Thursday, 18 October 2012

Top 15 Breaking Bad Episodes

Recently, I've come to the realisation that Heavy Metal Mouth hasn't yet featured any TV articles so expect to be reading about the likes of The Sopranos, The Wire and Lost starting now as we list off our favourite episodes and characters on the silver screen.

To kick it all off theres no better place to start than with Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and AMC's astounding drama Breaking Bad, which recently concluded at the half way point of it's fifth and final season. We'll have to wait another year for it's return, but until then let's remember the reasons we love it so much in the first place. Here are Heavy Metal Mouth's Top 15 Breaking Bad Episodes.

WARNING: For anyone who hasn't seen the show in full (that is to Season 5, Episode 8 at this point) do not continue. This article contains massive spoilers.

15. Breaking Bad (S1, E1)
The debut episode of the show opened with a memorable sequence involving Walter speeding down the motorway in an RV loaded with chemicals as he is pursued by sirens and records a tearful message to his family. It's a remarkable opening and from there we are introduced to the mundane life Walter lives with his beloved and heavily pregnant wife Skyler, and teenage son Walt Jr. who suffers from cerebal palsy. Walt's terminal diagnosis leads him to embark on a dangerous scheme involving troubled former pupil Jesse Pinkman and so Walt begins his new double life as crystal meth manufacturer, albeit comically unsuccessfully at first.

The pilot is an excellent demonstration of the mix of black comedy with drama and serves as a terrific starting point which the show quickly developed on.

14. Dead Freight (S5, E5)
The first of many highlights from the incredible fifth season, this episode sees Walt, Jesse and Mike carry out a train heist for chemicals that goes to plan until a passing boy witnesses the robbery and is duly executed by new recruit Todd. Other highlights of the episode include Walter installing a bug in Hank's office as he deviously cries to his brother in law to create a diversion. An action packed finale with a shocking conclusion.

13. 4 Days Out (S4, E9)
The first of several so called 'bottle' episodes in the show, and in my opinion, the best. Walt's deteriorating condition and lack of substantial money to leave behind leads him to bring Jesse deep into the desert for a marathon cook, only for the RV to die on the pair, leaving them stranded. An episode that developed the relationship between the pair and the first real indication of a father/son bond that would later become clearer.

12. Peekaboo (S2, E6)
An episode which significantly developed the character of Jesse as he is faced with the task of reclaiming stolen drug money from two meth addicts following their ambush of Skinny Pete. Jesse comes to realise he's not the tough enforcer he is expected to be, and forms a strange bond with the junkie couples child. The first time we see a truly empathetic side to Jesse and a real breakthrough for Aaron Paul as an actor in the series.

11. Hermanos (S4, E8)
Simply a showcase for the acting powerhouse that is Giancarlo Eposito as we are given further insight into the past of fast food empire and drug kingpin Gus Fring through a series of flashbacks involving his dealings with the cartel. Mark Margolis is excellent as the despicible Tio but it's Eposito who steals the show, and it is a true testament to his ability that he could generate sympathy from an audience who already knew his evil nature all too well.

10. Live Free Or Die (S5, E1)
The remarkable opening flash forward scene of season 5's inaugral episode is enough to ensure Live Free Or Die's position among the great episodes of the series, but this episode is notable for it's complex examination of Walt's character as he begins to transform into the monster he destroyed in the season 4 finale, Gus Fring. Walt's hunger for power and status has outgrown his love of family and he is no longer in need of money. He is simply a different man than the bumbling, desperate but kind-hearted teacher we met in the pilot episode and Live Free Or Die is confirmation of Walt's dominant alter ego. Anna Gunn is superb as Skyler, who is horrified at her realisation of Walt's change.

9. Box Cutter (S4, E1)
The season 4 opener is once again dominated by one man's performance; Giancarlo Eposito is mesmerizing as Gus makes a menacing statement to both Walt and Jesse following the murder of Gale. His execution of Victor before their eyes is brutal, and Eposito's cold, silent demeanour is chilling and makes for one of the most intense scenes in the show's history.

8. End Times (S4, E12)
The final three episodes of season 4 are television at it's finest and End Times acts as the mid section to the trio, providing 47 minutes packed with action as Walt and Jesse team up to kill Gus. Aaron Paul submitted this on his behalf for Best Supporting Actor at the Emmy's, recently winning the award, and watching this makes for compelling evidence in his favour.

7. Phoenix (S2, E12)
A significant moment for Walter as he begins his moral descent by witnessing Jane choking to death on her own vomit. This terrible act also proved his love for Jesse however, as he refuses to allow his partner to remain an addict, even if it means the death of his beloved girlfriend.

