10 Most Shocking Moments From Breaking Bad

Published on September 24, 2014.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since Breaking Bad aired its final episode. Over the course of its 5 seasons, the show tapped into the cultural zeitgeist in ways nobody could have predicted. Since its debut in 2008, Breaking Bad continually kept viewers on the edge of their seats with its increasingly shocking twists and turns, and intense subject matter. The rise and fall of drug kingpin Walter White, played to perfection by character actor Bryan Cranston, carved a path of death and destruction through the New Mexico desert in which the show was set. There were so many gasp-inducing moments throughout the show’s run that it’s difficult to rank only 10, as one could easily do a list of 25 or more “Top Breaking Bad Moments”. However difficult it may be to only come up with 10, the following rank as Breaking Bad’s most shocking moments.

10. Walt Bombs Tuco’s Office…With Science!

Season 1 was a little light on shocking moments in comparison to other seasons, but that doesn’t mean that the few that were on offer were any less effective. Walt’s first encounter with deranged drug kingpin Tuco was a gripping scene to begin with, given the former’s very evident instability. Of course, Walt had an ace up his sleeve – science! In what would become the first of many instances of using his scientific background to deal with a difficult situation, Walt turned the tables on Tuco and his crew by detonating a small crystal of fulminated mercury. Although this tactic was later disproven in an episode of Mythbusters, it’s still probably the most shocking and explosive (pun intended) moments of Breaking Bad’s 1st season.


9. Jane’s Death

This 2nd season story arc for Jesse feels so distant now, as it became all too rare to see him have happiness as the show progressed. The focal point of this happiness was found in his relationship with his neighbour Jane. Yes, it was in many ways a toxic relationship given that the 2 characters allowed one another to lapse into heavy drug use, but there was genuine love and affection between them as well. It all came to an end when Mr. White stepped in and committed his first of many acts of betrayal against Jesse.  Jane’s death is significant not only because of what her loss meant for Jesse, but because it was the moment when Walt truly lost his humanity. Up until this point in the show, Walt was willing to do bad things in order to get ahead in the meth business, but letting an innocent woman die just to further his own machinations represented a new low with no turning back.


8. Jesse Shoots Gale

It’s pretty safe to assume that many viewers’ sympathies tend to lie the most with Jesse. Even though he’s a drug user, dealer, and as we see in this entry on the list, a murderer, there’s still an innocence to Jesse that makes him endearing. That statement may seem incongruous, but when Jesse pulls the trigger and ends poor Gale the chemist’s life, it’s hard not to feel pity for Jesse too. Jesse is repeatedly coerced by Walt into committing actions that he disagrees with on a moral level. Jesse spirals into self-loathing in season 4 after killing Gale, while Walt shows little remorse for ordering his younger partner to take a life. Few shows could make a murderer as sympathetic as Breaking Bad did with Jesse.


7. “I Am The Danger”

Unlike the other entries on this list, Walt’s infamous speech to his wife Skyler in season 4 is not very significant to the ongoing plot of the series. Instead, it’s a character moment that perfectly encapsulates how far Walt has come as a drug kingpin; the mild-mannered teacher and family man of the past is completely gone. Superb acting from Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn elevate this scene to one of Breaking Bad’s most memorable moments. More than just a typical domestic argument, this scene revolves around Skylar’s fears of Walt’s drug trade and his enemies. Walt attempts to put her fears to rest by declaring that it’s everyone else who should be afraid. If a dangerous man knocks at the door, Walt “is the one who knocks”. Walt’s epic speech is partly successful; Skylar no longer fears Walt’s enemies; instead, she now fears her own husband.


6. Mike’s Death

Mike “The Fixer” Ehrmantraut was a no-nonsense ex-cop who initially worked as drug kingpin Gus Fring’s right-hand man (until Walt took him out of course). Mike’s level-headedness was often a welcome reprieve from the desperate, foolhardy actions of Walt and Jesse and Jonathan Banks’ performance made him a standout and beloved character in Breaking Bad’s later seasons. Unfortunately, Mike’s tendency to butt heads with Walt and his risky decision-making should have signaled that he would eventually meet an untimely end but his death still came as a shock regardless. After parting ways with Walt and his operation while being hunted by the DEA, it seemed as if Mike would exit the story fully intact. Unfortunately, 1 attack to Walt’s ego later, Mike’s sitting by a New Mexico river with a bullet in him, while Walt looks on almost apologetically – a sad and unfortunate end for a great character.


