My Top 10 Favorite Breaking Bad Episodes
Well it’s finally happened. After months of speculating, estimating, and guessing (aren’t those the same thing?), one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, “Breaking Bad”, reached an explosive, unforgiving conclusion. As all of the addicts sit in their poolside chairs figuring out what they will do next, or better yet what they will watch next, I now giving it a send off in the only way I know how: a top ten list. Given this is a blog about movies, but television didn’t get much more cinematic than on “Breaking Bad” (well “LOST” is up there). But, before I start listing and explaining like the know-it-all I think I am, I just wish to clarify this top ten list is both my favorite episodes as well as what I feel were the ten best episodes of the show’s run. Everyone has an opinion and this is my own (snobby one).
Honorable Mentions: Felina, Fly, Half Measures, Pilot, Crazy Handful of Nothin’, Grilled, Phoenix, Dead Freight, Say My Name, To’Hajiilee
This is one of those episodes where a LOT happens, yet the wonderful pacing keeps it from being too much information at once. With the cat finally out of the bag (again) and Hank & Marie confronting Walt & Skylar (sadly not over some table-side guac), Walt yet again gets crafty in making a despicable confessions video that both takes his darkness to another level, while at the same time giving great nods to prior seasons and characters. While previous episodes of the half-season were keeping Jesse in the background, “Confessions” brought him right back to the forefront with him calling out Mr. White on his lies, as well as the startling realization that Walt poisoned Brock. The result is one of “Breaking Bad”‘s more shocking endings and one of Aaron Paul’s best performances as Jesse.
9. Crawl Space
The tension of season four was reaching its peak, and Walt was running out of options. After attempting one more time to get Jesse back on his side, Walt is finally brought before his nemesis Gus and was swiftly told he was fired; from this Walt’s desperation and need for a plan reaches its all time high. The entire episode is nothing but a further building of tension for what is to be the final show down between Walt and Gus. The episode proves yet again through the thick of it, Jesse still retains some shreds of loyalty to Walt. The final shot is what solidifies this as from start to finish, a brilliant episode.
8. One Minute
“One Minute” is an episode both about Hank and about Walt & Jesse’s up and down relationship. The episode covers a lot of how Walt finds situations that will solve both his problems and keep his friendship with Jesse strong. It also delves deeper into Hank’s character; where he had once started out as the typical jock, Hank was now evolving into a much more complicated person, filled with pain and pride thanks to what he did for a living. All of this plus one of the greatest directed action scenes in the show’s run, makes this not just a great episode of “Breaking Bad”, but a great episode of television.
If there was a show only centered on Gus Fring’s character, this would be quite a fitting series finale. While Walt is forced to cook by himself and wait without any knowledge of Jesse’s whereabouts, Gus uses Jesse as the final piece of a completely different chess game in the form of revenge. Even though season four had been mainly Gus’ battle with Walt, “Salud” completely takes a step aside and delivers a great conclusion to Gus’ painful memories, as well as making us all the more interested in his past. This is an episode that fires off on all cylinders, and leaves you wanting more and more.
Of all the consequences that came from Walt’s actions, none of them were graver than allowing Jane to die. In the season two finale, Walt not only looses the love of his life in Skylar, finds a crumbling Jesse in a meth house, but also causes the death of hundreds of people in a horrific plane crash. Not many episodes in the series talk about the ideas behind causality and morality like “ABQ” does. Similar with what is to come from “Felina” “ABQ” allows Walt to win his battle with cancer (and make a lot of money in the process), but at the same time he loses the war over his family as well as his soul.
5. Granite State
We say our good-byes to Saul Goodman and our hellos to Mr. Lambert. After the climax of “Ozymandias” Walt has completely fallen and is forced into exile by means of the granite state: New Hampshire. It is there that Walt is left with nothing but his thoughts and a mere shadow of his ol’ pal Heisenberg. Even putting on the hat can’t stop Walt from being weak and powerless. “Granite State” fully explores the themes set up in the prior episode of Walter White and Heisenberg becoming one entity. The episode slows everything down and becomes a character study similar to “Fly” about what Walt has become, and his eventual decision to not just lay down and die, but take revenge on those who wronged him.
4. Gliding Over All
Serving as a mid-season finale, “Gliding Over All” delivered a promise that this was the beginning of the end for Heisenberg’s empire. Aside from the fact that this episode has two of the best montages in the show’s run, it also further decays Walt’s relationship with Jesse, introduces us to Uncle Jack, and brings Todd closer to Heisenberg’s formula. Skylar finally does the impossible in convincing Walt that enough is enough and it was time to quit the business. All of this sets up Walt’s happy retirement, until Hank picks a lovely choice of bathroom reading material.
In one swift move, Walt’s entire empire and everything he had worked for came crashing down around him. After the explosive cliffhanger of “To’Hajiilee”, “Ozymandias” does nothing short of emotionally draining you until your skin turns white. The opening act features the death of both Steve Gomez and Hank right before Walt’s eyes, as well as Walt losing nearly all of the money he made. The following hour becomes Walt finally seeing the end-game level consequences his actions and mistakes have brought upon him and how everything he has done may have been for nothing. He finally tells Jesse about Jane’s death, and sees how his best intentions are not met well with his family when they see the extent of his darkness. It’s finally a time when Walt looks in the mirror and sees Heisenberg in the reflection and knows his time in ABQ has reached its end.
2. End Times
“End Times” begins the two greatest hours of television drama. Walt is faced with insurmountable obstacles, and yet figures out a plan to attempt a take-down of his long time enemy Gus Fring. After a brilliant emotional scene with Skylar, Walt eventually vanishes from the episode, leaving us with Jesse to slowly uncover the going-ons of what has happened while he was cookin’ in Mexico. This reaches a head when he believes Walt poisoned Jesse’s young friend Brock and leads to one of the tenser scenes between Walt and Jesse. Their final decision to team up brings the audience to a suspenseful scene of Hitchcockian proportions as Walt watches on while Gus approaches a trap set by him. The episode further reinforces the depth of Walt & Jesse’s relationship, whilst providing memorable scene after memorable scene (especially from its climax).
This episode is “Breaking Bad” at its finest hour. All of the pieces were in place for one last battle of strategy and wit between Walter White and Gus Fring. Each scene builds in tension and suspense as much as every episode of season four had been building up to the moment when Gus Fring steps inside the Casa Tranquilla nursing home. Similar to “End Times” the episode not only capitalizes on its pacing, music, acting, cinematography, and writing, but somehow makes a quick zoom-in shot of a simple garden-variety flower not only redefine a partnership, but show us how dark a man’s soul will go to get what he wants.