It’s hard to believe, but AMC’s Breaking Bad premiered back in 2008, kicking off with a first season that was just seven episodes long. Of course, the series went on to become an Emmy-winning hit that spanned five seasons — most of them considerably longer than the first. But Breaking Bad Season 1 featured some of the most memorable installments of the series, including its iconic pilot episode.
That series premiere is one of the highest-rated installments from the first season, second only to one other. What was the best episode of Breaking Bad Season 1, and which was the least-loved among viewers?
‘Breaking Bad’ Season 1 was the most light-hearted season
While a show about a man forced to make meth in order to pay his medical bills can hardly be called light-hearted, Breaking Bad Season 1 probably fits that description the best. While the later seasons push Walter White beyond redemption, the early episodes of Breaking Bad see him and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) fumbling to start their meth-making business.
Naturally, Walt’s transition from chemistry teacher to drug lord starts out with humor. Most fans will remember the early episodes of Breaking Bad with one image burned into their brains: Walter waving a gun around in the middle of the desert, wearing a green shirt and tighty-whities.
Because Walter starts the series as a relatable character, it makes it easy to empathize with him in the beginning. Perhaps that’s why fans enjoyed the season 1 episodes that highlighted his reasons for making meth in the first place.
The best episodes of season 1 showcase Walter’s desperation
The two highest-rated episodes from Breaking Bad Season 1 are the pilot and “Crazy Handful of Nothin’.” The latter landed a 9.3-star rating on IMDb, making it the best of the season. However, the pilot didn’t fall far behind. It snagged a 9.1 rating, the only other first-season installment to surpass nine stars.
Walter gets his cancer diagnosis during the pilot, but his chemo symptoms come out in full force during “Crazy Handful of Nothin’.” Breaking Bad‘s lead solves both problems by diving headfirst into his newfound talent for making meth. Of course, he’s far more serious about the whole thing by the ninth episode. He returns to the business
Walter’s sharp turn during “Crazy Handful of Nothin’” seems to be a highlight for most viewers. Reviews praised Cranston’s portrayal of the character, as well as the turn of events that takes place at the end of the episode. As one fan wrote on IMDb, this episode feels like a turning point — and that’s part of what makes it so compelling:
“This is where it all changes. The show gets even better than it already was. The characters take dramatic turning points. We also get a brilliant ending, which is set up fantastically throughout the episode, through masterful foreshadowing.”
‘Cancer Man’ is the lowest-rated episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ Season 1
While the episodes where Walter struggled seemed to attract the highest ratings, the least-loved installment of Breaking Bad Season 1 focuses on family. “Cancer Man” sees Walter finally telling his loved ones about his diagnosis. Meanwhile, Jesse attempts to set things right with his parents — something that’s easier said than done, especially given their estrangement.
While “Cancer Man” delivers decent character work centered on Breaking Bad‘s leads, fans felt it was a “setup episode.” As one IMDb reviewer wrote, “This is a stage-setting episode.”
Essentially, “Cancer Man” presents viewers with the exposition necessary to make the rest of the story work. However, nothing too significant happens during this first-season installment. For many, it felt like the calm before the storm.
Of course, the Breaking Bad episode’s 8.3 rating can hardly be considered bad. Every chapter of Breaking Bad Season 1 received an above-average ranking on IMDb. If nothing else, that proves the AMC series is compelling even in its slowest moments.
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