Today is the day, the day we finally see what the end game is for Walter White and company. I have waited for this day for a long time but it is going to be very difficult to let go of the show. Breaking Bad has taken its audience on a journey that won’t be easy to shake and with its conclusion we will all have to say goodbye to Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Hank, Saul, and countless other great characters (Skinny Pete). But before the finale airs let’s take a look back at the last five seasons by listing out the best episodes of Breaking Bad.
Honorable Mention: All the other episodes
Honestly, putting this list together was nothing more than just guessing. Each episode of Breaking Bad fits in perfectly with where it sits in the story and is one of the few T.V. shows that I can’t recall an episode that just didn’t work or a weak season during the run. So if you disagree with anything on this list then I hope you know that a list with a 62 episode tie would be pretty dull.
10. Crawl Space (S4, Ep11)
I know that there was another lead up episode to the crazy Season 4 finale (look for that episode later on) but this was the one that set the stakes for that finale show down between Walt and Gus. Basically this was (Before the last two episodes) when Walt was at his most vulnerable with threats against his family and the loss of the money that would have given his family a new life. This is Walt backed into a corner and man, wasn’t it a lot of fun to watch him fight his way out of it in the next two episodes.
9. Pilot (S1, Ep1)
The pilot episode of Breaking Bad would be a great first half to a condensed version of the series if it were made into a movie. It sets up the story, setting, and tone for the series while still exploring a pre Heisenberg Walter White. The pilot is a very full episode but it is also a patient one setting up the drama and characters masterfully. So many times you’ll look back at a pilot and see a drastically different show than the one you have been watching. With Breaking Bad that’s not the case as the pilot was the blueprint to what was to come.
8. Fly (S3, Ep10)
One of those isolated episodes that explore a theme or character more than the progress of the story, The Fly episode thematically is very easy to decode. You have a fly that continues to bug Walt while he and Jesse try to get in a good cook. What is so great about the episode is the fly and Walt’s attempts to kill it, which is a direct metaphor to Walt’s own guilty conscious. Walt is having a hard time with all of the things he has done in the hopes of taking care of his family and, at the time, Walt is still bugged by a sense of right and wrong. The question is if that fly is still there now or if Heisenberg finally caught up to it. Excellent Rian Johnson episode and the first of two on this list.
7. Peekaboo (S2, Ep6)
It is easy to forgot that Peekaboo isn’t just about Jesse because when you look back at the episode, all you remember is that run down junkie house. Jesse’s storyline makes the episode, as he has to deal with two junkies who had ripped off Skinny Pete. Jesse goes in as the pusher but suddenly gets in a moral dilemma as he realizes that a child is in the home and he has to get his money without exposing the child to why he and his parents are at odds. This is a great look at Jesse seeing who the real customers are and his sense of right being tested by the presence of a child. At the end of the episode he sees just how many lives the drug he sells effects.
6. Half Measures (S3, Ep12)
I love this episode for two reasons, the brilliant lead up to the finale and that ending which gives me chills just sitting here writing about it. Half measures sets up the moral compromise (a phrase you will hear a lot when discussing BB) of the next episode with the conflict between Walt, Jesse, and Gus. The episodes spends a lot of time with Jesse who has to deal with the death of a child (which is something that Jesse has to deal with a lot during the course of the series) and because of business, he has to shake hands with those that are responsible for the child’s death. Jesse’s dilemma to right what’s wrong is perfectly juxtaposed by Gus’s and Mike’s mission to keep business….well…. business. This all comes to ahead with a powerful closing scene as Walt proves once again that he still has a heart underneath all the ego and utters my favorite Breaking Bad line, “Run”.
5. Dead Freight (S5, Ep5)
Nooooooooooooooooooooooo. That was everyone’s reaction when Todd, that crazy dude who is played by that guy you used to like on FNL, shots and kills the only witness to a train heist, a random kid. Dead Freight’s ending is excellent but to focus on that would take away from the excellent train heist, which is one of the most insane things Breaking Bad has ever done. It is a brilliant piece of tension as Jesse, Walt, and Todd try to catch a small window while also not being seen by anyone. I think I held my breath during the episodes final ten minutes as Mike keeps a look out and Walt continues to push his crew to the limit. A lot of the credit has to go to George Mastras who writes and directs this high-octane episode and for crafting a haunting final scene, which sends Jesse into a tailspin.
