Breaking Bad

IMDB: Breaking Bad

Seasons Type Genres
5 Serial Crime/Drama
Scene Count
Pilot Screenplay
57 61

Main Characters

Walter White


He’s forty years old. Receding hairline. A bit pasty. He’s not a guy who makes a living working with his hands. He’s not a guy we’d pay attention to if we passed him on the street. But right now, at this moment, in this pasture? Right now we’d step the fuck out of his way.

Skyler White:


late 30s. Skyler’s cute in a way most guys wouldn’t have noticed back in high school. But not soft-cute. Not in the eyes.

Marion Alan Dupree:


This guy is white, gawky, early 20s— picture a hip Shaggy from “Scooby Doo.”



Out steps a big, barrel-chested man…

Walt Jr. White:

walter-white-jr-2Walt, Jr

seventeen year-old… Walt and Skyler’s son is a sweet-faced teenager who appears to have cerebral palsy. He moves slowly and awkwardly, and grinds his teeth as he labors to talk. But he’s a smart kid.



Marie is Skyler’s sister. We see the resemblance.

Other Characters

Krazy-8: A young, hard-looking Mexican
Emilio: A Mexican man.
Gomez: A subordinate agent.
Amir: the middle-aged Persian owner.

Character Differences

Jesse Pinkman’s original name is Marion Dupree.
As we learn later in the series, Jesse is from a middle class family. In all likelihood, Jesse was originally supposed to be from a well-off family and that is reflected in the original name.

Act Breakdown

Excel Breakdown Pilot Screenplay
Breaking Bad Screenplay Breakdown Breaking Bad

There are four acts and a teaser for Breaking Bad.

Walter White is the main character, so my focus will be on him.


Several exterior and interior shots added throughout the drive.

Main Points

Walt crashes the RV
Walt creates a video for his family.
Walt waits for death.


Breaking Bad starts with an effective teaser to draw the audience in while leaving us with several questions.

The first time I watched the pilot I remember thinking this must be a tease for the end of the season because of how crazy the scenario was.
We are left with several questions:
Who are the two dead bodies sliding around in the back?
Who is the other guy in the passengers seat?
What is he driving away from in a hurry?
Why doesn’t he have clothes?
And then in his video to his family, what things has he done?

It’s how a teaser should be executed as it effectively teases what is in store. And given the mundane first few acts, it keeps the audience around until the end.

End of Act:

End of Pilot:
Walt standing in the road.
End of Screenplay:
Walt standing in the road.

Best Scene:
Walt saying goodbye to his family.
Effectively expositions his family, while at the same time leaves us with curiosity of what he’s done.

Location Differences:
The entire setting of the show was changed from California to New Mexico.
Originally all cook scenes were in the cow pastures and woods. With the new setting, all cook scenes were in the desert.

Script Notes:

Instead of running over cow dung, Walt drives over his own pants.

In the screenplay, Walt puts on a tie and slicks back his hair before recording for his family.
In the pilot, Walt really has no time to worry about how he looks and just records with his shirt on.

In the screenplay, Walt mentions his unborn child in his video message.
In the pilot, this line is cut out.

Act 1


Walt masturbating in the bathroom because he can’t sleep is cut.
Walt talking with a high school physics teacher is cut.
In the Blu-ray version, a scene is added of Walt quietly eating at school in its place.
Walt driving aimlessly is cut. He instead fiddles with the glove department box before arriving home.
Instead of a family dinner with Hank and Marie at Applebees, Walt comes home to a surprise party for his birthday.
Walt’s trip to Caltech is cut entirely. He passes out at work instead.

Main Points

Walt is a chemistry teacher.
Walt also works at car wash to make extra money.
Walt passes out.


We slowly see Walt’s boring life as a middle aged father trying hard to support his family, but secretly regretting the path he’s taken in life. Nothing significant happens that intrigues you about the character, but from the teaser, you know something interesting is coming.

End of Act:

End of Pilot:
Walt passes out at the car wash.
End of Screenplay:
Walt passes out at Caltech.

Best Scene:
Walt sees how much money is pulled in by meth dealers.

Location Differences:
Applebees= Walt’s home

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Walt visits his old campus in which we learn he was awarded a research Grant in Organic Chemistry way back, alluding to the fact Walt has some regret about it.
In the pilot, Walt never visits his old campus. Instead we see the certificate on the wall as Walt is using the stair stepper in the middle of the night.

In the screenplay Walt wishes a happy birthday to a co-worker who was cut from the screenplay and the series.
In the pilot, it is changed so it is Walt’s birthday. This has a positive rippling effect throughout the entire script:

First we see the bacon numbers to signify Walt is 50. This remains a constant throughout the series, which is a nifty way to point at what point in time the show is in.

