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Breaking Bad: What The Show’s Title Really Means

What’s the deeper meaning behind Breaking Bad‘s title and the Breaking Bad logo (Br Ba)? The original crime series was created by Vince Gilligan and ran for five seasons before coming to an end in 2013. Throughout Breaking Bad spinoffs like Better Call Saul and El Camino, Gilligan further explores the meaning of the title behind arguably the greatest crime series in modern television.

Gilligan spent much of his early career working on The X-Files. During that time, he came up with the idea for a series that focused on a hero that would later turn into a villain. Gilligan had trouble pitching his project in its early stages because many people thought it sounded too similar to Weeds. AMC eventually gave him an opportunity, leading him to develop Breaking Bad. The series centered on Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a seemingly normal chemistry teacher who goes on to become a ruthless drug lord.

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Related: Breaking Bad: Why Walter White Left Gray Matter

Breaking Bad was critically acclaimed throughout its run and praised by viewers for its character development. The attention to detail also made the crime drama stand out from the rest, and after Walter White’s death, Gilligan continued to exceed audience expectations through the spinoffs. Gilligan made sure that the series was full of hidden meanings and motifs, including the title itself – but what does it actually mean? To Gilligan, the term “breaking bad” was a saying that is native to his home state of Virginia, and it basically means raising hell. A broader definition suggests that the phrase “break bad” is a colloquialism that means turning to a life of crime. Both of those definitions perfectly fit with Walt’s journey in Breaking Bad. To say the man raised hell during his emergence as a meth kingpin was an understatement. Walt’s actions wreaked havoc not just on his competitors, but also on his family and most notably his partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). This culminated in Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg – the embodiment of what it means to “break bad.” Here’s everything else that audiences need to know about the Breaking Bad logo and title.


Breaking Bad’s Title Cleverly Uses The Periodic Table

The title also has an additional meaning when taking into account the actual Breaking Bad logo – “Br Ba.” The design highlights two elements on the Periodic table, “Br” and “Ba.” The first is the symbol for Bromine, a chemical element that is useful for fire retardants. The second stands for Barium, a chemical element used frequently in fireworks. It also gives off a flame a greenish hue when heated. It’s interesting that both words start with elements that have essentially opposing effects as if the elements contradict themselves. Walt was much the same way in Breaking Bad: he often started a lot of fires and subsequently spent a lot of time trying to put them out. Indeed, these Breaking Bad elements mirror not only Walt’s journey but also Walt and Jessie’s relationship and many of the other massive contradictions that enabled Heisenberg’s life of crime.


Better Call Saul’s “Breaking Bad” Episode Adds Further Context To The Title

Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, in its sixth season, further contextualizes what “breaking bad” truly means. For starters, Better Call Saul season 6, episode 11, “Breaking Bad” marks Walt and Jessie’s first real appearance in the spinoff, which is a reference to how Saul Goodman debuts on Breaking Bad in an episode called “Better Call Saul.” Moreover, this episode’s 2008 flashback also shows Saul deducing that Walt is Heisenberg, ignoring Mike Ehrmantraut’s advice against working with Walt, and walking to Walt’s high school to begin their business relationship. Meanwhile, in 2010, Gene follows through with a scam even after finding out that his target has cancer, reasoning to his cohorts that even people suffering from cancer aren’t all good based on Gene knowing Walt.


These crucial moments in Better Call Saul‘s “Breaking Bad” episode have one thing in common: they reiterate that the show isn’t just about Walt’s journey but also about how Walt pulls everyone in (even those who’d already lost their way) and makes them worse. As the Breaking Bad logo implies, Walt’s universe is all about conflict and contradiction, a process that Walt finally admitted that he enjoyed in the finale. Walt was to Saul Goodman as Jimmy was to Kim Wexler. The only difference is that, unlike Saul, Kim at least knew that she needed to stay away from Jimmy if she was ever going to stop “breaking bad.”



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