Breaking Bad is undoubtedly one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Nearly every aspect of its production was acclaimed, including the acting, writing, directing, cinematography, and authentic Albuquerque setting.
That said, not all the episodes can be winners. While a large majority of the show was acclaimed, there are a few standout episodes. And we mean that in a bad way.
IMDb is a great resource for gauging an episode’s response from general audiences. Some episodes have astronomical ratings, while others fall on the low side. These are the five best and the five worst episodes of Breaking Bad, according to IMDb.
It’s pretty telling that the show’s fifth-highest rated episode is sitting at a 9.7. “Crawl Space” is often touted as one of the show’s most tense and exciting episodes, serving as the dramatic climax of the fourth season. This is the one where Gus threatens Walt, forcing him to retrieve the hidden stash of money and find that Skyler has given it to Ted to pay his exorbitant IRS bill. The entire episode is an exercise in tension, but many fans consider the ending as Bryan Cranston’s finest scene in the entire show. It’s scary, it’s pessimistic, and it is unbelievably good TV.
It seems like no one cares for Season 1’s “Cancer Man.” Luckily, the show was able to overcome this brief blunder. “Cancer Man” is Breaking Bad’s fourth episode, and it’s the one where Walt finally reveals to his family that he has cancer. The B plot involves Jesse spending a night with his parents, so really, there’s not a whole lot of excitement in this one. While no one considers it a bad episode, it is sometimes criticized for being too slow or “pointless.” Even though, you know…Walt reveals that he’s sick. Not exactly what we would call pointless…
While the start of Season 5 was sometimes criticized for being too fast-paced and for introducing unnecessary elements to the show, 5B is often considered the show’s greatest run of episodes. The beginning of the end started with “To’hajiilee,” the thirteenth episode of Season 5. In this one, Hank finally catches Walt once he goes to retrieve his hidden money, and the episode ends with the massive gunfight between Hank, Gomez, and Jack’s crew. With so much excitement and a killer cliffhanger, it’s no surprise to see this episode rated so highly.
Breaking Bad seemingly had a problem with starting seasons. At the time, Season 3 was criticized for being too slow, and that culminated in the fourth episode, “Green Light.” Nothing much happened in this one — Walt hits on the principal and is fired from the school, Jesse tries selling his meth to Gus to no avail, and Hank continues to suffer from PTSD. Thankfully, the episode’s end promises more exciting developments in the future, with the titular “Green Light” serving as a metaphor for Walt’s re-entry into the drug trade.
For a long time, “Face Off” was the highest rated episode not only in Breaking Bad history, but in the history of IMDb television ratings. As you can probably surmise, this is the Season 4 finale in which Gus, well, has his face taken off by Hector’s wheelchair bomb. It was not only an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the Gus arc, but it could also serve as a series finale, as most of the storylines were wrapped up in a neat and intriguing manner. Add in Walt’s new low — poisoning Brock — and you have yourself one of the greatest episodes in TV history.
While Season 4 ended well, it began a little slowly. This is evidenced by the second episode “Thirty-Eight Snub,” wherein Walt purchases the titular weapon to protect himself against, and possibly even murder, Gus. Meanwhile, Jesse suffers PTSD and throws a house party, Skyler wants to buy the car wash to launder Walt’s money, and Hank sits around talking about rocks — sorry, minerals! In other words, there’s not a whole lot going on, and many people refer to it as a filler episode.
It’s always nice to see a series finale so universally beloved, especially when you consider that a large majority of finales are often disappointing, or even downright disastrous. “Felina” is often claimed as one of the greatest series finales of all time, as it serves as a wonderful conclusion to the story and Walt’s character arc.
The episode is complete with everything that makes the show so great: smart writing, great character work, excitement, death, and Walt being a creative genius. There’s not a whole lot to dislike here.
What did we say about Season 4 starting slow? Right after “Thirty-Eight Snub” was “Open House,” and it made for a terrible one-two punch of Breaking Bad mediocrity. If “Thirty-Eight Snub” was boring, “Open House” is downright painful. A large chunk of the episode is devoted to Skyler buying the car wash and Marie stealing from open houses as a way to escape her torturous home life with Hank. It’s still good stuff, and it may not stand out in a binge-watch, but when it came to watching this show week-to-week, fans were screaming, “Get on with it, already!”
“Ozymandias” is often considered the climax of Breaking Bad. Hank is killed, Skyler is cleared of all wrongdoing, Walt goes into hiding, and Jesse is sold into slavery. Really, the series could have ended here and people would have been totally happy. This episode is often lauded as a masterpiece, and many people see it as one of, if not the, greatest episode of TV ever made. This is further proven by its 10/10 rating, which is even more incredible when you consider that it has been rated by over 100,000 people. It literally doesn’t get any better than this.
While “Ozymandias” is one of the greatest TV episodes ever, “Fly” is perhaps the most divisive. Many people love Fly for the same reason others hate it. It’s incredibly slow, it takes place entirely inside the meth lab, and it focuses primarily on Walt’s conscience and guilt. Many people love the more introspective themes and tone of the episode, but many others see it as the most pointless and pretentious episode of the entire series. If you love it, you’re a fanboy who can’t face or admit legitimate criticism. If you hate it, you just “didn’t get it.” You literally can’t win with “Fly.”
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