Since the complete set of Breaking Bad has been released on DVD, I thought it’d be appropriate to name the 10 Best Episodes, which would act as a precursor for my essay about the series as a while. Breaking Bad had no bad moments (even the weakest episodes are better than 90% of the rest of television), and these are the ones I think are the strongest the show produced, which is saying very much. Also, there are some spoilers here, so be forewarned.
10. “4 Days Out” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Looking over my list, I’ve realized that “4 Days Out” is the only pre-season 3 episode I included. That isn’t a slight on the first two years of Breaking Bad, which I deeply treasure, it’s that I feel the show’s later episodes convey an even greater sense of depth. Regardless, “4 Days Out” is one of Breaking Bad’s most intimate hours as Walt and Jesse deal with being stranded out in the New Mexico desert in their powerless RV. It’s raw, horrifying, and at times very funny, a great example of the black comic tone of Breaking Bad.
9. “Fly” (Season 3, Episode 10)
Depending who you are, “Fly” is either one of Breaking Bad’s best or worst episodes, which centers on Walt and Jesse trying to catch a nuisance insect, but it’s one of the show’s most fascinating depictions of Walt’s transition. The episode starts off comically themed, as Jesse expresses a great deal of annoyance as Walt continually obsesses over a fly, but turns into a nightmarish take of Walt’s overwhelming guilt on Jane’s death. It’s an episode that chooses to move its characters’ grief rather than going from point A to B, an approach that I really much admired and one that vividly depicts Walt’s unstable morality.
8. Dead Freight (Season 5, Episode 5)
Throughout Breaking Bad, Walt has employed some brilliant and bizarre feats of science, from powering an RV with coins to using a car battery to operate a machine gun. “Dead Freight” feature one of Walt’s most brilliant ideas when he comes up to rob a train of its methylamine. It’s a wondrous episode of the series that also introduces the final antagonist, Todd.
7. Confessions (Season 5, Episode 11)
For me, “Confessions” is the episode that features Walt’s most vile and despicable crime, when he creates a fake tape that states that Hank forced him to cook meth for him. Even some of Walt’s other despicable acts, like murdering Jane or poisoning Brock, had some justification in them, but the tape was a full-on threat, less to protect Walt from jail than to spite and torture Hank.
6. Fifty-One (Season 5, Episode 4)
Much like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad is at its most fascinating when it explores the relationship of its center protagonist. “Fifty-One” depicted Walt celebrating his 51st Birthday as well as surviving a year with lung cancer. But the episode is more about Walt’s struggling marriage, as Skyler fully reveals her fears and anger at Walt’s double life. It’s a terrifying hour about matrimonial issues dealing with physical and mental abuse, the kind of subject that typically is portrayed immaturely. Breaking Bad is an exception.
5. Crawl Space (Season 4, Episode 11)
There are many great scenes in “Crawl Space,” like when Gus tells Hector that all of the cartel is dead or when Saul sends Huell and Kuby to have Ted pay the IRS (in one of the series’ most darkly humorous moments). But what makes “Crawl Space” one of Breaking Bad’s best episodes is the final scene, where Walt attempts to bundle all of his money realizing that Skyler has given it away, ending with Walt maniacally cackling while Marie calls and cries that the cartel is once again targeting Hank.
4. Full Measures (Season 3, Episode 13)
Season 3 had the darkest change of Walt from high school chemist to drug lord and nothing quite indicated that more than “Full Measures.” After discovering that Gus plans to kill him and Jess, Walt does the unthinkable and orders for the death of Gale, the eccentric lab partner of Walt who was nothing but innocent. “Full Measures” also includes one of Walt’s most menacing quotes: “You might want to hold off … your boss is going to need me. 6353 Wantabo, apartment six. Yeah.”
3. Felina (Season 5, Episode 16)
The finale of Breaking Bad had Walt attempt to refine himself, and it’s the episode that mostly closely shows the division between Walt and Heisenberg. He neither celebrates nor maligns his past actions; instead, he attempts to heal the scars he’s done for the world. You can argue that Breaking Bad took an easy way out, but
2. Face Off (Season 4, Episode 13)
The battle between Walt and Gus came to a close in arguably Breaking Bad’s most perfect episode. The complexities of Breaking Bad, its slow burn and dark tone, have never worked better, with a stunning and equally surprising conclusion.
1. Ozymandias (Season 5, Episode 14)
“Ozymandias” was the Breaking Bad episode that fans knew would be coming from the beginning, that Walter White’s intricate drug empire would fall upon itself. The title of the episode, based on a poem about the fall of kingdoms, acts as an omen as Walt loses everything near and dear to him. Breaking Bad has never been so tight and complex as before. Creator Vince Gilligan has said that this is the show’s best episode and I agree with him full-heartedly.