Breaking Bad has widely been accepted as one of, if not the greatest dramatic television shows of all time. Like a five-act Shakespearean tragedy, the five seasons of Breaking Bad explore a fundamental question about human nature; what forces can turn a good man to the dark side? Bryan Cranston delivered the performance of his career as Walter White, a character that viewers learned to both sympathize with and hate.

It’s the result of Vince Gilligan’s brilliant writing that Breaking Bad maintained such a consistent level of quality. Although Breaking Bad’s ending was perfect, Gilligan was able to return to the same universe with the excellent spinoff Netflix film El Camino and the prequel series Better Call Saul, which explored the supporting character Saul Goodman’s (Bob Odenkirk) backstory. Here is the best episode of every season of Breaking Bad.


Season 1, Episode 1 (2008)

Image via AMC

Creating a great pilot is no easy task; over the course of one installment, a series must set up its stakes, introduce all of the primary characters, set the stage for future installments, and create a unique style that differentiates it from competitors in the oversaturated dramatic television market.

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Breaking Bad did all of this and more; Walter was an instantly sympathetic character who has pretty much-hit rock bottom. His cancer diagnosis helps in that aim, and Walter’s life is filled with reminders of his own failings. Mocked by his students, stuck in a rut with his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and humiliated by his brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris), Walter seemingly has no other option than to take drastic measures to provide for himself.

“4 Days Out”

Season 2, Episode 9 (2010)

4 Days Out Breaking Bad
AMC Network

“4 Days Out” serves as the perfect representation of Walter’s unique friendship with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Initially, it seems like the two men couldn’t be any more different; Walter is a methodical, logical man who prides himself in his education, and Jesse didn’t even finish high school before he started selling crystal meth. “4 Days Out” allows the two to share some common ground when they become stuck in the middle of the desert together.

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While there’s a lot of great comedic banter between the two characters, the episode takes a surprisingly sincere direction towards the end as Walter and Jesse recognize how much they’ve grown to rely on each other.

“Full Measure”

Season 3, Episode 13 (2010)

Walt and Gus in the desert in Full Measure from Breaking Bad

Season 3 marked a major turning point in the audience’s relationship with Walter. He had become more manipulative of his allies Jesse and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), often lying to cover up his secret deals. “Full Measure” places Walter in the ruthless hands of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the brilliant drug kingpin that became the show’s most ruthless antagonist. It’s very telling that in a moment of crisis, Walter forces Jesse to do something he’s expressed discomfort about; Jesse is told to kill Walter’s new meth cooking partner Gale (David Costabile).

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The episode’s final scene, in which Jesse arrives at the footsteps of Gale’s front door and prepares to pull the trigger, is easily the greatest cliffhanger that Breaking Bad ever ended a season on.

“Face Off”

Season 4, Episode 13 (2011)

Breaking-Bad-Face-Off (1)
AMC Networks

Breaking Bad’s fourth season might be its strongest; while the final installment finally forced Walter to deal with the consequences of his crimes and admit to his failures, there was nothing quite like seeing Gus at the height of his powers. Gus felt like a villain that no character could outsmart. Between his seemingly endless resources and strong standing in the eyes of the public, Gus appeared to be untouchable. Esposito’s remarkable performance created a character whose unassuming nature became very intimidating, as no one would ever question Gus’ ruthlessness.

However, “Face Off” finally put an end to the character. In one of the most intense sequences within the entirety of Breaking Bad, Walter rigs an explosive device to detonate that ends up scarring Gus’ face. While Gus’ death is certainly a visceral moment of body horror, “Half Measure” also explored more complex understandings of evil. It’s here where Jesse begins to suspect that it was Walter, and not Gus, who poisoned the child Brock Cantillo (Ian Posada) to convince him to return to cooking meth.


Season 5, Episode 14 (2013)

Walter White, mouth agape looking shocked in a scene from Ozymandias, Breaking Bad.
Image via AMC

“Ozymandias” is simply a masterpiece. Directed by the great filmmaker Rian Johnson, the episode combines all the best elements of his movies; it has the intensity of Brick, the inventive storytelling of Knives Out, the intense action of Looper, and the subtext of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “Ozymandias” puts Walter in a more vulnerable position than he had ever been in before when Hank’s life is on the line; Norris gives an incredibly emotional performance as Hank accepts his fate.

Interestingly, Johnson chose to interweave the main narrative with flashbacks to Walter and Jesse’s first time cooking together. These flashbacks helped the viewer contextualize how much Walter had changed throughout the series and made it evident that whatever good intentions he had initially had now completely evaporated. While the season finale, “Felina,” offered the perfect conclusion to Walter’s journey, ” Ozymandias ” served as the perfect representation of his character arc.

KEEP READING: The ‘Breaking Bad’ Cast 10 Years Later: Where Are They Now?

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