The 8 Ball 10.01.13: Top 8 Breaking Bad Moments
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 10.01.2013
From Walt's famous "I am the one who knocks" speech and Hank's battle with the Salamancas to the infamous acid bath fiasco, Gus poisoning the Cartel and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Breaking Bad moments of all time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Breaking Bad Moments
Welcome back to the 8 Ball, ladies and gentlemen! September TV month finishes up tonight for the 8 Ball and there was no way I could go out without mentioning Breaking Bad. The AMC show finished up its run last night in fantastic order, smashing series records and perhaps even setting a new bar for how a series should end. Breaking Bad was a true phenomenon, starting out as a cult show on the network and quickly growing to become one of television's marquee and must-see programs thanks to the brilliant writing, amazing performances and pretty much every other aspect. This week I thought we would send off the show right by recognizing the top 8 moments from the show.
Caveat: The criterion for this list was simple: it had to be a moment (from a single moment up to a full scene) from the series. That's all it took. It must be noted that, as amazing as this show was, it was perhaps my hardest list to rank yet. There will likely be a lot of other suggestions made and I very possibly considered them but there was a lot of great stuff and only so many spots. When a show is this good...well, you know.
Worth noting: There are no spoilers for the finale in this list. However, spoilers run through portions of season five. You have been warned.
• The Introduction of Saul - "Better Call Saul"
• Todd Kills the Kid - "Dead Freight"
• Hank Learns the Truth - "Gliding Over All"
• The Airplane Crash - "ABQ"
• The Final Scene - "Felina"
#8: The Acid Bath Fiasco - "Cat's in the Bag..."
The first moment of true greatness in Breaking Bad came in the second episode and truly set the tone for what was to come. This isn't to say that there wasn't a lot of good stuff in the first episode, but this was the point when most people knew whether they were going to be fans of this show or not. After things went horribly wrong for Walt and Jesse in the pilot and Walt was forced to poison Emilio and Krazy-8, Walt tasks Jesse with disposing of Emilio's body by use of hydrofluoric acid. However, unable to find a big enough plastic tub to put the whole body in, he decides to use a ceramic bathtub. Poor, poor Jesse. The end result, of course, was the acid eating through the ceramic of the tub and a brilliantly hilarious look on Walt's face when he realizes what's about to happen. The two walk out and stare at the blood-dripping ceiling just before the tub breaks through and what's left of Emilio plops down in all its bloody glory. This set the tone for the kinds of humor we would come to expect from the series (death by ATM, anyone?) and still stands as one of the most memorable moments in a highly-memorable series.
#7: Mike's Death - "Say My Name"
Man, this one hurt. Breaking Bad was never stingy about handing out the death card to its cast of characters, but the loss of Walt and Jesse's partner certainly stung. It was the perfect kind of death too; Walt, angered by Mike's refusal to provide the names of the nine men he's paying off and his lashing out at Walt's pride, shoots Mike through the car window and a chase ensues that ended with Mike sitting on a log by the river while Walt, upon catching up, realizes that the shooting was totally unnecessary. And that's what helps make it a great moment; the pointlessness of the death continues to display just how far Walt is falling and it shows that even if you think he's a badass (and you should after the "Say My Name" speech earlier in the episode), he's still just as prone to mistakes in judgment as anyone. The final moments where Walt attempts to stammer out an apology and Mike tells him, "Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace" before doing just that made for a rough ending (in all the right ways) for one of the many, many great episodes in the series.
#6: Walt's Chemical Bomb - "Crazy Handful of Nothin'"
No single moment in the first two seasons of the show blew me away (I'm sorry, I know it's a bad pun but I couldn't think of a better way to put it) than this one. "Crazy Handful of Nothin'" is in fact probably my favorite episode of the first couple of seasons, which is not a slight on the other episodes but a major compliment to this one. Everything is plotted out and paced so perfectly and the opening moments of the episode--where Walt vehemently tells Jesse that he wants nothing to do with their customers and that there will be no more violence interspliced with him walking away from Tuco Salamanca's place--is a great juxtaposition that makes us wonder what the hell is going to happen. As it turns out, we learn that Tuco has Jesse beaten and put into the hospital when initial negotiation attempts go poorly, and Walt isn't willing to take that lying down so he goes to visit Tuco himself. This is a wonderful scene where Walt looks like he's completely in over his head, but as we learn he's just being the smartest guy in the room as he takes a chunk of fulminated mercury and blows up Tuco's lair. That's enough to secure him exactly what he wants (and, ultimately, so much more than he bargained for). This works in so many ways, but primarily as great character growth for Walt, who feels bad for sending Jesse in to talk to Tuco and getting hurt but also knows that they need to get this deal done. It also shows how smart he is: not just book smart, but resourceful as well. And of course, this is the moment that the name "Heisenberg" is born. It's an essential moment in the series and you have to appreciate how well-done it is.
