- “Breaking Bad” is a critically acclaimed TV show that improved over time and had many standout episodes.
- The show revolves around Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned drug lord attempting to secure his family’s future.
- The series has memorable episodes that feature intense character dynamics, unexpected twists, and satisfying conclusions.
Breaking Bad is a rare TV show that continued to get better and better as the show progressed, with many of the series’ best episodes appearing toward the end. Breaking Bad ran for 5 seasons, and 62 episodes between 2008 and 2013. The story follows Walter White, a chemistry teacher who receives a terminal diagnosis and worries about how he can provide for his family past his death. Knowing his time is limited, and hoping to make the most money fast, he turns to the drug trade, applying his chemistry knowledge to create his own, high-quality product.
The show was released on Netflix and was wildly popular throughout its run, even inspiring a prequel spin-off series, Better Call Saul, and a sequel movie, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. However, the main show itself is the most well-loved part of the franchise and features many incredible episodes throughout its run. Thanks to the incredible talent of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul onscreen, as well as the series creator, Vince Gilligan, the show is without doubt one of the best of all time.
10. “Better Call Saul”
Season 2, Episode 8
The first episode of the series to introduce the infamous shady lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), is a wonderful combination of tension between Walt and his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), and levity with any scene featuring the quick-witted Goodman. As business starts to heat up for Walt and Jesse, it becomes necessary to seek out legal counsel, and they employ Goodman, who has extensive experience as legal counsel and advisor to criminals, especially in the drug industry to help them out. This episode makes it into the top 10 thanks to the focus on these character relationships and Odenkirk’s entrance.
9. “Dead Freight”
Season 5, Episode 5
“Dead Freight” is one of Breaking Bad’s most ambitious episodes, as Walt and Jesse, with the help of Mike and Todd, attempt to steal a train car full of materials they need to make more product. The ingenious plan would see them swap the product for an equal weight of water. The team managed to smoothly pull off the operation and just as they were about to celebrate, they spotted a young boy on his bike who appeared to have seen what they had done. No sooner do they see the kid, than newcomer Todd shoots him dead, immediately shifting the tone of the episode. In a show famous for subverting expectations and ending with a twist, this episode stands out.
Season 4, Episode 10
Jesse travels with Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) to Mexico to train cartel members how to cook higher-quality meth. The show had been building up tension around different players in the drug trade with a level of power on par with the drug overlord, Fring. “Salud” sees this plot resolved when, despite presenting a bottle of tequila as a peace offering to his rival, Fring manages to poison a powerful drug lord who once wronged him and several of his crew. Again, subverting expectations as Fring drank the poisoned alcohol with the rest of the party, only to step away and force himself to expel it and avoid the fatal effects.
7. “Granite State”
Season 5, Episode 15
In the show’s penultimate episode, Walter White again transforms from the intimidating mastermind, Heisenberg, back into the sick, frail man he was at the beginning. Walt struggles as he realizes his efforts have been in vain, and dishonest people in a dishonest business have left his family with nothing, and even end up threatening them. When Walt makes a final attempt to get some money to his wife through his son, he is rejected and resigns himself to being captured. But just before being caught, he sees old business partners on TV and sets off to settle one last score.
6. “Full Measure”
Season 3, Episode 13
In the season 3 finale, both Jesse and Walt reach a high and low in their character arcs. Due to Walt and Jesse’s unconventional methods, Gus intends to get rid of Walt as soon as Jesse is capable of delivering the same quality product. To halt Fring’s plans, Walt orders Jesse to kill the man who is intended to replace him. This episode sees Walt fully embrace his Heisenberg identity, ordering hits, and only seeking to protect himself, while Jesse hits new lows trying to convince his partner and former teacher to quit while he’s ahead. This dynamic shift is an intense turning point for the series and easily one of the best episodes.
Season 5, Episode 13
Toward the conclusion of the series, “To’hajiilee” marks another shift in the power dynamics. For some time, Walt has been in control, but as his paranoia and greed bubble over, he turns against his old friend, Jesse. Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman has also decided to work with Hank to take down Walt and save him from himself. Walt orders a hit on Jesse, but when he spots Jesse with his brother-in-law and lead DEA enforcer, Hank, he tries to call it off. Unfortunately, the men Walt has aligned himself with are not reliable, and they intend to go through with the hit. A phenomenal episode, setting the stage for the end and showing the shifting dynamics.
Season 4, Episode 11
“Crawl Space” sees the storyline between Walt and Gus approaching an epic finale when Gus fires Walt and informs him that Hank will be killed. Walt is threatened with the possible killing of his entire family, including his infant daughter unless he leaves and does not interfere in any more of Fring’s operations. In a panic, Walt speaks to Saul to secure a way out, which he will need to pay a hefty fee for, but when he tries to gather the money and comes face-to-face with his estranged wife, Skylar, he breaks down in maniacal laughter. The episode is thrilling, and lays the groundwork for the season 4 finale.
Season 5, Episode 16
The Breaking Bad series finale, “Felina” is among the best finales for any show. It manages to tie up loose ends with Walt freeing Jesse and securing finances for his son, resolving character conflicts with Walt admitting his greed and selfishness to Skylar, and being able to say goodbye to his daughter for the last time, and the antihero is laid to rest having settled his scores. The finale is powerful and extremely satisfying, leaving no stone unturned and the characters getting what they deserve, one way or another.
2. “Face Off”
Season 4, Episode 13
Another incredibly satisfying conclusion comes from the season 4 finale when Walt and Gus have their final confrontation. Gus was the ultimate rival in Breaking Bad, matching and often exceeding Walt’s intellectual prowess. While the preceding episodes had Walt running for his life, “Face Off” sees Walt regain control and once again don the mantle of Heisenberg as he lays a trap for Fring. Teaming up with another rival, Hector Salamanca, Walt manages to get Fring right where he wants him. One of the most chilling deaths, remaining true to Fring’s character till the end, this episode would have been a satisfying finale in its own right.
Season 5, Episode 14
According to IMDB, “Ozymandias” is the only TV show episode to have received a perfect score after over 200 thousand reviews. The episode opens with a career-defining performance from Cranston as Walt begs for the life of Hank before he is murdered in front of him. Once again, laying a foundation for everything to come in the final two episodes of the series. Walt loses everything, Jesse is taken prisoner, and life has gone so far beyond his control, but he manages to claw some of that control back and makes a plan for what is to come. An outstanding moment for Breaking Bad, but also for all TV with everything coming together perfectly.