‘Breaking Bad’ Theme Song Composer Teases Walter White’s Transformation in 1 Piece of Music
Breaking Bad is chock full of subtle references. From character names to color schemes, showrunners took special care to work these small details into the show, knowing their perceptive audience would notice every detail.
The music in Breaking Bad is especially important to the storyline. Even the seemingly random theme song was an essential part of the storytelling. Accomplished television composer Dave Porter discussed his thoughts behind the theme music, plus how he used the music to highlight Walter White’s transformation into an evil villain.
Vince Gilligan let Walter White’s story unfold naturally
The story goes that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan came up with the idea for the series while in the midst of a midlife crisis. He dreamed up the character of Walter White, a downtrodden high school chemistry teacher who receives a devastating diagnosis, while he was also experiencing a transformative time.
“[A friend and I] were just joking around on the phone about what we should do next: Should we be greeters at Wal-Mart?” Gilligan told Vanity Fair. “Should we put a meth lab in the back of an R.V. and cook meth and drive around the southwest? And that image…I don’t know, it just stuck with me.”
Gilligan knew the basic gist of Walter White’s story when he pitched to show. But some of the finer details he allowed to develop organically. This included the musical score.
The ‘Breaking Bad’ theme song foreshadowed Heisenberg’s change
Early episodes of Breaking Bad don’t immediately reveal what will happen to Walter White. But the show’s composer knows events will take a dark turn, which the theme music helps convey.
“When I wrote [the theme music], I was trying to come up with a thematic statement that encompassed the show,” Porter told Wall Street Journal.
“Vince Gilligan would admit that he didn’t know that much about where the story was going to go. He did know that the backbone was Walter White’s descent and devolution from being a milquetoast run-of-the-mill guy to being this very hardened and darkly driven character. I wanted to give a glimpse of that destination, which the viewer would hear every time they watch the show. In the first season, the theme may have seemed a little darker and bolder than the show actually was.”
The full ‘Breaking Bad’ theme song debuts in ‘Granite State’
Walter White becomes Heisenberg gradually over the course of five seasons. But it could be argued that the transformation concludes over the final few episodes of the show.
The last three episodes of Breaking Bad Season 5 are collectively considered some of the greatest examples of dramatic television ever made. The full version of the theme song debuts in the penultimate episode, “Granite State.”
“[I had] been biding my time, looking for a moment where I could introduce the theme into the story itself,” Porter told WSJ. “We had considered using it at the end of season four, when Gus is finally removed from the picture. We tried it there as an experiment, but it felt like there was too much closure.”
“I viewed this moment as the one where we realized that the transformation in Walter’s character is complete,” he continued. “The two halves that we witnessed so much, the milquetoast and the Heisenberg guy, have melded into one.”
It’s no surprise that even the Breaking Bad music and theme song were intentional. It’s just one example of many that proves why fans are still so in love with the series.