The slow burn of Breaking Bad comes to a boil around the conclusion of the third season, and the devastating payoffs are worth all the buildup. For a story that’s generally “slower” than most action-themed shows, Breaking Bad contains a large number of powerful moments, from emotional outbursts and psychological brutality to acts of self-preservation.
All the main characters in the series are given enough screentime to make a strong impact on audiences; however, what’s key here are the arcs that have been specifically designed for them. Each of them appears in several memorable scenes, but there is always going to be a single one that outclasses all the others.
Todd Alquist — Murders A Child In Ice-Cold Blood
Todd Alquist enters the story when Mike brings him and his men to help with setting up a safe space for Jesse and Walt to do their jobs. Due to his initial eagerness, the others trust him enough to support them when they steal a massive amount of methylamine from an actual moving train.
Unfortunately, a random child happens to be cycling in the area and observes the event take place. In order to protect his interests, Todd basically murders Drew without asking for permission from anyone else. As horribly as he treats Jesse later, this act is by far the most extreme.
Flynn — Protects His Mom & Sister Against His Father
Flynn is a carefree teenager whose biggest concerns revolve around staying out late. His world unfortunately collapses, however, when his aunt makes his mother reveal the situation that Walter Sr. had trapped their family in.
While he initially blames Skyler for not standing up to his dad, he protects her when Walter tries to evict them from their own home on grounds of safety. Flynn consequently forces his dad off his mother and dials 911, proving that his loyalty lies with the right person.
Hank Schrader — Realizes What W.W. Stands For
Hank spends a sizeable chunk of his career as a DEA agent hunting down the mysterious Heisenberg and the Blue Sky meth overwhelming the underground markets, and is relatively satisfied when Gus Fring’s drug empire is destroyed.
However, he accidentally finds that Walter White, his beloved brother-in-law, is the W.W. behind the operation the entire time. The expression on Hank’s face is so poignant that the show ends the first half of Season 5 with it.
Saul Goodman — Convinces Walt And Jesse To Hire Him
Saul Goodman’s shining moment comes early on the show when Walter and Jesse abduct him and threaten to leave him for dead in the desert. The two meth-makers ask the criminal lawyer to represent their friend Badger, but only if there is no DEA involvement.
Saul implies that getting rid of Badger is a far more effective solution; Jesse flat-out rejects the possibility. In the end, he invokes a rather loosely defined “attorney-client privilege” by having his would-be killers “put a dollar in [his] pocket.” Saul tries something risky and it pays off (to a point).
Gus Fring — Kills An Entire Drug Cartel With A Bottle Of Alcohol
It’s hard to describe a man as stoic and chilly as Gus Fring can be, but the undercurrents of emotions surrounding his partner’s death are brought to the surface when he meets Don Eladio.
After giving the drug lord and his men a special bottle of tequila, and consuming some of it himself, he rushes to the toilet to get rid of the poison he had incorporated into the alcohol. Gus is someone who doesn’t mind nearly dying if it means destroying an entire Mexican cartel.
Jesse Pinkman — Exalts The Virtues Of Science
Jesse is one of the two major focal centers of the show, and he serves as the counterbalance to the increasing vainglory seen in Walter White. At the start, he is excited about his meth-cooking partnership with his ex-high school chemistry teacher, displayed most fervently when Jesse learns that Walter White has a superior chemical method to produce meth without the use of pseudoephedrine.
Jesse clearly develops a love for the subject in that moment, enthusiastically yelling “Yeah Mr. White! Yeah science!” a scene that has been memed beyond recognition at this point.
Mike Ehrmantraut — Wants Nothing More Than To Die In Peace
Mike and Walter’s animosity comes to a head after Gus’ death, which one of them is happy about, but the other finds incredibly ungrateful. Both characters have a point, sure, but they end up ricocheting blame off each other until Mike decides to leave the paradoxically peaceful scene.
Walter shoots him before he can escape, and the latter makes his way to the bank of a river, where he begins to accept the inevitability of his fate. His killer attempts to make last-minute amends, but Mike shuts Walter down with his last words: “Let me die in peace.”
Skyler White — Discovers Her Husband’s Moonlighting Career
Skyler notices the changes in Walt’s behavior after he turns into a drug kingpin, but she naturally associates it with his recent cancer diagnosis and the related recovery period. Days slip into weeks before she begins to express any serious doubts, but even then her guesses are relatively innocent.
Things take a sharp turn when her husband accidentally acknowledges the existence of a private cell phone, which forces Skyler to take the plunge, asking him to leave their home. Walter attempts to tell her what he’s been doing, but Skyler coolly tells him that she’s “afraid to know whatever it is.”
Marie Schrader — Offers Walt An Extreme Solution
Marie is an intense character, and that’s putting it lightly. If it’s not her obsession with purple, it’s her on-again-off-again trysts with shoplifting. None of her prior expressions come close to the manner in which she treats her brother-in-law after Hank explains everything to her.
Marie and her husband meet with Walt and Skyler at a Taqueria, where she point-blank asks him to take his own life as a solution that would benefit everyone. At this point, audiences are pretty unsure who to root for.
Walter White — Is The One Who Knocks
Walter White is the star of the show, and it is quite evident that he thinks of himself as the center of his fictional universe. For a man to turn from timid teacher to ruthless criminal so swiftly and so smoothly suggests that his towering ego has been present the whole time (but heavily suppressed for decades).
In the incredible scene where he berates his wife for asking him to quit, Walter goes on a whole rant that all but cements his megalomania in place. He calls himself “the danger” and “the one who knocks”, wearing his violent crimes as a badge of pride.