Over the course of five critically acclaimed seasons, AMC told the story of a high school chemistry teacher who is given a fatal lung cancer diagnosis. Walter White, along with his former student Jesse, figures out how to make high-grade methamphetamine in order to leave his family financially secure after his untimely but certain end. Breaking Bad challenges viewers with its circular narratives by blurring lines between good and bad, and with the constant uncomfortable and impossible scenarios that the show’s protagonists face. Not to mention, countless characters perish over the course of five seasons. Behind the scenes of Breaking Bad's most memorable deaths, events were as dramatic as the show itself.
A few character losses were truly shocking and unexpected to both audiences and those working on the show. Others, however, were so intricate and complicated that they took days to film. And, of course, some final exits gave fans a sense of relief because they meant there was one less antagonist for Walter and Jesse to face.
Raymond Cruz asked to be written off the show, Jonathan Banks felt strongly about how his tough-guy character, Mike, perished, and one character's final scene caused a rift between creator Vince Gilligan and the other writers.
Before Danny Trejo became one of Hollywood's go-to macho character actors, he spent time behind bars. He has since amassed nearly 400 acting credits, but even with his impressive Tinseltown resume, his short stint as Tortuga on Breaking Bad will always be one of his most memorable.
In the series, Tortuga (which means turtle in Spanish) is a member of the Juárez Cartel. He also serves as an informant for the DEA and works directly with DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). In Season 2, episode 7, Schrader and several agents are waiting in the desert for a deal to occur based on information given to them by Tortuga. While they are waiting, a large turtle carrying Tortuga's head approaches them. The head is a message from the Juárez Cartel that they know Tortuga is a snitch and know who he's working for.
The scene is graphic enough to make Schrader walk away because he needs to throw up. His soft stomach winds up saving him, as the turtle also has a device strapped to it that incinerates all of the other DEA Agents at the site.
Trejo loved the scene and feels that it made Hollywood history with its uniqueness. He said, "I thought it was funny. I mean, like, it was kind of creepy because they did such a great job with the head. But, you know, it's just like kind of like wow, nobody's ever done this in Hollywood."
Sure, Mike may be one of the "bad guys" on Breaking Bad, but he somehow becomes the moral center on a series that redraws the lines of what can be considered right and wrong. The old-school tough-guy has a soft spot for his granddaughter and will do anything to make sure that she is safe and taken care of in the future.
In the Season 5 episode "Say My Name," Mike refuses to give Walt the names of nine men on a take, and after Mike dresses Walt down, the former high school chemistry teacher takes him out.
Actor Jonathan Banks did not always agree with the way Breaking Bad writers handled his character, but he was especially disappointed in Mike's exit. He knows the cops are coming for him, and he has a solid plan to escape - but wouldn't that plan also involve some sort of farewell to his granddaughter? Banks didn't think his character would just leave his granddaughter at the park and not say goodbye to her.
"There were things leading up to Mike's demise that I’m going, 'Mike's not that f*cking stupid,'" Banks said. "But anyway, it's still a great last show for me."
There aren't a lot of comedic moments in Breaking Bad. But Spooge (David Ury) being squashed by an ATM certainly fits into the dark comedy category. In the episode "Peekaboo," Jesse goes to Spooge's house to take back the money and substances that Spooge took from him. Spooge had previously taken an ATM machine from a convenience store and brought it home. As he tries to get the money out of the machine so he can repay Jesse, he begins to argue with his wife. She becomes enraged and pushes the ATM onto her husband's head, smashing him.
The scene took a lot of preparation and a stunt double to pull off. Ury describes how the production team set up the effects:
I had a stunt double. But for my part, they had that ATM rigged up on some kind of pulley system with these ropes and sandbags under it. They had me get under there and showed me how far it could fall, and how the sandbags and pulleys would stop it so that they wouldn't [squash] my head. And it still scared the sh*t out of me.
Then they have the stunt guy come in. And that guy - from what I remember, they had to hollow out a part of the floor so that when the ATM fell, he could put his head back into the floor.
I don't really think of it as gratuitous. It's an extreme, intense moment... The [end] of my character made Jesse this feared guy on the street. It got him street cred. While also the kid is left there watching TV, and we see this tender side of Jesse, caring for this kid and trying to protect him from seeing the [scene].
I'm very proud of that legacy. I feel very lucky to have such an extreme [exit].
Leonel and Marco Salamanca (Daniel and Luis Moncada), better known as "the Cousins," serve as hit men for the Juárez Cartel. The bald twin brothers don't need to speak to be threatening and are about as intimidating as any character on Breaking Bad.
In real life, the brothers were actual members of an underground street group in Los Angeles. Luis served time behind bars and realized that he needed to set a new course in life upon his release. Vince Gilligan cast the brothers to play "the Cousins" based upon their believability and their natural ability to terrify a person with just a quick look. "They exuded a certain authenticity," Gilligan said. "They don't have to glare at you to scare you."
Both brothers meet their demise in Season 3. The Cousins are sent to take out DEA Agent Hank Schrader, but for once, they cannot get the job done. Schrader takes Marco out in episode 7, and the firing exchange between the cop and the Cousins brought back actual memories for Luis. "A couple of times, getting [fired] at on set brought back memories or flashbacks of when I was getting [fired at] for real," recalled Luis. "It made me feel a little bit uncomfortable."
Leonel does not immediately perish. Schrader runs over Leonel's legs with his car, causing the hospital staff to amputate them. He later suffers a heart attack after Gus has Mike give him a lethal injection.