"Breaking Bad" has become a well-known cultural phenomenon but includes a premise so far out there that it should never have worked in the first place.
A high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer and he teams up with a former student to cook crystal meth. That is not a sure-fire recipe for success, but here, it worked beautifully.
Walter White is not the usual TV protagonist as his goals and morals change from the start of the series up until the end, making us question if he still is the protagonist.
From its first episode, "Breaking Bad" established with protagonist Walter White's presentation in class about electrons that this would be a show about change. Walter has just turned 50 at the start of the pilot, and from struggling to make ends meet to being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Mr. White is having it rough.
This is not the life that this mild-mannered chemical genius had planned for himself, and the cancer is the catalyst he needs to find his new calling.
Knowing that his family will end up in a large amount of debt once he passes, Walt does the only logical thing that a middle-aged man of his ability would do, which is becoming a crystal meth cook/distributor.
But Walt is a 50-year-old family man out of his element when it comes to the larger drug world so in comes Jesse, not only a former student of Walt's but someone familiar with the ins and outs of the meth business.
Unsurprisingly, Walt and Jesse quickly catch the attention of the wrong folk, and from that point on, Walt sets up his destiny for the rest of the series that may change his life for better or worse... likely the latter.
Season 2 sees Walt and Jesse struggling to get a proper foothold in the drug world, after inadvertently causing the death of manic drug kingpin and their distributor Tuco.
Walt's cancer was worsening, but upon receiving the news that he will have more time than expected, Walt's character arc truly begins to come into focus.
While the first season made it seem that Walt was doing everything for the good of his family, Season 2 Episode 10 titled "Over" shows Walt's goals begin to shift.
The pilot introduced a man afraid of his own shadow who was having second thoughts about joining the meth business, but the end of this episode has our protagonist standing up to a fellow meth dealer twice his size informing him to "stay out of my territory."
Only two seasons in, and it is apparent that this new world that Walt has become a part of is having an effect on him. He has never had this much control and authority in his life before he started cooking meth.
There is another darker side of Walt that he has been holding back that shows we may been rooting for the wrong person from the start.
3. "4 Days Out"
"Breaking Bad" has become famous for its shocking moments, deaths, and twists and turns, but the heart of the show is arguably the relationship and chemistry between Cranston and Paul's Walt and Jesse.
No episode better highlights the Walt and Jesse relationship better than Season 2 Episode 9's "4 Days Out".
Sensing that his time is coming to an end, Walt and Jesse take almost a week out in the desert in their RV on a marathon session cooking meth to have it ready to sell to a distributor.
Things do not go as planned, and Walt and Jesse are stranded in the middle of nowhere without food or water and nothing but their dysfunctional relationship to hold them down.
Some fans see this as a bottle episode as nothing truly monumental happens until the end, but this is a great episode for the bond that Walt and Jesse will have as the series goes on.
The characters are the exact opposite of one another, but that is why this episode and show in general works so well.
If "Over" was the episode that made the audience question if they were rooting for the wrong person, "Phoenix" was the episode that solidified it. Walt has been forced to make hard decisions to protect himself and his family since the start of the series, but this was the one where there was no going back.
Becoming depressed at the death of his friend by rival drug dealers, Jesse goes off the rails and becomes a heroin addict with his newfound girlfriend, Jane. Seeing Jesse as a surrogate son and not wanting him dead, Walt sees Jane overdose and instead of saving her allows the girl to die to choke on her own vomit.
This is a huge turning point for Walt, who up until this point only took a life when absolutely necessary.
Walt and Jane did have a conflict that would have potentially seen Walt's newfound obligations outed to the public, but there was no way he would have known that for sure.
Jane's death was the first real death that continued to let the monster within Walt seep out, with the repercussions being felt throughout the rest of the series.
The Walter White from Season 1 died in the room with Jane, and someone else was present after the fact, someone dangerous and someone who does not take chances.
For four seasons, Walter White has slowly been making his way up the ladder in the meth business, and Season 5 finally sees him as the ruthless drug kingpin that was teased in Season 2.
Though this is not the series finale, every figure larger than life has their eventual fall from grace, and this episode was that for Walt and his empire.
Walt's DEA brother-in-law, Hank, who has unknowingly been tracking Walt down since Season 1, is murdered by Walt's previous Neo-Nazi associates, Jesse is taken captive by the Nazis and used as a slave to cook meth, Walt's identity as a meth kingpin is outed to the public, and Walt is forced to leave and go into exile, with the family he broke bad for in the first place, hating him.
Walt has to face the consequences of all his actions and crimes committed, and instead of jail, he loses his family, which is almost worse. This is the culmination of five seasons of build-up, and it had me wondering where things would go next.
"Breaking Bad" showrunner Vince Gilligan originally pitched the show to AMC as a transformation of Walt from Mr. Chips to Scarface, which the show managed to accomplish gradually over five seasons. These five episodes, in particular, show that the protagonist is ever-evolving as well as the series.
Events that happen in the pilot build-up to important things that happen later in "Ozymandias". Walter's transformation through these five episodes is very essential to his character arc from family man to drug dealer. The series begins with someone that you want to root for and ends with someone that you do not want to see at all.
The greatest types of stories have characters and arcs that get more interesting and complex as time goes on, and "Breaking Bad" accomplishes that with ease.