AMC’s Breaking Bad is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece, a shining example of the ongoing golden era of television. Its episodes have been singled out for their impeccable writing as much as for the extraordinary characters that fuel the story with their riveting emotional arcs.
In fact, Breaking Bad holds the IMDb distinction of being one of the very few TV shows to have multiple episodes rated above 9.5—with “Ozymandias” obtaining an unprecedented perfect score on the online database. Critics have rated the series with similar levels of enthusiasm, showing that IMDb audiences have hit the nail on the head.
10 Gliding Over All — 9.6
Taken from the title of a poem in Walt Whitman’s iconic collection, Leaves of Grass, this episode displays ten of the most shocking (and simultaneous) deaths in Breaking Bad history. Terrified that Gus’ ex-henchmen will gradually break under police pressure, Walter hires Jack Welker to assassinate ten prisoners by any means possible.
After this point, it’s smooth sailing for his meth business until he finally throws in the towel, much to Skyler’s relief. The ending of “Gliding Over All,” however, ignites the final arc of the story by having Hank realize that his brother-in-law is the “monster” he has been hunting for a year.
9 One Minute — 9.6
Hank beats Jesse up for allegedly pretending to be his wife, which generates a political nightmare for the DEA. He doesn’t get enough mental space to process his suspension, though—as “One Minute” refers to the time limit given to Hank before he is to be assassinated, a duration that stretches into a gruesome bloodbath and leaves the DEA agent in the ICU.
The episode builds up to this moment, however, using Leonel and Marco’s abusive relationship with Hector Salamanca to provide context for their emotionless personalities. Hank obviously survives, but the cliffhanger is nerve-wracking.
8 Granite State — 9.7
Jesse, now living in a cage, becomes an indentured meth cook for Jack Welker and his men. He tries to flee, but Todd murders Andrea Cantillo in cold blood as punishment. On the other side of the country, Walter tries to make himself home in a forlorn New Hampshire cabin; he regularly attempts to leave but loses the nerve at the last minute.
Over time, he plucks up the courage to send money to his son, but Flynn furiously rejects the offer over the phone. Walter decides to give himself up but changes his mind at the last minute upon discovering the continued presence of his patented blue meth in the Southwestern U.S.
7 Dead Freight — 9.7
Lydia manages to secure her relevance to the new meth administration after Gus’ demise, informing Walter, Jesse, and Mike that there’s a methylamine “ocean” just waiting for them to steal it. Most of “Dead Freight” deals with the logistical nightmare of heisting a List 1 controlled substance without anyone ever finding out.
The complex scheme eventually succeeds despite a major hitch, but before they can truly bask in the moment, Todd goes and kills a child for simply wandering in the area. This episode’s a real roller-coaster.
6 Full Measure — 9.7
A “Full Measure” is what Walter takes to ensure his safety, as well as Jesse’s life, driving a hard bargain with Gus Fring that somehow works in his favor. He later learns that his boss is planning to replace him with Gale Boetticher as soon as he is able to produce profitable amounts of Walter-quality meth.
Both Jesse and Walt hatch a plan to protect themselves, with the latter offering to murder Gale and solve their crisis. As luck would have it, Victor intercepts Walt before he can finish the job, so it falls to his partner to do it. Jesse is haunted by his actions for a long time, even though there were zero viable alternatives available at the time.
5 Crawl Space — 9.7
Jesse warns Gus that killing Walter would end their relationship, a condition that is ultimately accepted (as long as the blue meth keeps flowing). Meanwhile, Walt is pushed to a breaking point with every new clue Hank picks up about the Los Pollos operation. At the same time, Skyler browbeats Ted Beneke into resolving his debts with the IRS, using Saul’s men to terrify her ex-boss into compliance.
Gus subsequently tells Walter that Jesse will turn against him sooner or later, which scares him so much that he immediately tries leaving town with his family. Walter is shocked when Skyler reveals that their “Crawl Space” funds are gone, leading to one of the most iconic breakdowns in the show.
4 To’hajiilee — 9.8
Things start heating up for everyone when Walter asks the Neo-Nazis to execute Jesse (in exchange for instructing Todd in the nuances of meth production). Hank and Jesse hatch a plan to tempt Walter out into the open by texting him a fake barrel of money. Obsessed with protecting his $80 million, he obviously guns it all the way to the location where the money is buried.
When Hank, Gomez, and Jesse reach the spot, Walt genuinely plans to surrender to his brother-in-law, even allowing himself to be handcuffed. Unfortunately, Jack Welker brings his whole team with him, forcing a shootout in the desert—a cliffhanger that can only end one way.
3 Felina — 9.9
The series finale does a spectacular job of tying up nearly every loose end from the previous five seasons, not that there are many to begin with. Walter blackmails Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz into opening an irrevocable trust fund for his son, spikes Lydia’s drink with ricin, and invites himself to the White Supremacist Compound, claiming to have a new technique for blue meth that forgoes the need for methylamine entirely.
Walter bids goodbye to his wife and daughter but is content with watching Flynn from a distance. When Jack Welker tells his people to kill him, the latter manages to have Jesse brought into his presence. Here, Walter shoves his old partner to the ground and sets off his M60 machine gun (in the car’s trunk), killing nearly everyone. Jesse escapes after an ambiguous farewell, while Walter bleeds to death on the spot.
2 Face Off — 9.9
“Face Off” refers to two things in this episode—the final showdown between Walter and Gus, and half of the latter’s face being literally torn off his skull. Jesse is caught by the Albuquerque PD, giving him the perfect alibi for the final phase of the plan. Walter engages Hector Salamanca’s hatred of Gus, convincing the old man that a suicide bomb is the only way to defeat their common enemy.
Hector’s presence at the DEA frightens Gus, so he goes to the nursing home to finish off his old rival. What nobody knows is that Walt has rigged Hector’s wheelchair with a DIY bomb that destroys the room and kills both Gus and Tyrus. Jesse and Walt set fire to their laundry lab, leaving no evidence for the DEA. In a massive plot twist, the episode reveals a Lily-of-the-valley in the White home, proving that it was Walter who willingly poisoned a small child to serve his means.
1 Ozymandias — 10.0
“Ozymandias” is generally considered to be among the greatest episodes ever written for TV, as evidenced by Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, and Moira Walley-Beckett (the screenwriter) winning their respective Emmy Awards for their roles. It begins with Walter pleading on behalf of Hank Schrader, going so far as to sacrifice his precious earnings to save his brother-in-law’s life. Unfortunately, Jack Welker is unwilling to allow a DEA agent to escape.
The rest of the episode consists of some intense family drama, as Walter’s secret is exposed to everyone, including his son. He manages to kidnap his daughter, Holly, perhaps as leverage, but eventually returns her after pinning the blame for his meth empire on himself. This act may not be enough penitence, but it frees Skyler of any suspicion.