Breaking Bad (2008)

For this assignment I’ve chosen to discuss the design for the episode opening of Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad was a television show produced by AMC that ran from 2008 to 2013, running for 5 seasons and accruing a prequel series and a later film.
The title sequence starts with a slew of letters and numbers appearing on the screen – to which the lines of the periodic table form. They move quickly, yet are at a pace where anyone is generally able to recognize the symbolism. Commonly known elements such as Carbon and Nitrogen are flashed in a white legible typeface. Interestingly, when analyzed, the chemical compounds that make up cyanide appear, as well as the word, “meth”. Which are hints to the happenings of the plot. Although as someone who has watched every episode of this show, I never seemed to notice it before, so I understand this is a product of heavy analysis.

Moving forward, two chemical elements (Bromine and Barium) are centered with the following text of, “Breaking Bad”. As the sequence continues, a smoky substance billows behind the letters as the title grows faded. The letters nearly appear to look worn and burnt.

It is obviously presented that this show is meant to involve chemistry and science overall. The use of the periodic table fading into what appears to be a chemical reaction is evidence for that. I maybe wouldn’t argue that the average person could deduct that this show is about drugs without close inspection. However it could be speculated when thinking about why chemistry was a chosen element of design.
The overall mood is sterile and dark, set by the clean typography and use of dark lighting. You certainly don’t feel invited into the space this show is creating, yet it is intriguing. There is a simple strum that plays throughout the opening which eventually dies off with the text, which I feel further illustrates this. The sound ceases and tapers off, there are several questions that may arise in the viewer. It’s evident that this isn’t meant to be a romantic comedy or an animated film, it certainly is a dark drama. This design of Breaking Bad’s opening sequence does its job well as it brings the viewer in and allows for further speculation.

Discussion — One Response

  • Gage Minor 04/15/2022 on 2:52 AM

    Hi Hannah! I really enjoyed reading your post! I am currently two and a half seasons into Breaking Bad, and the hidden messages within the opening scene went over my head the entire time. During my time watching the show, I never actually noticed the word meth on the screen or realized the chemicals for cyanide were listed. This was really interesting to me and proved that I may not have known the intro as well as I thought I did. This got me thinking, and I decided to look into the introduction a little bit more.

    During my examination of the introduction, I noticed some elements within the video that further support that there are hidden hints as to what the show is about. In addition to the chemical formula for cyanide being listed, H15 and N14924 are listed as well, which are accelerants in the process of making methamphetamine. This adds yet another subtle example that foreshadows what the show is about.

    On top of this addition to your point about the hidden meaning of the chemical formulas displayed, I also noticed some details which lead me to a different conclusion than you regarding the simplicity of determining what the show was about through the introduction without in-depth analysis. As you noted above, the sound playing throughout the intro includes a strumming sound from a guitar; however, towards the end of the introduction when the smoke starts to appear, there is a hissing sound, similar to that of a cigarette, cigar, or another smoking method. In addition to this, the yellow color of the smoke which rises through the screen is not insignificant in displaying the use of drugs within the show. As everyone knows, smoke is always a darker color such as grey or black, and the use of yellow to display smoke displays the smoke’s irregularity to the viewer. With the sound of a cigarette-like tool, accompanied by the rising yellow smoke, I believe there is a clear indication of a drug being used.

    With that being said, I do believe this design may go unnoticed by some depending on how much the viewer may be paying attention; however, I believe there was a clear intention to foreshadow the use of drugs in the show without needing to do in-depth analysis on the introduction

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