Breaking Bad episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byVince Gilligan
Written byVince Gilligan
Produced byKaren Moore
Featured music
Full list
Cinematography byJohn Toll
Editing byLynne Willingham
Original air dateJanuary 20, 2008 (2008-01-20)
Running time58 minutes
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
← Previous
Next →
"Cat's in the Bag..."
Breaking Bad season 1
List of episodes

"Pilot" (titled "Breaking Bad" on DVD and Blu-ray releases) is the series premiere of the American television crime drama series Breaking Bad. The episode was directed and written by series creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan. It first aired on AMC on January 20, 2008.

In the episode, chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Keeping it a secret from his pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and their teenage son Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), he decides that he wants to spend his last years saving money for his family. After going on a drug bust with his brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walt spots his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and later blackmails him into helping him cook methamphetamine in an RV.

The pilot received various nominations at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Cranston winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Gilligan earning a nomination for Outstanding Directing.


Walter "Walt" White is a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, living with his pregnant wife, Skyler, and their teenage son Walter Jr., who has cerebral palsy. Walt is heavily dissatisfied with his life, feeling overqualified and underpaid as a high school teacher, struggling to make ends meet, resenting his humiliating part-time job at a car wash and failing to satisfy his wife.

During Walt's 50th birthday party, his brother-in-law Hank Schrader, a DEA agent, proudly shows the guests a news report detailing his latest drug bust, in which $700,000 of illegal drug money was confiscated. Walt appears curious and Hank offers to take him on a ride-along to a bust. Meanwhile, Skyler talks to her sister Marie Schrader, Hank's wife, about her pregnancy.

The next day, Walt collapses at the car wash and is taken to the hospital, where he is told that he has developed inoperable lung cancer and has, at best, two years to live. He opts to keep the news from his family. Returning to work, Walt lashes out at his boss Bogdan Wolynetz and storms out. He sits alone at home and ponders the news of his impending death.

Walt takes the offer to go on the ride-along with Hank and his partner Steven Gomez as they raid a meth lab. As DEA agents clear out the house, Walt observes Jesse Pinkman, a former student of his, sneaking out and fleeing. Later that night, Walt tracks down and blackmails Jesse into helping him produce crystal meth. After Walt steals chemistry supplies from the high school, he asks Jesse to purchase an RV to use as their meth lab.

The pair drive the RV into the desert and begin to cook. Due to Walt's expertise in chemistry, Jesse claims their crystal meth is the purest he has ever seen. Jesse drives back to show the product to his distributor, Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina, but encounters Krazy-8's cousin, Emilio Koyama, who believes Jesse set him up during the drug bust. To prove his loyalty, Jesse rides with them to the RV, where they meet Walt. Emilio recognizes Walt from Hank's earlier bust which leads to the two being held at gunpoint. To save his life, Walt offers to show them how he makes meth. During the cook, Emilio flicks away a cigarette that causes a bush fire. Walt synthesizes phosphine gas with red phosphorus, causing an explosion, and flees the RV, trapping Emilio and Krazy-8 inside and leaving them for dead in poisonous fumes.

Hearing sirens, Walt attempts to flee but drives the RV into a ditch. He stumbles out and records a video message to his family[a] before unsuccessfully trying to shoot himself. He then realizes that the sirens are not the police but are from fire trucks responding to the fire. Walt returns home, meeting his wife's troubled queries with new sexual vigor, making her ask "Walt, is that you?".


