Few shows have as many great episodes as Breaking Bad. Over the course of its five seasons, the show produced a number of all-time great TV episodes, including several that are considered to be among the best in TV history.
Because Breaking Bad was so uniformly excellent, though, there are also plenty of great episodes that don’t get the proper attention they deserve. These episodes may not get all the plaudits that one like Ozymandias received, but they are the episodes that remind us how great Breaking Bad was almost every week.
The pilot of Breaking Bad is widely regarded as excellent, but it’s in the show’s second episode that we fully understand what level it’s operating on. Most of the episode’s drama is focused on Walt and Jesse trying to figure out what to do with Krazy-8, who isn’t as dead as they thought he was.
While death has already entered this world, Krazy-8 is the moment when it becomes clear how far Walt is going to descend over the course of this story. Krazy-8’s death makes a major impact not because he was some hugely compelling character, but because he was Walt’s first kill.
An episode that displays Gus at the height of his powers, I See You tracks the aftermath of Hank’s attack by the twins. Walt breaks up with Gale to replace him with Jesse, Gus discovers that Walt’s brother is a DEA agent, and Walt and Jesse fall behind on their weekly quota.
The brilliance of this episode, though, is the way it reminds you that Walt’s personal life and his life as a drug dealer are impossible to disentangle. The actual attack on Hank is riveting in its own right, but Breaking Bad knows how to make just as much out of its aftermath.
Season 4 has a number of standout installments, but Bug is among the most underrated. The episode focuses primarily on Jesse’s rift with Walt, as he becomes more ingratiated with Gus, and comes to understand that the cartel cannot kill him because of his distribution network.
Walt, who is singularly focused on finding a way to kill Gus, ultimately comes to blows with Jesse as Walt realizes that Jesse may prefer Gus as a partner. The rift between them will come to define the rest of season 4, and it’s also a definitive turning point in the show’s central relationship.
One of the more chilling episodes of Breaking Bad, Madrigal focuses on Walt and Jesse’s efforts to launch a new meth business with Mike. We are also introduced to Madrigal, the corporation that was key to Gus’s efforts to launder his drug money.
Nothing momentous happens in Madrigal, but the episode carefully lays out all the ways that Walt has become one of the most menacing people in TV history. It’s also a wonderful Skyler episode, as we come to more fully appreciate how terrified she now is by her own husband.
The finales in Breaking Bad are often the episodes that get the most hype, but sometimes, it’s their predecessors that feel the most electrifying. End Times, the episode that leads us to the face-off between Walt and Gus, chronicles Brock’s poisoning, and Walt’s efforts to convince Jesse that he is not the culprit.
This re-teaming of Jesse and Walt is thrilling and sick in equal measure, especially on a rewatch when you know that Walt is the one who almost killed Brock. In End Times, we see Walt become the mastermind that Walt has long been.
Because it was expanded from seven episodes all the way out to 13 in season, 2, Breaking Bad had more time to breathe in season 2, which is part of the reason we wound up with episodes like Bit by a Dead Bee. This episode follows the aftermath of Walt’s kidnapping by Tuco.
In order to account for his disappearance, he wanders into a store totally naked in order to preserve a lie for his family. Walt’s slow deterioration into villainy comes in part through moments like these, ones where he goes to almost comical lengths to hide things from the people he’s supposed to love.
Because the first season of Breaking Bad was so carefully contained, it didn’t have a lot of time for the colorful characters that would come to inhabit this world over subsequent seasons. One of the first examples of that trend comes with Better Call Saul, the only episode of Breaking Bad that is also the name of an entirely separate series.
This episode gives us our first introduction to Saul Goodman, and as a result, it’s also the funniest episode in the show’s entire run. Do the plot mechanics of this episode matter a great deal in the grand scheme of things? No, but Better Call Saul is a reminder of how fun Breaking Bad could be.
All seasons of Breaking Bad can be streamed on Netflix.