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What You Never Noticed About Breaking Bad's Pink Teddy Bear

The greatness of Breaking Bad is today widely acknowledged, but back before the series' second season began airing in 2009, viewers who had caught the truncated, seven-episode first season knew only that they were onto something kind of special. They also had the distinct feeling that in that second batch of episodes, things were going to get real for high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his former student and partner in crime Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in short order, as the conclusion of season 1 made it plain that the two had gotten in far over their heads when they decided to strike up a business partnership with psychotic drug dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz).

Viewers who sat down to eagerly take in the first episode of season 2, "Seven-Thirty-Seven," may have been expecting high drama from the very beginning, but what they got was one of the creepiest, most enigmatic cold opens in the show's history. The black-and-white sequence gets up close and personal with Walter's backyard, showing us various small details: A dripping garden hose, a slug crawling along on stucco, a chime twisting in the breeze. Then, we see Walter's pool, and in it there floats ... a plastic eyeball. We watch as it gets sucked into the pool's filtration system, and as the camera pans below the surface, we see that it came from a shockingly pink teddy bear, the only object in the sequence rendered in color, the side missing the eye burnt and charred.

The spooky image would repeat in similar black-and-white opening sequences, each featuring that ghoulish pink bear, in three more of the season's episodes. We eventually learn where the bear came from, but by the time we do, it may have escaped us that the stuffed animal is just loaded with symbolism.

Breaking Bad's creator can't even remember everything the pink bear is meant to represent

Just how loaded with symbolism is it, you might ask? It's so loaded that Breaking Bad's creator, Vince Gilligan, doesn't remember all of the things the pink bear was meant to symbolize — only that the overarching theme the writers agreed on was judgment. After all, Walter begins an irrevocable slide toward immorality during that season, culminating in one of the worst things he's ever done: Letting Jesse's girlfriend, Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter), die of a drug overdose in her sleep while he looks on. At the season's end, it's revealed that the pink bear floating in Walter's pool is in fact detritus from a mid-air collision of two planes — a collision caused by the inattention of air traffic controller Donald Margolis (John de Lancie), Jane's father, who was distraught over his daughter's death.

Asked about the bear, Gilligan called it "very symbolic" while explaining that it's largely up to the viewer to discern the symbolism, according to The Take. "On the face of it, when we were coming up with that eye as an image, it probably represented some form of the eye of the universe ... judging Walter White," Gilligan said. "Symbolism like the eyeball, I'm not sure what it means to me completely, but I'm always interested in hearing what it means to viewers of the show."

Gilligan went on to say, "I guess if you're going to hold my feet to the fire, what it means to me is the eye of God on Walt. If not necessarily judging him, nonetheless watching him, keeping tabs on him." Of course, the thing about the eye of God is that it doesn't focus on just one thing, but on everything.

The Breaking Bad pink bear's all-seeing eyes

In the premiere episode of Breaking Bad's third season, "No Más," the NTSB fishes the bear out of Walter's pool, and it's never seen again — but its missing eyeball is. Walter finds it in his pool filter, and inexplicably decides to keep it. Perhaps he feels like he could use an all-seeing eye to keep tabs on the machinations of his adversaries, even the ones he doesn't know about, yet ... like the Salamanca cousins, dangerous associates of chicken restauranteur-slash-drug lord Gus Fring who are seen to be coming for Walter at the episode's end.

In the next episode, "Caballo sin Nombre," one of those cousins discovers the eye among Walter's possessions while they are waiting in his house to kill him; the would-be assassin simply discards the eye. The pair are called off by Fring, who later betrays them in the the seventh episode of the season, "One Minute," wherein Fring anonymously warns Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) of their impending attack. It's a betrayal the cousins never saw coming, and in the next episode, Fring reveals to Walter that he knows more about Walter's private life than he had previously let on. The name of that episode? "I See You."

The eyeball is seen for the final time in the season 4 premiere, "Box Cutter," when Walter's wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) finds it. The third season had ended with Jesse killing friendly meth cook Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), who never saw it coming, in order to save himself and Walter; the fourth season premiere ended with Fring, who is beyond infuriated by the successful ploy, brutally murdering a henchman in front of Walter and Jesse out of pure frustration, an act that nobody saw coming.

Breaking Bad's pink bear as grim foreshadowing

It may seem like giving Gilligan and his writers a bit too much credit to connect the appearances of the eyeball with relevant characters' blind spots to lurking dangers, but this is Breaking Bad we're talking about, a series in which there are virtually no insignificant details. Consider the bizarrely prophetic words of the series' prop master Mark Hansen, who had this to say about the pink bear on a DVD extra included with the second season's home release: "With Vince, you just don't know what's going to be next. So you can't assume, like, 'Oh, we'll just burn the teddy bear,' because there might be a reason that it's burned this way. He might have something planned on down the road, two seasons from now."

As it happened, exactly two seasons from the season 2 finale, Hansen was proven shockingly correct. In the season 4 finale "Face Off," Fring indulges in his periodic ritual of going to the nursing home to taunt his mute, wheelchair-bound enemy, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). Unbeknownst to him, though, Walter has gotten to Salamanca first, and offered him a chance for revenge. Salamanca detonates a bomb hidden in his wheelchair, killing himself and blowing off half of Fring's face in an injury that is highly visually reminiscent of that burned, charred teddy bear, right down to Fring's missing eye (The gruesome effect was achieved with an assist from the VFX team from another hit AMC drama, The Walking Dead).

Fring, of course, never saw it coming, but viewers who had been paying close attention might have (for that matter, Fring's fate is succinctly foreshadowed in the episode's title). The pink bear represents just one example of Breaking Bad's intensive, near-impossible attention to detail – just one of the more intriguing facets of the greatest hour-long drama series of all time.