Over the course of five incredibly intense seasons, writer and showrunner Vince Gilligan gave audiences something they’d never quite seen before. Breaking Bad was the story of Walter White, a good guy chemistry teacher who begins selling meth after receiving a diagnosis of cancer. What White discovers, though, as he ventures into the unrelenting criminal underworld is that he not only has a talent for cooking, he’s got a taste for a life of crime. Breaking Bad is the slow descent of a good man into wickedness; White’s path is marred with jaw-dropping moments of violence and treachery as his turn to evil infects the life of everyone around him. In a show with plenty of options to choose from, here are some of Breaking Bad’s most controversial moments.
10. Adventures With Hydrofluoric Acid
Being a chemistry teacher, Walter White knows a heck of a lot about what chemicals can do to organic matter. So, when he finds himself with a corpse on his hands in the pilot episode, White knows just what to do to get rid of the evidence: dissolve the body in acid. Too bad he doesn’t explain to his partner, Jesse, that you have to put hydrofluoric acid in a very specific container. See, hydrofluoric acid eats through pretty much everything, like, say, the ceramic of a bathtub. Things get pretty messy when that bathtub is on the second floor. Pretty messy, indeed.
9. Hank and His Trusty Sidearm
In a show that will kill off main characters without hesitation, no one was put more to the hazard than Walter White’s DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader. The guy never hesitated to walk head-on into a shootout, and though he might have taken his licks — in once case he got licked so hard he had to learn to walk again — but Hank always came out on top. Whether he was fending off seemingly invulnerable assassins or taking down a drug dealer armed with an automatic weapon, Hank never needed anything but his nerve and his 9 millimeter to get the job done.
8. Walter White Once Poisoned a Child to Get His Way
When he needs to get some backup in his personal war against Gustavo Fring (more on that in a minute), Walter White decides there’s only one way to convince Jesse to join his team. White makes Jesse believe that Gus has poisoned a child, a move that (understandably) drives Jesse into a blind rage. As it happens, Walt was the a-hole who poisoned said kid. Sure, the child didn’t die, but it came really close.
7. That Poor, Poor Turtle
Everyone in Breaking Bad who goes wrong can blame themselves, at least in part. The show doesn’t actually have any real victims by the end, except for two. Walt’s kid, and that poor, poor turtle. In season two, cartel assassins go to the trouble of decapitating a guy, then affixing his severed head to a tortoise. Yeah. Even better, when the tortoise walks into the midst of a group of DEA agents, it’s revealed that the head is stuffed with C4. Lots of carnage ensues and the turtle doesn’t make it. It’s still tough to talk about.
6. You’ll Never Look at a Bicycle Riding Kid the Same Way Again
In season two, Jesse and Walt are trying their hand at being drug dealers (instead of just cooks). Of course, they’re wading into territory that’s already pretty crowded, which one of Jesse’s pals finds out the hard way. We’re treated to interspersed shots of Jesse’s pal, Combo, standing on the street corner peddling meth, a slow-moving gang car around the block over and over, and a kid riding his bike through the run-down neighborhood where Combo is dealing. The shots keep changing perspective with increasing speed, and we just know that poor bike-riding moppet is going to get murdered hard. Then, shots go off, and it’s the little kid holding the smoking gun.
5. Walter White Removes All Doubt That He Has Good Still Inside Him
In the wake of Combo’s death, Jesse goes out to get a little gang vengeance. As the audience becomes increasingly concerned that the kid is going to get himself shot. Things even go so far as the two men holding their guns up to take the kill shot. Then, at the last moment, Walter White comes out of nowhere and runs the two jerks down in his Pontiac. Then, just to cap things off, he gets out of his car and puts a few bullets in the one man with the ability to try and limp away.
4. Gus’ Last Hospital Visit
For the better part of three seasons, Gustavo Fring consistently managed to get the best of Walter White, lording his mastery at manipulation over the meth cook. It had gotten to the point that even the fans were beginning to believe that Gus would be a permanent fixture on the show. Then, he walks into a hospital room to taunt an old crippled man with every reason to hate him, and what happens? Walter White has made a deal with the old fellow, stuck a bomb under his wheelchair, and then asked him to press the button when Gus gets close enough. The result is a death that leaves absolutely zero room for a character re-emergence. Having your face blown off will do that.
3. Jesse’s First Victim
When Breaking Bad began, poor Jesse Pinkman was just an average dummy trying to make a little cash doing what he loved, and what he loved was all the drugs in the world. He was a baggy-pants-wearing Limp Bizkit fan who was, in spite of being a bit obnoxious, basically a good guy. Then he met Walter White, and in just three short seasons, he’s killing folks for his new buddy. Of course, Jesse’s inherent goodness was a tough thing to cast off, so when he pulls the trigger on his first victim, mild-mannered chemist named Gale, everybody is crying. Watching Jesse plunge forward into the darkness is heart-shattering.
2. Walter White Once Let a Woman Choke To Death on Her Own Vomit Because She Might Break Up the Band
Okay, okay, that woman was sort of getting Jesse Pinkman hooked on heroin (and likely headed for a really hard OD), but still. Walter was walking through her house while she and Jesse were zonked out, she started to convulse and puke, and he could have saved her, (but he was too busy stealing money from under the sink). Instead, White just stood there because it was more convenient to him that she die.
1. Take That Tuco
Even though the dissolving body thing is pretty rough, the first time Walter White really shows that he’s got b-lls of freaking steel is when he walks into the hideout of small time (but super crazy) drug lord Tuco Salamanca. After being laughed at by the criminal, Walter White uses a cube of fulminated mercury to get the drop on Tuco, blowing up his headquarters and making off with about 50K to boot.
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