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Out Of Every Scene In Breaking Bad, This One Stands Above The Rest

It is, at this point, uncontroversial to claim that "Breaking Bad" is among the greatest TV shows of all time. The show is so celebrated that you can take entire courses on it in university film programs. It has more iconic moments than Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has gallons of methylamine in his lab. In that sense, every fan has their own favorite moment. One might be partial to the "I am the one who knocks" monologue, while another may prefer watching Gustavo Fring's (Giancarlo Esposito) face getting fried clean off his skull.

From explosive action to simmering, edge-of-the-seat tension, and from cleverly-placed camera POVs to meaningful blocking and immaculate mise en scene, "Breaking Bad" is a crash course in expert filmmaking. Its prequel series and sequel film, "Better Call Saul" and "El Camino" respectively, are no less finely crafted. But when we look across the 62-episode run of the original series, one moment condenses the show's entire ethos into a single cathartic and exhilarating scene, one that's been listed among the most memorable by publications such as Screen Rant and The Ringer.

Breaking Bad's 'I did it for me' scene is the show at its best

After five seasons, Walter White is transformed from a schlubby, cancer-afflicted chemistry teacher to the most wanted drug manufacturer in America. In the final episode of the series, determined to right some wrongs and go out in a blaze of glory, he poisons his chemical connection, the paranoid Lydia (Laura Fraser), and rigs a remote-controlled machine gun into the back of his car to kill the Neo-Nazi meth gang that is keeping Jesse (Aaron Paul) as a prisoner. But before heading down the last dark road to his tragic death, Walt makes a quick stop at home. There, he finally admits to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), that everything he has done was ultimately for him and not (as he had always claimed) for his family.

The scene opens with Skyler seated, her back to the camera, while Walt towers over her, emphasizing how powerless she is in their relationship. When we cut to Skyler's face in closeup, it is shot downward, further deepening the viewer's perception of that imbalance. Gunn's performance is wrenching. As Walt gives her the coordinates to her brother-in-law Hank's (Dean Norris) unmarked burial site in the desert, Gunn's face quakes silently, stretched tautly. Then, she breaks. The tears flow. The close-up shot remains, forcing us to face Skyler's pain head-on.

The final Walt and Skyler scene is the show's ethos in a nutshell

When the next cut happens, the camera is placed behind a large, wooden pillar that separates Walt from Skyler in-frame. The intent here is clear: they are no longer partners as Skyler once believed. They are no longer connected emotionally to each other at all. Walter's unforgivable actions throughout "Breaking Bad's" five seasons have driven a permanent wedge between them, whatever his fate.

"All the things I did," Walt says quietly, "you have to understand." But before he can finish, Skyler cuts him off, saying, "If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family."

Finally, after five seasons, Walt admits to his egoistic pathology. "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really ... I was alive." The moment is cathartic in the most painful of ways. All of the violence and chaos wrought by Walter's climb to the top of the meth game is rendered as pointless as it has ever been, all avoidable if only he'd been honest with himself from the get-go.

Fans on Reddit agree the moment hit hard. "I still can't get over it," wrote u/haasaan99. Another Redditor, u/DenkiAizen, agreed, writing, "The f***ing catharsis in that line does it for me every time."