4. Granite State (S5, Ep15)
I feel like putting last week’s episode so high on this list maybe a bit of a knee jerk reaction but I also loved the way Granite State sets up the finale. The aftermath episode after the crazy Ozymandias, Granite State shows all our characters dealing with the consequences of the past Five seasons. Skyler, Jesse, Marie, Saul, and Walt’s lives change drastically as each have to live out their own personal Hell. This is rock bottom for so many characters, which is extremely hard to watch (especially Jesse whose part in all of this has resulted in the death of Andrea). I think Granite State represents the fallout that so many shows threaten their audiences with but never goes through with it. This is an episode that could have been the end for the series with everyone suffering but it isn’t with one awesome closing scene. Walt isn’t done just yet as the whole world starts to tremble.
3. Full Measures (S3, Ep13)
The close of the third season and, in my opinion, the turning point for the series. To be fair I guess you have no idea if Jesse shot Gail at the end of Full Measures but the whole episode you wrestle (as the characters do too) with the idea of killing for your own gain. Walt and Jesse argue back and forth but their problem with Gus only has three solutions: Cops, kill, or be killed. No matter what anyone says, we the viewers relate to the characters on this show and care for them all throughout. As a viewer, I lost so much faith in Walt when he ordered the murder of Gail. My moral compass broke with that one as Walt started to barrel roll towards to becoming full Heisenberg. I don’t know about you all but I watched the next episode immediately after finishing Full Measures and was deeply disturbed by the choices our characters made to save their own skin. Breaking Bad is at its best when it makes its audience go down the rabbit hole along with its characters.
2. Face Off (S4, Ep13)
When I figured out that Walt had poisoned Brock, that he had put a child in immediate danger for his own good, I completely lost faith in the character. That was my moment, my Walt moment that ever one has, where he went to far, where he was finally unredeemable in the audience’s eyes. The episode begins with Walt and Gus both at odds with each other. The tension in Face Off is off the charts as Walt scrambles to get the upper hand on Gus who is trying to dispose of Walt. This all ends in unbelievable fashion when Gus is tricked into visiting our favorite Nursing Home resident, Hector Salamanca. Boom, Walt finally beats Gus with his allegiance with Hector who hates Gus a little bit more than he does Walt. Gus walking out of Hector’s room with half of his face missing is one of the many iconic moments in Breaking Bad. Face Off just severs all lose ends so perfectly and the dispatch of Gus was in the tape from the very beginning of Season 2. This is exactly what you want from a Season Finale; a tension strung almost too tight, an explosive (no pun intended) climax, and a final shocking revelation. Face Off does everything right and ends the fourth season in completely satisfying fashion. I really never thought it would ever get better than this but………….
1. Ozymandias (S5, Ep14)
Two weeks ago, when I was done punishing myself by watching the latest Breaking Bad episode, I knew that I had seen the very best of the series. Honestly I never expected for any episode in the final season to top the moral compromise episodes listed previously but it did and I should have seen it coming. This is where it all goes downhill, where Walt finally loses control of the situation and he and his family are punished for it. It begins with the death of Hank, which is, for me at least, the most heart breaking moment of Breaking Bad. Then Walt loses all his money to the Neo Nazis group that just killed Hank and he rats out Jesse in pure rage (and displaced blame) who is taken captive by the Neo Nazis; this all happens in the first 15 min. of the episode. After all of that you have Skylar telling Walt Jr. everything, a fight between Skylar, Walt, and Walt Jr., and the kidnapping and return of Holly White. It is a jam-packed episode and the one that we knew was a possibility since episode one. The writing was on the wall that this would be how things would turn out but watching it unfold is straight up painful. No matter how much you hate Walter White, you couldn’t have asked for a worse fate for all involved. The happiest way that this story could of ended would have been for Hank to arrest Walt but Ozymandias shatters any hope of that. Ozymandias is the cost for all that Walt has done, it is everything he never wanted. This is the universe trying to realign itself like it always does, by punishing the guilty and innocent alike.
I haven’t mentioned his name once, which is a crime, but in closing I am going to thank the man responsible for Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan. Gilligan is the person who has made this show into what it is and has surrounded himself with talent that has moved his story forward in extraordinary fashion. He has never compromised and the show has worked and become what is because of his unique vision. So thank you Vince Gilligan for the past five seasons and for creating this masterpiece of a morality tale.
So I am pretty pumped for tonight as things wrap up and we close the book on Walter White. Whatever the ending, this has been one awesome show and one crazy ride. So long Heisenberg.