trope: When Mike is about to part ways with Heisenberg and Jesse:
- Wham Episode: Has its own page.
- Wham Line:
- In season 1's "Cancer Man", after Jesse is kicked out of the house after a joint is found in his room, his brother Jake goes up to him and says this:
Jake: Thanks for not telling on me.
- In season 1's "Crazy Handful Of Nothin'", Walt cooks what looks like meth but is actually a highly reactive explosive that he uses to threaten Tuco.
Walt: This... is not meth.
- In the Season 2 finale "ABQ", while Walt is under anesthesia:
Skyler: Walt, did you bring your cell phone?
Walt: Which one?
- Another line later in the same episode which kickstarts the climactic plane crash:
Juliet-Mike-21... ...climb and maintain 17,000. Clear direct to Albuquerque via the Aircraft calling, please stand by. Jane
-Mike-21, turn, heading Disregard
- In the season 3 premiere:
Skyler: You're a drug dealer.
- Forms the name of the episode "I.F.T.":
Skyler: I fucked Ted.
- The last line of the Season 4 episode "Cornered". Hank finds evidence that links Gale to Los Pollos Hermanos and, by extension, to Gustavo Fring.
Hank: Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?
- From "Crawl Space":
- From "Face Off". Walt's plan to kill Gus goes off without a hitch and he tells Skyler exactly that.
Walt: I won.
- From "Fifty-One":
Skyler: [I'm waiting] for the cancer to come back.
- A flashback version that Hank recalls in "Gliding Over All":
"To W.W. My star, my perfect silence." W.W. I mean, who do you figure that is, y'know? Woodrow Wilson? Willy Wonka?... Walter White? Walt: You got me.
- From "Blood Money". Walter threatens his own brother-in-law.
- From "Confessions", After Marie finds out about Walt's meth empire.
Marie: Why don't you just kill yourself, Walt?
- Technically he would go on to do that.
- Another one from the same episode:
Walt: If you're watching this tape, I'm probably dead, murdered by my brother-in-law, Hank Schrader. Hank has been building a meth empire for over a year now and using me as his chemist.
- From "Rabid Dog". Skyler shows how comfortable she has become with the idea of letting people die to save her and Walt's own skin.
Skyler: We've come this far. For us. What's one more?
- From the same episode. Walt intends to contact Todd's uncle and his gang, who are hitmen, to kill Jesse because he's become a liability.
Walt: I think I might have another job for your uncle.
- From "Ozymandias". Hank refuses to beg for his life despite Walt's plea, realizing that he's going to be killed anyway.
Hank: You're the smartest guy I ever met and you're too stupid to see he made up his mind ten minutes ago.
- Also from "Ozymandias. After Skyler attacks Walt with a knife, and Flynn throws him off.
Walt: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WE'RE A FAMILY!!!
- From the same episode. Walter realizes how far he has fallen after kidnapping his own daughter.
- Also from "Ozymandias". Walt finally confesses to one of his many crimes.
Walt: I watched Jane die. I was there. And I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her. But I didn't.
- From "Felina". Walt's excuse for everything he's done in the series is rebutted by himself.
Walter: I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really... I was alive.
- Wham Shot:
- The final shot in "Face Off", showing the Lily of the Valley in Walter's garden that was used to poison Brock.
- The final shot of "Gliding Over All", where we see Gale wrote a dedication to Walter in the Walt Whitman book he gave him, and Hank is reading it, finally connecting the dots.
- "Confessions": That look on Jesse's face when he figures out who lifted the ricin-packed cigarette. And pretty much every minute after that as Jesse goes on a rampage.
- "Ozymandias": The shot of Skyler reaching for the kitchen knife over the phone after discovering Hank is dead.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Jane's father Donald is said to have attempted suicide after causing a plane crash. He is never mentioned again.
- Huell was last seen left in a safe house by Hank and Steve and is never mentioned again. It's been joked by the crew that he's still in that room. (Though Word of God states that Huell eventually got out thanks to other DEA agents.)
- We never find out what became of the barrels of Walt's cash that Uncle Jack stole.
- Ted Beneke's ultimate fate is never brought up as well. The last that is said about him is that he may never walk again, so that's obviously an ambiguous situation which isn't cleared up when he disappears from the narrative.
- Brock isn't seen or referred to again after Andrea's murder.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Several people deliver these to Walt over the course of the show. Not that he ever really pays any attention.
- As they're about to be given new identities by Ed, Saul calls Walt out for running away and leaving Skyler and their children to be punished for his crimes, especially as he's dying anyway.
