Monday, August 27, 2012

The many deaths of Breaking Bad

This goes without saying, but obviously there are SPOILERS in this post. DO NOT READ if you haven't seen the show, but why would you be reading this post anyway? I'll put the death(s) from the newest seasons (4 and 5) after the jump, so please DO NOT continue reading if you haven't seen the newest season of Breaking Bad yet. But what are you waiting for? You have some catching up to do! I'll put each season's deaths under a heading with some spacing, so if you've only watched up to a certain episode/season thus far, STOP reading! List originally at Vulture, with my comments italicized; please proceed with caution:


Dies in: The pilot (season one, episode one)
Heartbreak level: Zero? Are we horrible if we say zero?
Emilio's death isn't there for us to mourn over Emilio, it's there for us to learn just how serious Walt is about making meth. Emillio was Jesse's original drug buddy, and he became the first victim of poisoning on the series when Walt gassed him and Krazy-8 in the RV. (Later, Walt and Jesse destroy the body with acid.) Emilio's death is our first sign that Walt isn't just making a few dangerous choices under duress. He has a frightening natural affinity for those dangerous, deadly choices, and he makes them with a detached calm.
Who? Oh yeah, the first "victim" of the hydrofluoric acid bath we have come to love, which was one of the first truly memorable scenes in Breaking Bad. My Dad still talks about that being the scene that got him hooked on the series.
Dies in: " ... and the Bag's in the River," season one, episode three
Heartbreak level: Moderate.
The opposite of Stockholm Syndrome is sometimes called Lima Syndrome, when captors develop sympathy for their victims. That happens to Walt, and to a greater extent to the audience, as Krazy-8 sits in the basement, helpless, pathetic, describing himself as a family man, and rejecting sandwich crusts.
I honestly don't remember how Krazy-8 died, but I do know it established early on the fact that Walt and Jesse needed to be experts in disposing bodies/hiding evidence.
No-Doze and Gonzo
Dies in: "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal," season one, episode seven, and "Seven Thirty-Seven," season two, episode one
Heartbreak level: Low and slightly higher, respectively.
No-Doze is just the first of many characters on the show to be killed by his boss (this time, Tuco), but poor Gonzo dies as the "world's dumbest criminal" by Hank's estimation, after injuring himself while trying to bury his friend.
The first of many goons killed in the series, but these ones deserved it for being so stupid. Though, their deaths prompted Walt and Jesse to take a full measure the next season...



Tuco Salamanca
Dies in: "Grilled," season two, episode two
Heartbreak level: Zero.
The earlier a character on the show died, the more likely it is that their death wasn't sad. BB has invested more in its characters as the show's gone on, and early introductions, like Tuco, didn't have quite the emotional depth as, say, [omitted]. We've all seen enough shows and movies to know that tweaky drug traffickers will probably die, so Tuco's end didn't even come as much of a surprise.
Before Tuco was shot up by Hank, season two had some of the tensest moments of the series up until that point. This death was key for a few reasons: it was the first of many times Walt and Jesse escaped from the grasp of a madman (which in turn gave them more "responsibility" in the meth market), started the split between Walt and Skyler, and paved the way for Hank to become the hero of the DEA.
Dies in: "Peekaboo," season two, episode six
Heartbreak level: A little sad.
Decrepit, child-abandoning Spooge gets his head crushed under a stolen ATM, and as much as it plays like a borderline farce, the rest of the episode is incredibly sad. Jesse and Walt — and the show's story lines in general — are pretty far removed from day-to-day meth heads and the squalor and sadness meth addiction can bring.
Another dumb criminal getting what he deserves, but this death didn't really have much of a purpose as far as being a catalyst for the main characters/plot.
Dies in: "Mandala," season two, episode eleven
Heartbreak level: Medium-husky.
Drug-dealer Combo reappears in flashbacks in season three, and we learn that he was sort of a fun guy, at least a fun enough one to give Jesse an RV. But his death is almost more tragic for his killer than for him — the image of little Tomás holding the gun is more overwhelming and heartbreaking than Combo face-down in the street.
The first BB death that proves kids are somewhat disposable, and the first death that is REALLY personal to Jesse.
Dies in: "Phoenix," season two, episode twelve
Heartbreak level: Extremely high.
What's worse: Doing something bad, or not stopping something bad? Actively murdering someone, or not doing anything to prevent someone else's death? On BB, the strange answer seems to be that the lack of action is the more reprehensible choice. We've seen Walt kill people, endanger people, threaten people, and yet Jane's OD — which Walt witnessed but didn't cause in any concrete way — is the one that leaves us thinking, Oh God, how could you?
Walt's non decision to help Jane was selfish and a key moment in him becoming less Walt and more Heisenberg. Another tragic death for Jesse, notice a trend forming?
The 167 passengers on the Wayfarer 515 and JM 21 flights
Die in: "ABQ," season two, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Dare we say "sky high"? No. We'll just say "high."
The sadness here, again, comes not from the dead — none of whom we meet — but from their (accidental) killer, Jane's bereft father, Don. Walt's corruption stretches farther than he could ever have predicted.
Probably the first major time that proves Walt's actions have consequences, despite what he may think. This theme of cause and effect will have a snowball effect throughout the rest of the series.


