Some TV shows are so good that they seemingly don’t contain any “bad” episodes, a description certainly befitting of Breaking Bad. While it undoubtedly featured some iconic episodes over its five-year run, the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based drama continued to reach higher and greater peaks thanks to the consistent quality its production team churned out week after week.
That said, even the best-of-the-best have to have at least a couple of low points. We’ll examine the best scenes and moments from these episodes, hopefully exemplifying that, even though they’re ranked lower, these episodes still represent top-notch storytelling.
“I.F.T.” highlights the mental battle between Skyler White and her egomaniacal husband Walt that occurs throughout the show’s third season. After learning of Walt’s misdeeds, Skyler kicks Walt out of their home, setting up the episode’s memorable showdown.
Walt breaks into the home and forces Skyler’s hand in involving the police. She calls them to report Walt, but, before they arrive, Walter Jr. comes home, only making the tense situation worse. Upon the officers’ arrival, Junior berates his mother for calling them and tells the officers that his father’s done nothing wrong. With Junior by her father’s side and her superior position slipping, Skyler realizes she’s unable to break her family apart and chooses not to reveal Walt’s criminal behavior.
As with a majority of Breaking Bad‘s lowest-ranked episodes, “Breakage” represents a mid-season episode in which the story has no grand, bombastic moments, but instead deeply-driven character examinations. While the best moment could very well go to Walt and Jesse’s business argument, it instead goes to Hank’s slowly disintegrating psyche.
Hank is well-known for his alpha-male, macho persona, something he works very hard to maintain at all times. In this episode, however, there are multiple moments that demonstrate his vulnerabilities behind closed doors. Hank has a sudden panic attack in the DEA headquarters elevator after being offered a promotion, the result of his shooting Tuco. Later, Hank and Marie are awakened by loud pops in their home. Fearing the worst, Hank grabs his gun and patrols the house, only to find the bangs being compressed beer bottles popping. Hank lowers his weapon slowly, possibly realizing how on-edge he’s becoming.
Bit By A Dead Bee (8.4)
Following Walt and Jesse’s traumatic escape from Tuco in season two, the pair find themselves in need of some bullet-proof alibis. Walt memorably fakes a fugue state, while Jesse shacks up in the local Crossroads Motel.
The interrogations that the partners subsequently face accentuate the stark differences in their social standings. Walt returns home to a loving welcome, and, though his family and doctors have questions, they generally offer him complete support. Jesse’s return, on the other hand, feels far more tragic. He has no one waiting for him and is instead treated like a criminal. Though Jesse and his fake accomplice Wendy withstand Hank’s three-day interrogation, he’s left with no money, no car, no support, and a DEA target on his back.
Grey Matter (8.4)
In season one’s fifth episode, “Grey Matter,” Walt is confronted with the uncomfortable reality of how his cancer diagnosis affects others. Fearing Walt’s disinterest in seeking treatment, Skyler calls an intervention with the entire family in the infamous “talking pillow” scene.
As Walt sits helplessly, Hank, Marie, Junior, and Skyler all offer their opinions on how he should proceed. After Skyler, Junior, and Hank tell Walt he should take Elliott’s money and seek treatment, Marie says Walt should be allowed to make his own decision. This infuriates Skyler and prompts a family fight until Walt finally has enough, whistling loudly for everyone to calm down.
Thirty-Eight Snub (8.3)
The second episode of season four finds Jesse coping with what Walt makes him do to Gale. Needing a distraction, Jesse begins throwing never-ending raging parties at his house. After several days, the party-goers eventually filter out, including Jesse’s comrades Skinny Pete and Badger.
Desperately trying whatever he can to keep his mind occupied and numb, Jesse berates them for leaving. Now alone with nothing but his thoughts, Jesse plops down in front of his giant subwoofer and turns the music up. As the camera slowly pans back, he clasps his hands tightly around his neck, pleading for the quaking music to drown out his demons.
Green Light (8.3)
In this follow-up to “I.F.T.,” Jesse is seen trading some of the blue meth for gas with a gas station attendant named Cara. The meth eventually finds its way to Hank, who follows a tip that leads him to the same gas station.
What makes the following scene so great is that it exemplifies what makes Hank such a complex character; he’s incredibly smart, and his instincts are almost always dead-on, but he can’t seem to demonstrate restraint when he should. As Hank interrogates Cara, his demeanor becomes increasingly hostile, causing her to break down into tears. Frustrated, Hank storms out, but he soon notices an outdoor ATM machine. With Dave Porter’s mysterious score hanging overhead, Hank peers into the ATM’s camera, wondering what secrets it might contain.
“Down” picks up from the events of “Bit by a Dead Bee” as Walt attempts to make things right after his disappearance. He sits down on the couch with Skyler for a tense conversation as the empty space between them feels very symbolic.
Even though Walt has seemingly escaped suspicion from everyone else, he’s unable to escape Skyler’s. As the barrier grows between the two, Walt desperately tries to make peace with his wife, apologizing and pleading that he’s done nothing wrong. Knowing Walt is still hiding something, Skyler finally calls him out and tells him to say something “that isn’t complete bullsh*t.”
Cancer Man (8.3)
Immediately preceding season one’s “Grey Matter,” Walt is constantly confronted throughout “Cancer Man” with opinions of what he should do about his cancer. His reluctance to seek treatment prompts Walt Jr. to bluntly tell his father he should just give up and die.
Afterward, while driving around, Walt has a violent coughing fit and pulls over near a gas station. He witnesses a rude loudmouth named Ken, whom he’d encountered earlier, pull his car up to the pump. Ken exits his vehicle, still talking loudly on his Bluetooth device, and Walt impulsively seizes the opportunity to teach him a lesson. He walks over to Ken’s car and places a wet squeegee on the car’s battery, causing an electrical short. The car then bursts into flames as Walt walks away proudly.
Open House (8.1)
The most memorable scene of this season four episode occurs as Walt, Skyler, and their effervescent attorney Saul Goodman meet in Walt’s condo to discuss how to buy the car wash. Even though Skyler was shot down by Bogdan, the car wash’s surly owner, she persistently insists to find alternate ways to attain the business, much to Saul’s chagrin.
After going a few rounds with Saul on options, Skyler manipulates Walt into joining her side when she reveals how Bogdan questioned Walt’s manhood. This hilariously sets up the payoff in which Saul arranges for one of his fixers to pose as an environmental agent while Skyler reads him lines over Bluetooth, allowing them to succeed in buying the business.
“Fly,” the controversial tenth episode of the show’s third season, represents one of the strangest episodes in Breaking Bad. On the one hand, the “bottle” episode does little to advance the plot, a result of needing to set the entire episode in one location to save money, but, on the other hand, it does so much to advance the symbiotic relationship of Walt and Jesse.
Throughout the episode’s runtime, Walt and Jesse engage in combat with a rogue fly that threatens to contaminate their cook, which is just a backdrop to Walt’s increasing paranoia and guilt. Jesse witnesses Walt’s sleep deprivation and drugs his coffee, leading Walt to offer Jesse the rarest of glimpses into his goodness. He recounts how he listened to Skyler sing to Holly on the baby monitor the night that Jane died and reveals it would’ve been the perfect time for him to die. He then tells Jesse he’s sorry for Jane’s death.