Not too long ago I posted this: Greatest Show Ever. Even more recently I posted this: Top Ten Breaking Bad Episodes. And I’ll just throw this in for fun: Top Ten Breaking Bad Characters. If I can take one lesson away from Breaking Bad it is that things change. I’ve changed since these posts. I’ve changed into someone who whole heartedly believes the next 25 Breaking Bad Episodes are the greatest Breaking Bad episodes. I’ve also changed into someone who believes Breaking Bad is the greatest television show, a show I would consider the second greatest story and piece of art ever created. Number 1 being The Dark Knight Legend. Here they are, my favorite Breaking Bad episodes.
25. End Times
As with many titles to Breaking Bad episodes, “End Times” had a very fitting title. The episode felt like a finale to a season or even a series which is quite the feat when the episode has to lead into one of the greatest season finale’s in existence. Not to mention it had to follow in the footsteps of “Crawl Space”. Essentially all of season four offers edge-of-your-seat tension. “End Times” fortifies that tension in spectacular fashion.
24. To’ hajiilee
I might as well say this now, Breaking Bad essentially managed to get better as it progressed and season 5 is without a doubt my favorite season. After the end of the first eight episodes it was hard to imagine what would happen next, how would it all come to a close? Well the initial response was “Blood Money” so they had no intention of cooling down. “To’ hajiilee” is an explosion of an episode, an episode in which Heisenberg gives himself up to his brother in law ASAC Schrader. What could possibly happen next?
23. …And the Bag’s in the River
Breaking Bad has this uncanny ability to surprise. Those surprises began with The “Pilot” and ended with “Felina”, but I don’t know who saw this third episode coming. Breaking Bad begins with quite the bang and that includes this third episode in which a dark drama plays out in a dark, drab basement. This episode marks Walter White catching a glimpse at exactly the kind of man he would have to be in meth business…now just wait for the empire business.
Effective, emotive, pivotal and enthralling to its final seconds. This is the episode season four needed and Gus deserved. Season Four is classic Breaking Bad, but Hermanos is the episode that stepped it up into levels we can all but expect from the beauty that is Breaking Bad. Gustavo Fring gets a bit less mysterious and just before the story of season four is wrapping up, an impeccable picture begins to take form.
21. Crazy Handful of Nothin’
In some ways I do agree with Bryan Cranston who says that Walter White broke bad. However, what I truly believes that Walter White broke bad in Season 1 Episode 5 “Gray Matter”, but even that episode was topped with episode six, the birth of Heisenberg. With every episode you can never forget to expect the unexpected. This episode is just a reminder that season 1 should be held on par with every other meticulously plotted season. I couldn’t imagine my favorite show beginning any other way.
20. 4 Days Out
Breaking Bad is one of the most emotionally jarring experiences or stories that will ever be told. “4 Days Out” is one of the finest exemplifications of how wild of an emotional roller coaster just a single episode of this show can be. It’s still pretty early for Breaking Bad so most at this point will be rooting for Walt, this father whose made bad decisions, but for the “right reasons” and to see him in this last ditch effort for his family before he gets what he expects to be bad news is rather enthralling. The episode becomes even more exciting as we see Heisenberg in a very tight corner, but its the end that makes this episode easily one of the greats.
“Phoenix” is without a doubt one of the most draining episodes to watch. It begins with the reveal that yes Walter White missed the birth of his baby daughter whom he won’t be able to see grow up either in order to finalize his largest drug deal yet. Now if that wasn’t enough, pace slows for a bit even offering some idle, but pertinent, conversation at a bar only to be followed by the final scene of the episode and arguably the darkest moment in the history of Breaking Bad.
18. Blood Money
This was the episode that was to follow one of the greatest cliffhangers in television history. At the beginning of “Blood Money” is a Walter White we thought we might never see, a retired man. Could this evil basterd actually get away with it and live a normal life? Not likely. Cranston should be endlessly praised for his portrayal of Walter White, but he’s not only one of the greatest actors in existence. He’s also quite the director and this is the greatest Breaking Bad episode he’ll ever direct. It’s a flawless follow up to the first eight, but its the episode’s final moments that takes this one to new heights.
I debated this for a while as I’m such a huge fan of not only “Phoenix”, but “4 Days Out” as well. I finally conceded that “Over” is my favorite episode of Breaking Bad’s taut and thrilling second season. This was the follow up to the fabulous ending of “4 Days Out” in which Walt explodes in anger because he gets what should be good news and realizes he won’t be dying as early and as conveniently as he might’ve hoped. In “Over” Walt decides he’s done, he’s out of the business, but by the end embraces the man he’s transforming into. It’s a truly flawless hour of television.
With every passing moment of Breaking Bad, it’s hard not to recognize the beautiful story progression in each episode. Rian Johnson’s first Breaking Bad episode doesn’t offer much by way of story, for its an entire episode in which Jesse and Walt attempt to kill a fly in their new super lab. Everyone has their own interpretation as to what this episode means to the overarching Breaking Bad canon, but love it or hate it, it’s one of Breaking Bad’s finest hours if only for Johnson’s beautiful direction.
