William Beutler on Wikipedia

Breaking Bad <3 Wikipedia

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on September 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm by William Beutler

Here there be spoilers, so read on with caution: the U.S. television series Breaking Bad is known for its command of detail, especially in scientific matters. After all, its lead character (which is not to say hero) Walter White is a former chemistry teacher who becomes a meth cook after he is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

Besides the incredibly dangerous production of extremely dangerous street drugs, various deadly poisons appear throughout the show’s five tightly-wound seasons, and in Sunday’s episode a major character muses absent-mindedly about a few poisons she has been researching. As the AV Club’s Breaking Bad recapper, Donna Bowman, points out:

Marie quotes nearly exactly the Wikipedia entry for saxitoxin: “… [P]roduces a flaccid paralysis that leaves its victim calm and conscious through the progression of symptoms. Death often occurs from respiratory failure.” Also, when the FBI show up at my door and cite my incriminating search history, you are all my witnesses that I was just researching for this recap.

Plagiarism? Not in this case, I don’t think. As mentioned above, Marie explains she has been reading obsessively about poisons on the Internet—so what do you think she’s been reading? The article Saxitoxin is quite lengthy, if not necessarily well-written. The same goes for a few poisonous plants which play a much bigger role on the show, principally Ricin and Lily of the Valley: these articles seem informative, but sport a few too many [citation needed] tags for my liking. (Also, Breaking Bad is mentioned in a section of the former called “In popular culture”, which as a heading type is generally frowned upon.)

Meanwhile, it’s not the first time Wikipedia has been acknowledged on the show. Clearly, series creator Vince Gilligan and his writing staff use it for research, and so their characters do, too. Toward the end of season three, as Walter’s wife Skyler White becomes more fully aware of her husband’s illegal activities, and decides against all better judgment to assist him, she turns to everyone’s favorite volunteer-written encyclopedia to learn more about a subject she needs to get better acquainted with:

Breaking Bad and money laundering on Wikipedia

P.S. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll enjoy Breaking Bad: A Periodic Table of Elements, created by my team at Beutler Ink.