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How Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are connected

After a long run of success, The Walking Dead stumbled out of the gate heading into season 9. Multiple lead actors left the show, and it continued to hemorrhage viewers in spite of the fact that everything possible was being done to stop the bleeding. While AMC had previously expressed plans to extend its Walking Dead universe for another decade, the door seemed to be closing on the network's flagship series.

However, all hope wasn't lost for the apocalyptic thriller. For one thing, the arrival of Alpha and the Whisperers reignited the fear factor that the show thrived on for so many years. But another, subtler element was also at play here. Ever since the show's conception, the creative minds at AMC had been quietly sowing seeds that connected the zombie series with another AMC success story, Breaking Bad. While it may be hard to imagine how Walter White's meth-infused power trip has anything to do with surviving the end of the world, they've actually managed to fit quite a few connections in over the years, including one in the middle of season 9 that has a callback all the way to the 1930s. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane and see all the different ways The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad are connected, and just how the correlation could help give the zombie thriller the jolt it needs to stay alive.

Everything's a universe now

Ever since the spinoff series of Fear the Walking Dead arrived on the scene, it's been clear that The Walking Dead universe consisted of more than just a single show set between Atlanta and Washington D.C. This was confirmed when AMC Network CEO Josh Sapan announced in early September 2018 that the folks at AMC had plans for the universe that extended "over the next decade plus." While this may have seemed odd in the shadow of the show's faltering ratings at the time, it kind of makes sense.

This isn't necessarily to say that The Walking Dead deserves ten more years of screen time. That's a decision that only time will tell. But the idea of a longterm goal that spans beyond the scope of a single film or series is par for the course these days. We've seen it with the MCU, the DCEU, Transformers, LEGO, Star Wars — the list goes on. The point is, universes are in these days, so a connection between AMC shows is hardly surprising.

What's a bit more interesting, though, is the not-quite-confirmed larger crossover that integrates Breaking Bad into the Walking Dead universe, a phenomenon fondly nicknamed the "Breaking Dead Theory." It's been loosely confirmed by showrunner Dave Erickson, and here's the skinny on how the two shows line up.

That Blue Sky

It didn't take long for The Walking Dead to start incorporating elements of their runaway hit Breaking Bad into their fledgling zombie apocalypse series. In the second episode of season two, Daryl Dixon can be seen rifling through a clear bag. The contents comprise his brother Merle's stash, most of which is in pill bottles. However, tucked at the bottom of the bag is a hefty dose of some blue crystals.

The shot immediately grabs one's attention, as Daryl casually lists "crystal" amongst the gathered narcotic menagerie. Of course, the prize for the most famous blue crystals in history has to go to Mr. White's Sky Blue. By the end of Breaking Bad, the stuff was sought after all over the world, so its presence in Georgia wouldn't be particularly odd. The question of the connection hung out there for a bit until none other than Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman confirmed that the Easter egg was left there on purpose.

A janky former acquaintance

Another possible link that was picked up on in the season 4 episode "Still" involved none other than Walter White's associate, Mr. Jesse Pinkman. This one came during that chunk of time when Daryl and Beth were romping around the countryside, surviving, being moody, and bonding like a couple of cute misfits. In one scene Daryl tells a story about his brother Merle before everything went south — back when "Merle had this dealer. A janky little white guy. A tweaker." 

Fans were quick to jump on the description as fitting Pinkman rather neatly. The speculation became more intriguing a little further into the story, when Daryl explained an altercation with the fellow in question. "Then he pulls a gun, sticks it right here. He says, 'I'm gonna kill you, bitch.'" Between the description and that line, it's hard not to start drawing a connection. Did Merle work for the nefarious Jesse Pinkman once upon a time? Perhaps. Although, at another point in the story Daryl refers to the guy's kids. Of course, this could simply be referring to Brock, Jesse's girlfriend's son. Either way, the similarities are uncanny.

Negro y Azul

Another Easter egg appeared during season 3 of the Fear the Walking Dead hidden in plain sight, or perhaps we should say plain hearing. As the group entered a bustling bazaar, a particular song could be heard blaring over the radio. It was in Spanish, and to an uninformed viewer did little more than add a mariachi style splash of color to the scene. However, for those intimately acquainted with Walter White's tragic story arc, the song had a much deeper meaning and an undeniable connection to the Breaking Bad universe.

We're talking about "Negro y Azul: The Ballad of Heisenberg." The song appeared as a cold open in Breaking Bad and is written about Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, chronicling his rise to power against established drug cartels and predicting his eventual demise. The song is clearly specific to Breaking Bad, and its appearance on Fear the Walking Dead was a clear shoutout to the connection that the two shows share. Showrunner Erickson was referring to this scene in particular when he confirmed that the nod was intentional, adding more cargo to the runaway train that is the Breaking Dead Theory.

The Challenger

In season 4, as he continues to break bad, White has a growing infatuation with indulging his reckless nature. We all remember that scene when, rather than returning the car for an exorbitant restocking fee, White simply blows it up. But do you remember the car? A 2009 Dodge Challenger. Red with a distinct double black racing stripe straight down the center, it was a beaut... until it was blown to smithereens. In the following season, Walter went against Skylar's wishes and leased another Challenger, but it wasn't the last time one of these cars would appear on an AMC show.

Fast forward to exactly one apocalypse later. In the first season of The Walking Dead, another Challenger makes an appearance, this time roaming the streets of Atlanta. The car in question is, once again, a 2009 model. Some have taken a gigantic leap, assuming that the mysterious Glenn who sold Walter the car in New Mexico was none other than Glenn Rhee, who fixed it up and drove it to Georgia. Perhaps a more reasonable explanation would be that Glenn Rhee the car salesman was simply infatuated with that model. Either way, this nod from the new show to the old seems clearly intended.

