I may someday do a Top 10 TV Shows post, but until then, know that Breaking Bad is high up on that list. A brilliantly told tragedy about Walter White and his rise as a meth manufacturer and distributor. It is not a drama, as most believe. It is a tragedy, in the same vein of Death of a Salesman. It follows the rise and fall of Heisenberg, showing a story of a man who wanted to be recognized for his genius so much that he was willing to destroy the lives of everyone he touched. This was an awesome show, that has actually gotten the recognition it deserves. Who knew? This is my list of my favorite episodes of this series, and I hope you love it as much as me. There are going to be a TON of spoilers in here, by the way, so if you haven’t watched this show and want to, I recommend not reading further.
10. Better Call Saul
Saul Goodman is one of the most enjoyably horrible people I have ever seen. In anything. He is a man without a single scruple. He will help people with just about any dirty job, if they have his fee. Walt and Jesse need him to help them get a comrade of their out of trouble without implicating themselves. This episode is chalk full of the dark humor that the series got less and less of as the seasons went on. The scene where Jesse and Walt are interrogating Saul is fucking classic. This episode was the introduction of one of the best bad guys ever.
If we’re going to talk about a great show, how about the episode that began it? This was the start of Walt’s descent, as he finds out that he has cancer. He is at first unsure what to do, until his DEA brother-in-law, Hank, tells him about how much money there is in the meth business after a big bust. Walt goes with Hank on a raid, where he just happens to see a former student of his who is quietly getting away as his partner is busted. The student is Jesse Pinkman, and after the two make a tenuous deal, their partnership begins. In addition to getting the ball rolling, you also see the beginnings of Heisenberg. With his diagnosis of cancer, Walt is now far braver and angrier than normal. The biggest demonstration is when he attacks a bully who is making fun of his son (who has cerebral palsy) in a department store. So we have more than one beginning in this episode. What more could you need?
I love this episode for a couple reasons. The first is that you get a lot of intense insight into Jesse’s character, as he is going to the house of a couple of people who ripped of one of his dealers. The goal is to get their money and meth back. However, the junkies are not home, but he finds that they have a toddler boy. It gives us some insight that we lacked about Jesse when he ends up trying to take care of the kid, while waiting for his targets to get home. However, there is another plot element that I love. Walt has two former business partners, Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz. They started a company called Gray Matter together, using Walt’s research. However, Walt walked away, taking a meager amount of money with him. The company later on went to become worth over $2 billion. He has forever had a deep resentment of the two for their success, while he has toiled away in academic and financial obscurity as a chemistry teacher. To cover for his payments of their bills with money he has made with his meth distribution, he told his wife that the Schwartz’s were paying his bills. When his wife thanks Gretchen, she is confused. She confronts Walt about it, which leads to one of the most intense arguments where Walt makes his hatred of the two very clear. We get to see that Heisenberg has a much older origin than we think, which is very cool.
7. Crazy Handful of Nothin’
This is the episode that gives us the signature look of Heisenberg, along with the name itself. Following a new dealer that they try and make a deal with, Tuco, brutally beating Jesse, Walt decides to intervene. He cooks a batch of fulminated mercury, which he takes to Tuco, making him believe it’s meth. When Tuco threatens to take the supposed meth and kill Heisenberg, Heisenberg takes a small part of it and throws it against a wall. It causes an explosion, and he takes the rest of it, threatening to blow the entirety of them to kingdom come. Impressed, Tuco makes a deal with them for money, and their business together begins. In addition to being totally BADASS, this episode begins to show the competing parts of Walt’s mind as Heisenberg is now making himself more known and more pronounced. It is the start of the signature battle between these two as they go further and further down the rabbit hole.
6. Crawl Space
In the battle between Walt and Heisenberg, you rarely see a lot of desperation. Walt often appears in control and prepared to do whatever it takes. This episode has one of the few moments where Walt is now realizing just how out of control things have gotten. After an incident in Mexico, where Jesse and Gus are involved in murdering the members of a cartel, Jesse is now with Gus, effectively replacing Walt as the cook. However, he will not allow Gus to kill his former mentor. Gus confronts Walt, telling him that if Hank does not die (because of how close his investigation is getting), he will kill Walt’s entire family. Driven by desperation, Walt runs home and goes to get his money. However, when he finds that it is all gone, it leads to one of the greatest pieces of acting that I have ever seen. I won’t spoil it for you, but trust me, this entire episode is worth it for that one scene.
