The title of this episode Crazy Handful of Nothin’ refers to the family card game where Walt is able to beat Hank in a game of poker despite having any good cards; i.e. “a handful of nothing”.
Additionally, it refers to the scene where Walt is able to take down Tuco’s HQ with a “crazy handful” of fulminated mercury.
It can also be seen as a reference to the clumps of hair Walt pulls out in the shower. [x]
Observations: “Sometimes a high point can be a low point, too. Take Walt’s initial confrontation with Tuco, the meth-addled psychopath who beat Jesse to a pulp before stealing his money and drugs. To the world, it looks like a daring daylight raid on the enemy compound, featuring the debut of Walt’s hat-wearing Heisenberg alter ego and a don’t-you-know-I’m-loco use of explosives. Walt certainly sees it as a victory, growling like a triumphant predator over a fresh kill and pounding the wheel of his car in celebration as hundred-dollar bills flutter all around him. But a win for Heisenberg is a loss for the man Walt used to be, and his sheer enjoyment of coming out on top is proof that something very bad inside him has been waiting a lifetime to get out.”
– from Bad Man Rising: Walter White’s Lowest Lows (Rolling Stone)
Source: Rolling Stone
Observations: “One of the prototypical signs of a chemical reaction is something changing color — heck, Walt does it with a gas flame in the first episode. So when Walt’s urine changes color to bright orange, it’s not just a medical detail. The scientist has become the reagent.”
– Donna Bowman’s review of 1x06, pics from Breaking Bad Observations
Source: The A.V. Club
"… I feel I got to put a lot of my own into Tuco, even though, just like all the others, his character was created by the writers collaboratively. Like even little details like his grill, and things like that. Before I was a writer, I worked in juvenile corrections for a while. So I was channeling a lot of things from the more violent kids I had to deal with at the juvenile prison. A few of the gang members I was supervising took a lot of pride in their gold and platinum tooth displays, and I channeled this little detail in describing Tuco.
"And then Ray Cruz brought so much detail to that character, so Tuco took on a life of his own. One of the joys or writing in a collaborative medium, like television or movies, is to write and see an actor come in and add so much of their own. It’s great to have that feeling that you as a writer inspired that performance, but then to let it go and see where someone else takes it."
Why does Walter choose Heisenberg as his alias?
"On one level, the choice of Heisenberg as Walt’s pseudonym is an inside joke for fans who remember the uncertainty principle from high school chemistry.
"On a deeper level, the name symbolizes Walt’s stunning transition from meek chemistry teacher to Scarface-in-training drug lord. When Walt puts on his black porkpie hat and trench coat and becomes Heisenberg, he’s able to commit hideously gruesome acts that regular Walt would never be capable of. It’s a form of psychological compartmentalization that lets Walt distance himself from his evil acts and convince himself he’s still a good person.
Walt can therefore be viewed as a human manifestation of the “uncertainty principle” — as he gains momentum as a murderous drug lord, he loses sight of his original position as a family man with a strong moral code. The exact moment when Walt truly becomes evil is debatable or “uncertain” — one of the things that makes Breaking Bad such a great show.”
– Dan Zahler on Quora
Observations: “There are several occasions throughout the episode where Hank implicitly, and unknowingly, hints at Walt’s secret identity, to the point that even Walt suspects whether his cover is blown or not. Most interesting is the family poker game scene which might as well have foreshadowed the whole course of the show on a symbolic level:
- Hank underestimates Walt, while in fact he himself is failing to see the truth about him: “You wouldn’t know a criminal if he was close enough to check you for a hernia!”
- To make the situation even more astonishingly awkward, Hank asks Walt: “You’re hiding something?” – which is basically about the poker hand, or rather Heisenberg’s big bluff. Everyone else folds, so Hank once again breaks through the infrastructure: “Looks like it’s you and me, buddy.” – It’s far-fetched, but with the outcome of 5.08 in mind, is it possible that in the end only Walt and Hank remain in the game?
- Walt bets all the way in (just like going all the way with shaving his head, or later in the series with his ‘empire business’.), to set the bluff and the final showdown. Hank reads through the bluff, but is so overwhelmed by the pity he holds for Walt (“You bad, bad, horrible liar!”) that ultimately folds to let him win the game only to find out that he had been indeed bluffing and -quoting Marie- it was only “a handful of nothin’ ” (hence the episode title).
- Before revealing Walt’s hand (thanks to Marie!), Hank tries guessing it; a flush? A straight? I fits the way he struggles to reveal Heisenberg’s secret identity throughout the series. Is this the way Walter White wins the big game, in the final 8 episodes, with a masterful bluff? I guess we’re gonna find out… Walt certainly keeps developing his deception skills throughout the series as he unfolds a greater trick here with bringing ‘a crazy handful of non-meth’ to Tuco, actually containing fulminate of mercury.
- Moreover, this single scene, on a character level, helps Hank and Marie buy Skyler’s gambling cover story later in the series.