One of the greatest strengths of Breaking Bad was its willingness to embrace the consequences of the actions the characters took. Nothing was glossed over, nothing was off-limits. This was a show that ensured everything that happened had some kind of repercussion, and that tone was set in the very beginnings of the series in this first season episode, which sees Walt and Jesse try to deal with the corpse of drug dealer Emilio and the still alive Krazy 8.
Played for dark comedy, Walt decides the best course of action is to dispose of Emilio’s body via hydrofluoric acid, a plan that succeeds, except that it sends a bathtub crashing through Jesse’s ceiling. The episode also has a darker edge when Krazy 8 is locked away in Jesse’s basement, setting the stage for the great lengths Walt and Jesse would go in order to remain safe. Several series tropes are introduced in this episode, including Walt’s pathological lying to Skyler to cover his tracks and the uneasiness between Skyler and Jesse. The pilot may have been the first episode, but “Cat’s in the Bag…” is where Gilligan found the series’ voice and built on the foundation.
11. A NO-ROUGH-STUFF-TYPE DEAL
They say a story is only as good as its villains, and before Walt became one himself, he and Jesse faced some pretty intimidating opponents in their time together. The first of these was Tuco Salamanca, who distributed the duo’s meth during the first season. An unpredictable psychopath, Tuco presented more of a danger than a benefit, as illustrated by his vicious beating of an associate in front of Walt and Jesse. It showed that the two aspiring criminals were well in over the heads and completely unprepared for New Mexico’s underworld of meth dealing.
“A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” also established how Walt and Jesse work well as a team, as they devise a plan to steal the chemicals they need to cook their product from a warehouse. Though it didn’t go smoothly (little ever did for them), they still accomplished their goal and were able to keep doing business. Their great heists became a constant presence as the series went on, becoming more elaborate. In addition, the seeds are planted for the inevitable Walter and Skyler divide; Walt decides to stick up for Marie stealing a baby tiara, which surprises Skyler. She warns her husband he wouldn’t want to know what would happen if she caught him in illegal activity, raising the stakes of Walt’s personal life.
As Breaking Bad went on, Jesse Pinkman became the show’s beating heart and emotional moral center. Even though he was cooking and dealing meth, Jesse never lost his conscience and tried to always do the ethical thing. To him, some things were bigger than selling some drugs and making money. As Walt morphed into a greedy and manipulative head of an “empire business,” Jesse continuously saw the larger picture of what was “right” in this crazy world.
The team started to flesh that aspect out in this second season episode, where Jesse goes to a junkie’s house to collect overdue payments. When he breaks into the house, Jesse is startled to see a young child living in such conditions and begins to take care of him. Jesse tries to help the kid have a normal day, playing peekaboo and making him meals when he’s hungry. At the end, when the mother murders the father with an ATM machine, Jesse sees no choice but to call 911 and have someone take the kid away. This episode showed Jesse was more than the junkie archetype and deeply cared about others, establishing his arc as the series went along.