Before he was widely hailed as the most genius genius working in TV today, Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan was a member of the X-Files writing team, devising such classic episodes as Field Trip, Bad Blood and Small Potatoes. Accordingly, he’s peppered his own show with nods to Mulder and Scully. Here are, in our opinion, the best ones…
Morley’s are a fictional brand of cigarette seen in many films and TV shows — they’ve been puffed on by such icons as Jack Bauer in 24, Spike in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Chandler in Friends. But most famously, they are the poison of choice of The X-Files’ scheming Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis). So when a Morley is glimpsed in Breaking Bad’s pilot, being flicked out of the RV window by thug Emilio (John Koyama), it’s a deliberate reference to that other, much higher-level villain. If you’re not convinced, Vince Gilligan titled another Season 1 Breaking Bad episode Cancer Man, another name for CSM.
Whenever Mulder and Scully needed to hire a car, which was often, they used a fictional company called Lariat. The name was dreamed up by the show’s props master, Ken Hawryliw, and lives on in the final season of Breaking Bad, getting a namecheck in episode To’hajiilee. There’s also overlap in the form of Cradock Marine Bank, which is the focal point of X-Files episode Monday and — naturally — has a branch in Albuquerque.
In Breaking Bad’s Season 4 opener, Box Cutter, a key character is found dead on the floor of his apartment. Behind him, the clock on his shelf is flashing 10:13, a sly tribute to X-Files creator Chris Carter, whose birthday is October 13. (Ten Thirteen is also the name of Carter’s production company.)
An Erlenmeyer flask is a widely used piece of lab equipment, which would explain why it gets mentioned twice in Breaking Bad. But given that it’s also the name of a classic X-Files episode, we choose to believe that it’s another cunning in-joke.
Okay, it’s not exactly an in-joke, or hidden for that matter, but there is a large overlap between the casts of the two shows. Gilligan famously cast Bryan Cranston in his meth epic after directing him in X-Files episode Drive, but many people Mulder and Scully encountered ended up becoming Breaking Badders: Dean Norris is a US Marshal in F. Emasculata, Aaron Paul a TV show host in Lord Of The Flies, and there are almost ten other X-veterans, including Raymond Cruz and Danny Trejo.