Spoilers. Spoilers that will ruin the best show ever made. You have been warned.
It’s difficult to fathom a world without Breaking Bad. From the formative earlier episodes to the wrap-up job done by the last half of the fifth season, we’ve come to love and care for Walter, Jesse, Hank, Skyler, Marie and Walter Jr. And Mike. Don’t forget Mike. But instead of mourning the passing of such a giant, it’s important to celebrate the brilliant times it brought us.
Breaking Bad was - and is - a behemoth of modern television. While The Wire and The Sopranos brought us the inner dealings of criminal gangs in New Jersey and Baltimore, commenting on social injustice along the way, BrBa provided a new landscape to romanticize – it was something truly original, borrowing enough tropes of writing gone by to remain familiar.
The editorial staff here at Contact Music have been mulling over their favourite bits, trying desperately to whittle down the hundreds of memorable scraps, scrapes, speeches and shootouts to come up with a definitive ‘top Breaking Bad moment’. It hasn’t been easy, but here are our favourite moments from AMC’s brilliant meth drama.
Joe Wilde – Staff Writer
There are so many great ‘moments’ in the series, too good to simply write down in a list. Of course there are moments that have an enduring quality to them that will always be held highly in my own memory of the show. Three episodes in particular had breath-taking moments etched into just about every scene though; ‘Half Measures’ from season three, ‘Salud’ from season four and ‘Ozymandias’ from the final season.
No more half measures - something Walt adopts in this episode
‘Half Measures’ not only contains the immortal line “run,” it was also one of the finest examples of where the major characters were elaborated further and opened them up for the explosive final two seasons. ‘Salud’ still stands as one of my favourite memories of any TV show, and one of the first times I remember cheering with pure elation during a (non-sporting) TV moment as Gus, Mike and Jesse fight their way out of Don Eladio’s mansion.
‘Half Measures’ showed Gus off as the ruthless drug kingpin happy to let a child die to fit his own means, whereas ‘Salud’ exemplified him as the genius drug kingpin who meticulously planned his way to the top and was able to deal with anyone who crossed his path. That was until he got on the wrong side of Walt of course.
Gus Fring's potential for ruthless murder came through in this episode - and it wasn't subtle
‘Oxymandias’ on the other hand was something quite different. Even before the episode began, you could see where it was heading from how it predecessor ended. Hank was always going to die during the shoot-out, but the way in which he went down, and how Walt tried in vain to stop his killing from happening; no one could have predicted how brilliantly it was executed. And then we had the revelations to Walter Jr., the heart-wrenching revelation and the even more emotionally charged stand off between Skylar and Walt, which ended in Walter Jr.’s intervention.
Breaking Bad was a show that didn’t deliver in half measures, always in full, and if we can take anything away from the show it is that they aren’t rocks, they’re minerals!
Michael West – News Editor
Difficult, difficult, difficult. There are very few episodes of Breaking Bad that I don’t much care for, several that I like, more that I love and a few that, I think, probably represent some of the best televisual drama of the past decade or so – maybe ever. Tio Salamanca trying to warn Tuco of Walt and Jesse’s plan to poison him in Grilled is one of the moments. Hank trapping Jesse – and unbeknownst to him, Walt - in the RV in Sunset is another, as is Kuby’s attempts to keep his truck parked firmly on the rail tracks as methylamine is siphoned out of the train in Dead Freight.
Walter and Jesse nervously watch their plan unfold in 'Better Call Saul'
However, my favorite episode of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is probably season two, episode eight, Better Call Saul. There’s no real high drama, though the episode is memorable on a couple of levels – the most basic of which is that it introduces Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman, the criminal lawyer who will become intertwined with Walter and his path of destruction. This is a man who would tell Skyler of her husband, “Clearly his taste in women is the same as his taste in lawyers: only the very best... with just a right amount of dirty.”
Goodman, the man with an apparent MA from the University of American Samoa, has provided light relief from the bloodshed since his introduction in season two, though his character has also acted as a key device in itself – a quick-thinking middle man with contacts up his eyeballs who provides just the merest suggestion that, hey, maybe a high school science teacher really could get away with running a meth empire worth hundreds of millions.
