The Best Breaking Bad Episodes To Watch Before El Camino

Photo: courtesy of Netflix.
Though this is something many of us never thought possible, Breaking Bad is back! We’re heading back to the land of Baby Blue with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, which follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the events of the series finale that saw the death of Walter White (yes, he’s still dead). Hearing this, you might be eager to start rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad, since there’s never a bad time for that. However, you also might be pressed for time so if you don’t have the days to watch all 62 episodes, what are the Breaking Bad episodes you absolutely need to see to refresh your rusty memory?
Well, bad news: Just about every episode of Breaking Bad is pivotal to the plot, and there’s some sort of stand-out moment in every single one. There are no bad Breaking Bad episodes. That said, if you're looking for a quick crash course in Jesse and why he’s on the run in an El Camino car (hey, that’s the name of the movie!) there are 19 Jesse-centric, important episodes to watch (or re-watch) to bring you up to speed in a pinch.

Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

The best place to start is with the first episode of the series, which introduces us to all the major players here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Walter White (Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with lung cancer. In order to provide for his family after he’s gone, he starts cooking meth alongside one of his former burnout students, Jesse Pinkman (Paul). By the end of the first episode they’ve already killed one drug dealer, and this is just the beginning of the hole Walt and Jesse are about to fall down. 

Season 1, Episode 4, “Cancer Man”

This is a very early episode of Breaking Bad and the show was still finding its footing. But, it somehow managed to completely nail the backstory of Jesse’s home life. Jesse’s parents are well off and instantly we can see that he just doesn’t fit in here, and is only made worse when Jesse’s little brother, Jake, lets Jesse take the fall for his own marijuana use. His parents would make a few more appearances throughout the series, each time showing us that their relationship was even more strained. 

Season 2, Episode 1, "Seven Thirty-Seven"

The beginning of season 2 sets up a season-long mystery involving a pink teddy bear in Walt's pool. We’ll get to that eventually, but season 2 also shows us just how high the stakes are for Jesse and Walter. Also, as if things aren’t bad enough, Walt's DEA brother Hank (Dean Norris) starts to grow suspicious of these two.

Season 2, Episode 8, “Better Call Saul” 

Say hello to Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), who will quickly become a staple in the Breaking Bad universe (and also ended up with his own spin-off also called Better Call Saul). Jesse and Walter turn to Saul in an effort to help Badger (Matt Jones), which he does. But now Saul has a hold over them and could cash in on it at any time. 

Season 2, Episode 9, “4 Days Out” 

Walt is convinced that his cancer is returning, and after looking over the numbers Saul believes that he doesn’t have enough money left to support his family after he’s gone. So, off to the desert he and Jesse go to cook meth for four days straight. Sounds like a good plan, right? Wrong. The battery on their RV dies and the two are stranded in the desert without any help in sight. 

Season 2, Episode 12, "Phoenix"

“Phoenix” is a doozy and not for the faint of heart. Jesse has started a relationship with his landlord, Jane (Krysten Ritter), and together both of them are addicts. Jane also knows what Walt and Jesse do for a living — because Jesse told her — and she tries to blackmail Walt into giving Jesse his owed share. Jane’s father also wants her to enter rehab, and completely by chance, Walt runs into Jane’s father at the bar. After a conversation with him, Walt heads over to their apartment to try and help Jesse get clean once and for all.
Walt arrives to find Jesse and Jane unconscious after using again, and he tries to shake Jesse awake. That’s when Jane flips over onto her back and starts vomiting — and consequently, choking on her vomit. Though Walt could easily save her, he chooses not to and instead lets Jane die. 

Season 2, Episode 13, “ABQ”

Jesse discovers that Jane is dead and is so distraught he runs away, but Walt soon finds him and takes him to rehab. We’re also introduced to Mike (Jonathan Banks) for the first time, who works as Saul’s PI (and also cleaner) who helps take care of Jesse’s involvement with Jane’s death. Jane’s father, who works as an air traffic controller, is so distraught over his daughter’s passing that he’s distracted at work and lets a mid-air collision happen which literally rains down all over Albuquerque, showing us why there’s a pink teddy bear and debris all over the White’s backyard.  

Season 3, Episode 7, “One Minute” 

Hank continues to grow increasingly suspicious of Jesse (and Walt) and beats the crap out of Jesse. Throughout the whole series Jesse and Hank have an incredibly complicated relationship, only furthered when Hank is suspended for his actions against Jesse. Hank later kills two of Walt's associates in a parking lot, after they first try to kill him.

