‘Breaking Bad’: The Real Reason Why Bryan Cranston’s Walter White Leaves His Watch at the Gas Station in Series Finale

Some shows are known for adding in seemingly random scenes that are later revealed to be critical. Breaking Bad was one such show, and was notorious for adding in Easter eggs. Even the title of each episode could hide clues for fans to ponder over.

In the season finale of Breaking Bad, one such incident was when Walter left his watch behind at the gas station. There were tons of theories about why Walter did this, but the true reason is actually not that exciting.

‘Breaking Bad’ broke the mold

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

RELATED: ‘Breaking Bad’: The Heartwarming Walter White Scene Deleted From the Series Finale

There are some topics that seemed to be danced around on television, although this is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. How drugs are made was one of those topics. Breaking Bad not only dug deep into how drugs are made and distributed but why someone would be driven to break the law. 

While it might be a fictitious story, it held a grain of truth that no one wants to discuss. What will someone do when they’ve done everything right, and have nothing to show for it. That’s the premise of Breaking Bad.

According to AMC, Walter White is a chemistry teacher who goes to work, teaches his students the best way he knows how, and loves his family. Then he gets diagnosed with stage III lung cancer shortly after his 50th birthday. Walter now faces a dilemma, as he knows his family won’t get much after his death. 

So what does he do? He makes a difficult decision to break the law to support his family. What results is both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch, and makes for one of the best TV shows to ever be produced.

As the show goes on, Walter develops the persona of “Heisenberg” in an effort to keep his illegal business separate from his family. He also begins to change as a person, developing a more sinister nature as his drugs grow in demand. The man who made the decision to make meth to provide for his family is not the man who meets his end at the end of the series.

How did ‘Breaking Bad’ end?

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The transformation is complete.

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If you haven’t seen the finale, tread lightly. There be spoilers ahead. It’s necessary to discuss the significance—or lack thereof—of Walter leaving his watch behind.

The New Yorker reports that Walter is now a wanted man, and he’s still at death’s door. But he’s also completed his goal. His family is financially secure. He might have done horrific things to accomplish this, but the goal he developed in the first episode is now complete.

So what now? Walter makes the decision to return home to Albuquerque and gets to see his son Walter Jr one last time. While there, Walter learns that Jess is still alive and being held captive.

Walter manages to save Jesse but at the cost of his own life. Walter gets hit by what is presumed to be one of his own bullets while killing Jack’s men. Walter asks Jesse to kill him, but Jesse refuses as he knows Walter is dying anyway. Jesse is able to flee before the police arrive, while Walter dies, earning perhaps a little bit of redemption in his final hours.

When describing that finale episode, the series creator Vince Gilligan told Entertainment Weekly, “Walter is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode.”

What’s the real story behind the watch?

On the way back to Albuquerque, Walter stops at a gas station. In a move that was never really explained on the show, Walter very deliberately leaves his watch behind. This simple move sparked a fierce debate online about why he did this.

The biggest thought seemed to be that Walter knew he was going to his death. His time was up, both as Walter White and Heisenberg, and time no longer mattered to him. Some even thought it might be foreshadowing his death.

While that would have been poetic, the truth was much simpler and far more disappointing. ScreenRant reports that Walter wasn’t wearing a watch in the second half of the episode, and the show needed an explanation for this to avoid a time continuity issue. 

Don’t worry, we were sort of disappointed as well. With a show that digs so deep into so many taboo issues, it only made sense that there was a deeper reason for this. Still, it did fit in well with the rest of the show, and the finale was as close to perfect as it could get.