Pilot (Breaking Bad)
|Breaking Bad episode|
Walt prepares himself for what he believes to be the police.
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Vince Gilligan|
|Written by||Vince Gilligan|
|Produced by||Karen Moore|
|Featured music||"Come on Home and Have Your Next Affair With Me" by Stonewall Jackson
"Dirty South Hustla" by Carolina Slim
"Tamacun" by Rodrigo y Gabriela
"Mango Walk" by The In Crowd
"Dead Fingers Talking" by Working for a Nuclear Free City
"A Gosar" by SDK ft. Tori Papa
"Get Low" by Pudge
"Apocalypshit" by Molotov
"Out of Time Man" by Mick Harvey
|Cinematography by||John Toll|
|Editing by||Lynne Willingham|
|Original air date||January 20, 2008|
|Running time||58 minutes|
"Pilot" is the first episode of the American television drama series Breaking Bad. It originally aired on AMC on January 20, 2008, and was written and directed by series creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher living in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and their son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), who has cerebral palsy. He supplements his poor teaching salary by working part-time at a local car wash, where he is often humiliated in front of the students he teaches. Shortly after his 50th birthday, Walter collapses at the car wash and is raced to the hospital, where he is told that he has developed inoperable lung cancer and has only a few years to live. He opts to keep this news from his family and from Skyler's sister, Marie (Betsy Brandt) and her husband and DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), a close friend of Walter.
After returning to work, Walter has a fit of rage at the car wash and walks off the job. To relieve his tension, Walter takes up Hank's offer to go on a ride-along as he and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) raid a known meth lab. As the DEA agents clear out the house, Walter observes his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) sneaking out a back window. Later, Walter tracks down Jesse's address and blackmails him to helping him produce crystal meth; Walter does not let Jesse know that his motive is to earn money from the sale of the drugs for the financial security of his family. Walter turns over his life savings to allow Jesse to purchase a Bounder RV to use as a mobile lab, while he collects supplies from the high school chemistry lab needed for the process.
Walter and Jesse drive the RV to a remote desert location and begin to cook. Walter's expertise in chemistry enables them to create crystal meth that Jesse claims is the purest he's ever seen. Jesse offers to take a sample to a local dealer, and drives back into town to meet Krazy-8 Molina (Maximino Arciniega). Jesse realizes too late that Krazy-8 is a cousin of Emilio Koyama (John Koyama), his partner that was busted on the earlier raid and now free on bail. Emilio believes Jesse abandoned him, but Jesse promises to prove his loyalty by driving them to the RV to show that he is helping them cook. When they meet Walter, Emilio recognizes him from the bust and thinks that he is an informant, leading him and Krazy-8 hold the two at gunpoint. Jesse tries to run but trips on a rock and falls, knocking himself out, and Walter barters for his life by offering to show them how he produced the meth. As they watch Walter inside the RV, Emilio flicks away a cigarette outside, which causes a brush fire to ignite. Walter uses the distraction to synthesize deadly phosphine gas before he flees the RV, causing Emilio and Krazy-8 to pass out.
Hearing sirens in the distance, Walter quickly dons a gas mask and puts Jesse in one before pulling him into the RV's passenger seat, still filled with phosphine gas fumes. Walter frantically drives the RV away from the spreading brushfire. As shown in medias res at the start of the episode, Walter drives the RV into a ditch, and stumbles out of the vehicle, discarding his gas mask. Believing that he is about to be captured by the police, Walter records a video message to Skyler and Walt Jr. before trying to shoot himself with a pistol, unaware the safety is still on. As the sirens near, Walter is relieved to find they are only fire engines responding to the brush fire, and quickly hides his weapon. Jesse wakes up and joins Walter as they watch the fire engines race by. The two manage to extract the RV from the ditch and drive back into town, making sure Emilio and Krazy-8 are secured in the RV before leaving it at Jesse's home. Later that night, Walter returns home and meets his wife's troubled queries with a new sexual vigor, which leaves her asking, "Walt, is that you?"
Breaking Bad was created by television writer Vince Gilligan, with the crux of the series being the protagonist's journey into an antagonist. He stated "Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades," he said. "When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?" He added that his goal with Walter White is to turn him from Mr. Chips into Scarface. The concept of Walt as a meth dealer came to fruition when Gilligan was talking with fellow writer Thomas Schnauz, and they joked regarding their unemployment that the solution was "putting a meth lab in the back of an RV and driving around the country cooking meth and making money." The script was originally set in Riverside, California, but at the suggestion of Sony, Albuquerque was chosen for production due to the favorable financial conditions offered by the state of New Mexico, and the setting was moved there too because otherwise "we'd always have to be avoiding the Sandia Mountains" in shots toward the East, according to Gilligan.
Gilligan cast Bryan Cranston for the role of Walter White based on having worked with him in a sixth season episode of the science fiction television series The X-Files, where Gilligan worked as a writer. Cranston played an anti-Semite with a terminal illness who took series co-protagonist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hostage. Gilligan said the character had to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic, and that "Bryan alone was the only actor who could do that, who could pull off that trick. And it is a trick. I have no idea how he does it." AMC officials were wary of casting Cranston, due to his being mostly known his comedic role as Hal on the series Malcolm in the Middle. The executives offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick who both turned it down. After seeing Cranston in the X-Files episode, the executives were convinced to cast him. Cranston gained ten pounds for the pilot to reflect the character's personal decline, and had his hair dyed brown to mask his natural red highlights. Cranston collaborated with costume designer Kathleen Detoro and makeup artist Frieda Valenzuela to make the character of Walt both bland and unremarkable and impotent.
The episode received mostly positive reviews. Robert Bianco of USA Today praised Bryan Cranston's performance calling it "riveting and remarkable". Jonathan Storm of Philadelphia Inquirer praised the show calling it "unpredictable and stimulating". Barry Garron of The Hollywood Reporter called the show "suspensful and surprising". Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club wrote a positive review, citing Cranston's "mesmerizing", "nihilistic" and "hulking yet impotent" performance and Gilligan's "keenly observed screenplay."
Bryan Cranston won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for this episode at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. Vince Gilligan was nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and won the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama. Lynne Willingham won Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series and John Toll was nominated for Outstanding Cinematography for a One Hour Series.
In 2013, Vince Gilligan recalled the viewership for the episode being below a million viewers. "We went up against some big football game, and we got crushed", Gilligan was quoted as saying during an episode of The Colbert Report.
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