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Watch Out for the Aztek: The Most Shocking Moments in 'Breaking Bad' History

By Daniel Carlson and Sarah Carlson | Lists | September 28, 2013 |

By Daniel Carlson and Sarah Carlson | Lists | September 28, 2013 |

Breaking Bad is many things: dark drama, darker comedy, pulp thriller, and profound moral meditation. It’s also been one of the most surprising and shocking series of the past few years, thanks to the writers’ willingness to go in daring or uncomfortable directions as they explore the worst possible outcomes of the characters’ actions. It was hard to winnow this list down — sadly, we left off the moment where a tweaker’s head is crushed by an ATM — but these are still some of the most shocking moments in the show’s history:


The surprising effects of hydrofluoric acid
Having a moment like this early in the series’ run set a gory, darkly comic tone for everything that followed. Because yes, it’s revolting that a half-eroded lump of human torso would melt through a bathtub and crash through the ground below. But it’s also a little funny, in a sick way. (Right? Tell me I’m not alone in this.) — Daniel Carlson

The bad death of Krazy 8
This was the moment that started it all, really. Walter White got it in his head to cook crystal and cheat the system, but he didn’t truly start walking his path to damnation until he committed his first murder, strangling Krazy 8 in Jesse’s basement with a bike lock. He knew his own life was in danger — Krazy 8 had fashioned and hidden a weapon from a plate shard, after all — but that didn’t make it easier. It’s a gruesome scene, and the beginning of Heisenberg. — DC


Tortuga on the tortuga
Guest stars aren’t gonna make it long on any show, but on a show like Breaking Bad, you know they’re likely to meet a bad end, as well. Case in point: Tortuga, a drug runner played by Danny Trejo, who offered information about the cartel to the DEA in exchange for some serious SkyMall privileges. Tortuga met his end graphically, beheaded by the men he was trying to betray, who set his severed head on a tortoise with a message for the DEA. But the real surprise was when a DEA agent picked up the head and triggered a massive explosion, killing an agent and triggering Hank’s eventual return to the ABQ. — DC

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The messy end of Jane Margolis, and Walt’s ultimate confession
Walt doesn’t set out to hurt Jane. At this point — the final episodes of season two — Walt had mainly only developed his Heisenberg snarl, not so much his Heisenberg tendency to rationalize the killing of those whom he considered a threat. Not saving Jane as she choked on her own vomit changed not only Walt, but our perception of him. Sure, she posed a problem for him thanks to her relationship with and sway over Jesse. But there’s no crying “self-defense” when the victim is innocent and unconscious. So he watches her die, the first of several deaths on his head that occurred not by his hand, but with his blessing. Three seasons later, there isn’t much left for Walt to say to Jesse, whom he’s written off as a rat and as the person responsible for Hank’s death. Cruelly, he reveals his secret to Jesse. We already knew it, but just like Jesse, we can only listen in horror. — Sarah Carlson

The unfortunate end of Wayfarer Flight 515
The cold open teases throughout the second season were appropriately ominous — burned toys and wreckage in Walt’s pool, body bags, and even a pair of glasses that looked like Walt’s — but the revelation of their source was more shocking than most viewers would have predicted. It was all in line with the series’ pulpy but real examination of cause and effect, too: Walt lets Jane die, Walt causes her father untold grief, Walt stands under the wreckage as her father screwed up at his job as an air traffic controller. — DC


The Cousins vs. Hank
The Salamanca twins are two of Breaking Bad’s most terrifying villains, all dead eyes and silk suits and axes. Viewers watched the two men traveling up from Mexico and leaving a trail of bodies in their wake as they sought to avenge their cousin Tuco’s death. But poor Hank doesn’t see them coming until they are in the same parking lot as him, a phone call with a one-minute heads up his only warning in season three’s “One Minute.” What emerges is a classic action film-style shoot-out between the three that ends with our DEA hero riddled with bullets and left for dead. This is our first real taste of seeing favorite characters hurt by Walt’s actions, and it is unsettling. — SC

The revenge of the Aztek
The series arguably went up a notch in Season Three, taking a cue from the apt title of the penultimate episode of the season, “Half Measures.” Here, viewers were hit with shock after shock, from the murder of Andrea’s young brother (and the killer of Combo), Tomas, to Jesse’s spiral of grief and drugs and his decision to confront the murderers. As Jesse faces certain death, Walt blazes toward the offending drug dealers in his Pontiac Aztek, mowing them down as Jesse watches, wide-eyed. Walt makes sure both are dead, turns to Jesse, and says “Run!” He’s taken two lives to save one, a startling, thrilling, and morally confusing turn of events. — SC