5. Face Off
The cold war between Gus and Heisenberg comes to a close in this unbelievably-intense episode. After failing to kill Gus with a car bomb, Heisenberg decides to take a risky gamble that Jesse informs him of. He makes a deal with a former acquaintance who hates the two of them, but who hates Gus a HELL of a lot more. It culminates in a confrontation where the tension is so thick that you can cut it with a knife. It also changes another character’s perspective on Walt, when she realizes just how dark this other side of him can be. I won’t say too much, because if you haven’t seen it, you REALLY should, but this is an awesome episode with an amazing climax.
A constant question that comes up is why Walt is doing what he is doing. We all know the stated reason – to help his family. However, as the duel between him and his dark persona, Heisenberg, becomes more pronounced, you see that there is are darker reasons to his actions. In this episode, Mike and Jesse want to leave the meth-making business, and for profit, they decide to take a share of the methylamine with them. They find a buyer, but he won’t make a deal unless he gets Walt’s part of the deal. The two inform him that the deal is happening and that they are taking his part of the chemical. This episode finally shows that Walt has almost left the equation, when Jesse comes over and has dinner with him and his wife. Jesse sees how Walt is now hated by everybody, and Heisenberg tells him that the meth empire he has built is all he has left, saying that Jesse wants to take that away from him. He also gets into more detail about his hatred of Gray Matter and how he feels that he was screwed. It is a surprisingly dark episode where we get to see just how twisted the battle between Walt and Heisenberg has become.
3. 4 Days Out
The element of Walt’s mortality becomes less of an issue in the middle of the series, where a radical treatment has gotten him a great deal more time to live. In this episode, you get to see how Walt was actually getting used to the idea of his mortality and even coming to terms with it. He goes in for a PET-CT, and he sees a reflection of the image, showing a large bright spot that he feels is a sign of his impending death, as his coughing is getting worse. He lies to Jesse and tells them that the methylamine is going stale and that they have to cook as much as possible before he dies. This episode is one of those rare bonding moments that show what could have been between Walt and Pinkman. I think that, even until the end, it was this episode that kept their bond the way it was. They both found something in each other when the battery dies and they are stranded in the dessert. But my favorite part of the episode is right at the end, when Walt gets the results of the scan. His reaction to having more time, it is fucking crazy!
The final episode of the series. Something people don’t believe about tragedies is that they can have redemption. No, there is often some small redemption involved. It makes the emotional catharsis of the audience more pronounced when we see how it could have been so much better. Having finally been defeated, Heisenberg has pretty much vanished from Walt’s mind. With his son and wife virulently hating him, he realizes that there is one last thing he can do – save Jesse (another person who hates him). However, he also is able to wrap up his hatred for the Schwartz’s by forcing them to take the last of his drug money and put it in a trust for his children. He then goes to free Jesse from the compound of Jack and his white supremacist friends. He also makes sure to kill Lydia, so the last remnants of his former life are destroyed. The final interaction between Walt and his former student is powerful, but quiet. You really have to watch closely to see how hardcore it is, without a word spoken between them. It all ends with Walt taking one last nostalgic look at the lab where they were Jesse was forced to cook, having a last bit of nostalgia as he finally perishes, taking the memory of Heisenberg into history – since he was never officially caught.
And my favorite episode of Breaking Bad is…
One of my favorite anime is Death Note. Something people don’t know is that the series actually got pretty bad for a while there after L died. However, it all comes back in a final episode that is SO fucking cool! Light is found out as Kira, and the confrontation is so awesome. It’s dark and intense, yet cool as hell. For me, this episode was like that. Walt has been lured into the desert by Hank, Gomez and Pinkman. They bust him, with the barrels full of his money. However, Heisenberg had ordered Jack and his buddies to do a hit on Jesse, not realizing that Hank and Gomez would be with them. Jack and the rest show up and kill Gomez, taking Hank and Walt and putting guns to them. Despite his begging, Jack kills Hank, taking the bulk of Walt’s money and leaving him with one barrel. The confrontations Walt has, with Hank, with his wife and son and with the DEA who are listening in on a call he makes to his family show the last great moments of Heisenberg as he rages and lashes out as all of his world falls apart. The final moments of the battle between the two, as his other half fades away…
This was an awesome show, and I hope you liked it as much as I did.
Until next time, a quote,
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who I’m talking to” -Hank
“If that’s true. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.” -Walter White/Heisenberg, Breaking Bad