Pilot (Breaking Bad)

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Breaking Bad episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 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 (2008-01-20)
Running time 58 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Cat's in the Bag..."
Breaking Bad (season 1)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

"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.


A man (Bryan Cranston) wearing underwear and a gas mask drives a Bounder RV recklessly down a desolate road in the New Mexico desert. Another, younger man (Aaron Paul) with a gas mask covering a severely bruised face, unconscious, occupies the passenger seat. As the vehicle swerves down the dirt road, two bodies slide across the RV floor until the vehicle veers into a ditch. The hyperventilating driver climbs out with a video camera, wallet, and gun. Identifying himself as Walter Hartwell White, he records a cryptic, handheld farewell to his wife, son, and unborn child while sirens echo in the distance. Walt then steps onto the roadway, with the gun in his hand.

Three weeks earlier, Walt has his 50th birthday. He lives in Albuquerque with his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and their son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), who has cerebral palsy. He is a committed but ineffectual high school chemistry teacher, providing instruction to uninterested and disrespectful students. Walt's work at the school pays poorly, so he also works as a cashier at a local car wash for additional income, which proves to be particularly humiliating when he has to clean the cars of his own students.

Walt returns home where Skyler has organized a surprise birthday party for him. Among the guests are Walt's gregarious brother-in-law, DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his wife, Marie (Betsy Brandt). Later in the evening, Hank appears in a news report documenting his bust of a local methamphetamine lab. Walt, intrigued, asks Hank how much money was recovered at the crime scene, to which Hank replies "$700,000. Not a bad haul." Hank invites Walt to accompany him on a bust as a ride-along.

The following day, Walt collapses at the car wash and is taken away by an ambulance. At the hospital, a doctor verifies that Walt has developed inoperable lung cancer and has only a few years to live. Back home, Walt keeps the news from Skyler. At the car wash, Walt loses his temper, insults his boss and storms out. Walt then takes up Hank on his offer and accompanies him on a bust. As Hank and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) sweep the scene, Walt waits in the squad car and notices one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman (Paul), escaping through a window of the house next door, while his partner Emilio Koyama (John Koyama) gets arrested. Later, Walt tracks Jesse to his home and gives him a choice: either partner with him in making crystal methamphetamine, or go to jail.

Walt returns to the high school and steals beakers, flasks, two full face respirators, and protective aprons from a chemistry stock room. Jesse arranges to buy a used Bounder motorhome so that their laboratory can be mobile and harder to detect. After retrieving $7000 from his credit union, Jesse tells Walter that "his guy" wants $8500, to which Walter replies that it is "all the money he has in the world". The two drive the motorhome out to the desert where Walt strips down to his underwear and, using his exceptional knowledge of chemistry, meticulously produces what Jesse calls the purest crystal meth he has ever seen.

Jesse takes a sample to Krazy-8 Molina (Maximino Arciniega), a drug dealer who happens to be the cousin of his former partner, Emilio. Out on bail, Emilio believes Jesse abandoned him. To disprove him, the three drive out to the desert where Krazy-8 offers Walt cash and asks him if he wants to switch allegiances. Before he can answer, Emilio recognizes Walt from the police bust and assumes it is a set-up, at which point Krazy-8 pulls out a gun. Jesse attempts to flee, but trips and knocks himself out on a rock. Walt barters for his life by promising to reveal his formula. In the RV, as Walt prepares the ingredients, Emilio throws a cigarette out the window and unknowingly ignites a brush fire. Walt makes his escape by mixing chemicals that produce deadly phosphine gas before he dashes out. Walt holds the door closed with the drug dealers inside.

Untying Jesse, Walt puts a gas mask on him and drops him in the passenger seat, still unconscious. The brush fire has since gotten out of control, and unable to put it out, Walt drives away in the RV with the bodies of the dealers inside. After crashing into a ditch, and with the sound of sirens closing in, Walt stands in the middle of the road and tries to shoot himself. To his dismay, the safety is on. He struggles with the gun and misfires. A moment later, Walt is relieved to see that the sirens came from fire trucks, not police cars. Walt stashes the gun in the back of his underwear. Jesse, sporting a black eye, crawls out of the wreck to join him. 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?"[1] He added that his goal with Walter White is to turn him from Mr. Chips into Scarface.[2][3][4] 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."[5] 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.[6][7]

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."[8][9] 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.[10] After seeing Cranston in the X-Files episode, the executives were convinced to cast him.[11] 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.[12]


The episode received mostly positive reviews. Robert Bianco of USA Today praised Bryan Cranston's performance calling it "riveting and remarkable".[13] Jonathan Storm of Philadelphia Inquirer praised the show calling it "unpredictable and stimulating".[14] Barry Garron of The Hollywood Reporter called the show "suspensful and surprising".[15] 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."[16]

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[17] 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.[18]


  1. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (July 12, 2011). "Bad Decisions". Grantland. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ Goodman, Tim (July 13, 2011). "'Breaking Bad': Dark Side of the Dream". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ Bowles, Scott (July 13, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' shows man at his worst in Season 4". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ Ginsberg, Merle (July 16, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' Star Bryan Cranston on Walter White: 'He's Well on His Way to Badass' (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ Callaghan, Dylan (2012). Script Tease: Today's Hottest Screenwriters Bare All. Adams Media. pp. 83–4. ISBN 1440541760. 
  6. ^ Brown, Lane (May 12, 2013). "In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad". Vulture. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Series 'Breaking Bad' to Begin Production at Albuquerque Studios". Albuquerque Studios. August 23, 2007. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2007. 
  8. ^ Segal, David (July 6, 2011). "The Dark Art of 'Breaking Bad'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  9. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (March 6, 2009). "Sepinwall on TV: Bryan Cranston talks 'Breaking Bad' season two". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  10. ^ Weingus, Leigh (July 16, 2012). "'Breaking Bad': John Cusack, Matthew Broderick Turned Down Walter White Role". Huffington Post. 
  11. ^ Rosenblum, Emma (March 13, 2009). "Bleak House". New York. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Breaking Bad - Yeah Bitch (Dead Freight Alternate Ending)". YouTube. 2012-08-13. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  13. ^ Bianco, Robert (January 17, 2008). "'Breaking' is far from bad; it's fantastic". USA Today (Gannett Company). Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  14. ^ Storm, Jonathan (January 20, 2008). "Jonathan Storm: Entertaining drama of crystal-meth maker". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network. Archived from the original on January 24, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  15. ^ Garron, Barry (January 16, 2008). "Breaking Bad". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved April 23, 2013.  (subscription required)
  16. ^ Bowman, Donna (January 22, 2008). ""Pilot" Breaking Bad". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, (July 17, 2008) "Complete 2008 Nominations List". Retrieved on July 20, 2011.
  18. ^ "January 23, 2014 - Patricia Churchland | The Colbert Report - Full Episode Video | Comedy Central". Colbertnation.com. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 

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