Unless you've been living under a rock and/or don't like to partake in amazing television, you probably know that the final eight episodes of 'Breaking Bad' are set to premiere on August 11. Forget about every other movie or TV show out there: this is the pop culture event of 2013. If you haven't watched the increasingly morbid adventures of Walter White and his band of allies and enemies, close this article right now, fire up Netflix and get watching. You'll be doing yourself a favor.
If you're already counting the minutes until the new season starts, you don't have to go rewatch the entire series to prepare, but seeing as how this is the end of the road for Walt and company, you should probably revisit a few highlights to remind yourself why this is one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
These 10 episodes are not necessarily our favorite episodes of the series and they're not always the episodes that will help recap every major event so far. These are the episodes that represent everything that 'Breaking Bad' tried to do. These episodes are 'Breaking Bad' at its strangest, funniest, darkest and most experimental. These are the episodes that'll get you excited for the final eight episodes because they showcase just how fearless this show has been (and certainly will be in the home stretch). Also it should go without saying that some spoilers and NSFW moments from the show are ahead. Seriously, you should be on board the 'Bad' train by this point.
What Goes Down: Diagnosed with lung cancer, science teacher Walter White devises a scheme to ensure his family's financial future -- he'll use his expertise to produce the purest possible meth and enter the drug scene, just long enough to make a post-death nest egg. Things do not go according to plan.
Why You Should Take Another Look: How far has Walter White come? To fully appreciate his transformation into the terrifying villain known to the criminal underworld as Heisenberg, you've got to go all the way back to the beginning, where Mr. White was a nebbishy teacher with an awful mustache and almost no backbone. In reflection, the seeds of his dark side were already present, but completely buried. Compare Bryan Cranston's work here to his work in the final season. The transformation is astonishing.
'Better Call Saul'
What Goes Down: When Jesse's pal/accomplice Badger is caught selling Heisenberg's blue crystal by the Feds, our heroes turn to the best "criminal lawyer" in the area. Wily, morally unsound and the worst dresser in Albuquerque, the introduction of Saul Goodman takes the show to a whole new level.
Why You Should Take Another Look: Because Saul is hilarious. As 'Breaking Bad' went on, the laughs became fewer and the dramatic stakes became bigger, but the mere presence of Saul gave the show frequent (and much needed) boosts of comic relief. Also, the fact that Saul went on to become a major cast member opened to the door to the show expanding its incredible ensemble. (Would we have gotten to see so much of Gus and Mike if Saul hadn't introduced Walt and Jesse to them?) Also, if the rumored Saul spin-off ever happens, you'll want to be better acquainted with the man.
What Goes Down: Walt and Jesse drive out to the middle of nowhere for a marathon weekend of cooking, only to find themselves stranded when the battery in their RV dies. As supplies dwindle and options run out, the two struggle to survive the elements and each other.
Why You Should Take Another Look: Because it's an early taste of the amazing dynamic between Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. It's almost impossible to believe that early plans involved killing off Jesse in the first season considering just how important their relationship became. 'Four Days Out' is a terrific hour of television for many reasons, but few episodes showcase these two characters (and these actors) bouncing off each other so well. By stranding them in the middle of nowhere for the bulk of the episode, the episode has to rely strictly on character dynamics, and it works beautifully. Walt and Jesse are the dark heart of this show and everything else is built out of this relationship.
What Goes Down: Walt learns that his cancer situation has greatly improved. He decides to hang up his Heisenberg hat. This doesn't last long.
Why You Should Take Another Look: 'Breaking Bad' began as a show about a seemingly good man who chooses to go down a dark path in order to save his family. Along the way, it became a show about a selfish, soulless monster who destroys everything and everyone in his life. This transition pivots on 'Over,' which sees Walter start to recover from his cancer, giving him an opportunity to get out of the meth business for good. Compared to many episodes, there's not a lot of action here (Walt spends much of the episode busying himself with projects around the house), but it all culminates with Walt's decision to re-enter the drug trade. This time, it's not to save his family -- it's because he likes it. With this decision, 'Breaking Bad' takes an insane and terrifying turn into a dark new world.
What Goes Down: After receiving a devastating beating at the hands of Hank, Jesse lies in a hospital bed with plans to press charges. As Walt attempts to navigate this hopelessly sticky situation, Hank accepts that his career is most likely over. But the worst is yet to come as the terrifying Cousins have marked him for death.
