In this feature I take a look at one episode that marks a high point in a television series. It’s not necessarily the absolute best a series has to offer (that’s always debatable), but it’s an episode that remains lodged in memory long after I first watched it.
I know what you’re thinking. “How could you not pick ‘Ozymandias’ as the best Breaking Bad episode?” There’s no denying that “Ozymandias” is fantastic television, but it’s an episode that’s been talked about enough. And from start to finish, “One Minute” is something special, even amongst other superb Breaking Bad episodes.
“One Minute” is bookended by two moments that define who Hank Schrader is. At the start of the episode, Hank beats Jesse unconscious because he believes Jesse arranged a fake emergency call regarding Marie. Hank instantly realizes his mistake in pummeling an unarmed man, and he alerts the authorities himself. Hank is a good officer, and a good man, but after giving himself over to his rage, he knows his career as a DEA agent is over.
Of course, the other moment comes at the end of the episode with an assassination attempt on Hank’s life. Hank had shown in earlier episodes that he suffers from PTSD, and he doesn’t revel in taking lives. But like an old west gunslinger who never loses his touch, Hank is a dangerous man when cornered. Director Michelle MacLaren directs the hell out of the final scene (I’d call her the best director the show had), and I still get chills when the cousin pulls a shining silver ax from the trunk of his car. Hank prevails, though the last shot of a parking lot littered with bodies is chilling; it’s a Pyrrhic victory.
As if the action described above isn’t enough, there are more unforgettable scenes in “One Minute.” Hank secretly weeping on Marie’s shoulder in the elevator is heartbreaking, and it says everything about their relationship and marriage. Jesse has not one, but two monologues that show how frustrated he is at always being the fall guy for Walt. I doubt that even Vince Gilligan expected Aaron Paul to grow into the actor he became while filming Breaking Bad. After Jesse passionately rejects Walt’s offer to once again be partners, Walt speaks honestly, a rarity by this point in his life. He says, “Your meth is good, Jesse. As good as mine.” The mentor-student relationship between Walt and Jesse anchors Breaking Bad, and in some ways, Walt’s words of praise mean more to Jesse than money ever could.
And hey, that goofball arms salesman was right about that hollow-point bullet. “Sucker has six razor claws that expand upon impact. Whew! Shred your mama’s head like a cabbage.”
Other Best Eps candidates: “Dead Freight,” “Ozymandias,” “Salud”