Dead Freight

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"Dead Freight"
Breaking Bad episode
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 5
Directed byGeorge Mastras
Written byGeorge Mastras
Original air dateAugust 12, 2012 (2012-08-12)
Running time48 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Breaking Bad (season 5)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

"Dead Freight" is the fifth episode of the fifth season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad, and the 51st overall episode of the series. Written and directed by George Mastras, it originally aired on AMC in the United States on August 12, 2012.


A young boy rides on a dirt bike through the desert. Encountering a wild tarantula, he allows it to crawl over his hands before placing it in a jar. He hears a distant freight train and rides toward it.

Walt pays a visit to the recently promoted Hank at his new DEA office. During their conversation, Walt confesses that his marriage to Skyler is failing, feigning tears. When Hank leaves momentarily to get coffee, Walt installs eavesdropping bugs on the computer and inside a picture frame sitting on top of Hank's desk. Later, Walt, Jesse, and Mike interrogate Lydia about the tracking device found affixed to the bottom of one of Madrigal's methylamine barrels. Mike and Walt believe that she planted it and decide to kill her. After forcing Lydia to contact Hank and report her discovery, the crew eavesdrops on Hank's next phone call, learning that it was actually placed by a DEA team in Houston that epoxied tracking devices to all of the methylamine barrels in Madrigal's warehouse.

Although exonerated, Lydia is now useless to the trio, as all of the barrels in her warehouse are tracked. Desperate to avoid being killed, Lydia tries to prove her worth by asserting that she can access an "ocean" of methylamine. In exchange for Walt's promise of safety, she reveals that Madrigal's methylamine is transported through New Mexico via freight train, and that the train passes through a three-mile stretch of "dark territory" in McKinley County where its communications go dead. Lydia explains she has access to the train’s final manifest when it is uploaded to her company’s server, which reveals exactly which train car contains methylamine, and giving them about six hours' lead time to prepare a robbery.

Walt and Mike understand that robbing the train necessitates killing the engineer and conductor, so no witnesses are left behind. Jesse, eager to avoid bloodshed, devises an alternate plan. The crew measures the track and buries two 1000-gallon tanks next to a trestle in preparation for the heist, leaving one of the tanks empty while filling the other with water. They enlist the help of Todd, a Vamonos Pest employee. Elsewhere, Walt Jr. and Holly remain with Hank and Marie. Walt Jr., who goes back to using the name "Flynn," tries to return home, only to be curtly persuaded to leave by Walt. Skyler emphasizes her desire to keep the kids out of the house, reminding Walt of his near-fatal encounter with Jesse before Gus's death; her argument seems to get through to him. Skyler also promises to continue laundering Walt's drug money as long as the children stay away. As Walt leaves, Skyler notices his dirty pants and asks if he was "out burying bodies," to which he candidly replies "robbing a train."

Upon viewing the final manifest from her computer at home, Lydia informs Mike of the shipment information. On the day of the heist, Walt's crew manages to stop the train by blocking a railroad crossing with a "broken-down" dump truck driven by Kuby. When the engineer and conductor exit the locomotive to assist him, Mike acts as a lookout while Walt, Jesse, and Todd drain methylamine from the train into the empty buried tank, simultaneously pumping water back in to ensure its weight remains unchanged. The robbery is threatened when a good samaritan arrives on the scene and pushes the dump truck off the tracks earlier than expected. Despite being told by Mike to stop, Walt recklessly makes Jesse and Todd complete the job, putting them in danger; as the train rolls away, Jesse is forced to lie underneath it and Todd has to jump from on top of it.

As Walt, Jesse, and Todd celebrate the heist's apparent success, they turn to see the same boy shown at the beginning the episode standing nearby with his idling dirtbike. The boy waves to them, Todd returns the wave, but then shoots and kills the boy, to Jesse's horror.


"Dead Freight" was written and directed by George Mastras, making his directorial debut on the series. Mastras revealed that the episode was logistically complicated to film because many cameras were needed to capture the lengthy train heist sequence. On the first day of filming the sequence, the train broke down. According to Vince Gilligan, the sequence took four days to shoot.

The episode was originally titled "Dark Territory," but was changed to avoid confusion with the film Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. Coincidentally, that film also features actor Jonathan Banks. Mastras explains that "dead freight" refers to wasted space on a vessel that has been paid for in full.[1]


Critics praised the character development of Todd, played by Jesse Plemons


"Dead Freight" was watched by 2.48 million viewers and received a 1.3 rating among viewers aged 18–49.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received universal acclaim from critics and is considered one of the best in the series, with many critics praising the deadly train heist sequence and the ending scene that depicts Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons)'s character development. Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club rated it as an A-. Though she criticized the material with Skyler and Walt Jr., calling it "clumsily functional", she stated that "this weak patch is more than made up for by the tremendous extended heist sequence and its tragic culmination, which is both well-conceived and perfectly shot."[3] Seth Amitin of IGN rated the episode with a 10 out of 10, calling it "beautifully crafted" and "excellently executed".[4] Alan Sepinwall of HitFix called "Dead Freight" a "great episode", stating: "So much fun, and then such a devastating but not unfair gut punch at the end."[5] Sean T. Collins of Rolling Stone called the episode "harrowing, heartbreaking, magnificent television".[6]

George Mastras was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for writing this episode.[7]


  1. ^ Dixon, Kelley. "Breaking Bad Insider Podcast" (Podcast). Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  2. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (August 14, 2012). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead,' 'Hell On Wheels' Lead AMC + 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Homeland,' 'Dexter' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Bowman, Donna (August 12, 2012). "Dead Freight". The A.V. Club. The Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  4. ^ Amitin, Seth (August 12, 2012). "Breaking Bad: "Dead Freight" Review". IGN. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  5. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (August 12, 2012). "Review: 'Breaking Bad' - 'Dead Freight': The train job". HitFix. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  6. ^ Collins, Sean, T. (August 12, 2012). "'Breaking Bad' Recap: Trainwreck". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  7. ^ "Breaking Bad". Retrieved September 17, 2013.

External links[edit]