Unless you do no other thing this weekend, including sleeping or eating or showering, you are not going to be able to binge-watch all five seasons of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix before Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT, when the second part of the final season premieres. I am sorry. But all is not lost -- we’ve created a condensed, last-minute minimarathon of only 16 key episodes, which is totally manageable, although you should probably get started pretty soon.
Walter White, a mild-mannered high-school chemistry teacher in Albequerque, N.M., is diagnosed with lung cancer and turns to cooking methamphetamine to pay his medical bills and leave something for his family.
“You’re the goddam Iron Chef!”
After getting a terminal-cancer diagnosis, Walt blackmails his former student and sometimes-junkie Jesse Pinkman, a street-level drug dealer, to partner with him to cook and sell crystal meth. Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, is a Drug Enforcement Administration agent bent on cracking down on meth suppliers in the area, and Walt threatens to turn Jesse in if he doesn’t cooperate. Walt decides not to tell his family about his illness. He and Jesse buy a Winnebego to do their cooks in the desert. Walt kills two drug dealers and, thinking the police are on his tail, tries to shoot himself, but doesn’t take the safety off the gun. He then realizes the sirens are not for him.
Episode 5, “Gray Matter”
“Take the talking pillow.”
Walt and Skyler attend a party at the home of Walt’s former colleagues, Elliot and his wife Gretchen, who are very rich: Elliot’s technology company, Gray Matter Technologies, which Walt had an early role in founding, is hugely successful. Walt, who has decided not to have treatment, is furious when he realizes that Sklyer told Elliot and Gretchen about his illness, knowing they would offer to pay his medical expenses. Eventually, he reconsiders and agrees to have cancer treatment, but refuses Elliot’s and Gretchen’s money, without telling Skyler.
Walt has more money -- and meth supply -- than he knows what to do with. He enlists a crooked lawyer, Saul Goodman, to keep him out of prison, and Saul puts him in touch with Gustavo Fring, a brilliant, discreet and ruthless drug lord who can sell Walt’s stash. Jesse falls in love with recovering addict Jane Margolis.
Episode 2, “Grilled”
“We tried to poison you. Because you’re an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die.”
Walter is missing: Tuco Salamanca, the insane meth distributor, kidnaps both him and Jesse, stuffing them in the back of Jesse’s car and driving them to a home he shares with Hector “Tio” Salamanca, while Skyler, Walt Jr., Hank and Marie launch a search party for Walt -- which leads to the discovery that he’s keeping a second cellphone. After a protracted showdown, Jesse and Walt put a bullet in Tuco’s chest, and leave him to bleed to death. Just as they are making their escape, Hank pulls up, initially mistaking Tuco for Jesse. Walt and Jesse are forced to flee on foot, and Hank finishes Tuco off.
Episode 8, “Better Call Saul”
“When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer. You want a ‘criminal’ lawyer.”
We meet Saul and associates for the first time. Hilarity and terror ensue. Skyler is spending more time at the office with her boss Ted, who is handsome and in love with her.
Episode 12, “Phoenix”
“When have you ever not dropped the ball, Jesse?”
Jesse, who doesn’t remember Walt’s visit the day before, thinks he’s been robbed. Panicked, he calls Walt to let him know, but Walt just hangs up without explaining what really happened (which is that he got the stash and sold it to Gus’ people for more than a million dollars). Jesse eventually learns what happened and demands to be paid. Presumably with Gus’ words -- to the effect that you can never trust a junkie -- echoing in his ears, Walt refuses to give Jesse his cut of the sale unless he proves he is clean.
Skyler has given birth to a healthy baby girl who arrived early -- Walt missed the birth because he was under the gun to deliver the drugs to Gus (who we meet for the first time in Episode 11). Walt Jr. has set up a website to collect donations for his father’s treatment, which makes Walt nuts.
Jesse’s girlfriend Jane tries to blackmail Walt, who later stands idly by while she chokes on her own vomit and dies after an overdose. Walt is a monster.
Episode 13, “ABQ”
“You guys make some killer chicken.”
Jesse is in shock from Jane’s death and begins a drug-fueled death spiral. With Saul’s help, Walt tracks Jesse down at a drug den and takes him away to get him clean. Hank is not convinced that the mysterious mastermind Heisenberg is behind bars, and rightly so: The man who the Albequerque Police Department thinks is Heisenberg is a prison-loving decoy that Saul used to orchestrate a fake bust.
