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The Woman Behind Walter White
August 29, 2013 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Donna Nelson is the science advisor for Breaking Bad. After reading an interview where show creator Vince Gilligan said no one on the show's staff had a scientific background, she reached out to the Breaking Bad creator. The rest is history.
posted by reenum (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know I'll really like this, but is it possible for you to indicate which of the links is sort of the showcase link here? Or are all links equally compelling?
posted by MoonOrb at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Good article. I've always admired the science on the show and that it isn't handwavey, even thought I knew they weren't giving away the correct process for a cook.

And now I will disappear from the thread for I have not seen anything past the end of S5, part 1 to this point and I would like to avoid spoilers.
posted by nubs at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2013


There goes my day.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2013


Is this that obvious-later foreshadow FPP that we all point back to when Dr. Donna Nelson gets caught making blue ice in two years?
posted by bafflegab at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


"So before deciding to offer to help, I watched season 1, and I saw it show Walt getting beaten up and dragged through the sand. At that point, I realized that no kid watching this would want this as a lifestyle, so I decided I could volunteer as an adviser with a clear conscience."

I'm pretty sure that if this is her take-away from Breaking Bad, she's unlikely to want to follow Walt's footsteps.
posted by explosion at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


At first I thought it was going to be about this op-ed. I guess some people get a little too lost in their telly watching.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:48 AM on August 29, 2013


This is some cool stuff, but the thread won't live long enough to be used for discussion of the finale. Hopefully the media will continue to talk about this obscure little show some time a few weeks from now , so we can fig leaf having a thread going to talk about the finale!
posted by sparkletone at 10:53 AM on August 29, 2013


This is some cool stuff, but the thread won't live long enough to be used for discussion of the finale.

Well, since Dean Norris has already revealed what happens in the finale, we can talk about it now!
posted by Rangeboy at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is some cool stuff, but the thread won't live long enough to be used for discussion of the finale. Hopefully the media will continue to talk about this obscure little show some time a few weeks from now , so we can fig leaf having a thread going to talk about the finale!
posted by sparkletone at 10:53 AM on August 29 [+] [!]


This is some cool stuff, but the thread won't live long enough to be used for discussion of the finale.

Well, since Dean Norris has already revealed what happens in the finale, we can talk about it now!
posted by Rangeboy at 10:56 AM on August 29 [+] [!]


...and taking this thread out of my recent activity!
posted by MoonOrb at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


no kid watching this would want this as a lifestyle

Which I think is both interesting and naive. I had never watched a moment of Breaking Bad until the first half of season 5 was under way, largely because I don't watch much TV, and by the time I'd heard of it, the buzz I got was about Walt having become a bad-ass, hard-edged kingpin-type, which didn't interest me.

Which, having watched now, I realize is true-but-not-really. I understand that it makes me an elitist snob, but what kills me about Breaking Bad is that it is so good, and so incredibly sad, and just by virtue of the audience being so huge, there's a good chunk of the fanbase that doesn't really get it, and just thinks dorky Mr. White as a druglord evading the law and offing gangsters is cool.

Anyway, back on the topic of the science here, I think it's sort of odd that everybody keeps stressing that they're omitting or changing bits of the televised synthesis to avoid presenting a "meth cookbook." If you can learn to cook meth by watching a synthesis on TV, you can learn to cook meth by reading the patents, the way she did. It's silly.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:04 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dean Norris has already revealed what happens in the finale

Holy hell, he looks just like HHH with the wig.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:10 AM on August 29, 2013


We're up to 5x03 tonight. So, yeah, I'm going to need to come back to this thread later.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:13 AM on August 29, 2013


The Mythbusters (Mefi's own) totally busted the chemical stunts in season 1, so obviously they were in dire need of scientific expertise.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


MoonOrb, that link is totally safe. It's a parody where Dean Norris writes Breaking Bad fanfic, essentially.
posted by jeather at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I understand that it makes me an elitist snob, but what kills me about Breaking Bad is that it is so good, and so incredibly sad, and just by virtue of the audience being so huge, there's a good chunk of the fanbase that doesn't really get it, and just thinks dorky Mr. White as a druglord evading the law and offing gangsters is cool.

It's actually a fascinating study in audience manipulation. Everyone has a different place where they got off the Walter White bandwagon (and some will never get off of it, but I don't really want to talk to them about much of anything). Mine was probably sometime around when he actively started sabotaging Fring's operation. Why? Because, really, as a viewer, I was rooting for an endgame where there was a nice, tidy meth operation where everyone got rich and rode off into the sunset in peace. In a lot of ways, that's a horrible outcome for the community and most of the people in Walt's life, but on some level, that's what I wanted to happen and it's only when Walt started disrupting that fantasy that I started to really dislike him instead of just rolling my eyes when he yelled at Jesse and was generally an egomaniacal ass.

