Phoenix (Breaking Bad)

"Phoenix" is the twelfth episode of the second season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad episode
Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 12 Phoenix.jpg
Walter allows Jane to suffocate on her own vomit, induced by a heroin overdose.
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 12
Directed byColin Bucksey
Written byJohn Shiban
Featured music"Green Grass and High Tides" by The Outlaws
Cinematography byMichael Slovis
Editing byKelly Dixon
Original air dateMay 24, 2009 (2009-05-24)
Running time47 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Breaking Bad (season 2)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

Plot summaryEdit

Walt barely delivers the inventory of drugs to Gus in time, but misses his daughter's birth. He arrives at the hospital, where he finds that Ted drove Skyler there. At Jesse's apartment, Jane wakes up when she is phoned by her father, Donald, because she is late for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. At lunch afterwards, she does not mention that she has started using heroin again, and acts as though she does not know Jesse when her father asks about him. Jesse, seeing the aftermath of Walt's search, initially believes he was robbed, but then listens to the phone messages Walt left. Walt, unable to tell anyone else in his family about the money, privately shows his daughter the stacks of cash hidden in the garage walls. Later, Jesse shows up at Walt's classroom to ask for his share of the money, which Walt refuses because he believes it will further Jesse’s addiction. He promises to pay Jesse when he knows that Jesse and Jane are clean.

Later, Jesse and Jane inject heroin in his apartment. As he passes out, Jesse complains about Walt holding out on him, telling Jane that he is owed $480,000. Donald calls Jane again when she is late to another rehab meeting; unbeknownst to Jane, he is waiting directly outside. Seeing her emerging from Jesse's door, he barges in and finds evidence of them both using heroin. He is furious that she has relapsed and calls the police, but Jane promises she will enter rehab the next day. He relents and gives her another chance. Meanwhile, Walt Jr. has put up a website so that people can donate to Walt's cancer surgery. Walt does not want to accept charity, especially because he earned the money to pay for his treatment, but cannot reveal its source to his family. Saul tells him that he will contact a hacker to make the money look like it is coming from computers all over the world, and avert suspicions by putting in small amounts.

Jane calls Walt to blackmail him into giving Jesse his share. Walt delivers the money to Jesse and Jane, who are ecstatic and talk of getting clean, but still feel a strong pull to use their remaining heroin. Walt goes to a bar to unwind, where he unknowingly sits next to Donald. The two start talking about the Phoenix probe's discovery of water on Mars and about Donald's daughter and Walt's "nephew" (Jesse), voicing their frustrations over trying to help people who will not do what is good for them. Donald opines that one can never give up on one’s family. Motivated by Donald's words, Walt goes back to Jesse's house to talk to him, but finds Jesse and Jane passed out from heroin use. While Walt is trying to wake Jesse, he inadvertently knocks Jane onto her back; she starts to choke on her own vomit. Walt rushes to help, but then lets her die in order to protect Jesse from their eventual overdose, and for self-preservation since she threatened to expose him.[1] Walt begins to cry before looking on resolutely.


The episode was written by John Shiban, and directed by Colin Bucksey. It aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on May 24, 2009.

Critical receptionEdit

The episode was widely acclaimed by critics, and is generally considered to be an important entry in the series given its plot developments. Emily VanDerWerff, recapping the episode for Slant, noted that it was "a beautifully rich and layered work about the various ways parents and children disappoint each other."[2] Donna Bowman, writing for The A.V. Club, gave the episode an A rating, commenting: "it is perhaps the single best episode to date in one of the best shows television has ever produced."[3]Alan Sepinwall praised Bryan Cranston's performance in the episode's climactic scene and drew comparisons to "Kennedy and Heidi," an episode of The Sopranos.[4] Seth Amitin at IGN gave the episode an 8.9/10 and opined that the episode was effective at increasing the dramatic stakes leading into the season's finale, stating that "everything about this episode was used to push tension one step further for the finale."[5]

For his performance, Cranston won his second of three consecutive Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. Shiban was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for episodic drama for the episode "Phoenix" in 2010.[6]

In Cranston's own 2016 memoir A Life in Parts, he begins the book by recounting the process of filming the final scene in the episode. He recalls how he imagined his own daughter Taylor Dearden as Jane, and describes it as "the most harrowing I did on Breaking Bad".[7]

In 2019 The Ringer ranked "Phoenix" as the 17th best out of the 62 total Breaking Bad episodes.[8]


  1. ^ Vince Gilligan Answers, "Why Does Walt Let Jane Die?" – Breaking Bad YouTube Fireside Chat, retrieved 2020-06-20
  2. ^ Vanderwerff, Emily. "Breaking Bad Recap Season 2, Episode 12, "Phoenix"". Slant. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  3. ^ Bowman, Donna (May 24, 2009). "Breaking Bad: "Phoenix"". A.V. Club. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  4. ^ Sepinwall, Alan. "Breaking Bad, "Phoenix": There's no real way to dust for vomit". What's Alan Watching. Retrieved May 24, 2009.
  5. ^ Amitin, Seth. "BREAKING BAD: "PHOENIX" REVIEW". IGN. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Gregg Mitchell & Sherry Goldman (2009). "2010 Writers Guild Awards Television, Radio, News, Promotional Writing, and Graphic Animation Nominees Announced". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  7. ^ Bryan Cranston (October 16, 2016). "Bryan Cranston: 'I was Walter White – but I was never more myself'". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Justin Verrier (September 30, 2019). "The Ringer's Definitive 'Breaking Bad' Episodes Ranking". The Ringer.

External linksEdit