I have always wondered about this one scene in Breaking Bad where Hector blows up the hospital and then we see Gustavo Fring walking out of the room while fixing his tie. It is then revealed that half of his skull has been exposed.

This always seemed like pure sci-fi to me. Is that even possible for a human being to be moving in such a severe condition? Or have the producers pushed it a little too far?


8 Answers 8


In my opinion the writers of that scene took artistic license by showing Gus walking and fixing his tie before collapsing. An explosion which blows the door away should immediately render the people inside unconscious.

Even if he wasn't knocked out, after an explosion powerful enough to melt down Gus' eye and entirely burn off half his face it would be impossible for him to stand, walk out, and fix his tie.

But obviously we loved it the way it was shown. A camera just going inside the room and showing Gus's dead body would have been so much boring.

Gus Fring, Breaking Bad

  • 3
    If you forget the empty eye socket (that IS artistic liberty), most of Gus' wounds are on his side, not near his vital organs. He could have passed out or died on the spot, but assuming that he stayed conscious, he should have been physically able to walk a few steps before succumbing to his wounds. Adjusting his tie, however, seems unlikely if he used his right hand (due to the wounds), though I'm not sure if he actually used his right hand (since his injuries are hidden from view for a second, and his hand would not be hidden if he adjusts his tie).
    – Flater
    Jul 19, 2017 at 12:03

While no one can deny the artistic aspect, I did call my brother and ask him as he spent time in direct combat multiple times in two wars.

He saw the results first hand and experienced a mortar round hit that thankfully kicked back and he just caught the concussion.

In explosions, the brain, having the consistency of stiff gelatin is stunned momentarily if it is not liquefied (at which point you die) or some small trauma happen. This causes short circuits in the brain leading to random actions, motor reactions and innate reactions, something the person is familiar with, not using Gus's tie as an example either.

Soldiers that have half their head blown off talking normally until someone tells them something is wrong, a soldier gets up and tries to walk and falls right back down because his leg is blown off below the knee, a soldier with his guts hanging out walking around asking why everything is "slowing him down". All this until the shock wears off or someone tells them they are injured or the brain simply shuts down.

Explosions can do a variety of things due to the force, proximity, location of the person in the blast etc. Where one person may be untouched, another person 2 feet away may be vaporized and turned into hamburger.

The way a human responds to a blast is due to a huge number of conditions and the body is very resilient in that regard.

If the poster of the question still needs an answer then yes, it is plausible for Gus to do exactly what was shown with all the archive proof available. There are video archives of hundreds of thousands if not more cases of people reacting, being talked to etc after bomb blasts and not realizing they are dying or will be dead shortly.

Very gruesome stuff. Most of it war trauma footage as it happened. You want an example of some of this trauma and what people do then watch the film Saving Private Ryan; many of the beach scenes were taken from video archives and recreated.


Although I am not a neurologist, I have studied neurology, and here are my thoughts based on what I know.

If you care to notice, although the explosion seems to be violent enough to damage a person much more badly than Gus seems to be, when we get a close-up of his face, his skull seems intact save for a piece of his lower jaw missing. Other than the lower jaw injury, it seems his head wounds are superficial enough not to be life-threatening. Thus, independent of how severely he should be injured as a result of such an explosion, his brain is most likely intact, although the bit of the brain that houses the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are exposed through the eye socket. However, as far as I know, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are not involved in voluntary movement such as walking and in planning neurologically involved movement sequences such as adjusting a tie. Thus far, the story checks out.

However, upon close inspection, movement of the intact eye and facial expression seem unaffected as well, which is where we run into trouble. The damaged side of Gus' head has cranial nerves running through it, and these nerves exit the skull at various points and are found outside the skull (unprotected and badly exposed). All his cranial nerves on the right hemisphere are thus damaged. These nerves control movement of the face, of the eyes, of eyelids, the jaws, the oesophagus (breathing), the tongue, swallowing, etc., and even the functioning of some thoracic and abdominal organs. At the very least, Gus' face should be twitching uncontrollably and/or he should be gagging, biting his tongue off, etc.

So the part about him being able to walk and adjust his tie checks out--but the part about his face being so calm and rather normal does not.

I believe this is poetic justice in all its glory. We are shown over the few last seconds of Gus' life just how much of a sociopath (and not psychopath--he shows too much emotion to be a psychopath in various scenes) he is, just how non human he is. Even despite the obvious pain and distress his injuries should cause, he is still able to worry about and to prioritize adjusting his tie, that is, keeping up appearances and looking classy even while dying. The point of a sociopath's life is to win, no matter what it takes, and a sociopath is willing to be absolutely reckless, to the point of risking their life, to win. This idea might be what the screenplay was going for.