While he’s under a sedative preparing for surgery, Walt indicates to Skyler that he has a second, secret cellphone (confirming an earlier suspicion that came up when Walt went missing in “Grilled”). As soon as the doctors tell Walt the surgery was successful, Skyler tells him to leave -- she’s figured out that Walter has a secret source of money, and says she’s afraid of learning the whole truth.
Jane’s devastated father returns to his job as an air-traffic controller, and he can’t focus: Two planes collide in the air just over Walter’s house, and a child’s toy lands in his pool. Of course, it’s purple.
Skyler learns the true source of Walt’s windfall, and is conflicted about whether to leave him for good. After a brief retirement from meth manufacturing, Walt is lured back in not only by a first-rate lab Gus has built but also by his desire to crush the competition. After initially refusing to become “an accessory after the fact,” Skyler ultimately takes an active role in the money-laundering and shows a knack for business. Hank is suspended from the DEA after assaulting Jesse. Hector Salamanca dispatches the murderous Cousins to avenge Tuco’s death, and Gus directs them toward Hank (and away from Walt).
Walt suspects Gus is planning to kill him once Gale Boetticher is experienced enough to replace him, and convinces Jesse to take Gale out.
Episode 5, “Mas”
“A man provides.”
There are no sudden, game-changing developments in “Mas” -- save the unveiling of Gus’ state-of-the-art meth lab. Instead, the slow-burning episode takes a close look at the relationships on the show: between Hank and Maria, Hank and his partner, Walt and Skyler, Walt and Gus, Skyler and her lawyer, Skyler and Ted. In the latter, we see a lighter side of Skyler we never see when she’s with Walt -- but ultimately it’s weighed down by her ambivalence about her marriage. In a fantastic scene, an unhinged Skyler confides to her lawyer as though she was her therapist. “Mas” is also when we see how effectively Gus can get under Walt’s skin -- not only by dangling a shiny new lab and $3 million in front of him but also, and more importantly, by exploiting Walt’s vanity by agreeing to distribute Jesse’s knockoff product. Even though Walt can see through Gus’ strategy, he can’t resist it.
Episode 6, “Sunset”
“This is my own private domicile, and I will not be harassed, bitch.”
Walt and Skyler get serious about a divorce, and Walt meets his new assistant Gale for the first time, while Jesse tries to get his own operation off the ground. Hank links Jesse’s RV to the strain of meth he’s been investigating. Walt tries to get rid of the RV before Hank finds it, but Hank beats him to the punch -- Jesse and Walt are both in the RV when Hank tracks it down. Walt lures Hank away from the scene by arranging for a decoy phone call claiming that Marie is hurt. With Hank out of the way, they destroy the RV. The Cousins demand Gus point them in the direction of Walt, but Gus diverts them toward Hank, who fired the shots that killed Tuco.
Episode 7, “One Minute”*
“I need you to listen very carefully. Two men are coming to kill you.”
Hank confronts Jesse at his home and beats him to within an inch of his life, which results in severe disciplinary action by the DEA. The Cousins track Hank down in a parking lot, and Hank manages to kill one and seriously injure the other -- but not before he is shot and critically injured himself.
Episode 12: “Half Measure”*
“I am going to be part of this family. And that is how we’ll sell your little fiction.”
*Important things that happened between episodes 7 and 12: Walt figured out Gus was behind Hank’s shooting (and the reason both he and Hank are still alive), and they agree to extend his contract annually. Jesse tries (mostly) unsuccessfully to sell skimmed product from the superlab to meth addicts at his Narcotics Anonymous meetings. There he meets Andrea, and they become romantically involved.
Skyler presses Walt on the car-wash/money-laundering idea she had previously pitched. They eventually agree to move forward with it after Walt negotiates more time with his family, arguing that the scheme will be more plausible if they appear to be reconciled. Jesse wants to poison the rival dealers who had Andrea’s brother kill his friend Combo, but Walt refuses to cooperate and considers having Jesse arrested so that he can cool off temporarily in jail. Gus’ main man, Mike Ehrmantraut, talks him out of it. Instead, they arrange a summit/intervention with the rival dealers and Combo’s killers agree not to use children in their drug-trafficking anymore. Later, Andrea’s brother is killed. When Walter sees the news, he realizes that Jesse will be seeking revenge, and he rushes to the dealers’ corner just in time to take them out himself.
