When you hear fire engines wailing, what comes to mind? If your answer is “Walt in his underwear holding a gun,” it’s safe to say you’re eternally tuned in to the sounds of Breaking Bad. And why not? This is one series with audio cues as memorable as any of the visual ones. Read on to relive the drips, dings, bangs and squishes guaranteed to trigger a Breaking Bad state of mind.
Emilio’s Liquified Body Drip-Drip-Dripping
When Emilio’s acidic remains are heard dripping through the ceiling and then pouring through and splashing down on the ground floor of Jesse’s house, it’s one of the most gruesome sound effects ever on television. Which means, it’s also an effective teaching tool. “Hyrdrofluoric acid won’t eat through plastic,” explains Walt. “It will, however, dissolve metal, rock, glass, ceramic.” So, yeah, there’s that. Totally gross. Chemistry lesson learned.
One ding means “yes.” No ding means “no.” It might not seem like the best way to communicate, but Tio uses the bell to great effect. In the desert, he combines it with a mad-dog stare to tell Tuco he’s being punked. In the nursing home, he combines it with a Ouija board and the Cousins to spell out W-A-L-T-E-R W-H-I-T-E. Put it all together and what do you get? An emphatic and list-worthy ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!
That Ridiculous Bouncing Car
Mrs. Pinkman might not like the amount of money Jesse spent on the hydraulic suspension system of his car, but it added something special to the show. In the opening shot of Episode 2 “Grilled,” the bouncing up and down of the Monte Carlo is the only sound you hear. Later, it’s revealed that Tuco accidentally triggered the system while reaching for a gun in his shootout with Hank. The rhythmic bouncing provides stark contrast to the gunfight that precedes it, and a haunting epilogue to one of Breaking Bad‘s more memorable deaths.
Hank’s Home-Brew Popping
Ever wonder what “trouble brewing” sounds like? Based on the noise coming from Hank’s man-cave when the tops start popping off his homemade “Schraderbrau” beer in the middle of the night, it’s a lot like gunfire. This poignant audio/visual stands out not because it’s scary (unless you feel bad for the beer), but because it’s the perfect metaphor for what’s happening inside Hank’s head: He’s coming uncorked.
Walt’s Cell Phone Buzzing in the Ceiling
“Phones off, please.” That’s what Walt says when he hears a cell vibrating while his students are taking an exam. So, it’s all the more embarrassing when he realizes he’s the one getting a call on his illicit second cell phone. The noise noteworthy because it’s awkward — further evidence of the incompatibility between his two lives — and also because his explanation to his students that the noise is water pipes is totally ridiculous.
Donations Arriving at SaveWalterWhite.com
Walt already doesn’t like the website because “it’s a charity.” So, the fact that it goes “cha-ching!” every time a donation is received really adds to his misery — and our entertainment. It’s fun to watch the way his reactions to the sound differ from those of his family. Of course, he knows it’s not the sound of people caring, as Walter, Jr. so innocently thinks. It’s the sound of his own hard (illegal) work laundered and repurposed under the guise of charity; the sound of irony.
Hank’s “Marie” Ringtone
When a hysterical Hank arrives at the hospital looking for Marie (having been told she was in a car accident) there’s complete silence. The sound of her personalized ringtone slowly fades in and builds to a crescendo until Hank finally realizes he’s been duped. Marie’s calm voice on the phone, just “checking in,” adds to the contrast of the preceding panic. Who knew a ringtone could create such emotional extremes? (Click here to listen to the ringtone.)
The Cousin’s Heart Rate Spiking
This memorable sound also takes place in a hospital. When the Cousin recovering in the ICU sees Walt outside his room and recognizes the target, his heart rate monitor spikes from a steady beep beep beep to racecar-level RPMs. As the recently-amputated assassin pulls off his tubes, throws himself to the floor and starts crawling toward the door like the Terminator, the message to Walt rings loud and clear. “Those two men,” he later tells Gus. “I was their prime target.”
The Fly Buzzing in the Superlab
The buzzing in Episode 10, “Fly” isn’t just unnerving, it’s integral to the story. What starts out as a nuisance — a fly in the ointment so to speak — turns into a steady gnawing at Walt’s conscience as he reflects on past mistakes. Of course, the more Walt tries to stop the contamination, the more the fly gives chase. Jesse finally kills the insect, but unfortunately for Walt there’s no killing the beast. Before the credits roll, he (and we) hear that darn buzzing again.
Gale’s Tea Kettle Whistle
By drawing Gale away from his cell phone and into the kitchen, the shrieking sound of Gale’s boiling tea may have saved Walt’s life. Had Gale gotten the warning call from Mike that Jesse was coming to kill him, the chemist might still be alive (if indeed he is dead). Instead, when the heat is on, the whistle goes off, and Gale makes what could very well be his last cup of tea.