Season 3, Episode 10, “Fly” 

Does “Fly” necessarily add anything to the overall Breaking Bad story? Not really. But it’s one of the best bottle episodes ever made and it was directed by Rian Johnson so it’s required viewing for everyone. Basically, there’s a fly trapped in the lab and it’s driving everyone nuts.

Season 3, Episode 13, “Full Measure” 

In an effort to protect Jesse, Walt has just killed some drug dealers but that’s about to lead to even more problems. And on top of that, Gus (giancarlo Esposito) wants to replace Walt (and Jesse) with a new chemist, Gale. Walt knows as soon as Gale takes over he (and Jesse) will be killed so Walt decides to take action first. He orders Jesse to kill Gale, which he does. 

Season 4, Episode 3, “Open House” 

A lot of stuff happens for Walt, Saul, and Gus in this episode. But let’s focus on Jesse, who decides to distract himself from Gale’s death by buying a giant speaker system and throwing a days-long party with Badger and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), both who will make appearances in the movie. 

Season 4, Episode 13, “Face Off”

A seasons-long stand-off comes to an end, as Gus is finally killed and his death is maybe one that will haunt you forever! Walt and Jesse want Gus killed because they believe he’s poisoned a young boy named Brock, who is the son of Jesse’s new girlfriend, Andrea (Emily Rios). Later, they realize that Brock is sick because of something he ate, not because of Gus. They decide that killing him was the right thing to do anyway, and then destroy their meth lab. 

Season 5, Episode 1, “Live Free or Die” 

A flashforward shows Walt living in the future, and later he gets a car with a M60 machine gun in the trunk — that’s important for later. In the present day, news of Gus’ death begins to spread and Walt destroys evidence that he and Jesse were connected to not only his death but his meth operation, too.  

Season 5, Episode 5, “Dead Freight” 

The worst character in Breaking Bad history, Todd (Jesse Plemons), has now entered the playing field and he’s about to cement himself as the worst character ever. In order to obtain some ingredients to keep cooking, Walt, Jesse, and Todd decide to rob a train and everything goes smoothly. That is, until Todd notices a young boy nearby who happens to be watching them, and without much hesitation shoots and kills the boy, leaving Walt and Jesse horrified at his actions. 

Season 5, Episode 6, “Buyout” 

In maybe the most awkward dinner party since The Office’s “Dinner Party,” Jesse has dinner with Walter and Skylar (Anna Gunn). It’s a pretty tense standoff between Walter and Skylar, as Skylar says she sent their kids to live far away from Walt and that she’s hoping he dies of cancer soon, and Walt declares that he’s going to keep cooking meth. Walt also convinces Jesse to come back and work for him, setting up the ending to the series.  

Season 5, Episode 7, “Say My Name” 

Jesse, trying to get out of working for Walt, stops cooking for him so Todd takes his place (ugh, Todd). The most upsetting thing about this episode is that Walt kills Mike, after Mike refuses to give up the names of people in prison he’s been protecting. 

Season 5, Episode 14, "Ozymandias"

You should really just watch all of Season 5 of Breaking Bad, but if you’re pressed for time just watch the last three episodes which really work together to finish the story. Here, Hank is killed, and Skylar knows it but can’t do anything about it. Walt kidnaps his newborn baby daughter, Holly, and starts to leave with her but instead abandons her at a fire station and uses Saul to obtain a new identity — that's where he was at the beginning of the season.
With Walt now gone, Jesse is forced to cook by Todd, so Todd can observe and learn how to do it himself. 

Season 5, “Episode 15, “Granite State” 

Now in the future, Walt is living in New Hampshire away from Albuquerque. Meanwhile, Jesse is still being held by Todd and his men, and he tries to flee. Instead, he’s caught and is forced to watch Andrea die from afar.  

Season 5, Episode 16, “Felina” 

This is where it all ends. Walt has set up a way for his family to get his money after he dies and then drives to where Jesse is being held by Todd and his men. Remember that car with the M60 machine gun in it from the season premiere? Once inside the building, Walt tackles Jesse and triggers the gun, which kills everyone inside EXCEPT TODD. Jesse, obviously full of rage, strangles Todd to death. Walt has been shot in the ensuing chaos and asks Jesse to kill him. Instead, Jesse flees in the El Camino car for parts unknown — the last we see of him is him speeding away, finally free. Walt manages to crawl back into the meth lab and dies surrounded by the machinery.

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