The nine Mexicans on a truck, plus the driver
Die in: "No Mas," season three, episode one
Heartbreak level: Nil.
In compiling this list, it's becoming very clear that BB isn't that big on sad, tragic deaths. If anything, most of the deaths on the show are just backdrop — desensitizing both viewers and characters to the concept of murder. The Salamanca twins kill ten people all at once, yet it barely registers as sad.
The main thing this massacre shows is that the Cousins are ruthless and don't have an ounce of compassion in their bones. They kill whoever is in their way no matter what.
Tortuga Dies in: "I.F.T.," season three, episode three
Heartbreak level: Low, but with a gasp.
We'd already seen the informant's severed head on top of a tortoise, so it was a pretty safe bet that something bad had befallen Tortuga himself. Still, a machete beheading gets our attention.
Probably killed because casting Danny Trejo for more episodes would cost too much.
Bobby Kee
Dies in: "Sunset," season three, episode six
Heartbreak level: Zero.
The Cousins strike again, this time axe-murdering a cop before the opening credits.
Who? Another meaningless death (this one by the Cousins) with no real repercussions.
Dies in: "One Minute," season three, episode seven
Hearbreak level: Shush! Too stressed out for heartbreak.
Hank and the Salamancas aren't the only people in the parking lot. Marco Salamanca takes out a random passerby before setting his sights on Hank.
The death of this innocent bystander was a bystander in the whole stupendous "One Minute" scene.
Marco Salamanca
Dies in: "One Minute," season three, episode seven
Heartbreak level: An icy, bald nothing.
You mess with Hank Schrader, Hank Schrader messes right back. At the end of one of the most tense, exciting sequence in TV memory, Hank manages to take down half the deadly duo sent to kill him.
Awesome. First big villian to die since Tuco. Boosts Hank's DEA career.
Leonel Salamanca
Dies in: "I See You," season three, episode eight
Heartbreak level: An icy, bald, slight something.
Leonel and Marco were, to this point, interchangeable, but imagine being the twin who survives. Barely. And then gets killed in the hospital. It's a tiny bit sadder than being the twin who dies at the scene.
Double awesome, though kind of sad to see a man so desperate as he's dying with no legs. Really boosts Hank's career.
Tomás Cantillo
Dies in: "Half Measures," season three, episode twelve
Heartbreak level: Weepy.
Tomás's death is made tragic rather than just sad by seeing Andrea's reaction to it. Her little brother isn't the only kid involved in Gus's drug ring, but he's the only one we've seen and the only one we have any reason to care about. Even if he was a wee child murderer, too.
Another death close to Jesse, another death of a child. Will it be the last? Paves the way for the next deaths that were temporarily avoided earlier.
Nameless rival dealers
Dies in: "Half Measures," season three, episode twelve
Heartbreak level: Nothing.
No matter how evil their actions or how terrible their behavior, when it's Walt and Jesse versus Other People, we're always rooting for Walt and Jesse. That's how the show works. Plus these deaths are a tiny bit darkly comic because Walt's in his pathetic Aztec while he's running people down.
This is the first time that Walt literally, and figuratively, pulls the trigger. He's broke bad all the way at this point, and took a full measure. This also shows more of Walt's "I can do no wrong" complex, as he supports Jesse despite the possible consequences from Gus.
A group of cartel assassins
Die in: "Full Measure," season three, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: None.
Mike's ruthless efficiency is suddenly endearing and charming, not just scary. One minute, he's buying balloons with his granddaughter. The next, he's using those balloons to help him slay his foes. Multipurpose tools!
Woah, Mike is a badass! These deaths prove Mike is the real deal, and set up his character arc nicely
Dies in: "Full Measure," season three, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Medium.
Gale's death isn't heartbreaking in and of itself. Rather, Gale's killing is heartbreaking because of what it means for his murderers: Jesse really is that easy to manipulate, and Walter really is that manipulative. At least we'll always have "Major Tom."
Despite it still being a shocking death, we all knew Gale would bite the bullet sooner or later. Jesse is the trigger man this time, something he couldn't do on multiple previous occasions. Walt is manipulative as hell here, and he continues to be as the series goes on.
Seasons four and five and SPOILERS are after the jump...



