David Liu | 15 October 2012
Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan is quite the perceptive cinephile. Among the show’s cornucopia of cinematic homages and references are several moments in which key scenes from films are shown on television, often to foreshadow or augment character motivations as the series moves forward.
Breaking Bad 1x4: Cancer Man (Jim McKay, 2008)
The oft-sedentary Walter Jr. is watching Edward D. Wood Jr.’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956), in which aliens attack Earth with rays that instantly melt humans into skeletons. This can be seen as a nod to the previous two episodes, in which Walt and Jesse concoct a plan to decompose a dead body using a gallon of hydrofluoric acid — to darkly comical results.
Breaking Bad 4x11: Crawl Space (Scott Winant, 2011)
When Gus visits Hector to inform him of the cartel’s demise, the latter is watching David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). In the scene, Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) realizes that he has alienated his own men in his drive to boost troop morale and finish building the bridge by any means necessary. Moments later, he is mortally wounded by shrapnel and, staggering, falls onto a detonator, blowing up the bridge. The season finale — pun alert — ends on a similarly explosive note.
Breaking Bad 5x2: Madrigal (Michelle MacLaren, 2012)
At the beginning of the episode, Mike is watching Edward Dmtryk’s The Caine Mutiny (1953), starring Humphrey Bogart as an increasingly unstable U.S. Navy ship captain. The scene suggests a twofold purpose: paralleling the collapse of Gus Fring’s drug empire and possibly forecasting the consequences of Walt’s coup d’état and ascension to the throne.
Breaking Bad 5x3: Hazard Pay (Adam Bernstein, 2012)
After a successful cook, Walt and Jesse sit back with beers and enjoy a couple of Three Stooges shorts: Ants in the Pantry (1936) and A Bird in the Head (1946). Back at home, Walt, Walter Jr. and baby Holly are watching Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983). “Everyone dies in this movie,” says Walt, off-handedly.
Breaking Bad 5x7: Say My Name (Thomas Schnauz, 2012)
As DEA agents raid his house, Mike calmly sits back on his couch and watches Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), in which a tough but unscrupulous cop plans to take down a crime syndicate after the murder of his wife.
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