Mythbusters busts Breaking Bad’s bad science

Breaking Bad returned Sunday for the first of its final eight episodes, and last night Discovery Channel aired a special episode of Mythbusters that tested two memorable moments from the show. Alas, neither turned out to be true. Oh, science!

The AMC show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, actually brought this on himself: About a year ago, he told Vulture that he wanted to do a crossover episode with the series: “I’d dig seeing those guys prove or disprove some of the crazy stuff we’ve done on Breaking Bad.”

Two scenes from season one were tested: Walt and Jessie decomposing a body (and bathtub, and floor) with hydrofluoric acid, and Walt’s mercury fulminate bomb.

Neither actually worked in real life, though as usual, Mythbusters ramped up each attempt to try to make it work, which resulted in some entertaining moments. For example, attempting to decompose a pig and bathtub using a stronger acid solution, Jamie explained that they wouldn’t identify one solution they were using, because “we’re not actually in the business of showing people how to dispose of bodies.” Alas, even that didn’t work, only dissolving the dead pig that was standing in for a corpse.

Gilligan and Aaron Paul appeared but only as part of the show’s awkwardly acted, scripted segments. In the segment below, they introduced the myths–er, fictional representations of science–and later learned about the results. Watching footage of the failed experiments, a good-natured Gilligan said, “Those are just details, my friend, details.” Aaron Paul said, “You sound more like Walt every day.”

If you’re interested in the show’s science, Vulture talked to the volunteer chemistry professor adviser, who began giving advise starting with season two; Dr. Donna Nelson also was interviewed by NPR’s Science Friday. And Wired talked to the show’s fact checkers.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.