The pilot plunges you into the craziness of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) new life in its very first images – the runaway pair of pants, billowing in the wind; the RV hurtling through the desert, with two apparent corpses on the floor and a third person unconscious in the passenger seat; and a pantsless Walter stopping to make a confessional videotape, then cocking his gun as sirens approach.
You might think it would take a whole season to explain how Walter transformed from mild-mannered high-school teacher to fugitive desperado, but it’s all there in this first episode. (The big shocker, as is apparent from Cranston’s grounded performance, is that it wasn’t that big a leap.) The real message for Walt, his new partner-in-crime Jesse (Aaron Paul), and the audience is: As awful as the situation looks right now, it can get a whole lot worse, and it will.
The show’s signature tonal blend of the absurdly comical and the horrifically violent is already on display, as are its multilayered ironies, demonstrated by the episode-ending question from Walt’s wife, Skylar (Anna Gunn): “Walt, is that you?” Who knew it would take five seasons to answer that question?