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Yo B*tches! The Five Best Episodes of Breaking Bad (So Far)

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | March 25, 2013 | Comments ()


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If you've been watching "Breaking Bad," over the past five years, you may have recently seen me sobbing by the side of the road (at the thought of its end). Heck, maybe you've even joined me. There's a group of us huddling by the bus stop with that decrepit poster of Walt and Jesse in their yellow suits. And then we saw Aaron Paul's tweet:

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...we fell to the ground and low crawled home.

PEOPLE, IF IT'S NOT ALREADY COMPLETELY OBVIOUS, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. And trust me, if you plan to watch, you don't want to spoil yourself--so get out now.


There are a bunch of newbies power watching on Netflix before the summer finale, and several others of us doing a re-watch, which I highly recommend. It's beautiful to see Walt's transformation at a different pace, and to remind oneself where his character started out (for that matter, to watch several characters slide down the moral scale). I'd forgotten how many episodes featured Bryan Cranston's teary eyes. And Jesse with that little red-headed kid...

Choosing these episodes was difficult (and certainly, you can argue your own choices). "Breaking Bad" is its own art; between the writing, the cinematography, and an exceptional cast, it's probably the most consistent show on television. In five seasons, there has not been one filler episode. This is the first time I can say I've watched a show from the beginning and felt no worry about how the end of the story will go. I have complete and utter faith that Gilligan and Co. will bring this story to its logical and satisfying fruition. These are in order of appearance, but if I had to name the top episode, for me it would be "One Minute."


Season 1, Episode 2: "Cat's in the Bag"

I remember watching "Cat's in the Bag" the first time and realizing that this show was taking us somewhere new...to a place where cringing and laughing and feeling our insides churn with disgust and confused morality was normal. The utter shock experienced as we see Walt's face change when Jesse says the word "bathtub," and the two watch as a dripping ceiling gives way to blood and guts and a gory, undissolved block of what used to be a human being--that set the tone for the entire series.


Season 2, Episode 2: "Grilled"

Ding, ding, ding! Say (or type) "ding" to any "Breaking Bad" fan and he immediately knows for whom the bell dings--Tio Salamanca. He will also know you're likely discussing one of two episodes; "Grilled" is the first. From the moment a deranged Tuco pulls Walt and Jesse from Jesse's car trunk, to the pair frozen on a couch in his uncle's house, we wondered how the hell they were going to live through the hour. We sat on our own couches nearly as terrified. An attempt to poison Tuco goes horribly wrong as Tio dings his way through a set of harrowing question and *ding*-sers, the action moves outside, and Jesse manages to put a bullet in the maniac. But clever Hank, always just a half-step behind, has to finish the job; it's one of many close calls between our favorite DEA agent and the boys.

Season 3, Episode 7: "One Minute"

When Tuco's equally insane cousins arrive in town to avenge his death, we know something terrible will happen, but nothing could prepare us for the the when and how. Hank beats the crap out of Jesse, landing our boy in the hospital and Hank's career in jeopardy. The episode minutes tick by with Walt checking out his new superlab and the cousins gathering weapons and protective vests; Hank is suspended and turns in his gun. Suddenly, time slows to a crawl and we're thrown into the middle of the action...as Hank sits in his car in a parking lot, he receives a warning call that assassins are on the way--he has one minute. That last scene, Hank spots the shadows of the cousins coming at him; guns start blazing, tires screech; Hank shoots and goes down. We think it has to be over, Hank isn't going to make it. But Marco is crazy like Tuco, and his greed gives Hank a moment to reload the bullet meant for himself. Even watching it now, I nearly cry. Who knew we were so fond of the boisterous, big lug?