A Heisenberg-induced apocalypse?

While the little Breaking Bad Easter eggs sprinkled throughout The Walking Dead universe are fun to point out, the real heart and soul of the Breaking Dead Theory actually rests on a crossover that's a bit more sinister. The thought isn't just that the two shows take place in the same universe. It goes right out on a limb and suggests that Blue Sky is the cause of the zombie apocalypse.

While the theory hasn't been made official in any formal way, it also hasn't been denied by the creators of either show. On the contrary, they've stoked the fires. Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman literally said, albeit a bit tongue-in-cheek, "That's canon, it's confirmed!" Producer Gale Ann Hurd, when responding to the question of what caused the virus, stated flatly, "The meth from Breaking Bad, for sure."

On the other side of the aisle, Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan responded to the speculation by saying "I love that theory. That was a kick. They're two great shows, The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead." Bryan Cranston added that "Walt is dead, so he could be a zombie right now. Heisenberg zombie! My agents are out here, we should talk."

Good coffee

Gale was a pretty sweet character on Breaking Bad. He was one of the few people who could rival White's scientific prowess... and he could brew some darn good coffee. In fact, the man had turned the latter into a science project with an elaborate machine that took volume, temperature, acidity, tannins, and so on all into account in the pursuit of brewing the perfect cup. While his death may have left the Breaking Bad crew with cups of Folgers sludge, it appears it wasn't the last time the scientist's magically caffeine-infused machine was used.

In the third episode of season 3 on The Walking Dead, Merle, the Governor, and Milton all gather in his lab. While they're talking there, sitting innocently in the background is none other than Gale's coffee machine. How it got there, though, is the question. Did Milton inherit it? Was he friends with Gale, who shared the secrets of his coffee invention so his friend could build his own device? Or were the Walking Dead set designers simply running low on props and decided to throw it in the scene?

Negan and Walter White, best buds

You only live once, right? Well, maybe not. It's been rumored that The Walking Dead's resident bad boy, Negan, and Breaking Bad's lead character, Walter White, may have something in common. In fact, they might have so much in common, they're pretty much the same person. At least in spirit.

In late 2015, TVLine interviewed Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple and asked him, "Is Negan going to be more despicable than the Governor? Is it a tossup?" Gimple's response basically boiled down to the fact that the Governor wins because Negan is a whole different animal. He's charismatic, friendly, and even empathetic at times. However, he's also completely in control, knows what he's doing, is merciless, and you can't convince him to change his mind. Sound like anyone else we know?

Uproxx took the ball and ran with this one, breaking down how Gimple's description is nearly a blow by blow parallel with the great Heisenberg himself. It's hard to deny the comparison. Whether it means anything other than a coincidence is impossible to tell.

Gus Fring: the first zombie

Gus Fring is one of the best villains to ever grace the silver screen. Cold, calculated, calm, and downright terrifying when he was angry, the two-faced restaurant entrepreneur and drug kingpin was impressive throughout his run on Breaking Bad. But what if his impact went further than simply helping Walter White during his meteoric rise to the top of the narcotics world? What if Gus Fring was the first zombie from The Walking Dead?

Gus' death scene is one of the more epic moments in Breaking Bad, with the man literally walking out of the room with half of his body gone. But what some have noticed is that he doesn't look like someone about to die. He still looks pretty peppy. This has led to some speculation that Gus had taken some of the first zombie-creating batch of Blue Sky before the encounter and, hey presto, he became the first zombie.

While this theory once again stretches the imagination, there's another interesting connection attached to it that's harder to spot: the effects crew from The Walking Dead swooped in to help with the unusually gruesome prosthetics that made the scene so real, making it a behind-the-scenes crossover long before fan theories imagined a bigger connection.

Lydia, oh Lydia

This tie-in between Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead goes back further than you might think. Season 9 of The Walking Dead didn't just see the departure of characters like Rick Grimes and Maggie Greene. It also saw the introduction of the Whisperers. In episode ten, we saw a great deal of their leader Alpha's backstory through the testimony of her daughter Lydia. During those scenes, both of Lydia's parents are seen singing "Lydia, oh! Lydia, say have you met Lydia, oh! Lydia the tattooed lady..." The tune is fitting for the scene as the girl looks for solace amidst the horrors of the end of the world. But it wasn't just a well-placed musical number — It also harkened back to Breaking Bad.

In the waning moments of Breaking Bad's last episode, Walter White stands in the midst of the carnage he's created in his final act of vengeance. As he parts ways with Jesse Pinkman for the last time, a cellphone starts to ring on the lifeless body of Todd that lies in front of him. The tune on the cell? "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." It added an abrupt splash of color to the series' swan song as White picked up and informed yet another Lydia on the other end of the call that her death was imminent.

Reigniting the momentum

The connections between AMC's two monumental worlds are too numerous to flat out deny, and yet the creators of both series have yet to openly steer into the skid. It's not like they haven't had a chance: Walter White's world has continued on in the form of Better Caul Saul and a planned full-length feature. In addition, The Walking Dead not only has Fear the Walking Dead and a triple-header of films in the works, but, as already mentioned, plans to forge ahead for a decade or more with further zombie-filled adventures.

With all the material being produced, a marriage of the two universes could be a match made in heaven. After all, Breaking Bad had hardly closed up shop before it became one of the cult classics of our time. The fervent fan love still surrounding it could be just what the doctor ordered for The Walking Dead, a flagging series that, in spite of new villains and quite a few other shakeups, has been struggling with low ratings for quite some time. Can someone please get Vince Gilligan, Scott Gimple, and Robert Kirkman in the same room to talk it out?

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