5. Walt’s Showdown With Gus

Walt’s greatest adversary (other than himself, of course) is definitely Gustavo Fring, the unassuming but deadly crystal meth kingpin whom Walt begins working for and later makes the mistake of crossing. The entirety of Season 4 is a tense, drawn-out conflict between the 2 men, with tensions finally coming to an explosive head in the final episodes of the season. Knowing it’s only a matter of time before he is killed, Walt devises an ingenious plan that ends with an invalid Mexican Cartel member blowing himself up and Gus along with him. It’s Breaking Bad at its most wild, pulpy best, and it’s an even better moment because it’s a hollow victory. Walt goes to despicable ends to take out his rival, poisoning a child and framing Gus for the act in order to get Jesse’s help. Breaking Bad gets rid of one villain but replaces him with one far worse.


4. “Dead Freight”

This entry basically covers the entire season 5 episode “Dead Freight”, a brilliant hour of television that stands as one of the show’s most riveting. The majority of the episode is pulse-pounding crime drama, as the crew works frantically to steal a train car full of a drug-making chemical. The heist is a success but while everyone is celebrating, a young boy wanders too close to the scene. The newest addition to the group, the mysterious Todd, barely hesitates before putting a bullet in the boy. Jesse, who has been shown on multiple occasions to have a soft spot for kids, cries with anguish as the episode cuts to black. The fallout from this act would go on to impact the remainder of the series but also stands out as one of Breaking Bad’s most shocking scenes of violence.


3. The Cartel Assassins Ambush Hank

The silent assassins out to avenge the death of their cousin Tuco were a menacing addition to Season 3, with their parking lot assault on Walt’s DEA agent brother-in-law Hank being one of the most riveting moments of the entire series. The entire sequence runs for maybe 5 minutes but one would be hard-pressed not to be gripping the edge of their seat the entire time. The scene begins with a mysterious phone call, telling Hank that 2 men are coming to kill him in 1 minute. The tension ratchets up as Hank, still sitting in his car, gets increasingly agitated as the minute ticks by, until finally the assassins show up and a riveting shootout begins. Ending with each combatant seemingly dead, this scene is an absolute standout in terms of suspense and breathless pacing.


2. Hank’s Toilet Discovery

From its very first episode, Breaking Bad employed Hitchcock’s famous “bomb theory” in its storytelling, which basically states that if an audience is shown a bomb, they know it will eventually go off, with suspense created by not knowing when. The bomb in Breaking Bad is Walt’s brother-in-law Hank being a DEA agent. The audience knows that as soon as Walt begins cooking meth, Hank will eventually find out (why else would Hank be a Drug Enforcement Agent?). When the moment finally came, it sure felt like a bomb had gone off indeed. The end of the first half of season 5 finds Walt out of the drug game, reconciled with his family, and seemingly in the clear. However, Walt’s ego again gets the better of him, as Hank discovers an incriminating piece of evidence in Walt’s bathroom. A look of realization flashes across Hank’s face and then the episode ends, leaving viewers in limbo for another year. Boom indeed.


1. “Ozymandias”

As previously stated, Breaking Bad is, in its most basic form, the story of the rise and fall of Walter White. The time preceding “Ozymandias”, Breaking Bad’s 3rd to last episode, detailed the rise. Ozymandias is the fall and what a fall it is. Arguably the best episode of the entire series, it begins with the aftermath of a deadly shootout between Walt’s hired goons and Hank and his partner Gomez. After that tragic scene, Walt loses not only his empire, which the neo-Nazi biker gang he hired takes from him, but his ex-partner as well, as he betrays and leaves Jesse for dead. The fall doesn’t end there, as Walt loses his family, now sickened by his actions, and becomes a fugitive from the law. Expertly shot by Looper director Rian Johnson, “Ozymandias” is the ultimate summation of everything that makes Breaking Bad an incredible television series.

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