Another little detail that people seem to have glossed over is the very deep wounds Gus has sustained on his shoulder, right where his subclavian artery and vein are. These artery and vein are among the most important ones of a mammalian body. Even if only superficially injured, they should be projecting blood. The subclavian artery is extremely important in supplying blood (oxygen) to the brain, so even if the brain itself is intact, it should malfunction in a matter of seconds as a result of this type of injury. Luckily, Gus does collapse fairly rapidly, although it takes him a full thirty seconds from the time of the explosion to do so, which seems rather long to me. This might still be part of the plot device that suggests that Gus is cold-blooded, that is, he has rather low blood pressure to begin with, making the blood pressure differential when losing blood lower in his case.

I love Gus' character. However, at various times, his sociopathy seems inconsistent with reality. People don't become sociopaths as adults, yet, in one scene where Gus seems to be well into his thirties or even forties, he cries uncontrollably when his chemist protégé dies, suggesting Gus wasn't always Gus. I believe that the Salamanca brothers' sociopathy is much more credible.

I never tire of this show!


I am not a doctor but I don't think that's medically possible, the attribute "black comedy" always come to my mind when I think of that scene. Breaking bad is labeled as black comedy on IMDb and other sites.

  • 2
    I always thought it was just (well, really borderline) plausible as his brain still seemed intact.
    – Walt
    Sep 1, 2015 at 15:20
  • 4
    It looked like he still had full control over his muscles when he walked and fixed his tie. Terminator would have gotten jealous seeing Gus do that.
    – eYe
    Sep 1, 2015 at 16:00
  • @eYe: Looking at the picture linked in the other answer, Gus' wounds are all superficial or flesh wounds. Even the eye is not a vital organ (though I do think that the empty eye socket is artistic liberty, it seems disproportionate to the rest of his wounds). He would of course succumb to wounds this severe, but his body still seems capable of moving around, assuming he has the mental capacity to do so. Also, keep in mind that burn wounds often burn away the nerves, therefore making it impossible to feel pain in that region, especially directly after it happened.
    – Flater
    Jul 19, 2017 at 12:06

It was not realistic at all. He should have passed out as a result of the blast shock wave.

Also, looking at his injuries, it is downright impossible to have them as presented. The shock wave of the explosion was strong enough to remove part of his right jaw, yet the rest of his jaw was not dislocated. The right side of his face was stripped of skin a muscle, yet his nose was intact, not broken. Mechanically, I don't see how this would have been possible.

  • Are you a doctor or war injuries specialist?
    – Luciano
    Oct 16, 2019 at 8:36
  • No, this is just my opinion. I don't think that applying that much force to one side of the head can have no effects whatsoever on adjacent areas. Oct 17, 2019 at 9:08

It is plausible to 'walk away' from a blast like that. Bombs can kill people via shrapnel damage (the bits that go off with the blast). It's possible to escape the shrapnel damage if the victims reacted quickly... maybe in Gus' case, he tried to escape as fast as possible by the fact that only half of his face was damaged. He was turning around as quickly as he could.

The other thing that can kill a person in a bomb was the pressure wave of the blast itself. That's what have killed Gus, but not instantly. The pressure must have ruptured his organs, yet because of the adrenaline rush from the scene, that gave him the last energy he need during his last moments.

The body knows he's about to die... so that does it subconsciously do? Do the thing that's innate in him... which is walking away as calm as possible and fixing his tie to maintain his composure and power over men.

Sources: various forums that were answered by military men and doctors alike


This could be a nod to the fact, that he was selling chickens in Los Pollos Hermanos, which means "the chicken brothers", so Gus was a chicken brother, and chickens can live for some time without a head, and thus Gus could live for some time without a part of his head, due to the fact he was a chicken brother.

  • How does that explain the realism in the scene? Please keep answers on-topic.
    – Luciano
    Oct 16, 2019 at 8:37

The Concussive force to shear flesh off his body would have killed him instantly. The pipe bomb blew the guy in the wheelchair to smithereens. At a distance of no more than a meter, even cheap pipe bomb has a detonation velocity of over 2000 meters per second (Mach 6) any item in the vicinity of the blast like a piece of metal or shrapnel has the projectile velocity TWICE that of a rifle bullet.

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