Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows in human history. Everything in the show was virtually perfect in every aspect, but at the end of the day, the compelling story and deep characters were what gave it a massive edge over all other television. In particular, the main protagonist of the show, Walter White, was one of television’s greatest characters, a man with so many vices and virtues that his transformation into the show’s primary antagonist became hard to pinpoint.
Here are 5 moments where Walt donned his alter-ego of “Heisenberg” somewhat unsuccessfully and 5 moments where Heisenberg attempted to act like the old Walt. Needless to say, there will be spoilers, so don’t rob yourself of the experience of Breaking Bad if you haven’t yet seen it.
Pretending To Be Walt: Manipulating Jesse
Throughout the show, since the very first episode, Walt has had a fascination with Jesse that turned into a partnership, and later, into a dominating and controlling surface level “friendship.” There are multiple times that Heisenberg successfully manipulated Jesse into thinking he was the “just trying to get by” as Walter White, whom Jesse befriended, but the most notable instance was in convincing Jesse that he did not poison Brock. However, Jesse eventually had enough, and was able to see Heisenberg at any given moment, especially when Heisenberg tried to tell Jesse he didn’t know what happened to Mike Ehrmantraut by re-creating the season 1 Walt’s cautious optimism and naiveté.
Pretending To Be Heisenberg: Walt Confronts Ted
While Walt was generally unsuccessful in hiding his second life to his wife, Skyler, eventually, he came clean and even got her involved. Skyler, on the other hand, was trying to protect her children and get Walt to divorce her, so what better way than by instigating an affair with her boss, Ted Beneke? When Walt finds out after Skyler cooly tells him “I f***ed Ted,” after Walt had Jesse over for dinner as a power play, Walt’s Heisenberg persona collapses. He goes over to Ted’s office the next day and tries to be intimidating, but only comes across as maniacal and pathetic, attempting to break a reinforced window with a plastic plant and getting kicked out. Hilariously, it’s less like Heisenberg and more like Hal from Malcolm in the Middle.
Pretending To Be Walt: “Tread Lightly”
When Hank finally figures out his own brother-in-law is the man he was chasing for nearly 2 years, the confrontation when Walt meets him in Hank’s garage is awkward, to say the least. Initially, Heisenberg attempts to act inconspicuous and concerned for Hank’s well-being, but his intrusive questioning and pathetic demeanor to earn sympathy are too disingenuous, and obviously a ruse. Heisenberg pulling out the GPS tracker outright and confronting Hank as “Walt” is enough to earn him a well-earned punch to the face.
Pretending To Be Heisenberg: Putting Saul At Gunpoint
In their first encounter with Saul Goodman, Walt and Jesse are unsuccessful in their first encounter with the sleazy lawyer, and in order to force him into cooperation with their demands, they don not-so-scary ski masks and take Saul out to the middle of the desert and show him a shallow grave.
Jesse’s demeanor is obviously not that of a hitman, but the dead giveaway is when Walt begins coughing unstoppably due to his lung cancer. The pair’s ineptitude at being tough doesn’t work on Saul, and soon, Saul helps train them to be more competent in their criminal schemes over time.
Pretending To Be Walt: Apologizing To Mike
In one of the series’ most devastating moments, the world’s coolest and most professional fixer is needlessly shot by Walt in a fit of rage. After rightfully insulting Walt’s biggest weaknesses, his pride and ego, Mike storms off back to his car, ready to start a new life. But Heisenberg, triggered by Mike’s angry rant, shoots Mike in a flash of anger. Instantly, the “Heisenberg pretending to be Walt” alter-ego kicks in, and he (after taking Mike’s gun) apologizes to Mike for shooting him, but Mike cuts his charade start and says, “Shut the f**k up… and let me die in peace.”
Pretending To Be Heisenberg: Making Deals With Tuco
In the early seasons of the series, Walt was not the danger, in fact, he was constantly in danger. Sociopathic characters like Tuco Salamanca were completely unpredictable, armed, and powerful. In the first use of the “Heisenberg” name, Walt confronted Tuco over theft of their sales and treatment of Jesse.
While “Heisenberg” held up pretty well for the first encounter, subsequent ones couldn’t hold up against Tuco’s insanity as well. Walt, even in his Heisenberg outfit, was merely in an outfit and not quite in character, showing visible fear frequently, and bungling simple rules, like meeting in a secluded location to do drug deals and not public places, meaning Tuco could do whatever he pleased when they were alone.
Pretending To Be Walt: The School Assembly
The “Wayfarer 515” incident was the collision of two aircraft, which killed 167 people. It was, in Heisenberg’s words, “Just the 5oth worst air disaster.” As Walt is indirectly responsible for causing the crash, something he’s aware of (and no one else), he tries to clear his conscience by going on an extremely awkward and inappropriate rant at an assembly at the high school he teaches at. His cold demeanor and referral to people as statistics are the calculating and unempathetic words of Heisenberg, and thankfully, he gets cut off by the principal before further embarrassing himself.
Pretending To Be Heisenberg: Threatening Gretchen And Elliot
Walt was always at odds with Gretchen and Elliot. Once again, his pride was always what stood in his way. Gretchen was Walt’s former love interest, and Elliot was his best friend. After leaving the company Walt founded for reasons unknown, Gretchen and Elliot married and the company took off, leaving Walt incredibly bitter. When he decides to threaten the pair at their home in Santa Fe, he does so to ensure his family gets his blood money, and perhaps to get a little boost of fun seeing them whimper at his presence. He embraces the “Heisenberg” myth and persona to intimidate them, but it’s Walt’s motivation driving the scene instead. If it was Heisenberg, those snipers would have been real. No half-measures.
Pretending To Be Walt: Kidnapping Holly
By now, the audience had long since realized Walt was the villain of the show, but at this moment, Walt himself finally realized it too. After the entire collapse of his personal life, Walt selfishly kidnaps his own daughter and drives off, with no real plan in sight. The complete lack of heart and total disregard for his own infant daughter and her well-being is what made “family man” Walt wake up and realize the power-hungry Heisenberg had the reins instead. Holly knew the man holding her wasn’t her father either, and even cried for “mama.” Heisenberg wasn’t some split personality, it was just the persona Walt made up to hide his awful actions and each awful action was a conscious decision.
Pretending To Be Heisenberg: The Phone Call To Skyler
Following the realization that he kidnapped his own daughter, Walt decided to make a few small amends. The first step was to set Holly in a secure spot in a fire station and alert the crew to her presence, so she could be taken to safety. Then, he made a phone call to his household, where his family was in sheer despair, wondering what happened to Hank, where Holly was, and what would come next.
Walt, embracing the worst side of his Heisenberg persona, decided to give them answers and safety from the law by hurting them horribly in the moment but protecting them in the long run. He mocked Skyler and her unwillingness to help him (a lie), he threatened to kill anyone that stood in his way (like Hank), and had already secured Holly’s return. Skyler realized his plan towards the end of the call, and was taken aback, but played along.