Second the family dinner with Hank isn’t random. It’s now a surprise party for Walt and several other characters that will recur throughout the series appear (Connie the principal and Gomez, Hanks partner).

Lastly, Walt’s weird behaviour can be attributed to a mid-life crisis and gives him an excuse to start acting differently, even though we know it is because his eventual diagnosis.

In the pilot, Hank gives a small speech about Walt being an intelligent, but plain person to toast him on his birthday.

Lots of improvised coughing by Cranston. No where in the screenplay does it mention he coughs, so obviously added to highlight Walt’s sickness.

In the pilot, as Walt is talking about chemistry, he demonstrates it.

In the screenplay, Walt does a lot of aimless driving. Apart from holding in his anger from the humiliation, I can’t find any significance in the scene. Needless to say, it was cut.

Although the Campus trip scene is cut, Walt still tells Skyler that he was planning to visit there after work.

In the screenplay, there is one page dedicated to Walt slowly realizing he is about to pass out while enjoying a coffee at the campus coffee stand. It’s a well-written scene, but a little too detailed and specific.
In the pilot, Walt passes out at work instead.

Act 2


In the Blu-ray version an ambulance scene is added before Walt receives an PET scan. The scene has similar dialogue to the cut scene of Walt with the first doctor.
Scene added of Walt quitting the car wash.
Scene of Walt sitting in his backyard throwing matches in the pool before calling Hank about the ride alone is added.
Several cut scenes in this act:
Scene of Walt getting recommended to another doctor is cut. (This also cuts several days in between the recommendation and seeing the next doctor).
Scenes of Walt driving aimlessly are again cut.
Scene of Junior watching Scarface is cut. (Although if my memory serves me correct, it was added later in the series.)
Scenes of Walt unable to sleep and exercising is cut.

Main Points

Walt is diagnosed with cancer.
Walt takes a ride along with Hank.
Walt blackmails Jesse to cook meth with him.


A lot of this act was condensed with scenes of Walt contemplating life cut. We know from working two jobs that Walt is in dire need of money for his family. Seeing how much money drug dealers make on meth and the fact Walt no longer fears death, gives him the idea to break into the business.
Of course meeting Jesse gives Walt a quicker way in then if he just started on his own.

End of Act:

End of Pilot:
Walt blackmails Jesse.
End of Screenplay:
Walt blackmails Jesse.

Best Scene:
Walt blackmails Jesse.

Script Notes:

This act is condensed in the pilot.

The doctor scene is cut to just a PET scan and the scene with the Dr. Belknap.

Vince has a thing for having Walt drive aimlessly as he’s contemplating life, but it would be a boring scene on screen unless Cranston acted the shit out of it.

Dialogue from Hank to Gomez about Walt being offered jobs from two major companies is cut.

Act 3


Scene added of Walt walking with chemistry supplies to his car.
Scene with the credit bureau manager is cut.

Main Points

Walt takes out all his money to buy the RV.
Walt’s family sees a new side of him.


Walt goes all in with cooking meth as he takes out his entire pension to buy the RV.
Walt was never a big proponent of Jesse in high school, but he obviously has some level of respect for him to entrust him with this partnership.
It also gives Walt another opportunity to teach chemistry to Jesse.
With Walt keeping his diagnosis to himself, his family starts to see a bolder side to him. It’s clear from the screenplay that Walt is being guided by a lack of fear because his worst fear is already true. However this lack of fear also gives Walt the experience of power, something Walt continuously craves throughout the series.

End of Act:

End of Pilot:
Walt confronts son’s bullies.
End of Screenplay:
Walt confronts son’s bullies.

Best Scene:
Walt confronts son’s bullies.
Walt’s tired of playing the nice guy, and decides to teach the bullies a lesson.  The screenplay does an excellent job of describing Walt’s feelings after the incident.

Script Notes:

In the pilot, the dialogue added between Skyler and Marie about Skyler being a writer, sums up how all writers feels when discussing writing with other people.

The physics teacher is cut again, this time during the scene of Walt stealing supplies.

Erlenmeyer flask changed to volumetric flask. Volumetric flasks are used for precise accuracy when measuring and holding liquids.

Dialogue about Walt buying pseudoephedrine at the same store is cut. Although this idea is addressed later in the series.

In the screenplay the word retard is used by Walt when he confronts the bullies.
In the pilot, it is cut.

Act 4


Scene of Walt crying over the money as he cleans it is cut.
Scene of Walt hiding the money is cut.

