Breaking Bad and The Sopranos both represent the zenith of the Golden Age of Television, but one new fan theory intrinsically links the two series. The Sopranos first aired in 1999, going on an award-laden eight-year run as the story of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his mafia-led criminal empire unfolds in dramatic fashion. The end of The Sopranos in 2007 would mark the birth of another TV behemoth in the form of Breaking Bad, which itself went on to sweep no less than 16 Primetime Emmy Awards – among others – across its five stellar seasons
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has very publicly stated the influence that The Sopranos had on shaping his neo-Western crime drama. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2013 following Gandolfini’s passing, Gilligan famously said, “Without Tony Soprano, there would be no Walter White.” In the same interview, Gilligan went on to say that the juxtaposition of Breaking Bad‘s Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) competing internal personas came about after meeting Gandolfini, as he was “struck by the disconnect between the scary mob boss and the warm and friendly man who played him.”
One fan theory on Reddit suggests the link between The Sopranos and Breaking Bad is more than just inspiration. In an incredibly detailed post, one user breaks down each series side-by-side using the Chiral Theory to state that Breaking Bad is, in fact, a mirror image of The Sopranos. This mirror-image theory states that rather than being inspired by The Sopranos, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad instead inverts every Sopranos scene to tell its own story, acting as a detailed series of homages in complete deference to David Chase’s great HBO TV drama.
Reddit user DrSatan420247’s analysis of the two shows side by side seemingly proves Breaking Bad and The Sopranos acting in perfect symmetry to one another. The sophisticated and extensive mirroring in each scene extends beyond mere homage, with Breaking Bad‘s plot littered with inversions of The Sopranos‘ scenes. In other words, these similarities are not merely Sopranos Easter eggs, but rather polarized portraits of moments from the HBO series, both big and small, that Gilligan has used as the basis for his entire Breaking Bad narrative.
A fascinating example here is the use of a prosthetic leg in both The Sopranos and Breaking Bad‘s narratives. In The Sopranos season 4, Janice (Aida Turturro) steals Svetlana’s (Alla Kliouka) prosthetic leg, prompting two of her Russian affiliates to invade Janice’s house while she is home, only to find the stolen leg isn’t there. In perfect Chiral Theory symmetry, Breaking Bad‘s Jesse (Aaron Paul) invades the home of two local addicts in Breaking Bad. In this scene, however, nobody is home, but the first thing he happens upon is a stolen prosthetic leg, inverting the events of the corresponding Sopranos scenes. Although this theory is, of course, open to ample interpretation, there are certainly enough indicators to suggest a deeper level of symmetry between the two series as Breaking Bad mirrors The Sopranos in the most mind-bending of ways.