It's been a rollercoaster from start to finish, but Breaking Bad is now over. The story of a chemistry teacher's descent into darkness as he builds a drug empire has been hailed by many critics as the greatest television show of all time. With the show now finished, IBTimes UK looks back at some of the greatest moments from Breaking Bad.
Hydrofluoric Acid in the Bathtub
Walt and Jesse's botched disposal of Emilio was the first time we really saw how inventively violent the show could be. Jesse ignores Walt's advice to buy a plastic container in which to dissolve the gangster's body in hydrofluoric acid, instead placing it in the upstairs ceramic bathtub.
We witness the realisation of what is about to happen dawn on Walt's face, as the two turn round to see the ceiling cave in, raining down bathtub, blood and bits of body. One of many audacious schemes between Walt and Jesse that didn't quite go to plan, this moment showed off the role science would play in the show's storylines, and set the tone for the black humour that would run through subsequent episodes.
For many people, including Charlie Brooker in an illuminating interview with Vince Gilligan at this year's Edinburgh Television Festival, this was the moment you turned against Walt and realised just how much horror he was capable of.
Walt turns up at Jesse's apartment to find him and 'junkie girlfriend' Jane passed out on the bed, and when she begins asphyxiating on her own vomit, he chooses not to intervene and instead watches her choke to death. It's an absolutely abhorrent action, and yet it makes perfect sense for Walt to do. Afraid that Jane would not only reveal Walt's operation, but take Jesse into a deeper spiral of drug addiction, in those few seconds whilst she died he ruthlessly realised there was an opportunity to improve his and Jesse's lives. Once this Rubicon was crossed, in subsequent episodes we would see Walt commit greater atrocities for his own benefit.
Hank's Shoot-out with the Salamanca Cousins
"Two men are coming to kill you. You have one minute," says the distorted voice down the phone to DEA agent Hank Schrader. Breaking Bad has always been masterful in creating nerve-racking suspense, and the minute where Hank waits helplessly in the car, not sure what to do and how much danger he is in, is utterly unbearable.
And then the carnage breaks out as Hank survives a thrilling fire-fight that culminates with Marco's brains splattering on to the lens just before he can hack Hank to death with an axe.
After seeing the cousins ruthlessly go about their brutal business in previous episodes, to see them come head to head with Hank was an exhilarating duel to watch. The scene is so effective not just because of the fantastically frantic editing and claustrophobic handheld camerawork, but because three seasons in we have become further and further invested in the show's characters, and are desperate to see Hank survive.
Walt in the Crawl Space
The last scene of Crawl Space, in particular the vertigo-inducing final shot as the camera slowly rises upwards away from Walt laughing helplessly in the basement, is not just my all-time favourite Breaking Bad scene but the greatest moment of television drama I have ever watched.
Fearing for his family's life, Walt desperately tries to find the money stashed under the floorboards so that he can take them away from danger. But as Skylar tentatively reveals she gave the money away to Ted, a tour-de-force from Bryan Cranston sees Walt switch from panicked to anguished to hysterical in the space of a couple of minutes. Walt's laughs towards the heavens as the camera slowly pulls away, as if in disgust of his actions but also to highlight how low he has sunk. All this occurs to an incredible soundtrack; as the ominous buzzing bass is combined with both the ringing phone and Walt's hysterical laughter. Forget Dante's Inferno, this is the modern artistic depiction of hell.
Calling to Say Goodbye
With Breaking Bad structured like a Shakespearian tragedy, we were waiting for these final few episodes to show Walt's life unravel; we just didn't expect it to all happen in the devastatingly brilliant episode Ozymandias. From Hank being executed to Skylar and Walter Jr. fending off Walt after a knife fight, we saw the family that he had built his empire for destroyed.
After stealing Holly, his phone call to Skylar is laced with venom as he blames his wife for ruining everything they had. On one level this is Heisenberg at his very worst, unleashing all the hatred that has been festering inside him through the years over how he has not been respected and appreciated, and directing it straight at his wife for betraying him and telling their son of his despicable actions.
But with the police in the house listening in, it becomes clear that with lines such as, "I built this, me, me alone, nobody else," that this is also another performance by Walt to take all the blame from Skylar and make sure all criminal activity is pinned on him.
Simultaneously showing his ugliest side whilst recognising his family's need for protection now that he can no longer control them, the depth of meanings from one phone call reveals not only the richness of the writing, but also how after 60 hours spent with Walter White, we still can't fully know the real meaning behind his actions.