The Role of Research in Breaking Bad

I admit it. I am an avid fan of AMC’s Breaking Bad and am in good company as 6.4 million viewers watched the latest episode, “Ozymandias.” No doubt, one of the many reasons the show is so popular is its obsessive attention to detail. This detail, illustrated in a great Fast Company post by Mina Hochberg, is due to deep and rigorous research. Writer George Mastras discusses why research is absolutely crucial in the writing of the episodes. Here are examples where research was especially key:

  • The Train Heist in the episode “Dead Freight” – Walt had a huge problem of getting enough supply of methylamine, so he decided to do a train heist. Research about how methylamine is weighed twice, “once when it’s loaded onto the train, once when it is offloaded” became an important element in the amazing plot.
  • Walt’s Cancer – Research was conducted on the advances in cancer treatment to make Walt’s “longevity believable” and smaller details were needed to make his symptoms true to life.
  • The Drug World – All angles of the drug world were researched including heroin addiction, picking a front, how the drug world works, and specifications for building the lab.
  • Ricin – Research was conducted to pick the correct poison for Walt’s purposes.
  • The Law – For all the legal issues springing up during the show. Luckily, Mr. Mastras is a former defense attorney. One example is when a warrant is required to search an RV (when used as a “domicile.”)
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