#5: Gus Poisons the Cartel - "Salud"
Has there ever been an antagonist quite as formidable as Gus Fring? I venture to say not. Giancarlo Esposito was absolutely chilling as the drug lord who became one of Walt and Jessie's deepest enemies, and he was willing to do absolutely anything to accomplish what he needed to. Never was that more evident than in "Salud." Things are tense between Gus and the Mexican cartel and so he brings Mike and Jesse down to cook up a batch of Blue Sky. Everything seems on the level and Gus gets himself invited to Don Eladio's home, where he presents a bottle of tequila that, to prove isn't poisoned, he shares a round of with the guys. He then excuses himself to go to the bathroom and proceeds to vomit it out as the Cartel leadership quickly dies from the fast-acting poison contained within. This moment truly solidified Gus' reputation for all time; the sheer bravado of his plan is incredible and as Jesse drives him and Mike away from the scene of death, we knew that no matter what happened from here on out Gus Fring would never be anything but the scariest, most ruthless man ever put on the (fictional) Earth.
#4: Walt's "I Am the One Who Knocks" Speech - "Cornered"
The dialogue in Breaking Bad has never been anything short of sparkling, and Walt has had some of the greatest TV speeches I can remember. There's the "Say My Name" bit, his "stay out of my territory" speech, telling Hank to tread lightly...I could go on and on. But by far his best moment of speechifying has to be in "Cornered" when Skylar tells Walt that it's time to go to the police because their family is in danger. When she dares suggest that he's in over his head, Walt snaps. And for the first real time, Skylar learns just how far they've gone and more specifically just how far Walt's gone. Cranston's delivery is nothing short of superb as he asks "Who do you think you're talking to? Who is it you think you see?" And then he launches into an explanation of exactly who he is. And let's not discount Anna Gunn's part in this scene; her reactions are pretty much perfect and add to the impact of exactly what Walt is saying here as he turns the corner and snarls, "I am the danger...a guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!" It's chilling and certainly the greatest moment of dialogue on a show full of such moments.
#3: Hank Takes Down the Salamancas - "One Minute"
Oh, Hank. You poor, poor bastard. Hank Schrader has his flaws and let's not pretend that he doesn't, but he's also one of the best characters on this show. A DEA agent, he is set up to be the adversary early on but as we quickly find out he's just a good guy who had the misfortune of marrying into very much the wrong family. Dean Norris did amazing work throughout his run on Breaking Bad as Hank and while there have been some great shootouts and other action scenes, this may just be the best. In "One Minute" a suspended (and thus unarmed) Hank is about to end up whacked by Leonel and Marco Salamanca when Gus, calling anonymously, warns him "Two men are coming to kill you. You have one minute." And while Hank gets messed up to no end, he still comes out of this as one of the most badass cops you can imagine, using his car and basically every tool at his disposal to dispatch the two. Hank comes out of it with scars both physical and emotional, but he also gains his newfound focus on ferreting out Heisenberg. The way that director Michelle MacLaren frames every minute of this violent altercation is just fantastic, all the way through to the point when Hank puts a bullet in Marco's head and blows out the back. It was a true game-changer for Hank and a truly thrilling sequence for the show.
#2: Walt Revealed as Brock's Poisoner - "Face Off"
I've used the word "chilling" a couple of times in this column but this one really exemplifies the word. It was still entirely to consider Walter an anti-hero all the way up to this point, but this is the point where, even if he stayed the protagonist, he was undoubtedly a villain. We knew that Brock had been poisoned and that it had turned Jesse against Gus, but we didn't really know anything, as it turned out. Brock was one of those characters who helped make Jesse a better guy, and his near-death turns a corner for Jesse as he agrees to team up with Walt to kill Gus. But again, we really didn't know anything because at the end of the season four finale, we learn that Brock was not poisoned with ricin but with Lily of the Valley, which we learn happens to be sitting in Walt's back yard in a pot. Now, you can argue that it isn't so bad because Brock didn't really die but that is a matter of luck to some degree because Lily of the Valley can absolutely kill. This really showed the bounds to which Walter would go and, essentially, told us that he would stop at absolutely nothing to achieve his goals. No one could really justify Walt as a "good guy" by any sense of the word after this and it made for one of the more ominous season-ending scenes I can possibly recall.
#1: Gus' Death - "Face Off"
I did a list of the Top 8 TV deaths a little while back and some people were annoyed that Gus' death only made Honorable Mention. While I was confident with the decision then and don't regret it, I think that in retrospect I might have placed it higher if I did it today. It's certainly the single-greatest moment of this now-finished TV show most of us know and love. Gus was, as I have said, the ultimate badass; he was the coolest cat in any room he walked into and he was incredibly complex yet completely ruthless. When Gus and Walt's rivalry came to a head, we had to see one of them go and as much as we all loved Gus, this was a series about Walter White and not Gus Fring.
In truth, this moment didn't have the character development that other ones did; I considered not making it #1 because of that. But the truth of the matter is that it propelled the series ever further toward its eventual finale. Walt became the scariest man in Breaking Bad's world with Gus out of the way and that was an important step for him. And the way that the actual scene played out is absolutely phenomenal, as the room explodes, and moments later we see Gus come out, carefully straighten his tie as if he has somehow survived. And just as audiences are freaking out saying "There's no way that he made it," the camera pans from left to right and we see that half of Gus' face is missing. Even at the end Gus had to keep up appearances and even as he falls, there is dignity to him. It was a watershed moment for the series and very probably its most memorable. Certainly it's my favorite moment.
Note: Now that I am caught up to current, I have gone back to watch the episodes that have become available in the US since I started watching and thus were previously unavailable to me (thus why I have episodes remaining despite being caught up).
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