There Are No Less Than 15 'Breaking Bad' Easter Eggs in ‘Malcolm in the Middle’
As far as television shows go, Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle couldn’t be more different. One is an hour-long cable drama about an ordinary science teacher who becomes a drug kingpin; the other is a network sitcom about the travails of one of the most hilarious families in television history. The only thing that links them, of course, is Bryan Cranston.
Before his career-altering role as the ruthless Walter White, Cranston played Hal, an amiable dope of a father trying to stay sane while raising five boys with his wife. Walter and Hal are as different as Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, yet there are some similarities between them. For instance, both of their wives have a penchant for sneaking smokes, both of them feel as though a colleague has stolen their best ideas and both of them had a memorable face-off with a train (Walter robbing one, Hal derailing one by leaving a couch on the tracks).
Sure, all of that could be mere coincidence, but there are other Breaking Bad parallels in Malcolm in the Middle that are downright prescient. From meth labs to musical choices to strikingly similar life events, these similarities are so serendipitous that they might be considered Breaking Bad Easter eggs — if Breaking Bad hadn’t premiered a full two years after Malcolm in the Middle’s finale).
Having combed through both series — with a bit of help from online sources — these are the most glaring examples…
Hal and Walter White Wear the Same Type of Tighty-Whities
Episode: “Reese’s Job,” Season 3, Episode 9 (and many, many others)
Easter Egg: The pilots of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle introduce Cranston’s characters in similar ways — albeit with completely different tones. In Breaking Bad, Walter appears in his underwear in the middle of the desert. In Malcolm in the Middle, Hal is seen nude in his living room, reading a newspaper as his wife shaves his back. Over the rest of the series, Hal is frequently seen in his tighty-whities, which immediately brings to mind the early episodes of Breaking Bad, which feature Walter in the exact same type of underwear.
Episode: “Pilot,” Season 1, Episode 1
Easter Egg: Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch, but when Frances, the oldest child in the Malcolm in the Middle clan, first pops up in the pilot, a blown-up car burns in the background, a scene that’s very familiar to Walter White.
A Super Genius Causes a Chemical Explosion
Episode: “Krelboyne Picnic,” Season 1, Episode 8
Easter Egg: At a school picnic for the advanced kids in his school, Malcolm, who is a genius, creates a huge chemical explosion — a signature Walter White move. The white cloud in Malcolm bears a particular resemblance to when Walter blew up Tuco’s office.
Hal’s Health Scare
Episode: “Health Scare,” Season 3, Episode 6
Easter Egg: On occasion, Malcolm in the Middle would mix in a bit of realistic family drama with all the typical family hijinks. In this episode — where Hal is awaiting the results of a medical test — it’s difficult not to think of Walter’s cancer diagnosis.
Episode: “Baby, Part 2,” Season 4, Episode 21
Easter Egg: Walter misses the birth of his daughter because he’s conducting a drug deal; Hal, meanwhile, gets stuck at a bridal expo when his wife Lois is in labor.
Lost Desert Wandering
Episode: “Casino,” Season 2, Episode 5
Easter Egg: Maybe not as famously as Walter White, but Hal gets lots in the desert as well, with a couple of his sons in tow.
Two Wendys, With the Same Song
Episode: “Butterflies,” Season 6, Episode 17
Easter Egg: In Breaking Bad, we witness a day in the life of a sex worker named Wendy, which featured a hilarious montage set to “Windy” by The Association. In Malcolm in the Middle, there’s a very different Wendy — a girl Malcolm has a crush on at work — but the presence of “Windy” remains very much the same.
Completely Totaled RVs
Episode: “Burning Man,” Season 7, Episode 1
Easter Egg: The RV-cum-meth-lab in Breaking Bad (dubbed the Crystal Ship — more on that later) is iconic. As for Malcolm, Hal borrows an RV from his boss to bring his family to Burning Man. Both RVs more or less suffer the same inoperable fate: Hal’s gets burnt to a crisp, while Walter’s is crushed and dismantled by Old Joe, the guy who runs the wrecking yard. Speaking of which…
Larry Hankin Shows Up
Episode: “Christmas Trees,” Season 5, Episode 7
Easter Egg: Old Joe is the legally savvy owner of the aforementioned wrecking yard on Breaking Bad. He is played by character actor Larry Hankin, who you’ve probably seen in a million other shows. Years before his appearance on Breaking Bad, though, he showed up as a homeless guy named Luther in Malcolm in the Middle.
Cooking with a Spoon
Episode: “Future Malcolm,” Season 4, Episode 19
Easter Egg: Drug use is all over Breaking Bad, so it’s no surprise that someone in it cooks heroin via spoon. Malcolm the Middle, however, never got that hardcore, which made a scene where Hal melted butter in a spoon pretty edgy.
Episode: “Malcolm Babysits,” Season 1, Episode 5
Easter Egg: In the fifth episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Hal’s home is tented for bugs, which is a furtive method Walter and his partner in crime Jesse Pinkman use to cook meth in Breaking Bad.
Hal and Lois Wear Gas Masks
Episode: “Malcolm Babysits,” Season 1, Episode 5
Easter Egg: At the end of that same fumigation episode, Hal and Lois give new meaning to safe sex when they sneak back into their tented house to get down without their kids around. To be sure they don’t die from the poisonous gas, they put on gas masks — something Walter and Jesse do during every meth cook.
The Police Suspect Hal of Drug Possession
Episode: “Malcolm Visits College,” Season 5, Episode 16
Easter Egg: In a 21 Jump Street-type episode of Malcolm in the Middle, an undercover cop suspects that one of Hal’s non-Malcolm sons, Reese, is on drugs. Eventually, police burst into Hal’s home, throwing him to the floor and cuffing him on suspicion of drug possession. The cops proceed to the garage where they believe they’ll find illegal activity. There are obviously no drugs there, but had they shown up a season earlier, they would have found something sure to stun Breaking Bad fans…
The Garage Is Turned into a Meth Lab
Episode: “Reese’s Party,” Season 4, Episode 18
Easter Egg: That’s right, in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle a meth lab is set up in the family’s garage. Reese throws a party when his parents are out of town, and he invites people at random. This results in the arrival of a group of drug dealers who build a lab in the garage. At one point, Malcolm even makes mention of a “decontamination station.”
Malcolm’s “Crystal Ship”
Episode: “Dirty Magazine,” Season 5, Episode 9
Easter Egg: Almost unbelievably, Malcolm in the Middle has something called the “Crystal Ship,” too. As I mentioned earlier, in Breaking Bad, the Crystal Ship is a mobile meth lab; in Malcolm in the Middle, it’s the school literary magazine. They have nothing in common besides the name, but the combination of those two words being used in both shows is pretty astounding.
In fact, this can’t help but lend credence to the alternate, comedic ending of Breaking Bad. It was filmed as a joke, but the “alternate ending” is a scene where Walter suddenly wakes up as Hal in bed next to Lois, traumatized by a dream in which he was a murderous drug kingpin. Again, this was a joke — and a nod to the legendary Newhart finale — but with all of the coincidences between these two shows, it now kinda makes sense that Breaking Bad is just a warped dream by the ever-imaginative Hal.