"Breaking Bad" is one of the most addictive, exciting, and powerful television dramas to surface in a long time, and the five best "Breaking Bad" episodes illustrate why. A show with a shifting moral compass, bleak humor, and a lot of tension, it is the story of a chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who learns he has terminal lung cancer, and decides he must cook meth to make money for his family when he's gone, with the help of loser former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Throughout these "Breaking Bad" episodes, the relationship between the two changes, a bond forms and is tested, all while the law and other drug dealers circle around them, waiting for them to fail. Here are the five best "Breaking Bad" episodes.

  1. "PIlot." Often a show is not quite on its right foot when it starts, but the fact that the pilot is one of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes shows the series' creator, Vince Gilligan, knew what he was doing all along. In it, Walt finds out he has cancer, figures out a plan to cook meth, enlists Jesse, and "breaks bad" for the first time. The episode opens at the end, then flashes back to the beginning, coming to a shocking full circle that had viewers hooked from the start.

  2. "Phoenix." The penultimate episode of the show's second season finds Jesse addicted to heroin, with Walt trying to do anything to get him off of it, even showing up in the middle of the night to try and help him. What happens when he rolls Jesse over, knocking his passed out, highly doped-up girlfriend Jane onto her back, is the shock the show needs to make it one of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes, one where we don't know if we can be sympathetic with our hero anymore.

  3. "Half Measures." The penultimate episode of the third season is also one of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes. Jesse has gone off on his own, out from under Walt's care, because he does not agree with the tactics of drug kingpin Gus' organization. As he is confronted by Gus' men, there is a swift, violent conclusion that sets the table for the season's final episode in bloody fashion.

  4. "Full Measures." The final episode of the third season is thrill-a-minute, and easily one of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes as Jesse and Walt try to figure out a way to save themselves from Gus after the violent conclusion of the previous episode. In a dark show like this, violence must lead to more violence, as Jesse turns the gun on an innocent to close the show, because it's the only option that's left, a powerful season-ending cliffhanger.

  5. "Better Call Saul." One aspect of the show not often talked about is its strange and dark sense of humor, which is center stage in this second season episode, which closes out our list of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes and introduces Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, a recurring sleazeball lawyer character who takes on a larger and larger role in the lives of Walt and Jesse. In this episode, they figure out a scheme to get Badger, one of Jesse's buddies and dealers, out of jail, in a sequence that is almost slapstick in its comedy while remaining completely tense, a feat few shows can pull off this well.

- Travis Petersen