“Breaking Bad” Wink-and-Nod to Elizabeth Bishop?


23 August 2011

So we’re finishing up Season 2 of “Breaking Bad” here, and it just gets better and better.  If you haven’t watched it yet, run don’t walk.  I often find myself saying out loud, “Wow.”

In the most recent episode we watched, Season 2 Episode 13, I think I may have “discovered” a literary reference.  It seems impossible to discover anything these days, with so many fan sites and discussion boards and most people being much more current than myself (I mean, here I am, still on Season 2, for goodness sake); but after googling several different combinations of words, I was only able to come up with one discussion page (and the thread is so long I couldn’t find what I was looking for).  What I googled was “Breaking Bad Elizabeth Bishop.”

A character named Jane falls off the wagon (heroin), and her father enters her bedroom to dig around.  There is a photographic portrait on the wall, and the prominence of it gives an impression that the portrait might be Jane’s dead mother.  The woman in the portrait looked very familiar, and I soon recognized her as Elizabeth Bishop.  Later, after Jane overdoses and the father is asked by the police for Jane’s mother’s maiden name, he says, “Bishop.”  Hmm…  Perhaps writer and creator Vince Gilligan is an EB fan.


7 Responses to ““Breaking Bad” Wink-and-Nod to Elizabeth Bishop?”

  1. K. Says:

    I’ve just noticed the same and was curious if anyone had seen it before. 😉 Greetings from Poland!

  2. nancy Says:

    I saw it too!!!!
    I lived in Elizabeth Bishops Key West house 1991-92

    • sonyachung Says:

      Nancy, that must have been an experience! Key West is on my travel wish list for the very reason that EB loved it so much.

  3. kurt kauper Says:

    I just watched the episode, and was curious about the reference myself.

    There’s a tone to that scene–the way Jane’s father retains his composure in spite of his grief, carefully examines her objects, and gently handles the dress that he’s chosen for her funeral that seemed very Bishop-like to me. It had the charged resignation that so many of Bishop’s poems have. Like One Art, or Crusoe in England, or North Haven.

  4. Nina Says:

    I am reading her biography now: Elizabeth Bishop, Life and the Memory of It, by Brett C. Miller. That is indeed a portrait photo of EB in this episode of Breaking Bad. (The book is engaging, btw.) I was very lucky to hear EB read for an hour or so, once, long ago. If I could choose, I would like to have lots of friends who love her poetry, too. And Kurt, I agree about the “charged resignation” that John De Lancie portrayed so poignantly.

  5. Brian Bogosian Says:

    If you’re ever passing through Worcester, Massachusetts, where she was born,
    visit her grave and see what’s written on it.

  6. Mura Keany Says:

    I just watched that episode too..think Vince Gilligan must be a fan of her poetry…I was intrigued by the subtle homage.

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