5 Close Call for All
S03E06 — “Sunset” Scrambling to destroy their damning meth mobile, Walt and Jesse find themselves up shit creek without a paddle in a canoe also made of shit. Hank has tracked Jesse to a junkyard, with Walt also inside the RV inches from being found out. After a tense back and forth, with Walt feeding Jesse lines and the owner of the yard citing warrant violations — their saving grace finally arrives in the form of a phone call that leads Hank to believe his wife has been involved in a car accident. This encounter was a testament to how tense the show could get without involving a Mexican standoff, and reminded viewers that family members are the first to be used as unwitting pawns in this ugly business.
4 Hank Hand’s Jesse His Ass
S03E07 — “One Minute” Sometimes frustration can lead a person to do some pretty irrational things. Hank had been racking his brain trying to prove a connection between Jesse and the RV that started it all — to no avail thanks to some pesky red tape. Fed up (pun definitely intended on “fed”), Schrader unleashes a first-class butt-whooping leaving Jesse in the hospital with a total case of “blueberry face.” The encounter leaves Jesse with no remorse for Hank’s later dance with death, throws a human flaw-fueled wrench in Hank’s investigation, and leaves Walt with a hell of a lot more to juggle in his death match of mental acrobatics.
3 Bye, Bye Gail
S03E13 — “Full Measures” Which brings us to the season closer and a cliff-hanger if there ever was one. Figuring that Gus aims to replace Walt with his own ringer Gail, White convinces the AWOL Jesse to straight up murder the happy-go-lucky chemist in his own home. Breaking Bad’s M.O. is forcing its characters to squirm in the face of unethical choices, and Pinkman’s tearful, silent expression that screams, “I don’t want do this but I have to and I hate it,” showed a very real response to what was essentially the equivalent of sledge-hammering a fluffy bunny to death, mid-nose wiggle. It was an especially disturbing example of Walt’s continued chess game against himself, his partner, and his very powerful boss.
2 Aztek Attack
S03E12 — “Half Measures” Technically two moments, tied into the same outcome, but a memorable sequence for all involved. Still reeling from the gangland death of his girlfriend’s little brother (and just a smidgen high on meth), Jesse plans on exacting revenge on boss Gus Fring’s employees — a bad idea. Luckily, it’s Walt and his Aztek to the rescue, turning the would-be threats into human street pretzels. This comes after a historic speech by Gus’ right hand man Mike, simultaneously shedding light on Ehrmantraut’s mysterious background and reinforcing the idea that Walt has reached a point where “half-measures” just won’t cut it anymore. Viewers also got a warm, fuzzy feeling watching Walt stick his neck out for Jesse, but in true Breaking Bad form the act also functioned as an ingeniously selfish act on White’s part in securing a partner he could manipulate.
1 Parking Lot of Doom
S03E7 — “One Minute” No, this top ranker did not directly feature Walt or Jesse, but represented Breaking Bad at its purest: brutal, urgent filmmaking, suburban violence, and family member Hank, unknowingly dealing with the consequences of his brother-in-law’s fledgling drug ties. With the raw story choices made leading up to this standoff between the mythical Twins, viewers everywhere were no doubt off the futon, shouting at the television screen rooting for Hank’s survival — and fearing deep down the outcome could go either way. A dead passerby, some paralyzed legs, and one twin later, Hank barely made it out alive, but not without acquiring some key evidence in his quest to bring down the Southwestern meth trade.
Feel like being wrong for some weird reason? Then take a shot at making a better list. Just know that all other groupings will pale so hard in comparison, time would be better spent smoking meth and reliving the intensity of all these perfectly listed moments.