15. Live Free or Die
The cold open of “Blood Money” is similar to the cold open of “Live Free or Die” in the way they both remind you that the end is near. While I love the “Blood Money” cold open, it just didn’t elicit the same excitement that the first scene of Breaking Bad’s fifth, final and greatest season did. The episode then proceeds to tie up loose ends and end with three beautifully crafted scenes that clue you in on exactly the kind of Walter White we can expect in this season, one to be feared.
14. Crawl Space
Season 4 is winding down, but it sure ain’t slowing down. There are three episodes left of the season and that means this deadly game of chess between Gustavo Fring and Walter White has to come to a close. Heisenberg has ingeniously overcome many obstacles, but Walter White hasn’t yet been painted into a corner quite like this and it’s when we’re backed into a corner when we find out who we really are.
13. One Minute
Hank Schrader is one hell of a hero, he’s a brilliant cop to Walt’s criminal mastermind and in “One Minute” Hank may have lost his way a bit and is “unraveling” as he puts it, but that doesn’t stop him from kicking ass in the end. Breaking Bad keeps you guessing and before watching the episode, part of me was expecting to watch the death of Hank Schrader. What I got was a triumphant Hank and the beautiful reestablishment of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman as partners.
12. Granite State
Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode was bittersweet as most are considering after it’s over there’s only one episode left . Watching Walter White as a lonely, frail and dying man gave me this feeling of unrelenting sadness. Walter White is a winner, I mean sure he transforms into one of the most depraved and malevolent characters to ever exist, but this is a man who is good at what he does, but in Granite State we’re watching a man who has given up. When I saw the final shot of the episode (pictured above) I was no longer sad, I was overcome with a feeling of excitement, I couldn’t wait to see how they would bring my favorite television show to a close.
When Vince Gilligan crafted the first episode for what would become one of the greatest stories ever told he wasn’t aware that what would follow would be 61 relentlessly breathtaking episodes. As a result, the Pilot of Breaking Bad, fittingly on the DVD titled “Breaking Bad”, didn’t just feel like the first episode of television series, it felt like fifty minute movie. You watch an episode from later seasons and you’re watching a completely different man than the one you’re watching in this first episode, but where as Walt’s moral code deteriorates as the show progresses, its hard not to recognize in this first episode that Walter White always had a piece of Heisenberg in him.
10. Full Measure
I come to expect a lot out of a season finale. This is especially the case when it comes to Breaking Bad and when it came to “Full Measure” how could I not expect a lot when this was to be not just the end of Season 3, but the follow-up to one of the greatest hours of television ever made. “Full Measure” exceeded any expectations beautifully setting up a fourth season in which criminal masterminds Walter White and Gustavo Fring are sworn enemies. Season 3 offers some of the best of Breaking Bad and that is mostly in part due to the final two episodes.
9. Dead Freight
I don’t know if there was any episode up to this point that was as hard hitting as this one and on repeat viewings, my heart-rate is still jacked and not because of the tense train robbery, but the final seconds that leave you breathless. Breaking Bad is never afraid to take Walter to new lows and show just how black dark can be and the end of this episode is terrifying. Jesse’s reaction is to be expected and at this point so is Walter’s, emotionless, a complete lack of any empathy for the child whose death could’ve easily been prevented if Walter hadn’t felt the need to once again cook meth and subsequently rob a train.
The appropriately titled “Confessions” opens with Todd professing to his compadres, his hand in the classic Breaking Bad train robbery begging the question of whether or not he’ll reveal the tragic aftermath in which he murdered a child. The cold open also serves as a reminder that these careless and dangerous neo-nazis still have a part to play in all this. Walt then ingeniously finds a way to get Hank to back off and then by the end when Walt thinks he’s in the clear, Jesse Pinkman, who had his suspicions, finally realizes exactly how evil his former partner is. The episode is full to the brim with important and memorable moments and by the end I was salivating for more.
7. Face Off
In “Face Off”, Season 4 and Walter White and Gustavo Fring’s deadly game of chess comes to an explosive finish as Walt makes his final and fatal move. If it wasn’t Gus it would’ve been Walter White and Walter White’s story wouldn’t come to an end until the end of another fifth and final television season so it had to be Gus. He came a long way and it all led to this episode, this moment in which we’d see the death of Gustavo Fring, the scene is pure cinematic bliss. Gilligan is in top form writing and directing this beautiful episode, but what really takes the cake is the final shot in which we see the line Walter had to cross in order to “win”, a point of no return.
If there was any Walter White left, he died with Drew Sharp leaving only the methodical and malevolent Heisenberg. In my favorite season of Breaking Bad, the final season, we witness the rise and fall of Walter White. In one of the all time greats, “Buyout” offers an uncompromising look into Walter White. Whereas child murder is where Mike and Jesse draw the line, that and they’ll be able to get out of the business with no less than $5 million each. Nothing will stand in Walter’s way however, he’s only getting started.
