The science of Breaking Bad: Face Off

Breaking Bad | Season 4 | Episode 13 | “Face Off”

It's all over - for now, at least.

It's all over - for now, at least.

Season four of Breaking Bad goes out with a bang and a hideous knife-twist, setting a new standard for serialised drama. To my knowledge, nobody has even thought about writing season five yet, so we may be in for a long wait until meth chemistry is back on the small screen again.

You can read more about this episode at AMC, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

It’s hard to see what Jesse is pouring into the reaction tank (partly due to my low-definition broadcast) – it could be C3H4O3 or C2H4O2; the most likely candidate is acetic acid (H3CCOOH).

When the Hired Goon mentions CO2, Jesse turns a gas valve. I’m not sure what place this has in a methamphetamine cook – solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) might be used as a coolant, but the gas is fairly unreactive. One possibility is that CO2 is being produced and needs to be vented (this happens when neutralising the reaction products of methampetamine made from pseudoephedrine), though why this should happen when a hydrocarbon is added is unclear.

Elements in the credits

Breaking Bromine
Bad Barium
Created Chromium
Bryan Cranston Bromine
AnNa Gunn Sodium
AAron Paul Argon
DeaN Norris Nitrogen
Betsy Brandt Beryllium
RJ MitTe Tellurium
BOb Odenkirk Oxygen
Giancarlo Esposito Einsteinium
JonAthan Banks Astatine
MArk Margolis Argon
Steven MicHael Quezada Hydrogen
Michael ShAmus Wiles Americium
Ray CamPbell Lead
MyRa Turley Radium
Gonzalo MeneNdez Neodymium
Skip MAcdonald Actinium
Mark FreeboRn Radon
MiChael Slovis Carbon
Dave Porter Polonium
Sharon Bialy Sulfur
Sherry Thomas Thorium
BrYan Cranston Yttrium
Diane MerCer Cerium
Moira Walley-Beckett Molybdenum
Thomas SchnAuz Gold
George Mastras Germanium
PeTer Gould Tellurium
Sam Catlin Calcium
Melissa Bernstein Beryllium
MicHelle MacLaren Helium
Mark JOhnson Oxygen
StewArt A. Lyons Argon
Vince Gilligan Vanadium

3 Responses to The science of Breaking Bad: Face Off

  1. Jareld Sp says:

    Yes it was C2H4O2. Did you saw the Gale’s lab book? It’s on http://www.amctv.com/shows/breaking-bad/gale-boetticher-case-file. Do you know the hydrazine hydrate ‘option’? Was he referring maybe to hydrazine/I2 HI production?

    • John says:

      Hmm, the interactive case file doesn’t seem to work on my browser. :/ In any case, a mention of hydrazine hydrate is probably a reference to the Huang-Minglon modification of the Wolff-Kishner reduction, which can be used to convert a ketone to an alkane. Gale might have tried to “freeze” this reaction at the intermediate stage, neatly converting phenylacetone into a methamphetamine precursor.

  2. darlizadar says:

    Your blog is awesome! Stumbled in here after searching for MI-MB042266-GER. :) Subscribing! Keep up the good work.

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