I’m about to make a confession that might draw some gasps from the audience: I don’t watch that much TV. Oops. My method of watching usually revolves around finding a well-established show I’ve never seen before, digging up all the existing seasons on DVD or the Internet, and ravenously consuming it all in the space of a few weeks. Anxiously waiting a week or more for the next episode to resolve a cliffhanger? Not my style. Anyway, at this moment that show is Breaking Bad, which I can’t praise enough for its visceral acting and nerve-fraying tension. I was surprised, then, when early into season 4 a clever example of product integration almost slipped past me. The key word here is “integration,” due to the relevance of the product to the screenplay/plot. It was done in such a way that it could be justified without betraying loftier artistic goals. If you have yet to see season 4 of Breaking Bad, or plan to at some point in the future, you might want to stop reading immediately. Spoiler alert!
At the end of season 3, Jesse Pinkman, the troubled hero of the show, is forced to kill a man at point-blank range. The first several episodes of season 4 deal with his post-traumatic, progressive unhinging into spiritual death. In two episodes, he is seen playing a violent first-person shooter video game, gunning down hordes of bloodied zombies or crazy, lunatic human beings, while suffering flashbacks of his real-life murder. After seeing this video game on the show (I’m not much of gamer either), I looked it up online and discovered that it was a real game called Rage, which could easily be bought in Amazon or a thousand other places. It is an unusual, but interesting, form of product placement, since there isn’t much positive value attributed to it as framed by the narrative of Breaking Bad. Sure, the graphics and gameplay look attractive enough, but in the context of the show, Rage only furthers the progressive disintegration of Jesse Pinkman’s sanity.
If any doubts remain that this is an example of product placement, then this next video should dispel them:
The easter egg reference to Breaking Bad very clearly reveals a mutual agreement between the two parties, one which surely yielded profitable results for both of them.