Last Night’s ‘Breaking Bad’ Was the Best Episode of the Series

By September 16, 2013
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Walter White

(Spoilers ahead.)

We don’t normally write recaps or reviews of “Breaking Bad,” but last night’s episode, “Ozymandias,” may have been the best hour of television I’ve ever seen.

What happened in this episode was the culmination of years’ worth of fantastic storytelling; huge pieces finally fell into place as major characters died and the truth about Walter White was revealed to his whole family. Rian Johnson – the director of films like Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper, as well as the “Breaking Bad” episodes “Fly” and “Fifty One” – had the daunting task of directing an episode that lived up to the intense shootout at the end of last week’s episode, and he absolutely nailed it. Every element –  Michael Slovis’ always-stellar cinematography, the music, the acting (my God, the acting) – coalesced into a perfect episode of “Breaking Bad.” Hats off to writer Moira Walley-Beckett: this is the show’s finest hour so far.

Seeing a flashback in the cold open was a curveball, since most of us were likely expecting another look into the future instead of a glance into the past. It not only gave us a look into one of the first major lies Walter White ever told (it was almost comical to see him struggle with creating such a mundane lie when he’s become so effortless at telling them in the present), but it provided some excellent knife foreshadowing and a hint of Holly’s importance to this episode.

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As expected after the end of last week’s episode, Hank is no more. But he does get one last great line in there. RIP, ASAC Schrader. After giving the order for Jesse to be murdered, Walt finally drops the Jane bomb, and the look on Aaron Paul’s face was completely heartbreaking. Hasn’t the poor guy endured enough? The future doesn’t look too bright for him. In Walt’s twisted mind, Jesse is responsible for Hank’s death – even though the entire situation is obviously Walt’s own fault.

The knife fight in the house. Whew. As we approach the series finale, essentially anything can happen. We know that Walt survives long enough to make it to his 52nd birthday, he has a big ass gun in the trunk of his car (which, after the events of “Ozymandias,” now must clearly be meant for Uncle Jack and the neo-Nazis), and he’s retrieved the ricin from his house (I’ve seen speculation that Lydia is the most likely target). But other than those elements seen in the flashfowards, we don’t know how the rest of the show will play out. In last night’s episode, it seemed as if practically every scene had life and death stakes attached. The knife fight was the most intense moment for me: would Skyler kill herself? Kill her own family, to take them out on her terms? Stab Walt in the back? And during the tussle, would baby Holly catch the end of the knife? It was a total masterclass in tension.

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Walt, delusional as ever, believes that all his family has to do is leave to get a clean break and start new lives with their $11 million in cash. It doesn’t dawn on him until that great shot of Flynn protecting Skyler on the ground in which the camera slowly pulls back that Walt realizes: he doesn’t have a family anymore. So he takes the one person who’s too young to judge him for what he’s done: he grabs Holly and takes off. That scene had to be tough for all the parents out there to watch. But very quickly, Walt finds out that even Holly is rejecting him. The disappointment in his eyes when she says “mama”? Cranston owns. He’s one of the best actors to ever grace the small screen.

The phone call scene was an emotional gut-punch to end on, with Walt voicing many of the complaints internet commenters have had with Skyler from the beginning of the show. But Moira Walley-Beckett did such a great job crafting this episode that anyone who is still pulling for Walt to get away with all of his crimes has become just as crazy as he has.

Kudos (and thank you) to everyone involved in last night’s episode. Expect to see this one on lists of the Best TV Episodes of All Time from now on. There are still two episodes left in the series, and everything we’ve seen so far indicates that Vince Gilligan and his team are going to go out with a proverbial bang. But even if the remaining two are somehow disappointing, the entire series was absolutely worth it just to get to experience “Ozymandias.” As a friend of mine said on Twitter last night, that episode was worth the price of my entire month’s cable bill.

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Did you notice the cameo of Walt’s pants from the pilot? Nice touch.

For more on the show, listen to our Pass the Effin’ Remote podcast, watch a comedic rock opera based on the series, watch the full panel from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, see the “Breaking Bad”-themed episode of “Mythbusters,” and check out Ben’s review of Jason Reitman’s Live Read of the pilot episode.

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.