Dies in: "Box Cutter," season four, episode one
Heartbreak level: A blood-soaked little twinge.
Gus silently slits his throat in front of a quaking Walt and Jesse: another instance of a boss killing his subordinate. (Might this all be foreshadowing of Walt eventually killing Jesse?) BB kills lots and lots of people, but more often than not, the deaths aren't the ends in and of themselves: Gus might want Victor dead, but what he really wants is to scare the shit out of Walt and Jesse. It's No-Doze all over again, except this time with an insane bloodbath.
We all know that henchmen are disposable, but Victor's death was shocking and unexpected. Gus does as he wants, and does this just to instill fear. Mike's reaction is priceless, as he's usually stone-faced.
Los Pollos driver, two Cartel assassins
Die in: "Bullet Points," season four, episode four
Heartbreak level: None.
Remember what we said about becoming desensitized to murders?
Mike! I'd watch a spinoff of just Mike's backstory. For real.
Another Los Pollos driver, and two Los Pollos guards
Die in: "Cornered," season four, episode six
Heartbreak level: None.
Do you still remember?
The Cartel should have learned from their mistake when Mike stopped them before, as this attack draws in Gus. You don't wanna see Gus angry.
Max Arcinieaga
Dies in: "Hermanos," season four, episode eight
Heartbreak level: Substantial.
He was Gus's hermano from another madre, his (maybe) lover, his business partner, and his BFF. And Gus had to watch him die at Don Eladio's hand.
Gives some backstory to Gus, and motive to hate Tio. Sets up the final death scene of Season Four.
Anonymous Gus henchman
Dies in: "Bug," season four, episode nine
Heartbreak level: Not heartbreaking at all.
If you get in the ring, you're gonna get punched. And if you work for Gus, you're probably going to get killed.
Oh well.
Don Eladio
Dies in: "Salud," season four, episode ten
Heartbreak level: Negative ten. If anything, it was heartwarming.
Fuck Don Eladio! And his gross parties! Leave it to Gus Fring to orchestrate the grandest poisoning fiesta ever.
Yes! Gus is the man with the plan. He knew Mexicans can't resist tequila.
Gaff and the rest of Don Eladio's associates
Die in: "Salud," season four, episode ten
Heartbreak level: Negative five. Not as heartwarming as Don Eladio's death, but not sad, either.
See above.
Dies in: "Face Off," season four, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Negligible.
Don't get us wrong: Gus's death was incredible, and the series might never find a better foil for Walt. But Gus's facemelt isn't sad. Dramatic, sure. Shocking, indeed. But we didn't shed a single tear.
Wow, just wow. Even if you thought Walt's somewhat crazy plan of making a bomb out of Tio's wheelchair would suceed, Gus' final moment was still shocking. I had my jaw on the floor until the credits rolled. But did Walt make the right decision? We'll find out next season!
Hector "Tio" Salamanca
Dies in: "Face Off," season four, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Surprisingly high.
Hector's one of the show's memento mori, a piteous former henchman now reduced to ringing a bell and being emotionally tortured by those around him. He goes down swinging with the only thing he can still control. Ding ding ding ding ding. He's a bad guy who did a lot of bad things to a lot of people, but he spent his final years in agony. That's sad! It just is.
Somewhat sympathetic to this death, probably due to the redeeming quality of his final minutes.
Dies in: "Face Off," season four, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Just one notch up from nothing.
We care about Gus's death. We care about Tío's death. Tyrus ... was also killed in that explosion.
A necessary casualty of a bigger plan.
Two guards from the laundry lab
Die in: "Face Off," season four, episode thirteen
Heartbreak level: Zero.
Nameless Gus employees are pretty much disposable.
Ditto. And holy shit did a lot of people die in season 4!


