Cancer Man (Breaking Bad)

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"Cancer Man"
Breaking Bad episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 4
Directed byJim McKay
Written byVince Gilligan
Featured music
Cinematography byRey Villalobos
Editing byLynne Willingham
Original air dateFebruary 17, 2008 (2008-02-17)
Running time48 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"...And the Bag's in the River"
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"Gray Matter"
Breaking Bad (season 1)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

"Cancer Man" is the fourth episode of the first season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad. Written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Jim McKay, it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on February 17, 2008.


Hank and his DEA team have a meeting over the disappearance of Emilio and Krazy-8, the latter of whom is revealed to have been their informant. Hank also reports on their discovery of 99.1% pure methamphetamine. Although the DEA had no leads, Hank believes the product is good enough to make someone Albuquerque's new meth kingpin. Meanwhile, Walt tells Hank, Marie, and Walt Jr. about his cancer; Skyler has already been told. Jesse smokes Walt's meth with two friends, and flees his house the next morning when he hallucinates that two religious evangelists at his door are armed bikers.

Skyler makes an appointment with one of the top oncologists in the country, even though the family can't afford him. Walt says he will take the money out from his pension, but he actually uses some of the money taken from Krazy-8 offered him in the desert, which he keeps hidden in an air-conditioning duct at his house. Walt Jr. berates his father for acting so weird and nonchalant about his cancer. When Walt goes to his credit union to put the cash in a cashier's check, his parking spot is stolen by a rich, obnoxious man named Ken. Ken annoys Walt and the rest of the customers with his loud and socially inappropriate cell phone conversation.

Jesse ends up fleeing to his affluent parents' house, where he sleeps for an entire day. He attempts to bond with his overachieving little brother, Jake. That night, Jesse gets a call from one of the friends who smoked Walt's meth, who says that he knows a lot of wealthy people looking to score drugs and are willing to pay top dollar for the high quality meth he cooked. The next day, Jesse visits Walt to "touch base," but he kicks Jesse out. Jesse then brusquely gives Walt his half of the meth profit — $4,000. The oncologist tells Walt that the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, but there is a chance it is still treatable with chemotherapy.

At home, Walt expresses his doubts about the chemo since it will cost $90,000 and if he still dies, he will leave his family with all the debt. Walt Jr. admonishes his dad, saying that he should just die if he's going to give up so easily. At the Pinkman residence, a housekeeper finds a joint in Jesse's room, resulting in his parents kicking him out. It turns out the joint belonged to Jake, who thanks Jesse for taking the fall for him. While Jesse is waiting out front for his ride after his parents kick him out for the marijuana, Jake comes out asking for his joint back, which Jesse throws on and stomps into the ground. Walt suffers a coughing attack while driving and coughs up blood. As he pulls into a gas station, he notices Ken pull up. When Ken leaves his car unattended, an angry Walt takes a squeegee, pops open Ken's hood, and shorts the car battery with it. The battery subsequently overheats and explodes as Walt walks back to his car. He then calmly drives away, leaving an exasperated Ken.


The episode was written by Vince Gilligan, and directed by Jim McKay; it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on February 17, 2008.

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received mostly positive reviews. Seth Amitin of IGN gave the episode a rating of 8.6 out of 10 commenting: "This seemed like an ordinary episode, but a lot of subversive plot and character development happened and if you've been watching the previous episodes, you probably know why this episode was so good. There's a lot to extrapolate."[1] Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "B-", saying: "This episode doesn't have the wow factor that the series has had so far -- it's about moving the pieces into place for long-term strategy."[2]

In 2019 The Ringer ranked "Cancer Man" 43rd out of the 62 total Breaking Bad episodes.[3]

Title meaning[edit]

The title "Cancer Man" is a reference to The X-Files character Cigarette Smoking Man, whom Mulder first called Cancer Man. Vince Gilligan was previously a writer and producer for that series.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Amitin, Seth (February 19, 2008). "Breaking Bad: "Cancer Man" Review". IGN. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  2. ^ Bowman, Donna (February 17, 2008). "Breaking Bad: "Cancer Man"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  3. ^

External links[edit]