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The Most Unexpected Things To Happen In Breaking Bad

For five seasons, "Breaking Bad" kept viewers enraptured with its unpredictable plot and magnetic characters. Series creator Vince Gilligan went into the show with one clear objective: to transform a character from Mr. Chips into Scarface over the course of multiple seasons, as he once explained to Vanity Fair. "When you think about it, that's an experiment in television," Gilligan told Michael D. Ayers, "It's something I'm proud to say and nervous to say has not been done that often."

The gradual transformation of Walter White from a meek high-school chemistry teacher into the ruthless drug kingpin Heisenberg is a character arc for the ages. A change this significant is sure to incur plenty of shocking moments along the way, and Vince Gilligan and his team of writers always delivered in spades. Throughout its 62 episodes, "Breaking Bad" delivered countless surprises, reveals, and unexpected moments. Right from the very first episode, the series had already proven itself to be anything but ordinary. 

These are the moments that shocked viewers and continue to live on in our minds rent-free even nearly a decade after "Breaking Bad" came to a close.

Tuco attacks No-Doze

After Walter White and Jesse Pinkman team up to start producing methamphetamine, they quickly learn that it isn't enough to make their product, as they also need distribution. The first rung in the drug distribution ladder Walt and Jesse partner with is Tuco, a volatile dealer with familial ties to the Salamanca drug cartel. From the outset, it is clear that Tuco is an unpredictable and dangerous person to go into business with, but the full extent of his violent outbursts isn't revealed until the Season 1 finale, "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal."

No-Doze was one of Tuco's top lieutenants, but working for someone as volatile as Tuco isn't easy. During an early deal between Walt, Jesse, and Tuco, No-Doze makes a seemingly innocuous comment that Tuco interprets as an insult to himself. Tuco attacks his own lieutenant, violently beating him and leaving him a bloody mess for another of his men to drag away. This sudden display of brazen violence shocks viewers alongside Walt and Jesse and gets everyone wondering if they have made a huge mistake by partnering with Tuco.

The crawling procession

Marco and Leonel Salamanca are more commonly referred to as "The Twins" or "The Cousins" due to their relation to Tuco. The pair is a threatening presence from the first moment they appear on screen in the premiere episode of Season 3, "No Más." The teaser for the episode opens with a long line of villagers crawling along a dirt road towards an unknown destination. The image is striking enough already, but the bigger surprise arrives when the Twins climb out of their fancy car and join the crawling procession in their expensive suits.

The procession leads to a shrine in honor of Santa Muerte, Mexico's saint of death, as noted by the BBC. Santa Muerte is described as "non-judgemental" and is said to accept offerings from her visitors in exchange for granting wishes. The final surprising moment of the teaser sequence, and the most unexpected of the bunch, comes with the reveal of a hand-drawn picture of Heisenberg that the pair places in the center of the shrine. The exact implication isn't spelled out, but it is pretty easy to surmise the twins' intentions for Walter after they visit this death shrine.

Hank vs. the Twins

Though the Twins plan to kill Walter White as revenge for the murder of their cousin Tuco, they eventually change targets. Since Walter has become a valuable asset to Gus Fring, he is spared the Twins' wrath. In protecting Walter, Gus offers up Walt's DEA agent brother-in-law Hank instead. Viewers know to expect bloodshed when the two parties finally meet, but in true "Breaking Bad" fashion, the way things unfold is unexpected.

After being shot and running out of ammunition, it seems like it might be the end of Hank Schrader. His death would be entirely possible since the series has already displayed a willingness to kill off major characters. Marco Salamanca has Hank at his mercy, but decides to put away his gun as he utters one of his only lines in the entire series: "too easy." He exchanges his gun for an ax, intent on killing Hank in a much more violent fashion, but Hank manages to load his gun with just one bullet in time to shoot Marco before the coup de grâce.

Perhaps even more surprising than the confrontation itself is the ripple effect it has on the rest of Hank's life. He may have lived through the assassination attempt, but he is a changed man. The attack leaves him nearly paralyzed with debilitating injuries that would take him multiple seasons to fully recover from. The incident also has severe psychological ramifications on Hank and directly leads to his mineral-collecting hobby.


Fans of prison inmate turned action star Danny Trejo would have been excited to see him join the cast of "Breaking Bad" in Season 2 as Tortuga, a drug runner working for the cartel. However, those same viewers were in for a shock when the character gets killed off in "Negro y Azul" for informing to the DEA. Though Tortuga's death occurs off-screen, a flashback in Season 3 reveals that the Twins decapitated him and stuck his severed head onto the shell of a tortoise on the orders of Juan Bolsa.

