Breaking Bad did many things right, especially when it came to TV cliffhangers. Cliffhangers are an effective plot device on television to keep audiences watching the show week after week. Creator Vince Gilligan and his writing team knew exactly how to use this to their full advantage.
Throughout Walter White’s journey from chemistry teacher to drug kingpin, there were many sudden and memorable episode endings that shocked viewers and left them eager to watch next week’s episode, or in many cases, press “Next” on Netflix. Here are the 10 best cliffhanger endings in Breaking Bad. Spoilers ahead!
Granite State (S5, Ep15)
“Granite State” is a slow-burn episode that allowed viewers to breathe after the harrowing events of “Ozymandias” a week prior. As time progresses, Walt’s cancer is getting worse. He tries to get a hold of Walter Jr. but finds out his son now despises him.
Walt decides he has no other options and calls the police from a bar to turn himself in. As Walt sits down with a drink, he sees Gretchen and Elliott discuss Walt and the Grey Matter company they all started. They state that all Walt contributed was the name and nothing else. Yet again, Walt’s pride and ego proves to be his biggest weakness. He angrily stares into the camera and then it cuts to the police entering the bar. Walt is gone, perfectly setting up the explosive series finale.
Confessions (S5, Ep12)
Just seconds before Jesse was about to enter a car and start a new life, he finally realizes who actually poisoned Brock. Jesse’s face says it all and the episode could have just ended there, but Breaking Bad went one step further.
Jesse makes his way back and furiously beats down Saul to get him to confess that Walt set it all up by having Huel steal the ricin cigarette. Feeling completely betrayed, a vengeful Jesse drives to Walt’s house and starts pouring gasoline everywhere, with the episode ending directly after.
Salud (S4, Ep10)
The majority of “Salud” is primarily focused on Gustavo, Mike, and Jesse in Mexico. As the episode progresses, it seems like Jesse is going to be stuck in Mexico as the cartel’s new cook. Instead, the closing moments showcase Gus’s master plan to finally rid himself of the cartel and exacting his revenge.
Each of Don Eladio’s men dies one by one, courtesy of poisoned tequila, which Gus also drank but took a pill that slows it down. With Mike carrying a poisoned Gus, Jesse is forced to find a getaway car. Mike is then suddenly shot, but Jesse is able to kill the shooter. The episode quietly ends with all three men driving away from the massacre.
Dead Freight (S5, Ep5)
“Dead Freight” focuses on a risky heist that Walt, Mike, and Jesse attempt to pull off in order to get an endless supply of methylamine. They recruit Todd from the Vamanos Pests B&E group to help them out.
At the very end, the rug is pulled from under the viewers as this heist ends in tragedy. After the nail-biting but successful heist is over, Jesse, Walt, and Todd are ecstatic. The problem is, there was a young boy on a dirt bike who witnesses them celebrating. Before Jesse and Walt can decide what to do next, Todd pulls out a gun and shoots the boy. Roll credits.
One Minute (S3, Ep7)
There’s a sense of dread throughout “One Minute,” since the previous episode ended with Gus giving Leonel and Marco Salamanca his blessing to take out Hank. However, Hank gets a warning call from Gus, resulting in a western-style shoot out instead of a quick assassination.
It’s an intense action sequence where Hank is shot four times. Being the badass that he is, Hank is able to run over and Leonel and gets one last one headshot on Marco. “One Minute” ends with the camera panning out, showing all three men bleeding out on the ground, leaving Hank’s fate uncertain.
Half Measure (S3, Ep12)
“Half Measure” deals Jesse trying to take out two of Gus’s dealers since he found out that Andrea’s kid brother, Tomas, killed Combo under their orders. Before he can carry out his plan, he’s picked up by Gus and forced to make peace.
Tragically, Tomas is gunned down later that night. In the final few minutes, it seems like Jesse is prepared to die in order to take out the dealers. Walt’s car suddenly comes out of nowhere and runs over the dealers. Walt gets out and shoots one of them. Walt just has to say one word to Jesse: “Run.” Queue the next episode immediately!
Crawl Space (S4, Ep11)
Bryan Cranston gives a haunting performance in what is perhaps Breaking Bad’s scariest scene. Viewers knew that Skyler giving all the money to Ted Beneke would have repercussions later down the road.
Those consequences are revealed at the end of “Crawl Space” as Walt discovers all the money he needed to keep his family safe is gone. The pressure of the entire season finally reaches its breaking point. Walt breaks down weeping, followed by him laughing maniacally, proving just how much he’s lost it. Everything about this scene is just TV perfection. The camera zooms out on Walt under the crawl space, visually telling the viewers that he’s a dead man walking.
Full Measure (S3, Ep13)
The season three finale, “Full Measure,” deals with the fallout to the ending of “Half Measure.” Walt realizes that his betrayal will not be taken lightly but understands that Gus is not willing to stop production.
Walt is hesitant but ultimately decides that he needs to kill Gale, the only other person who can perfect Walt’s formula. Unfortunately, Walt is picked up by Mike, and Jesse is forced to commit the crime. The episode ends with Jesse pointing his gun at Gale, who’s begging for his life. The camera is framed on Jesse, then the gun comes into focus a second before it goes off. That’s how you do a season-ending cliffhanger.
Gliding Over All (S5, Ep8)
Season 5’s mid-season finale finally shows what fans have been waiting for since the very first episode: Hank finding out. The final scene of “Gliding Over All” seems like everything is back to normal since Walt got out of the drug business.
On the toilet, Hank finds the Leaves Of Grass book that Gale gave to Walt. Reading the written message saying “To my other favorite W.W.” Hank finally realizes who the real Heisenberg is. Leave it to the Breaking Bad to have this anticipated moment happen while Hank is pooping. Kudos to the fans who watched this when it aired and had to wait almost a year for the second half of Season 5.
To’hajiilee (S5, Ep13)
Viewers were at the edge of their seats in the final moments of “To’hajiilee.” While Walt is finally in Hank’s custody, Jack and his neo-nazi gang show up, even though Walt called them off. They’re now in a stand-off with Hank and Steve Gomez.
Walt frantically begs Jack and his guys to leave, ignorant of the fact that this is now an unavoidable situation since Hank and Steve are DEA agents. A shoot-out then ensues with Walt still stuck in Hank’s car. It’s a brilliantly directed sequence that left viewers breathless. The episode abruptly ends in the middle of the gunfire, which likely had viewers screaming at their televisions.