Although I normally don’t write about television and film, everyone who has seen Breaking Bad knows this show can linger in your mind long after the last episode.
I am late to the party as I had not seen the show until recently, but as for everyone else, it is never too late to discover more meanings behind events and objects in the show most people will miss.
Perhaps you caught a few. Like in Season 5 when Badger explains his idea for a Star Trek script which aligning the Star Trek characters to Breaking Bad characters, is how the rest of the show plays out. Similar to other television shows attempts at explaining the rest of the plot subtly in something that may otherwise seem unimportant.
Or you may have caught some of the visual queues like Walt and Jesse standing in front of Saul’s car near the end of the show. Saul’s license plate normally says LWYRUP for lawyer up and Walt stands to block the L changing the meaning to wire up which is subsequently done by Jesse in an attempt to take down Walt.
Regardless, something I noticed is there are dozens of lists out there giving away some of these hidden motifs and foreshadows. Yet finding all of them without doing loads of research is nearly impossible.
How else would you find out that the show’s 62 episodes parallel to the 62nd element of the periodic table, Samarium, an element typically used to treat cancer?
Character arc symbolism
Everyone knows what makes a good show is great conflict and great character plots.
A boring show has just one plot or one and a boring subplot leading the main focus to be forced and uninteresting.
Breaking Bad is brilliant for its character arcs being so distinct and everchanging that skipping one episode will already leave you clueless on what a characters motive has become.
Hopping between characters became a thrill for watchers because while the characters are often with each other, the moment they separate, their motives start to change and when they collide, it’s more than exciting.
As for character arc symbolism, we are also subtly shown things about characters in ways to give us an idea of how to better understand them.
We always know Jesse wants to free himself of this lifestyle and what he’s done, but he can’t, he isn’t in control anymore and he can’t get out. In the same instance, every time Jesse is taken somewhere, he is in the passenger seat of the car looking out the window. He is never the driver and always taken by Walt, Mike, or even Hank.
It isn’t until the very end of the show that he has become free and we see him drive himself through the gate and exit to never come back.
Instances of foreshadowing
One thing Breaking Bad is absolutely riddled with is the foreshadowing of events.
By itself, the show is an easter egg hunt of finding these visuals and moments of dialogue that give away something that can’t be interpreted unless watched again.
Character motives were foreshadowed, events were foreshadowed and changes to how the story functions overall were foreshadowed.
A good example of this is Jane’s experience choking on her own vomit to death has multiple queues before it happens.
Jesse makes breakfast and Jane comes out of the bedroom and then Jesse says, “You weren’t meant to get up,” following Jane’s reply, “Ever?” But even scenes after this like Walt helping to put Holly on her side in case she has to vomit showing that he is the one meant to do that for Jane.
Another being when Jesse and Walt are trapped in the RV for three days as part of Season 2. Jesse becomes desperate and tells Walt to just build a robot that will save them. Walt continues to cough up blood in the desert but ends up making a way for them to escape creating a battery.
Three seasons later at the end of the show, to get them both out of the situation, Walt does exactly that and builds a robot to shoot through the building saving Jesse. Walt, however, gets shot and dies there coughing up blood.
Visual Motifs and Metaphors
A motif that was pointed out and understood by a lot as some episodes in Season 2 tried to hint that this object has more meaning is the pink bear from the plane crash.
The pink bear is missing an eye and it’s face is burned off. This is the same way Gus looks right before he dies.
The bear appears in many background scenes like on sale at the Hi-Lo Market sitting on the shelf. The bear is sometimes hidden in trees in the background. It even has an appearance drawn in on the mural above Jane’s bed.
Additionally, Walt watches the bear drowning in the pool in the same episode he watches Jane choke to death.
The significance of the bear is shown and viewers understand it has an important meaning, the key question to ask though is what is the meaning?
The eye comes out and Walt keeps that as it can symbolize the eye of god watching him because it appears more after the plane crash had already taken place.
Why does he keep it though? Is it some guilt? Does he need the eye to watch over him?
No matter how many times the show is watched, how many lists of hidden easter eggs are read, there will always be more to find.
The show is magnificent for having this effect as it becomes more than entertainment and becomes a game to watch again and again.