Tie Between Season 4, Episode 7: "Salud" and Season 4, Episode 13: "Face Off"


The thread that ties these two episodes together is the Chicken Man himself: Gus Fring, played with precision by the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito. In another great episode, "Hermanos," we learned that back in the day, cartel boss Don Eladio killed Gus' business partner, Max Arciniega right in front of Gus; "Salud" gives Gus the chance to pay him back...spectacularly. We learn that despite the cold-bloodedness on display in "Boxcutter," we still had absolutely no idea just how badass Gus was. For who else but Gus would drink tequila he poisoned himself, calmly go to the bathroom and vomit, then return to watch his nemesis die? The only other person who has been developing the same calm, cold heart is his own partner, Walter White. And in "Face Off," we watch Gus' pseudo-protégé put his own wicked plan into action (with the delightfully vengeance driven Tio/Hector) as he sets up a brilliant trap. The ding ding ding comes beautifully back into play, Gus realizes his mistake too late and in the only "Breaking Bad" scene that ever really gave me pause, he emerges from an explosion, straightens his tie and falls to the floor, dead. Adios, amigo.


Season 5, Episode 1: "Live Free or Die"

Mike nearly kills Walt; in a reversal of fortune, Jesse saves Walt's life and the trio realizes that evidence collected after Gus' death could implicate them all. Everyone--Jesse, Mike, Skyler--is terrified of what Walt has become. But the greatness and the delight in this episode lies in its humor, and laughter abounds. Jesse comes up with a ridiculous, but surprisingly effective idea to use a magnet to effectively destroy Gus' computer hard drive, and thereby any evidence it held. It also spawned Jesse's beautifully triumphant "Yeah bitch! Magnets!" exclamation, and Walt's chilling "Because I said so."


I know someone will mention "Say My Name," and because of Mike (Jonathan Banks), I wish I could include it...but I still can't even talk about it.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter) is both thrilled and sad at the thought of watching the final eight episodes.







Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Every time you do, Bill Murray crashes a wedding.


Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • GC

    The season finale of season 4 when they burn the lab with tango music playing in the background was epic

  • Munchey

    "Salud" is season 4, episode 10.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Also: I was never a big Bob Odenkirk fan, but now I couldn't imagine anyone else playing the morally ambiguous, coward-with-a-conscience, Saul Goodman. CALL SAUL. He's given me many a good laugh.

  • Lovely Bones

    (SPOILER WARNING, DUH)

    After much contemplation, these were the five that I settled on as my favorites, which I had conveniently decided to do very recently before this article had been posted. (Also, ties are cheating, Cindy, you know better! It's a top 6 now.)

    The other three are interchangeable to some degree, but Crawl Space stands as almost objectively the best episode, with only Fly in comparison.

    Crawl Space, Season Four, Episode Eleven

    Fly, Season Three, Episode Ten

    ABQ, Season Two, Episode Thirteen

    Hermanos, Season Four, Episode Eight,

    Over, Season Two, episode Ten.

    Over will always stand out as one of the series' most vital episodes for me, as it contained the moment Walt lost me, rather than any of the big events like Jane's death, Gale's murder, various manipulations of Jesse and Brock's poisoning, or Mike's murder. After he had quit, Walt yearns for the satisfaction of success that cooking gave him, culminating in him being willing to stay in the game even at the risk of his family, and that legendary moment representing this decision, "Stay out of my territory." That was the moment when Walt truly betrayed the ideals he stood by when he entered the meth game, and it was all freefall from there.

    If we're going by one episode per season, I'd say: Cancer Man (I've already talked about this episode's importance), ABQ, Fly, Crawl Space and Gliding Over All.

  • Devil Child

    Tío's just Spanish for uncle. Don Salamanca's first name is Hector.

  • $1754390

    'Fly' or GTFO!

    But seriously, it is impossible to pick favourites with this show

  • My favourite part of Grill is the end of the Tuco/Hank firefight. Once Hank gets over the initial shock of the firefight, and takes a beat to steady himself, you can just tell he's in the zone and it's all over.

    My favourite sequence of the whole series though is probably the start of "Say my Name". That unspoken communication between Mike and Declan, and Declan's shift in tone when he realises who he's dealing with - perfect.

  • Brady

    I have to put Phoenix in there. Jane's death was what sold me on the series; that was the moment when I said, "This is truly one of the greatest of all time." I'd enjoyed it before then, but that moment served as the catalyst of my love for the series.