Peter Schuler
Dies in: "Madrigal," season five, episode two
Heartbreak level: Franch.
Possibly the most creative death BB has ever had, used here to kill off the head of Los Pollos Hermanos's parent company. If you're gonna kill yourself, at least have a whole bunch of tater tots and dip first.
Hello, I'm Peter Schuler. I'm only in one episode, and I don't even survive the cold open! Sets the tone for the season though, as all of Gus' associates now have fears and concerns about their involvement after his death. Blame this one on the DEA investigation.
Dies in: "Madrigal," season five, episode two
Heartbreak level: None.
Hey, at least he died at home. This is why we don't conspire to kill Mike, kids.
I never liked this guy, so I was happy to see him go.
Chris Mara
Dies in: "Madrigal," season five, episode two
Heartbreak level: None.
Anyone who thinks they can out-smart Mike is in for a rude awakening. Or ... the opposite of rude awakening. Murdering. They're in for a polite murdering.
Again, don't mess with Mike!
Drew Sharp
Dies in: "Dead Freight," season five, episode five
Heartbreak level: Serious.
If not for Jesse's panicked "No!," it might have seemed like no one at all cared about Todd murdering a child. Lots of innocent people have been hurt by Walt's evil schemes, but maybe none so innocent or so hurt as the kid on the bike.
Another sad, surprise death. Another child murdered. Seriously shakes up the Walt/Jesse/Mike trio and forces them to essentially add Todd as a fourth member.
Mike Ehrmantraut
Dies in: "Say My Name," season five, episode seven
Heartbreak level: As high as this show's ever managed. Yeah, even sadder than Jane.
When Mike first appeared on the show, he was sort of a goon, a standoffish fixer without much of a heart. And then ... well, the show did what it does and made us interested in him and his emotional scars and his staggering criminal smarts and especially in his wonderful one-liners. (It helped that it seemed like he genuinely did want the best for Jesse.) His final words were Let me die in peace, though it's hard to believe he actually did.
WTF! I did not see this one coming. Like, at all.  At least the kid's death above was somewhat predicted. Just when you think Mike is going to finally get out of the business, Walt irrationally kills Mike. Then immediately realizes it was for no reason. By this point Walt had fully became Heisenberg ("Say my name.") but he uncharacteristically makes a decision without thinking. He's made decisions before where he hadn't thought of/cared about the consequences, but this time he flat out doesn't think at all. The full effects of this death probably won't be known for a while.

1 comment:

  1. I am completely caught up, finally. I can't believe what is happening!!!