Ricin is a poison that Walter White prepares twice. Even though it is not the fastest-acting method of killing, Walt prefers it because it leaves behind little or no trace of its use on a victim.
Ricin is a naturally occurring protein derived from the beans of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis. Ricin is highly poisonous if inhaled or injected, but less so when ingested.
When inhaled or injected, just a few grains of it can kill an adult, due to its high toxicity: refining the pulp of as few as eight beans can create a dangerous amount of ricin. The LD50 (median lethal dose) is roughly 22 micrograms per kilograms in humans. It was famously used to assassinate Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov; in 1978, the KGB injected him with a modified umbrella which injected a tiny pellet dosed with ricin into his bloodstream.
The poison acts by inhibiting protein synthesis in ribosomes, causing widespread cell death in numerous organic systems. It is resistant, but not impervious, to digestion by peptidases.
Ingesting ricin is much less lethal, requiring on the order of 30-40 mg per kilogram. By ingestion, the pathology of ricin is largely restricted to the gastrointestinal tract where it may cause mucosal injuries; with appropriate treatment, most patients will make a full recovery. Because the symptoms are caused by failure to make protein, they emerge only after a variable delay from a few hours to a full day after exposure. Ricin causes severe diarrhea and victims can die of shock. Death typically occurs within 3–5 days of the initial exposure.
The first time Walt created ricin, it was intended to kill Tuco Salamanca. Walt carried a packet of meth mixed with the poison hoping that Tuco would snort it. The ricin made the meth stink like head cheese, which raised Tuco's suspicion about its quality. Jesse Pinkman said it was a new recipe with his old secret ingredient: chili powder. Unfortunately they learned that Tuco hated chili powder and tossed the packet aside.
Next they tried to get him to eat it. Walt sprinkled the packet into Tuco's food, however Hector Salamanca saw what he did and rang his bell to prevent Tuco from eating. Misinterpreting Hector's warning, Tuco simply traded plates with him. Hector knocked the plate onto the floor instead of eating the poisoned food, thus dispensing with the ricin.
The second time Walt created ricin it was intended to kill Gustavo Fring. He created a small vial of it in Gus's own superlab, supposedly out of sight, and secretly passed it to Jesse, who concealed it in one of his cigarettes. At the time, however, Jesse was distancing himself from Walt and growing closer to Gus, and thus he never administered it even when he had the opportunity.
Later, Andrea Cantillo's son Brock Cantillo fell severely ill from some unknown cause and Jesse found that his ricin-vial cigarette was missing. He told Andrea to warn Brock's doctors about the possible poisoning. Because only he and Walt knew about the ricin, Jesse suspected that Walt poisoned Brock; however, Walt convinces him that it was Gus who poisoned Brock. ("") Although initially in danger of dying, doctors say that he would survive, and tests showed that it was not ricin; instead, he ingested the berries of a local poisonous plant called the "Lily of the Valley". At the very end of the episode, the camera zooms in on a Lily of the Valley in Walt's back yard, beside his pool. ("")
Saul Goodman returned the ricin cigarette to Walt, stating his wonder that Huell Babineaux didn't break it when he lifted it from Jesse. ("") Walt hid the ricin capsule behind an electrical outlet in his bedroom and made a false capsule with salt. He hid the fake capsule in a cigarette and planted it in Jesse's Roomba to put Jesse's mind at ease. ("") Walt later took the ricin to a meeting with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle with intentions to kill her, though didn't because she proved to be useful, by offering expansion of Walt's empire into the Czech Republic. ("")
While Jesse was waiting to start a new life in Alaska he put the pieces together that Walt had Saul have Huell lift the ricin cigarette. Jesse confronted Saul, took his gun and Saul confessed. Jesse then stole Saul's car to go after Walt. ("")
Months later, Walt heads back to his now-abandoned house and retrieves the ricin from behind the electrical outlet. ("") Later that day, Walt waits at a coffee shop for Lydia and Todd to meet. Walt joins them and asks them for $1 million in exchange for a new technique he knows how to make Blue Sky without methylamine. Lydia refuses and Walt leaves. Lydia stirs a packet of her favorite sugar substitute—stevia—that she found on her table's sweetener holder, into her chamomile tea. That evening, Lydia calls the recently deceased Todd's cell phone and Walt answers. He asks her if she is feeling under the weather and tells her that he poisoned her with ricin. Walt then tells her "goodbye." ("")
- In S2E01, at 35:29-36:00, peanuts are used in the ricin making montage.
- Despite its predominance in the series since Season 2, it wasn't lethally used on a character until the series finale.
- In "", Walter explains Jesse what will happen after Tuco inhales the ricin-laced meth, namely he'll show symptoms of flu and in 48-72 hours will die of cardiac arrest. These are actually the real symptoms of inhaling (or injecting) ricin. However, in the final episode, when Lydia ingests the ricin that Walter put in her stevia, she later experiences the exact same symptoms, even though the symptoms of ingesting ricin (pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hemorrhage in the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal system) are different than those from those of inhaling it.
- Also, in "", we learn that Walter has placed the ricin in the stevia sweetener than Lydia pours in her chamomile soy milk tea. Although we're not told, from the visuals the tea appears to be cold, which is necessary for this to work, as both stevia and ricin are denaturated by temperatures above 80 °C, temperatures at which a tea can be considered hot.
- Ricin on Wikipedia