It's a little late, but whatevs. It's time I honored the best show on TV the only way I know how: a top 10 list. Just a quick review of the season before we get into the list:
Season 4 started out great. The first episode got everything set up and made promise of a great season to come. Then, nothing happened. The next couple of episodes were rough. Scattered moments of brilliance lost within yet another Jesse existential crisis and the purchasing of a car wash as the main event, along with the absurd sub plot of Marie stealing stuff (only to be forgotten by all of the other episodes). Hank was the MVP of that period. Gus was nowhere to be seen. Then, it all came back. Breaking Bad was breaking a bad streak (I'm so entertaining!) with a string of exciting episodes and interesting plot developments. A lot like the theme to Jaws, the tension only built from thereon. Overall, not the best season, but some quality television.
Now, list time! Also, WARNING, THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD!
#10: Ladies and Gentleman, Gale!
Episode: Bullet Points
Scene Overview: The Whites are over the Schraders for a nice family dinner. Hank takes Walt and Jr. into his room and shows him some stuff from Gale's murder case, which he was just given. He pops in a DVD, and Gale is singing karaoke on some crazy foreign channel. This scene works because it's hilarious seeing Gale sing and dance, but Walt's realization that Hank knows who Gale is makes this scene amazing. It was a very clever way of conveying this important information.
#9: Are We There Yet?
Episode: Bullet Points
Scene Overview: Walt is searching Jesse's house ton find he's not there. Cut to Mike driving Jesse's car in what looks to be the middle of nowhere (it is New Mexico after all). Mike asks him if he wants to know where they're going. Jesse just says "no." It's a simple scene, but a perfect ending.
#8: Adios Victor
Episode: Box Cutter
Scene Overview: The opening to season 4 was a slow burn. The tension in the lab was strong, only to be cut by Gus by cutting Victor's throat. The intensity in his eyes, he maintains full eye contact with Walt the whole time. It was a fun blood splatter show, sure, but it served a greater purpose by telling us two very important lessons: Walt and Jesse are on a tightrope, and Breaking Bad is back.
#7: Mike. Just Mike.
Episode: Bullet Points
Scene Overview: Mike is the best side character of any show ever. Whenever he's on, my reaction is always positive. He opened up one of the season's best episodes with a supreme display of his power. Some Cartel thugs have him trapped in a Los Pollos truck. After firing tons of shots into the cabin, Mike takes the guys down with two shots and a ushanka. He then comes out boasting a Van Gogh'd ear:
#6: Pointing Fingers (and Guns)
Episode: End Times
Scene Overview: After the cataclysmic events of "Crawl Space", Walt has spent the entire day in his house. None of Gus' goons come in to take him out. Instead, the man who ends him pointing a gun at his head is Jesse. Jesse just found out Brock was poisoned, probably from all of those Sonic the Hedgehog sessions. Jesse puts a gun right up to Walt's head, until he is able to shift the blame to Gus. Tense, with a great payoff.
#5: Can You Walk?
Scene Overview: Breaking Bad is a show that grabs you right at the start. In Bug, we start off with a bloodied Walter stumbling away. It's only at the end of the episode that we see what happened. Jesse and Walt duked it out. The fight was not only well done (excluding the very obvious Rage box), but the impact and implications behind it was the real thing. Jesse and Walt have been the only thing we could rely on this whole series. They're buds, they get each other out of jams. This season tested that relationship, culminating in this.
#4: Walt Breaks Down
Scene Overview: So, while Jesse, Gus, and Mike are in Mexico, Walt is home. No one has been able to contact him. This was after his fight with Jesse. It's Walt Jr.'s birthday. He rolls over to Walt's place with his new ride and gets the worst birthday present ever. Jr. asks Walt why his face is all sorts of fucked up. He quickly breaks down and uses the old gambling addiction excuse. The later scene where he describes how his father died is also worth mentioning. Both scenes were powerhouse exhibits of Bryan's talent and the show's writing.
#3: Table Read
Episode: Bullet Points
Scene Overview: Walt and Skyler are planning their dinner to Hank and Marie. They cooked up a new plan to explain Walt's cash influx, he's a gambling addict. They go over the script for the night like it's a high school drama production. And like a high school drama production, Walt has a ton of fun poking fun at the whole thing. One of the lighter scenes in the season, before everything went terrible. It's one of the truly legitimately funny scenes in the series, and shows some of Bryan's range.
#2: Gus is Two Face
Episode: Face Off
Scene Overview: A majority of the season finale "Face Off" was spent on Walt's team up with Tio, the old dude in the wheelchair with the bell. The set up was well worth it. The "punchline" is one of the most shocking moments in the whole series. Gus and Tyrus are paying visit to Tio after they see him visit the DEA (also a great scene). They inject Tio with some sort of "Kill him" serum and Tio starts ringing his bell rapidly. Then, boom. A bomb rigged up to Tio's wheelchair goes off. We later see Gus stepping out of the room. My initial reaction was "Fuck, he survived that?!? Walt is screwed!" Then the camera slowly bur surely revealed that Gus has only half of his face. Gives the title "Face Off" a whole new meaning.
#1: Skyler, Did You Take Money?
Episode: Crawl Space
Scene Overview: After being taken to the desert and being threatened with the life of his family and his own, Walt frantically runs off to Saul to get the number of a guy who could make him completely disappear. He needs cash up front, and lots of it. He accepts, and gives him one last order to call in a threat on Hank's life. Walt races back home and gets into the crawl space where the money is stashed. He finds it to be mostly gone. Skyler says she's given it to Ted. The phone rings. While Walt laughs hysterically, Skyler gets a call from Marie saying Hank has been threatened.
The Monday after this aired, all I heard about on Twitter was the last 10 minutes of "Crawl Space." I hate to recycle words so heavily, but this scene was INTENSE. It is the television equivalent of an avalanche. Bad stuff, piling on top of bad stuff, with a heaping helping of bad stuff, and some more bad stuff sprinkled on top. So much bad stuff happens I was scared to watch the next episode.