It's exactly like how I was rooting hard for Stringer Bell in The Wire to become a respectable real estate developer who happened to finance heroin sales quietly on the side. The show can present as much of the damage the drug trade inevitably does as you like, but once you make its existence the premise, the viewers are invested in its continued operation and success and usually just want it to get along with as little direct violence as possible.
posted by Copronymus at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you can learn to cook meth by watching a synthesis on TV, you can learn to cook meth by reading the patents

You can do it! Go you!

It's exactly like how I was rooting hard for Stringer Bell in The Wire to become a respectable real estate developer who happened to finance heroin sales quietly on the side.

I also wanted that, but I really didn't want Walt to end well for . . . quite a while. Jesse, on the other hand.
One thing I thought was sort of humorous was when I was to talking to them about methylamine and I said when you use that precursor—and the writers stopped me and said, “Precursor? What’s a precursor?” And if you notice they now they throw that word in all the time.
I actually did notice that at some point the word precursor took over.
posted by jeather at 11:46 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I suppose we should do away with all. fiction or theater, as bandied about in Plato's "Republic?" I've read more complaints about the murder of a teen in Season 5 than complaints about glamorizing the meth trade. And that came after a train robbery that would have been the highlight of my action movie! Just in case you get too excited, Vince G. and Co. are there to sober you up. Viewers aren't let off easy, even if the show is entertaining, on the whole.
posted by raysmj at 12:06 PM on August 29, 2013


MoonOrb, that link is totally safe. It's a parody where Dean Norris writes Breaking Bad fanfic, essentially.

I sent MoonOrb a message after the misunderstanding. They said thanks and that actually they'd not seen enough of the new episodes for this thread to be a safe place in terms of spoilers anyway, so probably best they stay out of it. All is well though (or will be once they're caught up)!
posted by sparkletone at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2013


Everyone has a different place where they got off the Walter White bandwagon (and some will never get off of it, but I don't really want to talk to them about much of anything).

It would be interesting to compare those folks to the ones who have the same issue re: Vic from The Shield. Vic's transgressions are established before the first commercial break but plenty of folks were on board because of a supposed 'greater good' sort of outlook. You could argue that Vic is never as in denial about who he is as Walter is. Does that make it better or worse?
posted by phearlez at 1:46 PM on August 29, 2013


I watch it for the comedy.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:57 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like how Walt occasionally became a teacher to Jesse. My favourirte "science" moment was when Jesse realized that "wire" is a great conductor.
posted by juiceCake at 4:49 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could argue that Vic is never as in denial about who he is as Walter is. Does that make it better or worse?

Crime and Punishment: Greed, Pride and Guilt in Breaking Bad PDF [SPOILERS]
In reality, only one issue remains to be clarified, to determine if Walter suffers an anagnorisis that brings him face-to-face with the unfathomable depths of his malice and of the damage that he has provoked, or whether by contrast, he will self-destruct and die writhing in the ecstasy of the most powerful drug: that of an arrogance that makes him believe that he is above any moral law.
posted by unliteral at 5:29 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are the spoilers for aired or unaired episodes?
posted by jeather at 7:12 PM on August 29, 2013


Aired. The closing scene of season 5 episode 8 is the last spoiler.
posted by unliteral at 7:58 PM on August 29, 2013


The Breaking Bad facebook page wished a happy birthday to Aaron Paul and multiple people were commenting that "you (Paul as Jesse) are a pussy bitch and I hope Walt blows you away...you deserve to die a snitch's death" etc.

So thank you once again facebook for scaring the bejesus out of me and reaffirming my debilitating cynicism.
posted by M Edward at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And when you gaze long into facebook comments the abyss also gazes into you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


M Edward: It's not just Facebook. Even as someone who has grown to appreciate some of the really good and decent subreddits, and a big fan of BB, I'm starting to get weary of the BB subreddit for the number of people who still think that Walter is right and everybody else deserves to die. Someone wrote an alternate history in which Walt doesn't cook meth, but instead takes help from the Schwartzes and ends up getting back together with Gretchen and taking Grey Matter over from Eliot, and it got a huge number of upvotes despite, you know, ignoring pretty much everything that we know about Walt's character. It's a little depressing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:04 AM on August 30, 2013


There's something to be said for some BB alt-fiction though. Guess they could add a summary panel "... you're still probably a douche, though"
posted by phearlez at 12:20 PM on September 2, 2013


Damnit, I came here hoping the conversation had moved to this thread. Where is everybody?!
posted by Defenestrator at 10:48 PM on September 8, 2013


I think they may be in shock.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:45 AM on September 9, 2013


For some reason, conversation went here instead.
posted by jeather at 7:12 AM on September 9, 2013


Oh! A new thread! I missed it. Thank you!
posted by Defenestrator at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2013


I was lost, too, but now I'm found!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2013


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