- What You Are in the Dark: A major theme in the show. Walt begins manufacturing meth and tries to keep this fact a secret from the people he cares about. Eventually, it turns out that in the dark, Walt is a very bad person.
- Played straight when Walter decide to intervene and save Jesse from being killed by Gus's drug dealers, even tho he earlier refused to help Jesse with devising a discreet way to poison them and save Tomas. Walter had to simply do nothing and leave Jesse to die, and he would have been fine. Instead, the ensuing war between Walter and Gus, as Mike will quite accurately point out during his last confrontation with Walter, will be the first step that will eventually cause the entire empire of Heisenberg to utterly crash down on him.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "Not Mad Dog, Not Diesel, you were held up... by a guy named Spooge?"
- Who Watches the Watchmen?:
Skyler: Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.
- Women's Mysteries: When Skyler is detained by a jeweler on suspicion of shoplifting, she fakes going into labor to scare them into letting her go. Or possibly just to get her to stop Lamazing at them.
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: A constant theme.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Walter himself could be interpreted as this. The "Destroyer of Worlds" part came from him using his skill in chemistry to manufacture crystal meth and sell it to support his family, right after he found out that his death will leave his family in extreme poverty. It goes downhill from there when his actions becomes less justified and he continues to make bigger schemes, and he eventually becomes a murderous person himself.
- Would Hurt a Child:
- The street gangsters who killed Tomas.
- Gus threatens to kill Walt's son and daughter if he continues interfering with his plans.
- It turns out that Walt was responsible for non-fatally poisoning Brock.
- Todd shoots a child witness in cold blood.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Mike avoids killing Lydia, but later regrets his "sexism" and admits that he wouldn't have shown mercy if she were a man.
- X Called; They Want Their Y Back: After one of Jesse's (many) beatings, Saul takes a picture of his face and says "Hey, Adrian! Rocky called, he wants his face back!"
- Xanatos Gambit: Gus pits the Salamanca assassins after Walt's head against the DEA agent investigating him... and then gives Hank prior warning of the hit. As Walt works out, he didn't care who died. He just wanted a big, dramatic shootout to get the American authorities to crack down on the Cartel, while also distracting both sides away from "Heisenberg". Whatever happens, Gus increases his chokehold on the market.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: The latter portion of Season 3 and all of Season 4 is one giant game of Cat and Mouse between Walt and Gus as they plot each other's murder. They both exploit each other's Fatal Flaw, Walt's pride and Gus' desire for revenge. Ultimately, Walt wins out.
- Yank the Dog's Chain:
- Oh, Hank, why did you have to go and call Marie to tell her you'd caught Walt? The next thing you know, you're diving for cover from a hail of bullets.
- Each and everytime Jessie finds stability and happiness, don't expect it to last long.
- Yoko Oh No: Saul accuses Skyler of this when she decides to become more involved with Walt's meth dealing business and, specifically, suggest he invests in the car wash he used to work for as a way to launder money rather than invest in Saul's laser tag venue.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
- Lydia suggests this to Mike, who angrily rejects the idea of killing eleven people who he personally vetted and trusts to be loyal. She tries to go through with the plan anyway.
- Lydia almost suffered this at Walt's hands, only squeezing out by talking him into using her to ship his product overseas.
- You Keep Telling Yourself That: Both Jesse and Skyler have called Walter out whenever he's tried to rationalize the safety of his family or others, and also the reasoning for his actions. Subverted in the last episode; he honestly tells Skyler he did everything for himself.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Defied by Mike, when Walt is disappointed with the profits they make when they start distributing for themselves after the death of Gus, who'd built his empire up over decades.
Mike: Just because you killed Jesse James...don't make you Jesse James.
- You Monster!: Hank says this to Walt when he confronts him for being Heisenberg.
- Your Days Are Numbered: This kicks the whole plot of the series into gear, when Walt finds out he has terminal lung cancer. In "Blood Money", Walt cites this as a reason why it would be pointless for Hank to go after him (he'll be dead before he sees a jail cell). When he finds out in season two that his days might not be quite so numbered (his cancer goes into remission) Walt punches a paper towel dispenser in rage.
- Your Head Asplode:
- For Gus, this happens only halfway.
- The Tortuga Bomb. Tortuga's head is mounted on a tortoise packed with explosives.
- Your Mom: In "Better Call Saul":
Saul: I sense you're discussing my client. Anything you care to share with me?
Hank: Sure, your commercials? They suck ass. I've seen better acting in an epileptic whorehouse.
Saul: Is that like the one your mom works at? Is she still offering the two for one discount?