5. Gliding Over All
I don’t know if there is a greater way imaginable to end the first half of Breaking Bad’s final season. If seeing Walt dispose of 10 witnesses in a gruesome 2-minute prison killing spree wasn’t enough, just wait until Tommy James and the Shondells’ Crystal Blue Persuasion starts. We literally watch as Walter White’s empire flourishes to the point of boredom. There’s no opposing force anymore, no thrills, he has the power and he’s enjoyed the ride, but by the end after Skyler’s last ditch effort, Walt realizes it’s time. He’s out, but little does he know, it won’t be that simple. Cue what may be the greatest bathroom scene ever.
4. Half Measures
Before seeing Half Measures, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to say with certainty what my favorite episode of Breaking Bad was. After Half Measures, I knew. It still remains one of Breaking Bad’s finest hours and one of the reasons Season 3 works so perfectly right there in the middle. I don’t know if I could name my top ten scenes from Breaking Bad off the top of my head, I’d have to put some thought into it, but I know you’d find Mike’s “Half Measures” speech right in the top five. The episode practically tops itself with each passing moment and no matter how many times you view it, the episode and the end just never fails to level you.
No matter what season or particular episodes of Breaking Bad you are personally drawn to, it’s hard to deny the magnitude of this the third to last episode of Breaking Bad harmoniously titled “Ozymandias”. Witness the fall of Heisenberg’s “empire”. When Vince Gilligan hired Rian Johnson to direct this episode I have to believe he was looking for perfection, I can also make a safe bet that when he saw the completed episode his expectations were exceeded.
“Ozymandias” is made complete with some of the most prominent and defining moments of all Breaking Bad from the death of Hank Schrader to Walter Jr. finding out the truth about his father and it’s not that the episode was chock full of these pulse-pounding moments, it’s that they were executed flawlessly. I don’t know if there was ever a more haunting moment in the show then seeing Jesse as a meth cooking slave, but then I saw Walt run away with that innocent child. “Ozymandias” is one of the best and it’s given even more resonance with the brilliantly contrasted phone calls.
2. Say My Name
I didn’t end up watching Breaking Bad until around mid-season 4, but I was lucky enough to catch season 5 live. When I saw “Say My Name” live there was no question that what I had just watched was the greatest episode yet of Breaking Bad. If you’re looking for the pinnacle, the climax of the story of one man’s transformation then look no further than “Say My Name”. Never has Walter White been more consumed by his own depravity. No matter the obstacles and antagonists our protagonist faces, Walter White is both the hero and the villain.
Breaking Bad is a story humans, in particular a man and all life has this tendency to change. This is Walter White’s lowest point, never has he been dragged so far into the depths of madness and cruelty. We’ve watched five seasons as Walt has made inconceivable, unforgivably, sadistic choices, but never like this. They’ve never been made for no reason other than pure, blind hate. Walter White is my favorite fictional character and “Say My Name” may be the most beautifully articulated piece to his character arc.
Breaking Bad is one of the greatest stories ever told and one of the most beautiful pieces art that will ever be created. As sad as it may be, stories have to end. It’s not sad at all really. Breaking Bad couldn’t last forever and I could not fathom five seasons with a beginning middle and end blowing me away quite like Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad. It’s truly amazing everyone behind and in front of the camera was able consistently add to and craft a single story that not only kept me engaged, but blew me away with every episode.
It’s not as if every episode was better than the last, Breaking Bad wouldn’t be the masterpiece it is if that were the case. It needed it’s high points and low points, it allowed you to take a breath for moment and ponder before exploding in your face. I didn’t have to see the last 8 episodes of Season 5 and of the series to know that my favorite season was season 5. The first eight blew me away, but little did I know the last eight would would top even those.
“Felina”, the final episode of Breaking Bad, is my favorite hour of television. When “Felina” ended and my jaw was to the floor, I didn’t sit there and recall what a phenomenal episode I had just watched. Breaking Bad’s series finale did for me what all series finales should, it elicited a feeling love not just for an episode, but for an entire series, a story, a life. If I was told that Walter White would die before I saw this episode, any expectations I would’ve had for this ending would have been completely exceeded. This is the ending Breaking Bad and any appreciator of its greatness deserved and nothing short of it.
In a way “Felina” didn’t feel like a Breaking Bad episode. This was very fitting because Breaking Bad, like the characters who drive it, is constantly changing and this wasn’t just any Breaking Bad episode, this was the last Breaking Bad episode. It was beautifully subdued, more melancholy and awe-inspiring. It felt like an end and even the characters knew it. Now this is not the redemption of Walter White. He’s too far gone and he realizes that, by now he’s come to terms with that and the man he’s become. In this self-reflective final hour, Walter White is beautifully humanized. Walter White is not the monster Breaking Bad has been crafting all along, he’s not the devil, he’s a man, a man who has the ability to make the right choice, a man who can tell the truth, a man who can die. Breaking Bad will forever be one of my favorite stories and it wouldn’t be the mesmerizing masterpiece it is if it didn’t come to an end.