'Breaking Bad' as a Love Letter to Movies
It's no secret that "Breaking Bad" is one of the most cinematic shows on television. There aren't a lot of other shows that are this visually creative or subtly suspenseful, which puts "Breaking Bad" on a new level of television show: it's practically one long movie.
It makes sense that EP Vince Gilligan would aspire to this level of visual and emotional excellence. The man is clearly a big fan of movies, especially crime classics, as evidenced by the many references throughout the show. Some of these homages are very obvious, while others are more of an undercurrent, but either way "Breaking Bad" has become, especially in this fifth and final season, a love letter to movies.
One of the more obvious recent references is the "Scarface" appearance. Gilligan himself said that Walt would be going "from Mr. Chips to Scarface" over the course of the show, and a few episodes ago in "Hazard Pay" we saw Walt and Walter Jr. watching the movie in the living room even with the baby present. In the opening episode of the season, we saw Walt in the future purchasing a huge gun in a shady deal... a huge gun that looks awfully similar to Tony Montana's "little friend."
Other movies make small appearances but nonetheless might have a thematic influence on the show. When the DEA busts into Mike's house, the gruff fixer is watching "The Big Heat," another classic crime movie. That movie isn't an exact parallel of "Breaking Bad," but there are a few similarities: the biggest might be how Bannion fails to see the danger that he put his family in through his job. Walt is in that same position (though on the other side of the law), and thinks that, he, his family and his friends are perfectly safe. Mike thinks otherwise.
And then there's "Heat," which Hank attempts to use to draw Walter Jr. out of his room. The homages to that movie are pretty clear when Walt, Jesse, Todd and Mike attempt a train heist and leaving clues or witnesses becomes a major theme. Plus, there's the scene in "Say My Name" where Mike has to leave his daughter at the park in "thirty seconds flat."
You could make an argument for westerns, too. How often have we seen Walt facing down an enemy of some kind in the middle of the New Mexico desert, complete with low-angle shots, extreme close-ups or setting sun?
Even more intriguing are the similarities that Vulture found between "Breaking Bad" and "The Shining." Family man turned psychopath? Check. Lots of reflections? Check. Axe murdered twins and axe murdering twins? Check. Even the radio dispatch call letters KDK-12 appear in both.
With all of these homages becoming apparent, the question is: why? Is this simply a case of Vince Gilligan being a fan of all of these classics and wanting to show respect to his predecessors in the crime genre? Or is this a commentary on the nature of this show and the violence it portrays? Movies are all make-believe, and anyone who watches too many might imagine that he, too, could be a macho hero or a master criminal and kill bad guys or good guys without a second thought.
That's what happened to Walt along the way, and as we go through "Breaking Bad," each kill becomes less shocking. Remember how tough it was for Walt to kill Krazy 8, and how tough it was for us to watch? Now Walt can kill without a second thought, and we watch bloodbaths like the one at Don Eladio's place without blinking an eye at the body count.
Have you caught any other movie homages in "Breaking Bad?" Let us know in the comments.