‘Breaking Bad’ Has a Secret Nod to ‘The Sopranos’ That Fans Missed

Diehard fans love to compare and contrast. Star Trek and Star Wars fans are forever debating which franchise is better, even though they’re fundamentally different. It’s the same for Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. Both shows were game-changers in their day. Both are binge-able and have fans hooked today even many years after the last episode aired. Naturally, some fans may think one is better than the other. But these two drug-fueled dramas are very different from one another. Are they really comparable at all?

Are ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Sopranos’ in the same genre?

Even though Breaking Bad and The Sopranos take place hundreds of miles apart, and have very different characters, they’re technically both in the same genre.

Fans meet Tony Soprano at a difficult time in his life. He’s in therapy, and he seems to be having a hard time dealing with the stresses of his job. Although he tells his therapist he’s in Waste Management, it becomes clear that Tony is actually a gangster. 

Although Tony Soprano never seems to sell any drugs, he does involve himself in various illegal activities. In the first episode, it’s clear Tony is at the very least acting as a loan shark, or lending people money at an illegal interest rate and then beating them up when they don’t pay it back.

Walter White
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) | Gregory Peters/AMC

Walter White, on the other hand, is only involved in drugs. Unlike The Sopranos, Walter White doesn’t start out as a bad guy in Breaking Bad. He’s actually a fairly normal guy. When he finds out he has lung cancer and can’t pay for the treatment, he turns to make meth to survive. He evolves from there and becomes much less of the righteous drug supplier he was in the first episode. 

Although Walter and Tony are in different businesses, they’re both technically mobsters. In later episodes, Walter gets involved with some high profile cartels. Although some fans may disagree, a nod to The Sopranos in Breaking Bad may prove that the producers saw these two shows as being on the same level. 

‘Breaking Bad’ had a character inspired by ‘The Sopranos’ 

Fans will continue to argue over whether these two shows are in the same genre, and which is superior. But Breaking Bad did reference The Sopranos in the show, which may be an indication that the producers thought Breaking Bad and The Sopranos were both in the same drug-kingpin category. 

Walter White and his partner, Jesse Pinkman, have a contact in the Juarez Drug Cartel. Juan Bolsa is high up on the totem pole in the cartel. Fans noticed that the name Juan Bolsa in English translates to “John Sack.”

That’s the name of a similar character in The Sopranos. Johnny Sack Sacrimoni is a high-ranking member of one of The Sopranos crime families. This likely wasn’t just a mistake. The producers of Breaking Bad had a lot of references in the show. 

Did ‘Breaking Bad’ reference any other TV shows?


‘Breaking Bad’: Did Show Hint That Walter White Is Not Walt Jr.’s Real Father?

Breaking Bad was a deep, layered show. Producers packed it full of meaningful references. Even the colors and names have meaning. It’s not just Juan Bolsa.

The name of the main character, Walter White, was very intentional. They chose the name White since it’s the blandest color. Producers wanted to drive home the point that Walter was a really normal guy before he started cooking drugs. 

There are so many references in the show that it would be impossible to list them all here. Breaking Bad does make a big nod to another show besides The Sopranos. In an alternate ending, Bryan Cranston wakes up from a dream as the character he played in another show, Malcolm in the Middle. The producers suggest that the entirety of Breaking Bad was just Hal Wilkerson’s nightmare.