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At the end of S2E5 of Breaking Bad ("Breakage"), Hank throws Tuco's 'grill' he claimed as a trophy upon killing him, into a river.


What motivated him to do this?

This episode shows Hank: get a promotion and have some sort of an episode shortly thereafter in an elevator; injure himself while bottling beer; get frightened by loud bangs that turn out to be beer bottles exploding. Is this all interconnected?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Yes they are all connected. Despite Hank's outward appearance of nonchalance, the incident with Tuco shook him a lot. It was probably Hank's first really violent fire fight and that left him suffering from a form of post traumatic stress disorder. He becomes more fearful and more fearful of further violence. Tuco's grill was a grisly reminder of all the fear he went through, which was something he didn't want to relive anymore. But fearful for his reputation as a tough cop, he outwardly accepts the souvenir only to dispose of it in secret later on.

Hank's secret reluctance to take up the position in the Mexican border is also another indication of this.

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+1 Wow. An excellent answer after 38 minutes?? Great work! – stevvve Jun 29 '13 at 19:11
Also his reaction at seeing El Tortuga is evidence of what was probably PTSD – Wayne Werner Jun 29 at 16:07

To add, I would also say that Tuco's grill represents the change that Hank refuses to go through. Hence, why he throws it, and for that matter, El Paso in the river. Heisenberg calls him and (if I'm not getting into spoiler territory), by extension death calls for him. So in a small way, I come to see Tuco's grill as both a grizzly reminder not only to the violence inflicted upon Hank, but the violence that he has inflicted on others.
Maybe the grill represents the tainted idea of being rewarded? I mean, Hank killed Tuco and yet, instead of having cuffs slapped on his wrists, people clap their hands on his back. "Good job, Hank", "Way to get that bastard!". But at the end of the day, Hank took a life, and I think that haunts him throughout the series. He constantly fears his own fate, verbally and emotionally (its why he has anxiety/panic attacks?) because he regrets his own thirst and actions for and towards violence.

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The prior answers are good, but I wanted to point out a couple of other things. First, as one of the answers noted, the "grill" was not a trophy sought by Hank, but rather something that was given to him by his colleagues. Second, it seemed to me that Tuco was actually killed by the gunshot Tuco suffered during the strugggle with Jesse, fired by Jesse from Tuco's own gun before Hank arrived on the scene. Although Tuco was still alive during the gunfight with Hank, it was not clear that Hank even hit Tuco and Hank likely would have died had Tuco not been shot prior to Hank showing up. I think Hank felt that the trophy was not deserved.

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I see the grill as a literary device which highlights the basic incompatibility between Hank and his wife. In a prior episode she steals the silver tiara, with no guilt, and gives it away as a gift. The tiara is a tiny silver semi circle, similar to Tuco's gold semi circular grill. In Hanks case however he is the recipient of this gift which eventually elicits a panic attack. Neither Hank nor his wife keep their precious metal arc - she blithely gives hers away, he casts his off with revulsion.

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