Breaking Bad's best deaths: Whose demise stands out from the 260 body count?

Vince Gilligan's show boasts almost three times as many deaths as The Sopranos - and there's still one episode to go

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The Independent Culture

Breaking Bad is a show with something of a body count. But until you look at the raw numbers, it's hard to appreciate quite how bloody Walt's rise and fall has been.

So far, across the 61 episodes that have aired so far, 260 people have met their end; not a single one through natural causes. Admittedly, 167 of those are nameless innocents who died in a midair plain crash, but that still leaves a spectacular trail of 93 corpses (well, 91, if you consider the two meth dealers whom Walt and Jesse melted in a bathtub).

By comparison, The Sopranos - 82 episodes long - features 92 deaths, of which a meagre 62 are murders - despite the fact that it portrays more than one out-and-out mob war. Stats like these really rather call into question Tony Soprano's commitment to his craft.

Interestingly, our protagonist only has seven direct murders to his name, but he's had a hand in a further 16, and then there was that time he tried to poison an innocent child with ricin. The bloodiest murderer is Gus, who, for a quiet man of dignity and reserve, has managed 12 kills by his own hand.

Of course, with one more episode to go, and a goodly amount of automatic weaponry in play, the body count is surely set to rise. For now though, let's look back at some of the show's best deaths.

The inaugural murder: Emilio Koyama, poisoned by phosphine gas

Walt's first murder, back in happier times. Emilio was Jesse's original partner in the meth business, but turned against him and Walt following a DEA bust. Walt promises he'll show him and his partner Krazy 8 how to make better drugs, but instead uses his superior knowledge of chemistry to fill the caravan with toxic gas and locks him in. The really macabre detail with this particular death, though is the way our heroes subsequently dissolve Koyama's body in a bathtub full of hydrofluoric acid, creating something of a mess of thick, human soup dripping through the ceiling.

The most painful-looking death: Spooge, head crushed by an ATM

Spooge and his partner are an abject lesson in the darker side of the meth trade: two impressively gross junkies living in utter squalor. They kidnap Jesse and trap him in their horrible house with their adorable son and try to break into a cash machine they've managed to pinch. There's a stroke of luck, though, after Spooge calls his girlfriend a 'skank' one too many times and she drops the ATM he's poking at right onto his head, at which point she simply sits back down on the sofa and has a nap.

The award for dramatic irony: Tortuga, decapitated and attached to a tortoise

'Tortuga', which means tortoise in Spanish, is a DEA informant with a taste for catalogue goods. He is not long for the show though, because he's dead almost as soon as he arrives on screen, decapitated presumably by a machete to the neck, and strapped to an exploding tortoise by those practical jokers in the cartel.

The saddest death by some distance: Jane Margolis, choking on her own vomit

Jane, Jesse's beloved, is really spoiling Walt's meth schedule by taking up all his partner's time with intravenous drug use and whatnot. The pair are just about to make their break for freedom from the horrible Albuquerque underworld, so Walt does the only sensible thing when he finds her passed out and suffocating in her own sick: watch her as she dies. Perhaps it's at this point that everyone really starts to register quite how bad Walt has broken.

The most impressive entrance: Nine Mexican immigrants, shot and burned

The twin cartel hitmen with the natty footwear and the murderous disposition make their presence first felt in showy style. They cross the border into the US in a camouflaged truck holding another nine illegal immigrants, and kill them all, before setting the truck on fire. Are they covering their tracks, or just doing it because they can?

The most blameless demise: Gale Boetticher, shot in the face

Poor, gentle Gale, who just wanted Walt to be his friend, was nothing more than a pawn in Walt and Gus's deadly power struggle. Even though he too is a mass-manufacturer of very addictive illegal drugs, Gale is probably the biggest innocent on the show, a blameless man who enjoys his chemistry. That makes his death all the harder, as it's another sloughing off of Walt - the instigator's - humanity, both for the murder of a kind man, and for the fact he manipulated Jesse into doing his dirty work.

Well, we didn't see that coming: Victor, throat slit by a boxcutter

Victor is one of Gus's right-hand men, an implacable enforcer and a continual thorn in Walt's side. So when Gus calmly slits his throat with no warning, just to prove a point, we're left in no doubt as to how much of a terrifying sociopath the man is. Gus makes his point with the cold-eyed murder of an ally, right in front of Walt, who is left to ponder what Gus might do to him, if he can do that to his mate. To add salt to the wound, Walt is then pointedly required to melt the corpse, which does not seem to get much easier the more you do it.

The brass neck award for sheer audacity: Don Eladio and his captains, poisoned tequila

At this point, we're under no illusion that the quiet Gustavo Fring is actually a ruthless butchering criminal mastermind. Even he, however, has to cede power in the face of the arrayed might of the cartels, or so we think. So at a meet-and-greet in Mexico, when he apparently has no choice but to trade Jesse for his own life, he poisons everyone, including himself, over a celebratory nip of tequila. It's one of those moments we find ourselves rooting for a guy even worse than Walt, which just goes to show how well Breaking Bad manages to twist our perspective and blacken the soul.

At this point we're just revelling in carnage: Gus Fring, pipe bomb

In the days before the majesty that was "Ozymandias", everyone thought the episode in which Gus is killed couldn't be topped. It's still an incredible episode, in which the audience gleefully and willingly cheers on a carefully orchestrated if crudely implemented assassination by one blood-thirsty drug lord on another, via a bomb in a nursing home. Remember when Gus walked out of the room and straightened his tie with only half a head? Good times.

The most noble demise: Mike Ehrmantraut, shot in the gut

There is something serene about Mike's end: the loyal retainer dies on his own terms in peace and quiet at a riverbank. Of course, he was only shot in the first place in a fit of Walt's pique, more or less at the height of his megalomania. This death takes place in quiet contrast to most of the rest of the show's frenzied violence. His dying words: "Shut the f*** up and let me die in peace."

The best spree: Mike's guys, shanked, choked, burned and bludgeoned to death in prison

This sequence, in which Walt orders the execution of all the numerous loose ends who could implicate him to the DEA, and whom he no longer wishes to pay off, is almost balletic in its butchery. Ten men in three separate prisons die in a two-minute window. It's as impressive as it sounds.

Hopes dashed: Hank Schrader, shot in the head

Nigh-on everyone expected the redoubtable Agent Schrader to bring Walt to justice, one way or another. His death, then, is especially cruel, not least because the show bends over backwards to persuade the audience that he might just wriggle out of his increasingly inevitable demise at the hands of Uncle Jack. He doesn't, of course. He doesn't even get to finish his last words. Once more, the inarguable message of this moment, indeed of the whole show, is that evil prevails and everyone you love will die.