Main Points

Walt and Jesse cook.
Krazy 8 and Emilio threaten to kill Walt and Jesse.
Walt poisons Krazy 8 and Emilio.


Walt has no idea what the business side of drug dealing is like and finds out first hand why it’s very dangerous.
The old Walt probably wouldn’t have taken chances, but the new Walt certainly won’t go down without a fight and he poisons the cousins to get away.
At the end, they decided to cut the scenes of remorse from Walt and instead show he is a different man.

End of Act:

End of Pilot:
Walt has passionate sex with Skyler.
End of Screenplay:
Walt has passionate sex with Skyler.

Best Scene:
Walt considering suicide.
Walt already knows he is going to die from cancer, he just doesn’t want to face his family after they find out he was cooking meth.

Script Notes 

In the screenplay, Krazy 8 is playing Xbox when Jesse visits him.
In the pilot, Krazy 8 is training his dog by letting it tear apart a dummy.

In the screenplay, Krazy 8 is smoking.
In the pilot, Emilio is the one smoking and responsible for the fire.

In the pilot. after Walt tries to commit suicide, he accidentally shoots the ground.\

Overall Breakdown

Breaking Bad is a well-written screenplay that certainly reflects Vince Gillian’s talent and experience.

The teaser is an important part of this episode and easily grabs the viewer/audience and makes them want to find out what happens.

I’ll play devil’s advocate and even argue that without the strong teaser, Breaking Bad may have never gotten off the ground. Although the episode still ends the same way, the first few acts are quite mundane, especially in the screenplay. There are several scenes of Walt just driving for the sake of driving because his life sucks. From a reader standpoint, there is no real grab without that teaser.

Overall the screenplay is an example of what one can accomplish with enough time and experience learning the craft of screenwriting. Gilligan’s writing is descriptive and informative in a way most screenplays are not. As for the story itself, even experienced writers have their flaws. A lot of scenes of Walt contemplating life with no real action in them never made it to the pilot because the scenes would have stalled the story instead of moving it forward. The decision to change the pilot to Walt’s birthday was also a smart one and brought together a more cohesive story line than before, where seemingly loose ends were sloppily tied together.

There are plenty of minor details included in the screenplay that never make it into the episode, which goes to show it is better to focus on the bigger picture. Examples of minor details are items of clothing the character is wearing or mentioned specific items.

The pilot also sets up future episodes with Walt hiding both his meth cooking and his cancer diagnosis from his family. Nothing says drama like keeping secrets.

Screenwriting Techniques

Breaking Bad uses a very descriptive montage to depict the cooking process of Meth on page 45-46.

Descriptive Scenery
Many scenes are set up with an exterior shot and a description of the setting.
See pages 4 and 29 for an example of an exterior shot with a description.
See page 26 for an example of interior description of a set.

Breaking Bad’s teaser does exactly what a teaser should do. Not only does it drop you right in the action, it gives you enough exposition to know what’s going on and keeps you tuned in until the end.

Revealing Main Character before Revealing Character
Before Walt is introduced as Walter White, he is introduced as Underpants Man. To see how to introduce a character with mystery before revealing who he really is, see pages 2-3.

Descriptive- Specific Clothes, Details
A lot of descriptive items are written in Breaking Bad from clothing choices to the make and model of cars. I won’t give a specific example, but the pilot is a good read for nailing down the specifics.

Describing Character Thoughts
A lot of tension is going on in Walter White’s head as he tries to process and accept his cancer diagnosis. From a novel standpoint it is easier to describe his thoughts, but from a screenplay standpoint, you must show his thoughts through his actions. Breaking Bad does an excellent job of doing this, and also drops a line or two to describe his thought process.
An example is after the bully scene on page 43.

Repeated Footage
If you are reusing shots from the teaser later on, an example of that is seen on pages 1 and 54.

Angle shots
Angle shots, although probably best left for the director, can be used sparingly if it’s important. Example of angle shots can be seen on pages 16 ,42, 53 and 54.

POV Shots
Several POV shots are mentioned in the screenplay, usually from Walt’s point of view.
To see an example of POV shots, see pages 19 and 25

Recurring Bits

Bacon Breakfast

Although not in the screenplay, the bacon used to signify Walt’s age on his birthday during breakfast becomes a recurring image in Breaking Bad and doubles as a useful way to tell the audience what year we are in.


Walt bargains with the Mexican cousins to save his life and Jesse’s life. This won’t be the last time Walt has to bargain and eventually he’s on the other side.

Ill show you my Recipe

Walt’s ability to cook Meth can be duplicated, but it has to be taught by him. This is something Walt uses to his advantage to get out of the worst of situations.

Next Show: Fargo