6. Crawl Space (S4, E11)
An episode containing probably the most memorable scene of the entire series and the finest acting moment of Bryan Cranston's career as Walt is dragged out to the desert and informed by Gus that his family will be murdered if Walt continues to attempt to interfere with Jesse. Walt's reaction upon racing home to discover that his life savings are gone is shocking and disturbing; his manical laughter echoes through the house and there is a sense of chaos that would make anyone viewing on edge. The fact that Vince Gilligan and Cranston can transmit this type of uneasiness on the viewer is testament to the strength of the show and makes Crawl Space a Breaking Bad classic.

5. Gliding Over All (S5, E8)
The latest episode of the series, Gliding Over All marks the mid way point of season 5 and leaves us craving more as it bows out for the next year in style. Walt's organized execution of the 9 prison inmates on Mike's payroll demonstrates just how far Walt is gone and completes the transition of his character from sympathetic family man to sadistic villian, in a stunning montage that recalls 'The Godfather'. The conclusion of Gliding Over All is it's best moment however, as Hank literally makes a pants shitting discovery in the bathroom and finally uncovers Walt's secret identity.

4. One Minute (S3, E7)
An episode dominated by Dean Norris as Hank undergoes investiagtion at work and faces the possibility of losing his beloved job after an assault on Jesse. Norris' potrayal of Hank is at it's best here, establishing him as a character of primary importance, nearly on par with Walt and Jesse. The shootout of the final scene is a stunning conclusion to the episode, and left the audience stunned as it truly seemed like anything could happen; it felt like Hank's life was really on the line and for it's sheer realism and breathtaking drama, One Minute is a firm favourite.

3. Say My Name (S5, E7)
From the cold open of Say My Name, it was obvious this was going to be a special episode. Walt is stone cold cool in his delivery of that line (''You're goddamn right'') and it's by far the most badass sentence ever uttered by Cranston in the show's history, as Walt ensures a deal goes down his way out in the middle of the desert with fellow crooks who are now well aware of the reputation he holds as Heisenberg. Later on, Walt's execution of Mike is both unexpected and saddening as one of the show's greatest characters passes on and falls victim to a man now desperate for power and status over any amount of money. The final shot of Mike and Walt by the river in the sunshine is as stylish as TV direction gets.

2. Face Off (S4, E13)
The conclusion of the fourth season see's Walt and Jesse finally rid themselves of Gus Fring through a carefully executed plan involving Hector Salamanca, who also gets his revenge on the fast food entrepeneur. Mark Margolis is exceptional in his final appearance as he has been throughout the show, but it's Giancarlo Eposito who will be missed most; his chilling potrayal of Fring will surely go down in television history.
As Walt and Jesse shake hands and make up, the final reveal of Face Off tells us the shocking truth about Brock's poisoning as we are shown the very plant that caused his near death experience in Walter's backyard. An incredible set up for the final season as Walt ensures he is now the main man in ABQ, and is willing to do anything necessary to make sure of it.

1. Half Measures/ Full Measure (S3, E11/12)
Maybe you'll think it's cheating to have both of these at 1, but Top 16 Breaking Bad doesn't quite have the same ring to it and to me, both of these episodes are inseparable both in terms of quality and storyline, as the third season is brought to a close in dramatic fashion. Jesse's determination to murder two mid level drug dealers for their execution of his friend Combo as well as young Tomas spells trouble for both him and Walt as Gus threatens death upon Jesse if he does not step off.
There are so many exceptional scenes over these two episodes but I'll go with my favourite three as examples of why they are the finest Breaking Bad episodes ever- Mike's discussion with Walt about half measures and full measure is haunting and gives great insight into Mike's character through it's excellent dialogue.
The final scene of both Half Measures and Full Measure ensure I had to pick it as my number 1 however, as Jesse and Walt both prove their extreme loyalty to each other and seal an unbreakable bond by saving one another from the wrath of Gus in a desperate manner. Walt's last minute intervention and murder of the two dealers before they could kill Jesse is perfectly executed after an unbearable amount of tension is built by Jesse's doomed approach to them. Later in Full Measure, as Walt is captured and set to be killed by Mike, he screams down the phone at Jesse to murder Gale before anything can happen to him. As Gale unknowingly opens his door to find Jesse staring at him with a gun in his hand, the ensuing close up of Aaron Paul's distressed and unhinged face is an unforgettable shot and makes for a cliffhanger ending to season 3 that will stay in my mind for a long time.

So that's it, my personal countdown of Breaking Bad's Top 15 and whether you liked it or not, I'm sure we can all agree that it's been an incredible 5 seasons so far. Now we wait until next July.

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