The Clothing on Breaking Bad Is a Clue to Understanding the Characters

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 12 2013 1:01 PM

The Clothing on Breaking Bad Is a Clue to Understanding the Characters

breakingbad_color_2

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad began last night. It’s been a brilliant show throughout, mastering tension, continuity, and the ultimate character arc to create something special. It’s the attention to detail that makes the show great. And that attention to detail extends as far as the colors worn by the various characters. I’ve tried to illustrate it with an infographic showing every color worn by the characters most affected by Walter White’s decisions, along with Walter himself.

It’s presented chronologically, and there are individual character timelines for noteworthy events.

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As always, click on the image to enlarge.

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There are a lot of patterns that emerge, so much so that each character has an identifying color.

After Walt’s cancer diagnosis, his colors become stronger, and eventually go black. When the cancer returns or when he’s defeated, the drab khaki returns. The closer he gets to Gus, and the stronger his ties to blue meth, the more blue shows up in his barcode.

Skyler starts out blue, but turns dark once she starts to figure out Walt’s secret. Her timeline turns deep blue, almost purple, as her flirtation with Ted grows, and then it turns green once she discovers Walt’s stash of money. The more complicit she becomes in Walt’s criminal activity, the blacker her timeline gets to the point that it’s pitch black in Season 4.

Hank begins orange, with tints of yellow and peach. But when he suffers through the turtle bomb, his colors turn brown—often deep brown. Then after fighting off the cousins (and the subsequent drab/pastel colors of recovery and depression), he slowly gains his color back after he re-involves himself with the Heisenberg case.

Jesse’s angry (and occasionally deadly) color is red, while his drug recovery tones are more drab and subdued. Just like Skyler, the more Jesse is affected by Walt’s influence, the darker and more black his timeline becomes. He also wears a lot of mixed clothing—primarily black, gray, or white, with wild red or yellow patterns, suggesting moral conflict.

Walter, Jr. is very much a supporting character whose color choices often reflect whichever parent he relates to most at the time. When Marie is in the hospital coping with Hank’s injuries, Walter, Jr. wears purple, seemingly in support. When he helps Hank or is around Hank, his colors are complementary. It’s unfortunately not reflected in the timeline, but Junior wears a lot striped or multi-colored shirts, often bearing both Walter and Skyler’s colors. It’s a sign of Walter, Jr. being stuck in the middle between the two as they hash out their differences.

What makes Marie noteworthy isn’t that she wears all purple, all the time. Rather, it’s the very rare occasions when she’s not wearing purple that practically scream at the viewer. For instance, she wears black when her kleptomania flares up. She wears black again when she’s in protective custody of the DEA after the threat on Hank’s life at the end of Season 4. And then finally, she turns yellow just before Hank makes his massive discovery at the end of the first half of Season 5.

It’s fascinating stuff, and it’s clearly the result of a fierce attention to detail by Vince Gilligan and all of the incredible crew that make this show. Enjoy the final eight episodes, everyone. And keep an eye on those colors.

Notes: As I mentioned, there were a lot of flannels and mixed colors. In that case, I opted for the strongest color or the color that most seemed to signify what the show’s creators were trying to convey.

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