Better Call Saul also provides one of the cleverest and funniest teaser sections of the series, with Badger clumsily getting arrested for selling on the street despite figuring out exactly where the surveillance team were and telling the undercover cop that he was indeed an undercover cop. “Dude, I SO smell bacon,” he tells him.
Jesse and Walt use their stolen Methylamine to cook... meth
With Hank still down on his luck and resting in bed after the ambush in Mexico, Walt visits to offer up some advice, only to be told, “Me and you, we don’t have much of an experiential overlap.” In a great shot across the bedroom, Walt throws back a half-knowing smile and replies, “What if I told you, we do,” before demanding that Hank “get up, get out in the real world,” and adding, “…you kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth.”
The D.E.A’s finest puffs out his chest and stares back in amazement – it’s a moment he will no doubt remember when discovering Leaves of Grass in Walter’s lavatory during Gliding Over All. The episode concludes with Walt’s realisation that his double life is beginning to bottleneck, with Saul breezily walking into his high school classroom to talk business. Referencing The Godfather and offering to play Tom Hagen to Walt's Vito Corleone, Walt replies, “I'm no Vito Corleone. “No shit,” quips Saul, “Right now, you're Fredo.”
Jack de Aguilar – Staff Writer
Dead Freight is my favorite episode of Breaking Bad – probably my favorite episode of anything ever, apart from maybe Pine Barons (The Sopranos). The moment when they actually appear to have got away with it, only for Todd – such an integral and scary character in the later episodes – to shoot that kid in the head is pure, unadulterated, crystalized genius.
I just remember thinking, ‘he’s Walter White. He’s Walter White and he’s robbing a train.’
For all the intricate plans he concocted before this episode – some as part of a long game, some off the top of his dome – this one superseded them all. And what made it so special is that this was simply one ingredient required to cook meth amphetamine. Even when they got this barrel of Methylamine, the wholly illegal process of stepping into a lab and producing the finest meth the state of New Mexico has ever seen still needed to take place.
In terms of character development, this was integral, too. Up until this point, Jesse had faced some awful trials: killing Gale and laying next to Jane as she died, not to mention his relationship with Brock and Gus’s men using kids to sell drugs and murder. So when Todd decided to play safe and execute the young boy who had presumably seen ‘enough’, Jesse’s path of dismay would open up. He wouldn’t be the same after Dead Freight, which made his uncontrollable weep as he fled the Nazi’s grasp all the more satisfying.
Lauren James – Staff Writer
THAT Bathtub Scene. Arriving late to the Breaking Bad party and spending much of my time with my fingers plugged firmly in my ears to drown out the excited chatters about seasons 3, 4 or 5 that I had yet to see, I tentatively started at the beginning so I could discover the phenomenon for myself. Even my own Mother got there before me and raved about the story of the straight-laced teacher who used his chemistry skills to brew up some mean meth. If Mum liked it, how brutal could it really be?
The pilot served well to suck me in but not in the meth-addict way some of my friends voraciously consumed whole seasons in one sitting, claiming each scene of the show upped the ante further and blew their minds to smithereens. The premise of the series was well known worldwide by this stage, which is why I was restless throughout the episode, waiting for something to shock me.
Turns out I wouldn’t have to wait too long: episode two and its infamous bathtub scene were just around the corner. Jesse is given the task of disposing of a drug dealer’s corpse by dissolving it in hydrofluoric acid. Instead of following Walt’s instructions to find a plastic bin, the chemistry dropout throws the body and the acid in his own porcelain bathtub with dire consequences.
A practically vintage scene for hard-core BrBa fans, the scene both made me want to vomit at the sight of semi-dissolved innards bursting through the ceiling as well as applaud Vince Gilligan and the show-makers for pulling a completely unexpected, stomach-churningly revolting scene out of the bag and still managing to retain an element of that trademark dark humour. As the rest of series one unfolded, I realised that that initial drop, the horrific bathtub scene was mere muscle-flexing compared with what was to come.