Hank's first job after being promoted to the El Paso office from the Albuquerque office is to help extract information from Tortuga. After learning of an upcoming deal, Hank and several other DEA agents stake out the location, only to find a slow-moving message headed their way. The sight of a severed head atop a tortoise with the words "Hola DEA" written across the shell is a shocking enough sight to induce a panic attack in Hank, but there is an even more unexpected moment coming. 

When a DEA agent attempts to pull the severed head off the tortoise, it triggers a large explosion that kills and injures multiple agents. Hank's panic attack ends up saving his life as it leads to him leaving the blast radius.

Jesse's pit of despair

One of the most harrowing aspects of the final season of "Breaking Bad" is the captivity of Jesse Pinkman at the hands of Uncle Jack and his crew of Neo-Nazis. Jesse went through plenty of emotional despair and physical trauma in the previous seasons, but nothing quite so devastating as this. His future has never looked so bleak, and seeing this beloved character so utterly broken by the end of the show is unexpected, to say the least.

For months on end, Jesse is kept in a concrete cellar with a metal barred ceiling. He is only allowed out to cook meth alongside Todd. Jesse comes close to escaping but is caught and punished when he refuses to cook any longer. Magnifying Jesse's despair is another shocking moment tied to this plotline. To convince him to cook, Todd forces Jesse to watch as he kills Andrea, the mother of Brock, the boy Jesse has an affinity for. Todd lets Brock live but makes it clear that if Jesse ever disobeys them again, he will pay Brock another visit.

Walter puts his Aztek to use

In the penultimate episode of Season 3, "Half Measures," Walter White commits what is arguably his most brazen and violent act yet. With Jesse intent on confronting a pair of drug dealers in what would likely prove to be a suicide mission, Walt knows he needs to intervene. With just seconds to spare as Jesse marches across the street, Walt careens across the screen in his Pontiac Aztek, plowing into the pair of drug dealers, shocking Jesse and viewers alike.

An even bigger shock comes in the seconds that follow. One of the dealers is killed in the crash, but the other survives. Walt exits his car, picks up the dealer's fallen handgun, and shoots him through the head, saying just one word to Jesse: "run." It certainly isn't the first time Walter has killed someone in the show, but it was without a doubt his most cold-blooded killing to date. Executing a man with a bullet to the head on a public street is a whole different level of violence that Walter had yet to cross until this powerful moment that ended the episode.

The Walt Whitman book

Who could have guessed that a copy of Walt Whitman's poetry collection "Leaves of Grass" would wind up serving as one of the single most important artifacts in the entire "Breaking Bad" series? This unexpectedly important item is first introduced in Season 3. Gale Boetticher, who works in Gus Fring's super-lab alongside Walter, is a fan of the work of Walt Whitman and gifts a copy of "Leaves of Grass" to Walter. This book winds up being a long-form setup for a payoff that wouldn't arrive until two seasons later.

In the Season 5 episode titled "Gliding Over All," which is named after a Whitman poem, the "Leaves of Grass" book makes another appearance. Walter somewhat arrogantly leaves the book out in the open despite it containing potentially incriminating information. Hank finds the book in Walter's bathroom and casually flips open the cover to discover the dedication: "To my other favorite W.W. It's an honour working with you. Fondly G.B." 

Hank recognizes the handwriting and initials and remembers when he jokingly hypothesized that the "W.W." in Gale's notes could stand for "Walter White." If not for the "Leaves of Grass" book, Hank might never have learned the truth about who his brother-in-law really was.

Gus kills Victor

Victor serves as one of Gus Fring's main enforcers and keeps a close eye on Walter and Jesse in the super-lab. He first appears in Season 2, but his most memorable moment wouldn't arrive until Season 4. After Victor demonstrates that he can operate the super-lab by carefully watching Walter work for an extended period, Gus makes an example out of him, calmly slitting Victor's throat with a box cutter, killing him.

It was a moment so shocking that even the usually unflappable Mike Ehrmantraut was taken aback. The killing showed a new side of Gus, one to be feared. Beneath his cold and restrained exterior hid a capacity for violence, and now Walt and Jesse knew it. Gus's reason for killing Victor was left somewhat ambiguous, and characters in later episodes would express theories for why it happened. Walter's theory is that Victor "flew too close to the sun," and Gus couldn't let that stand.

Tio Salamanca blows up

For a time, Gustavo Fring serves as the primary antagonist of "Breaking Bad," and what an antagonist he is. Quietly intimidating, calculating, and powerful, Gus Fring proves himself time and again to be a formidable adversary to Walter White and any others who stood in his way. To take him down, Walter makes use of the one person with an ever greater vendetta against Gus than himself — Hector Salamanca, who is commonly referred to as Tio due to his familial relation to Tuco and the Twins.