Series creator Vince Gilligan wrote and directed the pilot of Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad was created by television writer Vince Gilligan, with the crux of the series being the protagonist's journey into an antagonist. Noting how television shows usually kept their main character in the same state to prolong the series, Gilligan said he wanted to make a show serving as a "fundamental drive" towards change.[1] He added that his goal with Walter White was to turn him "from Mr. Chips into Scarface."[2][3][4] The concept of Walt as a meth dealer came to fruition when Gilligan was talking with fellow writer Thomas Schnauz, and they joked regarding their unemployment that the solution was to drive around cooking meth in an RV.[5]

Gilligan cast Bryan Cranston for the role of Walter White based on having worked with him in "Drive", an episode of the sixth season of the science fiction television series The X-Files, where Gilligan worked as a writer. Cranston played an anti-Semite with a terminal illness who took Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hostage. Gilligan said the character had to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic, and that only Cranston could play the part.[6][7] AMC officials were wary of casting Cranston, due to him being mostly known for his comedic role as Hal on the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, and offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick, who both turned it down.[8] After seeing Cranston in the X-Files episode, the executives were convinced to cast him.[9] For his role, Cranston met frequently with a chemistry teacher to learn about the subject, gained fifteen pounds to reflect the character's personal decline, and had his hair dyed brown to mask his natural red highlights.[10][11]

Various actors auditioned for the role of Jesse Pinkman, including Reid Scott, Colin Hanks, and Penn Badgley. However, the audition of Aaron Paul for the character, which he himself said was "awful", caught the attention of Gilligan and casting director Dawn Steinberg. When Sony Pictures Television refused to hire Paul on the basis that he did not look like a meth dealer, Gilligan told them that he would not make the show if Paul was not picked for the role.[12][13] For the role of Hank Schrader, Gilligan spoke with an actual DEA agent to learn more information on the character.[14] Dean Norris, who had a history of being typecast as law enforcement and military-type characters, stated that, "I guess you have a certain look, it's kind of an authoritative law enforcement-type look, and that look is certainly the first thing that people cast you with before you get a chance to do some acting."[15][16]

The script was originally set in Riverside, California, but at the suggestion of Sony, which was producing the pilot, Albuquerque was chosen for production due to the favorable financial conditions offered by the state of New Mexico.[17][18] Filming for the episode began on March 6, 2007, concluding after several weeks on March 21.[19][20]


Critical response

Barry Garron from The Hollywood Reporter praised the premiere for its suspense,[21] and Jonathan Storm from The Philadelphia Inquirer found it unpredictable.[22] Meanwhile, Robert Bianco of USA Today focused on Bryan Cranston's performance, which he said was "riveting and remarkable",[23] and The A.V. Club journalist Donna Bowman wrote a positive review, giving the episode a grade rating of an "A−", and citing Cranston's "mesmerizing", "nihilistic", and "hulking yet impotent" performance along with lauding Vince Gilligan's screenplay.[24] Furthermore, the Chicago Tribune television critic Maureen Ryan complimented Cranston's role, and noted the premiere as a "slam dunk" compared to the two following episodes.[25] After the series concluded, The Ringer ranked "Pilot" 6th out of all 62 Breaking Bad episodes, where Alison Harman noted that "the addictive hook of the pilot helped power viewers through the couple of seasons it took for Breaking Bad to hit its stride".[26]

Ratings and accolades

In 2013, Gilligan recalled the viewership for the episode being below a million viewers due to a football game that aired at the same time.[27] However, The Hollywood Reporter revealed later in the same year that the pilot had been watched by 1.41 million people instead.[28]

Vulture.com ranked the episode 10th-best overall in the series.[29]

Awards and nominations received by "Pilot"
Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Primetime Emmy Awards September 21, 2008 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Bryan Cranston Won [30]
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series Lynne Willingham Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a One Hour Series John Toll Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Vince Gilligan Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards February 7, 2009 Television: Episodic Drama Vince Gilligan Won [31]


