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Emoji Major No. 1: The “Breaking Bad” Premiere

Zoe Mendelson, master of long-form emoji, turns her talent to “Blood Money” as Walter White nears his end.

For those who think emoji have their expressive limitations, Co.Design presents the work of Zoe Mendelson.

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We’ve long been interested in long-form emoji storytelling as an emerging form. So too, seemingly, is Katy Perry, whose video for “Roar,” the first single off her album out in October, is almost entirely in emoji. And Aziz Ansari has his dreams of making an emoji-based movie.

But it was New York-based Mendelson’s wry, obsessive, extended manipulation of the tiny pictographs that really caught our attention and admiration. (She’s mapped out everything from Lolita to Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” in the wee ones, and is currently giving the same treatment, chapter-by-chapter, bird emoji-by-bird emoji, to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom in full.)

As Breaking Bad enters its final episodes–and Walter White’s representation-of-self gets more and more complicated and surreal anyway–we enlisted Mendelson to take us through the season 5.5 premiere “Blood Money.”


The requisite “previously seen” recap should get you in the mood, and Mendelson’s casting, below, can serve as a quick key–wayfinding if you find you’ve lost your way in emojiland.

For the full episode, acted by emoji, see the slide show above in 10 parts. Opposite of spoilers: Mendelson even gave due attention and character to Walt’s car wash merch epiphany about regrouping the air fresheners, fruit and nature, and Badger’s stoner Star Trek idea. The casting call didn’t turn up an emoji badger; go with the next best logic that Badger and Skinny Pete are played by a monkey and an octopus.


Now enjoy the headspin of applying the Heisenberg Principle (“increasing the accuracy of measurement of one observable quantity increases the uncertainty with which another conjugate quantity may be known”) to the accuracy of the observational certainty and uncertainty of emoji breaking bad.

About the author

Zoe Mendelson is a mushroom salesperson in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a weekly map column for UntappedCities.

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