Like many fans of the series, Sunday's Breaking Bad finale is a bittersweet occasion. The anticipation to finally see what happens with Walt's assault rifle, Jesse's imprisonment, the White family, the Nazis, and the ricin is like waiting a week to open what you know is the best present on Christmas morning. On the other hand, it means the end of one of the most captivating, enthralling dramas on television.
Perhaps that inner conflict is appropriate because it's the complexities and chemical reactions that exist within the characters and the show itself that make it one of the best ever.
Alongside the action and killshots and explosions are terrific scenes of family drama, like Hank and Walter duking it out in the garage. Even as Walter White has succumbed to the darkness within him, a tearful phone call to his son still gives you a tinge of belief he's actually done this for the right reasons. The boy next door (Todd) is the disturbing personification of evil, while the drugged up drop out has become the character we most want to see make it out alive and well (Jesse). The series has produced more types of emotion than I ever thought possible watching a scripted cable series and lives in a world where nothing is black and white, but varying shades of gray.
The genius of Breaking Bad is in that Gray Matter. But instead of attempting another doctoral essay on the series like 8,000 other people on the internet, it's worth exploring the lighter shade of gray that makes Breaking Bad so great. Alongside the dark, introspective arcs of the series are scenes that are funnier than 98% of network comedies. These moments of levity add another dimension to Breaking Bad and many have become iconic moments in their own right. It's these moments that add the complexity and depth to the series that takes it above and beyond other shows of the day.
A few of the scenes below are so perfectly done, so awkward, so laugh out loud funny you'd think they belonged in Curb Your Enthusiasm and not a drama about a high school chemistry teacher turned drug lord. And our list doesn't even include the Season 5A cliffhanger on the toilet or the entire bottle episode about a fly!
Here are 10 Legendary Moments of Levity from Breaking Bad in chronological order…
The first of many explosions – Season 1, Episode 4
We're a long way from the black porkpie hat, yet this is one of the first glimpses of the man Walter White would become. After being annoyed by the dreaded combo of Personalized Licensed Plate AND Loud Bluetooth Guy earlier in the episode, Walt sees him at the gas station and does what any normal, levelheaded man would do. He blows up his car. But just look at that walk of confidence! That's a man who's on his way to big things, like being the meth king of the southwest!
Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 8
The planned Saul Goodman spinoff has every chance to be the most beloved spinoff since The Jeffersons. Saul is often the comic relief and main source of levity on Breaking Bad. If there's one clip that draws out the essence of Saul Goodman, it's his very first appearance in the show when he shows up out of nowhere to save Badger. It's a great example of the classic rapid-fire humor and delivery that makes Saul so great. Hopefully they don't use American Express in Nebraska.
Walt's Pep Talk – Season 3, Episode 1
This scene is largely forgotten, but it's among my favorites in the entire series. After the plane crash that ended Season 2, Walt "tries" to deliver a "pep talk" to his school and look on the bright side of two planes colliding in mid air and killing almost 200 people. Hey, it was only tied for the 50th worst air disaster ever! That's not so bad! This is one of the many times Walt flails away at trying to rationalize his horrific actions and fails miserably. It's awful, but by the time Walt starts talking about Tenerife he's turned into Albuquerque's Larry David.
The Pizza Toss – Season 3, Episode 2
As Breaking Bad progressed throughout the middle seasons, tracking Walter's inner battle with his pride and ego was one of the most interesting subplots. Here, the Heisenberg within got the best of him as he lost his temper and tossed a whole pizza on the roof of his house. The toss was so perfect it's become a legendary moment on its own, even getting mythical treatment from the show itself.
Nonverbal – Season 4, Episode 13
Ding! The Season 4 finale was thrilling, and just when you thought Hector Salamanca might lead Hank to a breakthrough in the Gus Fring case he dings his way through cussing him out. The only good the DEA got out of this session were some jokes at Hank's expense. Once again in the midst of perilous action, Breaking Bad still had the time to produce a few laughs. Ding!
Magnets! – Season 5A, Episode 1
This scene produces maybe my favorite line in the entire series. The best part about the fantastic magnets story arc is how legitimately excited Jesse is when his idea actually works. It's a great underdog story. Who would have ever thought Jesse would be the one to come up with the scientific solution instead of Mr. White? Also, you have to love the massive construction dudes and their celebratory fist bump. It just may be the first ever recorded magnet-related fist bump.
The Dinner Scene – Season 5A, Episode 6
If you've ever had a painfully awkward dinner experience, (and let's face it, that's probably all of us) then you can certainly empathize with Jesse during his brutal dinner with Walter and Skyler. Seeing this scene from Jesse's perspective is what makes it so great because we've all been there, trapped in an uncomfortable situation with no way out. There's nothing for Jesse to do except sweat and reach for his water like he's Marco Rubio.
Badger Trek – Season 5B, Episode 1
Sure, Breaking Bad could have gone on as planned without this scene. Were Badger to never explain his epic Star Trek pitch, the Breaking Bad Universe would go on unchanged. But Badger talking about blueberries flying through space and Scotty doing unmentionable things is exactly what makes Breaking Bad so good. Who could possibly watch this scene and not want Badger to totally direct the next Star Trek movie?
How about that guacamole! – Season 5B, Episode 3
I'll never look at tableside guacamole the same again. If you thought Jesse's dinner at the White home was awkward, nothing could top Hank and Marie's quaint dinner date with Walter and Skyler at Garduno's. Here, the tension of their encounter is naturally offset by a pesky yet perky waiter who's just a little too dedicated to the foodservice industry for everyone's good. Watch the awesome video at this link and try not to be turned into stone by looking directly at Hank's eyes.
Walter White meets Sisyphus – Season 5B, Episode 6
While the finale is much anticipated, Breaking Bad's Ozymandias episode was the climax of the series and stands as one of the finest hours of television I've ever seen. This is the episode where everything happened and Walt's delusions of grandeur finally crashed head-on with reality in an ugly, messy trainwreck. Hank dies, Jesse's captured, Walt's broken, the Nazis take most of his money, Walt kidnaps Holly, and that's just the beginning. Walter and Skyler get in a knife fight in front of their son and it maybe sneaks into the Top 5 memorable moments from the episode.
It was such a dark, depressing, haunting hour of television… and that's why the above scene is such genius. After Todd convinces Uncle Jack to leave Walt a barrel full of money in the desert in such a caring manner, Walter's car breaks down. So, he's left to roll the barrel of money through the barren landscape like Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill for all eternity as punishment for his trickery. One can't help but see just a little bit of Sisyphus in Walter White. Eventually, all of his efforts will be for nothing, as meaningless as rolling a barrel through the desert.
The choice of music, imagery, and wide shots of Walter White desperately rolling the last remaining parcel of his empire through the desert give the lighter side of the fall of Heisenberg. The fact that this scene is dropped in the midst of the hellfire that surrounds it is quintessential Breaking Bad. In the middle of all of the darkness, there's always a wry smirk and a wink.