If you strip the cliffhanger details from the Breaking Bad mid-season finale, you’re left with… a man reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the porcelain throne. The AMC drama is all about things hiding in plain sight. Still, we never expected the doggedly determined Hank Schrader to uncover his biggest clue regarding a string of meth crimes while on the pot. Then again, we never figured a high school chemistry teacher would gain a reputation as one of the most feared drug kingpins between lonely frozen dinners, chemotherapy, and feeling like half a man. The finale’s bathroom scene, in which Hank finds a copy of Walt’s book with a telling inscription from Gale Boetticher, is one of the show’s most suspenseful moments. In anticipation of the Breaking Bad season 5.2 premiere tomorrow, we combed the annals of television for other memorable scenes that took place in the unlikely setting of the bathroom.
Hannibal’s The Shining homage
Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller has expressed his admiration for the work of Stanley Kubrick many times. Shades of the late master’s oeuvre are felt throughout the NBC series, but one film’s influence is most notable: The Shining. The 1980 film and Hannibal tell the tale of a man losing his mind, with a different psychological unraveling at the story’s center. Fuller recreated the movie’s red and white bathroom for one scene:
“What’s so remarkable about it is it’s a purely psychological space. You were inside this secret corner of Jack Torrance’s mind where the ghost of Overlook’s past has cornered him and is having a conversation about killing his family… That impressed me the most and had the biggest impression on me. I understood watching it as a 10-year-old that this was psychological storytelling. He wasn’t concerned what was real or what was not real.”
The set is striking, and offered fans another reason to stay tuned and spot Fuller’s references to the horror greats of the past.
Friends and leather pants
Few people can genuinely pull off a pair of leather pants without looking like a total douche. Friends’ Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) isn’t one of them. One of the show’s funnier moments takes place in the bathroom during Ross’ date with Elizabeth (she of the goofy surname, Hornswoggle, played by Sarah Peterson). He excuses himself from some snuggle time to cool down in the loo, sans pants, but has a hard time getting them back on. Hilarity ensues when he tries to grease his thighs with lotion (and powder) in order to slip into them. On a much different date, leather, lotion, and Ross’ whiny timbre might have been a winning combination.
Any bathroom “office” scene in Veronica Mars
Where else is a student who moonlights as a private investigator supposed to set up shop? Many kids escape the treacherous waters of school by hanging out in the bathroom, so it makes sense that Veronica takes over the girl’s room at Neptune High to conduct business and get people talking. It’s another layer of authenticity that fans appreciate and a tie-in to the many symbolic references to water.
The Dollhouse community showers
Part-time utopia, part-time prison, the setting for Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse offered a retreat for troubled souls to hide from their messy lives for a while. People went to the Dollhouse to erase their memories and become imprinted with new ones for various missions — often the amorous kind. The “dolls” are a unique community. They are innocent and childlike in their blank state. We see them eat, exercise, sleep, and yes, shower together. It’s one of the ways Whedon edges us closer to the show’s themes of identity and human rights. In one of the show’s more lighthearted plotlines, doll Victor develops self-awareness and begins to react physically while showering with his crush, Sierra.
The many bathroom scenes of Girls
We can count the number of times a scene in Girls hasn’t taken place in a bathroom on one hand. Everyone’s favorite millennials (or not) frequently cocoon themselves amongst porcelain and tile. Remember: Hannah’s bathtime cupcake in the pilot episode, Jessa’s bar bathroom sex, Marnie’s moment of masturbation over Booth Jonathan, Adam’s golden shower, gossip about Hannah’s pervy boss at the law firm, and more. There, the young women negotiate life, relationships, and create a safe haven where the sacred and profane are set free.
The bathroom symbolism in Dexter
The orphaned Dexter Morgan, now a serial killer, was found in a pool of his mother’s blood. His son Harrison is later seen on a bloody bathroom floor while Dexter’s wife Rita is dead in a bathtub full of her own blood. The moment signifies a major turning point in Dexter’s life, where the happy family facade crumbles, and he is forced to confront a vicious cycle. Does Harrison’s gory baptism mean history will repeat itself?
The ladies of Golden Girls install a toilet
The heart of the home in Golden Girls is the kitchen where Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty’s characters gather for cheesecake and stories. However, the bathroom won top spot in one episode where the independent and outspoken women install a new toilet. Things don’t go as planned, but they make it known to the sexist plumber that they’re fully capable of “doing more than just cleaning these things.”
Leave it to Beaver‘s censorship victory thanks to a toilet
The classic series Leave it to Beaver depicted an idealized suburban family during the 1950s. The hokey show produced a number of aw-shucks moments, but its most scandalous claim to fame happened during the pilot episode. Brothers Wally and Beaver Cleaver tried to hide a mail-order baby alligator in their bathroom. CBS wanted to yank the episode due to the shot of a, gasp, toilet bowl. Eventually they relented and showed a small part of the toilet (the first time in television history), which became a landmark censorship victory.
The zigzag bathroom of Twin Peaks
We loathe spoiling a series as wonderful as David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, so we’re not including a photo from the show’s finale, which would win our vote for the most memorable bathroom scene in the series. The image reveals a transformation that would give too much away. If you want to watch the scene, go here. Instead, we’ll show a photo from a different bathroom scene where bad girl Audrey Horne and good girl Donna Hayward make a pact to play Sherlock and solve the mystery surrounding the murder of friend and fellow student, Laura Palmer. It’s one of the earliest scenes where the girls’ personalities are set. Audrey smokes and poses like a small-screen femme fatale (another symbol of Lynch’s love for the 1950s), while Donna snarks at her and questions the plan. Lynch makes it clear that these high school girls aren’t your run-of-the-mill teens.
The awkward Glen and Betty bathroom encounter in Mad Men
When secretaries aren’t sobbing inside the office bathroom in Mad Men, Sally Draper is secretly smoking, and in a more memorable (uncomfortable) moment, Glen Bishop is peeping on Betty Francis. When the icy suburbanite babysits Glen, they form a bond, which becomes more awkward when Glen walks in on Betty using the bathroom. The young boy is infatuated with her. Later, in a sad, but tender moment, the lonely housewife, who has withdrawn from everyone around her, confides her sadness to Glen, and we realize the depth of her alienation and emotional stuntedness.