Despite being wheelchair-bound, mute, and barely able to move behind a single finger to ring his bell, Hector Salamanca still manages to get his revenge on Gus Fring by using a bomb planted by Walter. The Season 4 finale culminates in Hector blowing himself up to take Gus down with him. The unexpected and unforgettable moment Gus emerges from the room with half of his face missing is a series highlight.

Walter watches Jane die

Jesse's relationship with Jane Margolis was perhaps he ever came to getting out of the drug dealing game for good ahead of the show's finale. Jane even goes as far as to attempt to blackmail Walter for money that she hopes she and Jesse can use to flee to New Zealand. With Jesse tumbling down a drug rabbit hole after the death of his friend Combo and Jane relapsing back into her previously kicked heroin addiction, the two are in rough shape when Walt sneaks into their bedroom.

Walter watches as Janes chokes on her own vomit and dies. He has the chance to intervene and save her, and seems to consider it, but ends up standing by and doing nothing as she passes away. Whenever it seemed like there weren't any lines left for Walter White to cross, the writers always found a new one. 

While it's true that Walt has already killed multiple people by this point, and it's true that Jane would have died regardless if Walter weren't in the room, it's somehow even more sinister to be present and let her death happen. Even more diabolical is how Walt uses her death as a tool to emotionally manipulate Jesse throughout the rest of the series. It isn't until Season 5, in the episode "Ozymandias," that Jesse learns the truth when Walt tells him, "I watched Jane die."

The plane crash

Throughout the second season of "Breaking Bad," stylized episode cold opens offer glimpses of singed debris and a hazmat-suit-wearing cleanup crew working around the White household. These openings were intriguing, but audiences had to wait for the season finale to learn what it all meant. Even such copious foreshadowing couldn't diminish the impact of this shocking moment.

The episode "ABQ" is the culmination of extensive buildup. Two airplanes collide in mid-air above Albuquerque, and the half-burned teddy bear previously seen in earlier episodes splashes down in the White family's pool. The plane crash is caused by Donald Margolis, the father of Jane. Still reeling from his daughter's death, Donald is in no shape to return to work as an air-traffic controller, but he does anyway. The aftermath of the plane crash is explored in Season 3 when it is revealed that 167 people died in the Wayfairer 515 accident.

Todd shoots a child

When Todd Alquist enters the story in "Breaking Bad's" fifth and final season, he doesn't make much of an impression right off the bat. He is quiet, unassuming, and in a position of deference to Walt and Jesse. His seemingly timid nature makes it all the more shocking when he shoots a child to avoid leaving any witnesses. The act shocks not just viewers, but Walt and Jesse as well. This contemptible event punctuates the "Dead Freight" episode following the successful methylamine train heist.

Todd proves to be an onion with many layers to peel away. He displays no remorse for his actions, and the "El Camino" follow-up film leans even further in the direction that Todd might be a case of sociopathy or psychopathy. The reveal that Todd's Uncle Jack was the head of a Neo-Nazi gang is yet another unexpected reveal tied to this character. He may have joined the cast a little late, but Todd certainly leaves a major impression in the show's final season.

Jesse kills Gale

Despite producing methamphetamine for Gus Fring and potentially putting Walter White at risk of redundancy, Gale Boetticher still might be one of the most likable characters in all of "Breaking Bad." His bubbly personality, genuine enthusiasm for science, and friendly demeanor all helped to make audiences sympathize with and even root for Gale. His likability makes it all the more heartwrenching when he meets his unfortunate demise.

In the lead-up to the moment of his death, it has already become clear that Walter needed to get Gale out of the equation, but the specifics came as the biggest surprise in the Season 3 finale, "Full Measure." Walter is the one who needs Gale killed, but what viewers don't expect is for Jesse to handle his dirty work for him. Jesse has never killed anyone before, and shooting Gale in the head takes a major emotional toll on him. This is a significant line for Jesse to cross, and one that follows in Walt's footsteps.

Walter poisons Brock

Would Walter White really poison a child? That is the question that hangs over viewers' heads as they wonder who is responsible for poisoning Brock. Walt has done plenty of terrible things by this point, but never anything involving a child. This is an unexpected moment that plays with the beliefs of the audience right up until the wire, especially since the act itself occurs off-screen.

When Jesse accuses Walter of poisoning Brock with ricin, viewers are divided on who to believe. They might have been convinced by Walt's denial or swayed by Jesse's conviction. The episode continues to toy with viewer perception when the cause of Brock's poisoning is revealed not to be ricin after all, but rather a plant called lily of the valley, putting Jesse's mind at ease. However, there was one last twist incoming — the closing image of Season 4 is of a plant in Walter White's backyard with the label "Lily of the Valley," making it clear, there's no line Walt won't cross.