As any BB-head worth his weight in crystals knows, we’re T-1 week until the final season of Breaking Bad begins. In preparation we asked an expert in the meth field, former dealer and memoirist Jim Salant, to weigh in on how true the Breaking Bad version is to, you know, the real thing.
Season 1, Episode 1: In the pilot, high school chemistry teacher Walter White cooks a batch of meth in front of one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, now a 20-odd-year-old druggie and meth cook himself. Pinkman is blown away by the quality—just by looking at it. He says, “Yo, this is pure glass, Mr. White!”
Reality: The thing is, “pure glass,” as he calls it, isn’t all that rare; I’ve shot meth as clear as Penta water that turned out to be pretty weak. Like all hard-drug users, tweakers are about results; they don’t talk like potheads admiring pretty buds before they’ve tasted the goods. The strongest meth I ever scored happened to be tinted green.
Season 2, Episode 11: Pinkman’s girlfriend teaches him how to shoot up. Not only is the ecstatic pop of his IV cherry portrayed as tritely as possible—he floats, gaping, toward the ceiling—but amorally speaking, I’ve never seen so many mistakes in a single spoonful of drugs, the combination of meth and heroin being the first.
Reality: Yes, it’s an upper and a downer, and often those complement each other like fish and chips; a speedball—cocaine and heroin—is the classic. But swapping the coke for meth would be like swapping the fried cod for sushi: not the worst thing in the world, if you were totally used to eating raw fish, but definitely not the way most people would introduce someone to an adventurous delicacy.
Season 2, Episode 4: Pinkman smokes meth and has a paranoid hallucination: a couple of clean-cut young men on bicycles leave a “Jesus is your savior” flyer at his front door, and Pinkman mistakes the meek Mormon proselytizers for hulking barbarian swordsmen on motorcycles.
Reality: Meth does not induce hallucinations. It is not a hallucinogen. It can make you paranoid, and it will keep you awake for days, and sleep deprivation will make you hallucinate—more powerfully than any drug. Stay up for a few days straight and you’ll go completely insane: You won’t be able to distinguish the voices in your head from actual voices; you’ll be living in an Edvard Munch painting. But Pinkman hadn’t been up for a week; he’d just smoked some meth—which doesn’t make you see barbarians.
Sure, you’ve got your favorite shows. But what about your favorite single serving of television? We asked the culture hounds at GQ for the smartest, darkest, most hilarious, and jaw-dropping individual episode of TV they saw all year. Click here to read our editors explain why they picked…
Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 6 - “A Golden Crown”
By Mary Kaye Schilling
Louie, Season 2, Episode 5—”Country Drive”
By Devin Gordon
Breaking Bad, Season Four, Episode 12—”End Times”
By Logan Hill
The Killing, Season One, Episode 4—”A Soundless Echo”
By Dan Riley
Ancient Aliens, Season 2, Episode 9—”Alien Devastations”
By Andrew Richdale
Friday Night Lights, Season Five, Episode 13—”Always”
By Lauren Bans
FriendZone, Season One, Episode 1
By Mark Lotto
Homeland, Season 1, Episode 7—”The Weekend”
By Sean Fennessey
With just one season left to go, Breaking Bad has shifted from being all about Bryan Cranston’s triple-Emmy’d (so far) lead performance to the best ensemble show on TV. This year, we were spun around four compromised points of the male compass: brains (the increasingly Machiavellian Walt), ego (Giancarlo Esposito’s drug kingpin Gus), heart (Aaron Paul’s Jesse, Walt’s reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice), and pure testosterone (Dean Norris as Hank, Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law—who’s got a supernally wise dark-side twin in Jonathan Banks, Gus’s head enforcer). Which one we get off on most says as much about us as picking our favorite Beatle.
[Photograph by Robert Maxwell]