The killing of Gale Boetticher
As season three’s finale, “Full Measures,” came to a close, it wasn’t clear if Jesse would pull the trigger on Gale in a move to save Walt’s life. Returning for season four, we learned that’s what happened, an act that sends Jesse spiraling. Gale is such an endearing and pathetic character that Jesse’s race to kill him and Victor’s race to catch Jesse before he kills Gale is a painful exercise. We don’t want to lose Jesse, and we can even sympathize with his instinct to protect his partner. But Gale’s murder is an act we can’t whitewash. — SC

The effects of a box cutter on human flesh
Gus Fring is a fascinating villain thanks not only to his calm demeanor and restaurant owner cover persona but to how different he is from Walt. The latter will try to reason his way out of anything, and in “Box Cutter,” he is full of explanations for his and Jesse’s actions killing the drug dealers. He just doesn’t know when to shut up. Gus, on the other hand, doesn’t speak. He cooly removes his jacket and tie, dons protective gear and proceeds to slice open the throat of one of his body men, Victor. The death is violent and jarring and confusing, but Gus delivers a message Walt unfortunately never fully came to grasp: this is a game of kill or be killed, and reason doesn’t have to be a factor. It’s for the ruthless. — SC

The death of Gustavo Fring
Leave it to Walt to find a way to have his enemies kill each other. The bomb that took out Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring at the end of the fourth season was the kind of politically savvy masterstroke that solidified Walt’s position (however temporary) as the king of southwestern meth. The shock of the moment came when Gus apparently still had enough of his wits about him to saunter into the hall and straighten his tie before realizing that half his face was missing and that he should probably just go ahead and die. An appropriately outsize ending to the man who remains the show’s most compelling villain. — DC

The Lily of the Valley
Walt started out sneaky and only got more manipulative over time, but the stinger at the close of the fourth season that it was Walt who poisoned Brock with his Lily of the Valley plant was something else entirely. The fourth season had ended messily and in a fog of anger and betrayal, but the casual push in on the plant’s name tag, and the realization of all that implied, was fantastic. — DC

The killing of Drew Sharp
This was the beginning of the end. Walt, full of pride at having outsmarted and defeated Gus Fring, doubles-down on the business instead of walking away and brings Todd along for the ride. Todd seems fairly harmless, mostly all talk about his uncle with prison connections. In season five’s “Dead Freight,” however, once confronted with Drew Sharp, “Opie Hitler” (as Vince Gilligan has dubbed him) proves uncontrollable. Perhaps more upsetting than watching Todd shoot and kill Drew Sharp, an innocent kid who witnesses the crew rob a train for methylamine, is the haunting opening of the next episode, in which Drew’s dirt bike is dismantled and dissolved in acid. We don’t see it, but we all know Drew’s body was next. Nothing is ever the same. — SC


The killing of Mike Ehrmantraut
Walt probably already had a mind to take out Mike by the time the events of season five’s “Say My Name” rolled around; he steals the gun from Mike’s bag, after all. But it is Mike’s pointed summation of Walt’s faults — his pride and ego that wrecked everything — that set off his inner Heisenberg. In a surprise move, instead of calculating his actions, Walt is all emotion here, turning on Mike in a fury and shooting him. Walt immediately looks shocked at what he’s done, but soon he is back to looking for reason in the chaos — that it all could have been avoided if only everyone had listened to and obeyed him. And we mourned the loss of a character who seemed impenetrable. — SC

The killing of Hank Schrader
Hank. Poor Hank, who started out as comic relief made of pure machismo and gradually evolved into the best, most dogged agent around. The man who used to make casually racist jokes and bottle his own beer, and who ended up shot to death in the desert even after he got his man. He had the cuffs on him and everything, and it still wasn’t enough. Ending “To’hajilee” in a shootout was a punch in the gut, and even though we hadn’t seen it yet, Hank’s fate was set, and “Ozymandias” saw it through. It felt inevitable, and it was all the sadder and somehow more shocking for it. That’s one of the series’ powers: you know what you’re about to see, but you hope it will be anything else. — DC


The killing of Andrea Cantillo
The list of lives taken in Breaking Bad is long, but the murder of Andrea in this past week’s episode, “Granite State,” has to be tied with the murder of Drew Sharp for the most tragic of deaths. She wasn’t involved in the business. She didn’t need to die. Todd coldly shooting her in the back of the head, after saying it was “nothing personal,” is simply to teach Jesse the lesson that he’s a prisoner. A restrained Jesse can only watch from a nearby car, banging his head on the window, screaming.Todd dispassionately takes her life in one of the series’ most heartbreaking scenes. — SC

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