Updated: May 16, 2020
Breaking Bad is my favourite television show. It is, without a doubt, the most addictive thing I have ever watched. I would like to clarify that I love every episode. The ones listed here are the best of the best.
#10 Salud (Season 4, Episode 10)
Salud amalgamates many of the elements that makes Breaking Bad excellent into one fantastic hour. This is an episode with an extreme payoff. Without the build-up to this moment in previous episodes, Salud would probably not be on the list. However, I am factoring in the marvelous escalation of drama that, although not all contained within this episode itself, led itself to becoming one of Breaking Bad’s most satisfying payoffs. The rest of the episode is good, but not amazing. The whole sequence at the end just secures a spot for Salud on the list.
#9 Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)
It would be rude not to praise the original. Without the success of Pilot, I’m certain that Breaking Bad would not be the show it became, as we know it today. Pilot does a flawless job at establishing the world, the characters and the major themes. It’s a fantastic initiation into the series. The action-packed sequences, whilst perhaps not quite rivalling some of the later episodes, have to be marvelled at; firstly, for the ambition and, secondly, for how good they are.
#8 Say My Name (Season 5, Episode 7)
Say My Name has the most brilliant use of a cold open in the entirety of Breaking Bad. The iconic line, taking its name from the title of the episode, is purely cold and brutal. Cranston’s brilliant delivery of it has made it one of Breaking Bad’s most recognizable. The cold open in itself would give this a spot on the list – merely for being an awesome, badass Heisenberg moment. Nevertheless, the rest of the episode ensures that Say My Name is securely among Breaking Bad’s finest. This also has my favourite line from the whole series but it’s a spoiler, so I’ll refrain from writing it here. I’m sure fans will know exactly what I mean; sad but also worryingly comedic.
#7 Half Measures (Season 3, Episode 12)
I think Half Measures is the most well-rounded episode of the series: it contains action, comedy, brilliant acting and excellent writing. Whilst perhaps these elements are not presented within Half Measures in their best form, the combination of them all seamlessly together merits this episode a place on the list. There is always a danger, when adding many different foundations in one episode, that the plot becomes overly convoluted; however, Half Measures balances tones very well and earns a rightful spot on this list.
#6 To’Hajiilee (Season 5, Episode 13)
Hold me up on this offer: £10 to anyone who can pronounce the episode name. Nevertheless, To’Hajiilee is excellent. I couldn’t honestly tell you what happened in most of the episode; albeit I don’t need to because the final few minutes are some of Breaking Bad’s finest. We are watching Walt’s downfall firsthand. The inevitable interactions he would have with Hank have been speculated on for years and they certainly live up to the expectations. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode is on par with Face Off. I only put To’Hajiilee lower because the viewers would only have to wait a week to see the outcome as opposed to a long year. Still pitying those people.
#5 Dead Freight (Season 5, Episode 5)
The entirety of the train sequence in this episode had me on the edge of my seat, willing Walt, Jesse and Todd on. Sure, I’m endorsing the robbery of methylamine used for the sole purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine. These crimes are, frankly, awful but I am completely backing them in succeeding (I don’t know why). It’s most likely the whole of this brilliantly plotted moment is designed to have you feeling the utmost tension. These are seriously high stakes and the whole of Dead Freight is centered around this monumental heist – and believe me, it’s beyond suspenseful.
#4 Face Off (Season 4, Episode 13)
Face Off is a rollercoaster from start to finish; every sequence is paced excellently, and the transitions are seamless throughout. This is certainly an action-packed episode and the tension palpably rises into the 3rd act. The “Walt vs Gus” rivalry is at its most malicious here and the unspoken tension between them reduced me to utter silence. Face Off is Breaking Bad at its most addictive; you will not be able to tear your eyes away from the screen. Likewise, the ending of this episode will you have you, undoubtedly, craving more. My condolences go out to anyone who watched this when it came out and had to wait nearly a year for that cliffhanger’s pay off.
#3 Crawl Space (Season 4, Episode 11)
This whole episode builds up to the final minute. A minute so haunting and terrifying it doesn’t feel like acting. Bryan Cranston utterly embodies Walt. The camera shot, and everyone who has watched the show will know which one I mean, is one of the most powerful in the series. The pathetic image of Walt, suffering utter hysteria, is enough to catapult it straight onto this list. Yet the rest of the episode, built up around this singular moment, confirms that Crawl Space is considered one of Breaking Bad’s finest. An impeccable build-up guaranteed the pay-off is all the more shocking and poignant.
#2 Felina (Season 5, Episode 16)
This episode cemented my belief that Breaking Bad is far superior to Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad is one-of-a-kind. It starts brilliantly; but it just gets better and better, until the very end. To aptly conclude one of the greatest series of all time is a momentous feat. Felina, however, succeeds in every single way. It does justice to every character, wraps up every narrative sequence and ensures certain characters endure retribution. What’s more, it leaves potential expansion for the Breaking Bad universe and was sure to make fans of the show speculate for years about the fates of various characters – did they predict the plot of El Camino? I still can’t make it through the closing sequence without tears dripping down my face. The song “Baby Blue” is perfect in every way for this moment.
#1 Ozymandias (Season 5, Episode 14)
What is there to say that hasn’t been endlessly lauded about this one? This episode is just pure perfection; the action is flawless, the tension is palpable, and the defining moments are some of the most shocking in the whole series. Ozymandias is one of the most emotionally draining episodes ever to air on television. The writing is impeccable, and the acting is devastatingly real. With writer Moira Walley-Beckett and both Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn winning Emmys for this episode, it’s clear to see it is a triumph like no other. Ozymandias, for me, is the final episode of the whole series, with Granite State and Felina being a two-part epilogue. The reference to the Percy Shelley poem is conceived beautifully; Walt loses everything here, uncannily mimetic of the king in the poem “Ozymandias”. Without a doubt the greatest episode of Breaking Bad, but even a worthy contender for the greatest episode ever to grace our television screen.
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