16. "…And the Bag's in the River"
Season 1, Episode 3
One of Breaking Bad's greatest strengths is its ability to shift modes seamlessly -- from past to present, from calm to chaos, and from home to the meth lab -- without confusing the narrative. It's a hallmark of the series and first announces itself here, when we get a glimpse at a pre-Skyler Walter with a flashback to him and Gretchen having a discussion about science and whether the soul exists as part of the chemical makeup of a person. Walt says no, which tells us something about his character. It should also make us less surprised when, after sharing a beer and a genial chat with Krazy-8, Walt chokes him to death with a bike lock. Yet it's still a shocking scene, and one fraught with emotion; Walter has a tear in his eye as he does it, and apologizes profusely. But it's not the last time we'll see Walter turn brutal in a flash, only he'll be much less apologetic about it in the future.
15. "Say My Name"
Season 5, Episode 7
It's fascinating to see the way that Walter interacts with different people and personality types throughout the series, as though he's read the work of Dale Carnegie. He regularly changes up his appearance, way of speaking, and even what he drinks to almost mirror the person he's dealing with. Here, he's forced to play the internationally renowned kingpin when he faces off against Declan, who's not happy that Mike is reneging on the deal they had to sell him methylamine. But Walt makes it clear that Declan's not doing business with Mike anymore -- he's doing business with Heisenberg. (You're goddamn right.) Speaking of Mike: Hank and the rest of the DEA are hot on his trail, which is part of why he's ready to skip town. But he needs his go bag, which Walt volunteers to fetch. He's not being nice, though; he's hoping to get the names of the men that Mike is still paying to keep quiet. When Mike won't give them up, Walter shoots him; Mike's final words to Walter are to "let me die in peace." Spoken like a true badass.
14. "4 Days Out"
Season 2, Episode 9
While Breaking Bad does action better than just about any television series, it also excels at intimacy, particularly when it's just Walter and Jesse doing what they do best: cooking meth and sniping at each other. In this case, Walt -- convinced that his cancer is back -- gets Jesse to partake in a marathon cooking session in the RV. All goes relatively well… until they realize that Jesse left the keys in the ignition and the battery is dead. They battle the elements, a dwindling supply of food and drink, and Walter's weakened immune system, all with a stunning Southwest landscape that somehow makes it feel as if everything will be OK. It's also a hilarious episode, but the most telling moment might come at the very end, when Walt learns the very good news that his cancer is still in remission. He reacts by beating the hell out of a paper towel dispenser. It's a moment of truth for Walter, because he understands that Heisenberg is real.
Season 2, Episode 12
With a new baby to coo at, you'd think that Walt might want to spend more time at home. But Walt is more Heisenberg than Walter White these days, and in no episode does that become more clear than this one. Jesse, having awoken from his drugged-out slumber and belief that he's been robbed, realizes that it was Walt who took their drug stash. When he comes looking for his money, Walt -- shifting back into father figure mode -- refuses, insisting that if he were to give him the near-half-million they each just cleared, it would be gone in a week. Walter's right, but Jesse's in no position to be reasonable. And when Jane finds out just how much cash Jesse's got coming to him, she steps in and threatens to expose Walter if he doesn't hand over the money. He relents, but returns to Jesse's apartment later that night -- at the exact same moment that Jane starts to overdose. Walt could intervene and save her, but chooses not to. Though she's hardly the first name on Walt's body count list, this one's different. Sure, it's about saving his own ass, but he also decides that it's what is best for Jesse. Walter's respect for anyone's life beside his own is dwindling.