Many were first introduced to Bryan Cranston as the affable father from Malcolm in the Middle, but his iconic portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad will undoubtedly be the role that defines his career.
The show, which aired from 2008 to 2013, saw Walter White’s descent into the drug trade and slow but chilling transformation into the ruthless meth baron Heisenberg.
With a series filled with dramatic highs and lows, it’s hard for any fan to single out a specific favourite moment – let alone the star. From the first successful batch of drugs cooked to the death of several prominent characters, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Yet, Cranston has a favourite – and he’s revealed that ‘Dead Freight’ (Episode five, Series five) holds a scene he cherishes most.
“All these things had to go right — and everything went right! It was fantastic,” he recalled to Entertainment Weekly. For those familiar with the episode, he’s talking about the characters’ euphoric celebration following a high-stakes train heist. But, as is so often the case with Breaking Bad, euphoria quickly gives way to horror.
Cranston continues, “I remember the characters celebrating euphorically in pulling off the train heist of the century. And a moment later, an innocent life is snuffed out when that kid on the motorcycle just shows up. He’s just there.”
‘Dead Freight’ stands out in the annals of Breaking Bad for its sheer unpredictability. The episode’s plot doesn’t initially indicate it would be a mental gauntlet for viewers. A high-stakes methylamine train heist takes centre stage, seemingly concluding with success for White and Jesse Pinkman. As legendary actor and Breaking Bad fan Anthony Hopkins said, “From what started as a black comedy, descended into a labyrinth of blood, destruction and hell.”
Yet, a hideous twist lurks in the final moments. “And as Jesse and Walt are trying to figure out, ‘Oh shit, what do we do?’ Jesse Plemons’ character just raises a gun and shoots him,” Cranston adds, describing the shocking turn of events. “And it was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was such a beautifully constructed narrative.”
Breaking Bad has never been a stranger to dark and challenging narratives. It constantly pushed its characters, and by extension, its audience, into morally grey and often black territories. ‘Dead Freight’ is a potent example, juxtaposing the thrill of a successful heist with the abrupt killing of an innocent child. Cranston reflects on the broader implications of such a scene, stating, “Okay, you want to experience the highs with Walter White?”
“You want to be on that train ride with Jesse Pinkman? Here’s that rejoicing for you, the audience. And now here’s the repercussions from the business that they’re in. Here’s what happens when you forget that there’s morality connected and consequences to every action. It was just so amazing.”