September 21, 2013 9:00am PT by Aaron Couch
'Breaking Bad': 10 Most Mind-Blowing Episodes (Poll)
There are just two episodes of Breaking Bad left. It's time to look back on why we've been watching all of these years -- and we want to hear from you.
We've compiled our list of 10 favorite episodes and why we think they're so great. We've also created a poll (at the bottom of this post) for you to sound off on your favorites. We'll compile the winners and best comments into a gallery later this week.
In our list below, we've tried to stick to picking one episode from each of the shorter seasons (one, 5A and 5B), and two from the longer seasons (two, three and four). Yes. With two episodes left, this comes a little early, but since Bad creator Vince Gilligan says "Ozymandias" is the best the series has ever done, we feel comfortable marking it as our favorite for season 5B.
Find our top 10, and the poll, below.
1. "Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)
What Happens: After learning he has lung cancer and just a few years to live, Walt gets an interest in the meth business and enlists Jesse for his first cook. Things go sour after Krazy 8 and Emilio find their way to Walt and Jesse's RV and threaten to kill the budding drug kingpins. Walt gets the best of them by whipping up some poison gas.
Why it's the best: Has there ever been a more daring opening scene to a drama pilot? We meet Walter White -- on the verge of a police shootout -- making a confession tape to his family. More importantly, the premiere episode clearly maps out the journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface. The episode shows us the protagonist's ineffectual existence as Walter White and the first inklings of Heisenberg.
2. "Peekaboo" (Season 2, Episode 6)
What happens: Jesse tracks down a meth-addicted couple to get back the money they stole from Skinny Pete. He unexpectedly finds a little boy in the couple's disgusting home, and is later held at gunpoint as Spooge attempts to open up an ATM he stole. After calling his wife a skank one too many times, she crushes his head with the ATM. Jesse calls the cops, escapes, and sits the boy on his front porch, telling him to wait.
Why it's the best: We see a new side of Jesse in the form of his soft spot for children, which is something that Walt will exploit later in the series. It's also one of the relatively few times we see the consequences of Walt and Jesse's activities on drug users.
3. "Phoenix" (Season 2, Episode 12)
What happens: Jane learns that Walt is holding on to the $480,000 he owes Jesse, because he fears his young partner will use the money for drugs. She blackmails Walt into delivering the sum. She and Jesse discuss getting clean and moving to New Zealand, then proceed to do heroine one last time. After stopping at a bar and unknowingly talking to Jane's father, Walt returns to Jesse's and fails to help Jane as she chokes on her own vomit.
Why it's the best: When exactly Walt loses his soul is a favorite topic among Bad fans. This episode contains as good a moment as any. Jane's death would go on to loom large in the series, from Walt's near confession in season three's "Fly" to him throwing it in Jesse's face in season five's "Ozymandias." And really, does it get any more twisted than Heisenberg welcoming a daughter into the world earlier in the episode while allowing another man's daughter to die at its end?
4. "One Minute" (Season 3, Episode 7)
What happens: Hank is put on leave from the DEA after beating Jesse to a pulp, accusing him (incorrectly) of being responsible for a phone call that told him Marie was in the hospital. Jesse insists he will press charges, and rejects an offer to be partners with Walt in Gus' superlab venture. Jesse eventually comes around after Walt says his meth cooking skills are as good as the great Heisenberg's. But the reason everyone remembers this episode comes in the final minutes, when Hank receives a call that two men are coming to kill him and he has just one minute to prepare.
Why it's the best: THR readers recently voted (by a landslide) the "One Minute" ending as Hank's finest moment. The tension, and the unprecedented level of action, were off the charts. Hank's nearly fatal injuries would set up Dean Norris for an amazing run in season four as the recovering (and mineral-obsessed) Hank.
5. "Fly" (Season 3, Episode 10)
What happens: Walt becomes obsessed with a fly in his superlab, and enlists Jesse to help him kill it. Seriously. That's pretty much it.