  • Sydnea

    Season 3 episode 3 "I.F.T."

    Cmooooooon
    Jesse has endless moments where he reveals his ooey gooey insides but I think that the deep mourning he experiences after Jane's death was heart breaking. When he repeatedly called her voice mail to hear her voice... and when the message changed and the number was disconnected? Shit. I cried like a freakin baby.

  • you could put just about any 5 episodes in this list and justify their inclusion. S4E11 "Crawl Space" is my no brainer. It has everything:
    -Gus badgering Hector for the last time.
    -The brief moment of fear as Hank directs Walt to the laundry/meth lab, and Walt's shockingly genius quick thinking to crash the car.
    -Ted's fall... I've rewatched this episode several times and that scene may be the funniest in the series (thanks also to Saul's strongman, Huell)
    -Gus's threat to kill Walter and his family in the desert
    -The final scene... Walt in the crawl space as the camera slowly backs away up to the ceiling. The most chilling moment in the entire series.

  • chanohack

    That desert scene with the shadows of the clouds rolling across the ground... chilling. Love it.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Ah, crap. Well there goes my free time for the next couple weeks.

  • I would like to add the episode when they focused on Badger getting arrested and introduced Saul. I can only think of one episode that I could do without. The one where Jesse and Walt are in the underground lab the entire time and Walt was focused on killing that damn fly. Talk about boring!! Plus it coincided with my first viewing of Community's episode when Abed kept mentioning "bottle episode" so that's all I could think of during the entire episode!
    I will say that the first half of season 5 was spectacular. Every week it seemed like such a long wait for the next episode and BB never let me down. Every damn episode was just so damn good!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    The scene with Jesse jumping the fence to steal back his RV, falling through the roof of the porta-potty and being stained blue? Comedy gold.

  • Jesse has to be one of my all time favorite tv characters. My favorite(funny) part of BB is still when he calls a barn a "cow house" and the way Walt looks at him and repeats it makes me lose it every time!

  • Kristen Mc

    Yeah, where they live... the cows

  • Kristen Mc

    Half Measure/Full Measure have to be my top two. I chewed my nails down to nubs by the end. I still get all anxious when I rewatch them, even though I know what's going to happen next. That moment when Walt simply says "RUN".....badass every time.

  • Artemis

    YES. Mike's half measures speech is my favorite monologue of all time, and the ending of Full Measures had me literally screaming "WHAT THE FUCK" at the television while my (non-Breaking Bad watching) roommate expressed concern for my mental health.

  • Jennifer Schmennifer

    "Who knew we were so fond of the boisterous, big lug?"

    Me! I knew! It has a lot to do with Dean Norris though. Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston have gotten the award recognition for their roles, but Dean Norris acts the shit out of Hank. I believe him. When I'm watching him on screen, I believe he's that guy, and I don't think, "Here's an actor doing a great job." I think, "Hank, you big, boisterous lug." Only after his scenes do I think back to subtle things he does and realize how awesome he was. Because as loud and unsubtle as Hank is, Dean Norris does some quiet ninja shit with his eyes.

  • MissAmynae

    Follow him on Twitter. He really is that guy, and his exchanges with Betsy Brandt are nothing short of delightful.

  • dizzylucy

    Up to that point, I thought I really disliked Hank, but at that moment when I was sure he was a dead man, I realized how much I was (and still am) rooting for him.

  • Devil Child

    Hank might be the best portrayal of a cop in TV history. He's certainly my favorite TV cop ever.

    Usually, TV cops are hypercompetent superheroes with over the top tragic family lives, or Chief Wiggum without the satire. Hank feels like the real person behind the cartoon.

  • Lovely Bones

    *Cough Much of The Wire's cast cough* Really though, Hank is definitely on the same level. He's the perfect fusion of Dean Norris' excellent acting, the series' top-notch writing and the power of the reversal (season one Hank versus Hank after killing Tuco).

  • It's true.

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