Why You Should Take Another Look: No one saw Hank coming. In the early seasons, Walt's brother-in-law is an obnoxious boob, a loudmouthed cop who seemingly only exists to provide a foil for our quiet and conniving hero. But over the seasons, Hank transformed. He revealed himself to be one hell of a detective before revealing the warm, good-natured man beneath his tough guy surface. As Walt became a villain, Hank became the moral voice on 'Breaking Bad,' the true good guy of the story. 'One Minute' is most memorable for its jaw-dropping climactic action scene, which pits Hank against two of the deadliest men in the show's history. Who else didn't realize how much they loved Hank until they thought he was going to kick the bucket?
What Goes Down: Walt and Jesse hunt a fly through the lab. They have a long conversation. Much is revealed. Just as much remains unsaid.
Why You Should Take Another Look: 'Breaking Bad' built its sterling reputation by throwing curve balls and zigging when you expected it to zag. 'Fly,' however, represents the show at its most daring, bizarre and experimental, telling an entire story in one location with most of the cast sidelined. Director Rian Johnson essentially shoots a one-act play starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul and the results are astonishing.
Like 'Four Days Out,' the episode relies heavily on the chemistry between the two actors, leaning on their interplay to keep things interesting. Unlike 'Four Days Out' (and every episode of 'Breaking Bad'), there is almost no plot momentum here...but that's a good thing. 'Fly' represents the show pausing for its characters to take their entire lives into account and making it clear that they don't like what they see. It's a claustrophobic, slowly paced descent into a mutual emotional breakdown that has to be experienced to be believed.
What Goes Down: Walt and Jesse deal with the repercussions of murdering Gale at the end of season three. Gus makes brutal use of a box cutter to tie up a loose end.
Why You Should Take Another Look: People talk on television. A lot. On many shows, it feels like the writers are afraid of silence, feeling like they have to cram dialogue into every spare moment as if the audience will tune out the moment people stop chatting. But 'Breaking Bad' and, in particular, 'Box Cutter,' revel in the quiet. Take the unforgettable moment where Gus slowly stalks around the superlab, where Walt's incessant babbling becomes background noise as we focus on the people who aren't talking. 'Breaking Bad' knows that a box cutter to the throat of a lazy henchmen is worth a couple thousand words.
What Goes Down: The situation between Walt and Jesse comes to a head. The situation between Walt and his former employers comes to a head. The situation between Tio Salamanca and Gus comes to a head. Gus loses most of his head.
Why You Should Take Another Look: Because HOLY CRAP, DO YOU REMEMBER THE SCENE WHERE GUS GETS HIS FACE BLOWN OFF? 'Breaking Bad' has dispatched countless bad guys in brutal fashion over the years, but no one has gotten a send-off as memorable and grotesque as the one Walt gives to the meth-distributing "Chicken Man." 'Face Off' would be a great episode if Gus' demise was all it had going for it, but it does so much more -- it creates the power vacuum that Walt will spend the next season trying to occupy. And, of course, there's the reveal of that little potted plant in the White family's backyard, proving that the only villain more devious than Gus is Walt himself.
What Goes Down: The Heisenberg gang gets a tip about a train carrying more methylamine than they would ever need. The crew devises a daring desert heist that goes off without a hitch...until a random third party manages to see a little too much.
Why You Should Take Another Look: It would be inaccurate to call 'Breaking Bad' fun. It's intense. It's addictive. It's completely compelling. But fun? You're too busy stressing out over it to have fun. That's what makes 99% of "Dead Freight" so fascinating. For the first time in a long time, the show crafts an episode that's a total blast to watch, putting Walt and his crew at the center of a heist that feels like it was torn out of a blue collar 'Ocean's 11.' Of course, the show has a trick up its sleeve. After letting you have a blast for awhile, it reminds you that you're watching a bunch of horrible people lead a life of crime in the most devastating way possible. Those guys whose exploits you love so much kill a kid. And it hurts. And it's great television.
'Gliding Over All'
What Goes Down: Walt deals with the aftermath of Mike's death by taking one final plunge into the dark side. With his loose ends tied up and his storage unit full of money, the man who was Heisenberg decides to call it a career. But then Hank makes a surprising discovery in the bathroom of the White home...
Why You Should Take Another Look: Well, this one is obvious enough. Whatever is set to go down in the final stretch of eight episodes is set up here, leading to the mother of all cliffhangers. (You might also want to revisit the season three episode 'Sunset' which showed Walt reading the book.) Now that Hank knows the truth, the entire dynamic of the show has to change. 'Breaking Bad' may shake things up on a regular basis, but it's never proposed something so, well, apocalyptic. Walt and Hank have been secret adversaries for five years and both are hard-headed, stubborn and refuse to lose. It's hard to imagine both of them getting out of this final season alive.