1x05: Gray Matter

“One of our finest moments was not necessarily one of our most dramatic. But in the writers’ room during the first season, we did an episode – only our fifth episode – where we offered a Deus Ex Machina moment to Walter White. We basically had a saviour, a white knight, come to Walter White in the form of Elliott Schwartz, his former friend and lab partner who is now a millionaire, running an enormous scientific research company.”

“And Elliott comes to Walt and says, ‘I’ve heard about your cancer, I’m going to pay for your medical treatment, I’m going to pay the full freight on it, and I’m going to give you a job, anything you want – I just want to do right by you and help you and help your family…’ And instead of taking this life preserver that’s been thrown to him, Walt decides to go back to cooking crystal meth, and that’s one of my favourite moments and one of the most important moments in the life of the show, because prior to that I don’t think the writers and I truly understood Walter White.”

“We didn’t understand that he was a creature of such pride and such damaged ego that he would rather be his own man and endanger his family’s life than take a handout like that. He’s that kind of a guy. Prior to that Walter White was basically a good but mislead guy with bad decision-making skills. He was going to make money, and then what was going to happen to keep him cooking meth? The money was going to get stolen, so he’d have to cook more meth… we came to realise truly what we had in that fifth episode.”

“That’s when he broke bad, in a way. When the show kicked in to high gear, or started to, anyway.”

– from Vince Gilligan’s Five Favourite Breaking Bad Moments

#Breaking Good Companion for 1x05

Why exactly did Walt leave Gray Matter? This question is never fully answered on the show. But some insight can be found in this AMC interview in 2009 with Jessica Hecht, the actress who plays Gretchen.

“…Vince told us exactly what went down between [Walt and Gretchen] off screen: We were very much in love and we were to get married. And he came home and met my family, and I come from this really successful, wealthy family, and that knocks him on his side. He couldn’t deal with this inferiority he felt — this lack of connection to privilege. It made him terrified, and he literally just left me, and I was devastated.”

Also see: Discussions on Reddit, Stack Exchange; BrBa Wiki


1x05: Gray Matter

Walt: “You’ve read the statistics sheet, these doctors talking about surviving, one year, two years, like it’s the only thing that matters. But what good is it to survive if I’m too sick to work, to enjoy a meal, to make love. For what time I have left, I want to live in my own house, I want to sleep in my own bed. I don’t want to choke down 40 or 50 pills every single day, and lose my hair, lie around, too tired to get up, and so nauseated that I can’t even move my head. You cleaning up after me. Me… me some um… some dead man, some artifically alive, just marking time… No. And that’s how you would remember me. That’s the worst part. So… that is my thought process, Skyler… I’m sorry, it’s just I choose not to do it.”

1x05: Gray Matter

“Hank compares Walt’s situation to a poker game: ’Let’s face it you were dealt a shit hand.’ Interestingly, in the next episode, “Crazy handful of nothin’ “ there’s a highly symbolic poker scene. ’The key is, you gotta hang in there, you gotta keep placing your bets.’ – which is actually what Walt/Heisenberg does throughout the show; he doesn’t give up after Tuco. Perhaps that’s why there are more than a few scenes where Walt and Jesse could have quit the business and they decided to continue.

"The foreshadowing air thickens as Hank continues, hoping to change Walt’s decision on surrendering to cancer: ‘…or you can hold on to your pride and lose the game.’ Is that what’s going to happen to Walt in the end? Vince knows! But we’ve seen what Heisenberg’s pride and hubris have brought him so far: lots of power and money, as well as trouble and burden. Maybe that’s why at the end of the episode, Walt decides to wake from the dead and step into the world of crime once again, so that he can keep his pride and stay in the game.”
Aria Mohtadi, Breaking Bad Observations

1x05: Gray Matter

“Walt notices Elliott’s magazine cover stories, articles, etc. Recognition is a recurrent theme on the series, playing with the idea that Walt and Jesse were never truly taken seriously for their potentials in their normal life so they leaned towards the crime world. Walt, as a teacher, might have been responsible for not nurturing Jesse the way he was supposed to be (well, his parents are too) but then again through their partnership, Jesse grew as an influential team member. As for Walt’s situation, I guess he himself is responsible for turning his back on the opportunities. Here are some other visual examples of recognition awards belonging to Walt, Lydia and Jake.”
Aria Mohtadi, Breaking Bad Observations