  1. ^ which is shown in medias res at the beginning of the episode


  1. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (July 12, 2011). "Bad Decisions". Grantland. Archived from the original on November 14, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  2. ^ Goodman, Tim (July 13, 2011). "'Breaking Bad': Dark Side of the Dream". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Bowles, Scott (July 13, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' shows man at his worst in Season 4". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  4. ^ Ginsberg, Merle (July 16, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' Star Bryan Cranston on Walter White: 'He's Well on His Way to Badass' (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  5. ^ Callaghan, Dylan (2012). Script Tease: Today's Hottest Screenwriters Bare All. Adams Media. pp. 83–4. ISBN 978-1-4405-4176-6.
  6. ^ Segal, David (July 6, 2011). "The Dark Art of 'Breaking Bad'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 9, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  7. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (March 6, 2009). "Sepinwall on TV: Bryan Cranston talks 'Breaking Bad' season two". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on November 16, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  8. ^ Weingus, Leigh (July 16, 2012). "'Breaking Bad': John Cusack, Matthew Broderick Turned Down Walter White Role". HuffPost. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  9. ^ Rosenblum, Emma (March 13, 2009). "Bleak House". New York. Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  10. ^ Moore, Frazier (January 19, 2008). "The chemistry of a moral dilemna [sic]". The Boston Globe. Boston. p. 24. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Hughes, Mike (January 20, 2008). "Good teacher goes bad in series". The Times Herald. Port Huron, Michigan. p. 50. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Hedash, Kara (December 22, 2019). "Breaking Bad: Actors Who Were Considered To Play Jesse Pinkman". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on March 12, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  13. ^ "Aaron Paul Felt Desperate in His Audition for 'Breaking Bad'". Off Camera. May 4, 2020. Archived from the original on February 2, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2021 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ Schilling, Mary Kaye (August 11, 2013). "Dean Norris on the Breaking Bad Premiere, Hank's Machismo, and Bryan Cranston's Overachiever E-mails". Vulture. New York City: New York Media. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  15. ^ Gross, Terry (July 19, 2013). "Breaking Bad "Blood Money" Review "Hello, Carol."". NPR. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  16. ^ "'Breaking Bad': Dean Norris Asked Vince Gilligan To Kill Hank Off So He Could Do A Comedy Pilot". Huffington Post. February 4, 2013. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  17. ^ Brown, Lane (May 12, 2013). "In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad". Vulture. Archived from the original on September 5, 2019. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  18. ^ "Series 'Breaking Bad' to Begin Production at Albuquerque Studios". Albuquerque Studios. August 23, 2007. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
  19. ^ "TV Pilot Filmed In Duke City". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. March 7, 2007. p. 17. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ "TV Pilot Will Be Shot in Duke City". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. March 8, 2007. p. 20. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Garron, Barry (January 16, 2008). "Breaking Bad". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on September 5, 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  22. ^ Storm, Jonathan (January 20, 2008). "Jonathan Storm: Entertaining drama of crystal-meth maker". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network. Archived from the original on January 24, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  23. ^ Bianco, Robert (January 17, 2008). "'Breaking' is far from bad; it's fantastic". USA Today. Gannett Company. Archived from the original on September 3, 2019. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  24. ^ Bowman, Donna (January 22, 2008). ""Pilot" Breaking Bad". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on July 31, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  25. ^ Ryan, Maureen (January 18, 2008). "'Breaking Bad' – better TV through chemistry?". Chicago Tribune. Chicago. p. 11. Archived from the original on April 15, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  26. ^ Herman, Alison (September 30, 2019). "The Ringer's Definitive 'Breaking Bad' Episodes Ranking". The Ringer. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  27. ^ Kevin Day, Patrick (October 1, 2013). "Late night: Colbert makes Vince Gilligan continue 'Breaking Bad'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020.
  28. ^ O'Connell, Mikey (September 30, 2013). "TV Ratings: 'Breaking Bad' Finale Smashes Records With 10.3 Million Viewers". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  29. ^ Potts, Kimberly (October 10, 2019). "Every Episode of Breaking Bad, Ranked". Vulture.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  30. ^ "Complete 2008 Nominations List". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. July 17, 2008. Archived from the original on September 8, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
  31. ^ Hughes, Mike (February 9, 2009). "Writers honor 'Milk,' 'Slumdog Millionaire'". Mansfield News Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. p. 15. Archived from the original on April 17, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.