Why it's the best: While Bad is full of expansive storytelling, "Fly" is the show's most self-contained episode -- taking place almost entirely in the superlab. It also features Walt at his weakest -- addled and exhausted, he nearly confesses his role in Jane's death and expresses the wish he had died that night, before going out to have a drink with Jane's father. "If I had just lived right up to that moment, and not one second more," he says, "that would have been perfect," referencing a moment in "Phoenix" in which he was watching TV and could hear Skyler singing a lullaby to Holly through the baby monitor.
6. "Salud" (Season 4, episode 10)
What happens: Gus, Mike and Jesse head down to Mexico to (it seems) burry the hatchet with the cartel. But really, Gus is there to avenge the death of his business partner (and possible lover), who was killed decades earlier. Before that, Jesse proves he's an amazing meth cook, using the cartel's superlab to cook a batch that is 96.2 percent pure. Then the main course: Gus poisons Don Eladio and his men by sharing some deadly tequila with them.
Why it's the best: Gus makes his boldest move of the series here. It's impossible not to root for him at the moment by the pool, and it's incredibly thrilling to be on Gus' side for once. It makes Walt's showdown with Gus later in the season all the more thrilling, because it demonstrates once again how brilliant and ruthless the chicken magnate/meth mogul is.
7. "Face Off" (Season 4, episode 13)
What happens: Walt learns from Jesse (via Saul) that Gus has a habit of visiting Hector Salamanca to torment him. Walt teams up with Hector to take out Gus and makes it appear Hector has become a DEA informant. Walt rigs a bomb to go off when Hector rings his bell. Gus comes to Hector's nursing home to kill him and has half of his face blown off when a vengeful Hector detonates the bomb.
Why it's the best: This is Walt at his most brilliant, and he outsmarts his most formidable opponent in an incredibly surprising way. The episode also marks a huge turning point for how we view Walt, who we learn has poisoned a child. When he tells Skyler "I won," it's a pure Heisenberg moment. There's an arrogance in the way he says it, and that arrogance would carry over into the coming episodes in a big way.
8. "Dead Freight" (Season 5, episode 5)
What happens: Lydia convinces Mike, Walt and Jesse to let her live in exchange for leading them to an ocean of Methylamine. Jesse hatches up the plan to rob the train without anyone knowing, and Walt supplies the science to make it happen. The plan goes off without a hitch, until a boy on a dirt bike comes across them, and Todd shoots the kid dead.
Why it's the best: This episode is just plain fun (for most of it), and the train heist feels like a classic Western. The moments immediately after the heist are the last time we see Jesse and Walt happy in each other's company. But in classic Bad fashion, the happy moment doesn't last, as the murder of young Drew Sharp becomes the last straw that drives Jesse and Walt apart.
9. "Say My Name" (Season 5, episode 7)
What happens: Walt makes an amazing speech and convinces Declan and his crew to buy out Mike's share in the partnership. Walt still wants Jesse to cook with him, and the two have a falling out. Walt begins cooking with Todd instead. Meanwhile, Mike's lawyer is arrested, and soon decides to rat him out. Walt learns of this, and warns Mike to flee, meeting him with a bag of cash and a gun. Walt demands to know the name of Mike's men in prison, and when he refuses, Walt murders him in anger.
Why it's the best: It starts with one of Walt's most amazing speeches ("You're god damned right!") and ends with one of his most terrible acts -- killing Mike for really no reason. If you're still rooting for Walt at this point, we have to wonder why.
10. "Ozymandias" (Season 5, episode 14)
What happens: A lot. Hank dies. The Aryan gang steals most of Walt's money. Walt confesses his role in Jane's death -- telling Jesse just to hurt him. He also lets the Aryan gang take Jesse away to be tortured and killed. Walt Jr. learns the truth about his father, and Skyler and Walt get into a knife fight in front of him, forcing Jr. to call the police. Walt abducts baby Holly and then calls Skyler (knowing the police are listening) and basically confesses to everything as a way to clear Skyler. He leaves Holly at a fire station and calls Saul's disappearing guy, who takes him away to give him a new identity.
Why it's the best: Years of storytelling come to a head for this episode -- and it's executed flawlessly. Vince Gilligan says it's the best episode of the series. For more, we suggest reading our Q&As with director Rian Johnson, about how he shot the episode, and Dean Norris, about what it was like to play Hank a final time, and how his death was originally going to play out.