The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad begin tonight. 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.
As always, click on the image to enlarge.
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 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.
EDIT: As reader Natasha points out, it’s only right to point out the people responsible for this work. The costume designers on the show are Kathleen Detoro and Jennifer L. Bryan.
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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98 responses to “Infographic: Colorizing Walter White’s Decay”
Thanks, Phil. It took a LOT of effort to get all of those slices.
She wears pink in her wedding picture. I noticed it and gasped because that is the one and only time I’ve seen her wear a color that is so innocent and child-like. Purple also symbolizes royalty, signifying to me that Marie pretends to be the Queen Bee, despite the fact that she has to make up fake lives and indulge in kleptomania in order to get attention from her husband. Her entire house is purple. The kitchen is royal purple…probably the place she feels most in control. The bedroom is a plum with odd zebra striped chairs…possibly a “wild side.” I bet Hank and Marie get kinky. It’s the pink wedding dress though that gave me the most pause. Furthermore, I think that Walt’s blue in the beginning symbolizes a foreshadowing of change, as it is the color of water. Notice in the latest episodes, the blue has returned; his calm, rational, scientifically colside has returned. And the red, arid environment that Alberqueque lends to the show even gives it a mars-like feel…as if the whole thing is almost alien-like. It’s really quite genius and GOD I adore that someone in TV is taking care with the symbolism. Fring also wears green a lot as well, a color that symbolises not only greed but cunning and calmness, which is exactly the kind of person Fring is. Further more, Mike wears white, which to me sort of indicates a backwards purity in his characterization…almost an angel of…well, not mercy, exactly…but more like a loyal servant of the god of the world. Sometimes the God is Fring. Sometimes the God is Walt. But Mike is always the one watching out for both of them.
I haven’t analysed each episode in detail, but I think your interpretation of the colors do not correlate. From my impressions of the series’ the colors usually accompany the following:
Pink – ignorance and naivety (often the harbinger of death due to ignorance or naivety).
Purple – stability or safety
Yellow (opposite of purple) – instability or danger
Orange – Justice or righteousness
Red – the color of blood, signifying violence or the threat of violence
Green – money or greed
Blue – associated with the blue meth, but i think it denotes agendas or MO’s… a sense of purpose or a means to an end.
black – power or influence
beige – (the symbolic opposite of black) submission or impotence (powerlessness)
White – suffering
grey – remorse or guilt
Have I missed anything? What do you think?
St. Michael, Guardian Angel – I like your perspective. I swear there can be entire college courses dedicated to character development, foreshadowing and symbolism of these series. All BB fans I know love to debate…love it love it love it!
Most impressive! As if the series didn’t already deserve repeat watching. Now I need to go back to see these patterns.
After immersing myself in it so much the last few weeks, I can’t STOP noticing stuff. Like the white/beige Walt and Skyler wore early on in the episode. Or Walt’s green/black jacket in the flash forward. Or that Marie returned to purple almost immediately. Or that Jesse’s still pitch black.
Dude! Just saw that this was cross posted on Slate. Congrats!
Thanks, G-Lo! You must’ve caught it immediately.
I was reading their Breaking Bad TV Club posts during my lunch hour at work and noticed that they picked up this post. Once again, congrats! I really enjoy reading Slate. Always nice to see articles by people that I know (in a virtual way of course).
And now that I’m done nerding out over BrBa, you know what’s next, right G Lo?
Put another way… this time next week, I may be so hung over that it’ll feel like the world’s ending.
I do indeed! Not sure if our plans are gonna work, but we’re certainly gonna try our best. Good luck with your quest!
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Congrats on Buzzfeed!
This is completely fascinating! I’m definitely going to be watching for the colors now!
Thanks! And you’ll never miss them now. I kind of laughed as I was watching because half the time, all I paid attention to was the clothing choices. “Oh, Skyler’s in a lighter tone. She’s back in domestic mode now. Good to see Walt’s toned down a lot, too.”
Heard Gilligan discuss this on the Nerdist podcast. Good infographic.
I really need to track down that podcast because believe it or not, I was thinking about doing this without hearing it. Thanks for the tip.
Great article, thanks! It would have been nice to identify the costume designers though…
Kathleen Detoro (46 episodes, 2008-2011)
Jennifer L. Bryan (8 episodes, 2012)
You are absolutely right. Adding them to the article now.
That was my first thought, as well. Since it’s their job.
Sorry for the oversight. As you can see, I’ve added them to the list. On one hand, I honestly didn’t know about costume design and theory. On the other hand, I think this works to bring light to their work.
This is amazing and informative – and must have taken a lot of effort!
Thanks, Dave. It did indeed but it’s been well worth it with the reaction.
This is astonishing work! Thank you so much for your effort.
I was actually thinking about doing a chart similar to this one after the series ends, but you beat me to it. And I doubt I could have gotten it any better! 🙂
You are going to update the chart once the series is finished, right? 😉
I definitely have an update planned (along with the Death Toll infograph that I made last September).
Amazing work. This made me appreciate the show even more!
LOVE<LOVE<LOVE< ROCK ON!!!!
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This is brilliant. Glad to see it being recognized all over the net.
And that was a hell of a first episode last weekend, wasn’t it?
Just… amazing episode. If the rest of these next seven episodes are like that, there is no way this show disappoints at the end.
This is fantastic. I remember noticing Walt’s green shirt in Face Off become more and more visible through his white jacket as the episode progressed, eventually removing the jacket altogether in the final scene, but this is outstanding work.
Thanks, Harry. Glad you enjoyed it.
Reblogged this on General Tso's Revenge.
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Amazing work!!! These look exactly like emissions spectrum results for the chemical elements. I have been minorly obsessed with the color theory of BB as well, and have been looking at color choices in relation to the periodic table. The recurring colors (purple, blue, yellow, red, pink, orange etc… )appear in most of them. No theory yet how (and even if) it all relates, but I love where you are heading with this.
Thanks! And I had no idea they look like emissions spectrum results, but it’s awesome that they do. It’s a great happy accident.
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Incredibly interesting, thanks so much for breaking down!
Thanks for coming by and enjoying!
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Awesome work, thank you so much for your effort, this is really fascinating.
I noticed lots of white (innocent) colors from Walt and Skyler this season (on todays confrontation dinner scene the black and white contrast was great), are you going to include the last episodes some time later, too?
Thanks, Trike. I’ll absolutely be updating this later down the line. It’s fun to note that Walt’s also started turning darker, especially as they keep showing him in the shadows. He’s got one last binge of horrible activity in him.
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It would be cool to if you could somehow include the multicolor combinations, like the colors in Jr’s striped shirts, in the future infographic update. I’m sure it would be illuminating.
Also, did you notice the color locations on the red-yellow-blue color wheel relative to the character’s relationships to each other? Walter’s “green” is a mix of Jesse’s yellow and Skyler’s blue. Marie’s purple is a mix of Skyler’s blue and Hank’s red.
Oh wow… it’d be so hard. Jesse alone would be a nightmare because of some of his gaudy patterns. But you’re right- more data like that would really blow it up.
I hadn’t thought about the color wheel but that’s amazing. Seriously amazing insight.
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the other interesting thing is that when jesse was at his darkest even his girlfriend was in all black. Jane always wore black, had black hair, drew in black, she was basically a black hole.
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This is amazing! I just caught up so I went back to check out this infographic and the body count since I was avoiding spoilers before.
Great work as always. The most obvious color was always Marie’s purple, but Skylar’s blue & Hank’s orange were pretty noticeable too. I never did catch that Jesse wore a lot of red… probably because I was so distracted by how terrible the designs on them always were.
This last set of 8 episodes though the outfits really catch my eye. Specifically Walt & Skylar through the beginning always wore neutrals tans and such, looking very unified. Marie (especially) and Hank wore black in solidarity (and a bit of foreshadowing it seems).
The thing about Jesse’s red… I had to cheat a little. Jesse wore so much black and gray, but his dominant tone was the bright, almost candy-colored red and yellow patterns on his black and gray outfits.
Marie’s been almost all black this year, which is wild. Such a departure from her Grimace look.
And speaking of Marie, how amazing has Betsy Brandt been this year? She’s nailed every single scene she’s been in. Anna Gunn, too. And Dean Norris. And Cranston, as always. And… well, everybody.
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are you working on an updated version of this chart, now that the series has ended? I would love to see it.
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Good job! First, it is obvious that Vince Gilligan is a fan of Pink Floyd because Dark Side of the Moon takes a sonically similar exposition to the spectrum of human nature and the human experience. The one thing you should explore, which is central to the show and to Walt’s/Heisenberg’s success, is science. That is mathematical/physical spectrum analysis. Remember, white light is when all colors of light are blended together. Therefore, when light is distorted/broken down/decays, it fragments into several colors. Of course, black mean devoid of all light because black consumes all light. So as you are doing your “post-mortem” re-analysis, you are going to want to apply measure theory to your color spectrum analysis. (Note: Lebesgue Measure will help you get the intended result, however, another measure form should be suffice.) I’ll cliff note this device for you: combine the like colors and correlate the respective events. Here is some more help along the way:
1. Deconstruct the colors of when Jesse and friends uses the addicts anonymous meeting to push their product (this is critical).
2. Come up with a hypothesis based on the rearrangement above.
3. Rearrange the colors/events/people, again, this time in a sequential time-series, then come up with a hypothesis based on the noticeable yet continuous change of the distribution of colors.
4. As many have already dissected FeLiNa as Blood, Meth and Tears, as well a reference to a cool country song. However, some have pointed out that Felina is Spanish for feline which means cat or cat like. Well what does all cats, whether it is calico, tabby, long-hair, domesticated, feral, have metaphorically in common??? This leads to clue 5.
5. What was the number that the .308 bullet hits on the pool scoring beads?
6. What is the meaning of that number as it relates to number 4?
7. Now what is the meaning of that number, once it is destroyed?
Now apply your findings to the spectrum analysis I talked about, use 1-7 as lemmas to derive at the theorem’s result. (Hint: do not let Vince’s Star Trek’s analogies distract you from Breaking Bad’s Star Wars monotonic sequencing, this was on purpose!) Thus, the correct contextualization of the ending is an actual corollary of the theorem’s result: the student is now the master.
However, I leave the theorem’s result as an exercise.
“You don’t need a memory, if you have logic!” – MF
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