Episode 13, “Full Measure”
“I saved your life, Jesse. Are you going to save mine?”
Walt realizes that Gus is likely planning to kill both him and Jesse once Gale -- who Gus reinstated as Walt’s lab assistant -- can take over as cook. Indeed, Mike is on the hunt for Jesse and threatens Saul to get him to tell him where he is. But Saul feeds Mike a red herring and takes Walt to an arcade (where they won’t be bugged) and insists that Walt and Jesse figure out a plan. Walt wants to kill Gale, and Jesse begs him not to, but agrees to find his address. As Walt is leaving his house, one of Gus’ henchmen, Victor, drives up and insists that Walt drive with him to the lab, where he claims there is a chemical problem. When Walt sees Mike there, he knows he’s about to be killed. Walt pleads for his life, and promises to deliver Jesse to Mike. When Jesse answers the phone, Walt cryptically commands him to go to Gale’s place and shoot him right away. When Mike demands an explanation, Walt suggests he might want to hold off on killing him, and recites Gale’s address. Mike immediately understands, and he and Victor quickly leave the lab. Jesse shoots Gale in the head.
For reasons we never fully understand, Gus slit Victor’s throat instead of killing Jesse and Walt. Hank is slowly but surely recovering from his injuries, but along the way Marie goes off the deep end and ends up getting arrested. Jesse, consumed with guilt and shame over killing Gale, is having some serious mental-health issues himself. Hank continues to get dangerously close to identifying Heisenberger, and begins to suspect that Gus is not who he says he is. Skyler enlists Saul to concoct an Internal Revenue Service scheme that will bail out Ted, inadvertently putting Walt in a serious bind. Walt’s and Gus’ relationship becomes increasingly antagonistic. Walt tries and fails to kill Gus more than once before succeeding in a most spectacular way. The closing scene of the season finale confirms that Walt is indeed a monster.
Episode 8, “Hermanos”
“Look at me.”
Here we learn a bit more about Gus and his motivations: As Walt suspected, Gus orchestrated the battle between Hank and the Cousins. In a flashback scene, Walt relates the story to Tuco’s wheelchair-bound Uncle Hector, who is clearly enraged but cannot do anything about it. In a much earlier flashback scene, a young Gus is in Mexico with his partner visiting with Hector and Don Eladio, the head of the Mexican cartel. Gus is there with his business (and possibly life) partner, Max, who is a chemist: They are trying to pitch a business partnership selling meth, but the don doesn’t like their method of getting his attention (they gave his people samples), so Hector shoots Max in the head, killing him instantly.
Episode 10, “Salud”
“This is what comes of blood for blood.”
Tequila! Lick, slam, die.
Episode 13, “Faceoff”
“Yeah, thanks, I can spell.”
Pretty much everyone has a metaphorical gun pointed at his or her face, and Walt has already tried (and failed) to kill Gus. Andrea’s son Brock is in an intensive-care unit with a mysterious illness that Jesse realizes is probably due to ricin poisoning, after he finds a ricin-laced cigarette he had been carrying is missing. Jesse thought Walt was behind it and came very close to shooting him before Walt convinces him that Gus must have orchestrated the whole thing so that Jesse would kill Walt. Brock begins to recover, and the investigation determined that he was poisoned not by ricin but the berries of a Lily of the Valley.
Walt sets a trap for Gus, arranging to make it look like Hector has ratted him out to the DEA. When Gus goes to the nursing home with the intent of killing Hector, Hector detonates a bomb that blows Gus’ face off, killing him. In the final scene, the camera rests on a the label of flower pot in Walt’s backyard -- it’s a Lily of the Valley.
With Gus’ empire fallen and the superlab gone, Walt, Jesse and Mike have to start over, with the help of employees at Los Hermanos Pollos’ parent company. They set up a mobile, pop-up lab inside houses that are undergoing fumigation by Vamanos Pest. Walt has now transformed into a first-class villain, increasingly diabolical and ruthless. Skyler is terrified of her husband and takes dramatic measures to keep him away from her children.
Episode 2, “Madrigal”
“An innocent man does not kill himself.”
The head of fast-food operations for Madrigal Electromotive GmbH, the parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos, kills himself. Lydia, a Madigral executive, asks Mike to kill 11 men left in Gus’ operation who might give information to the authorities. When he refuses, she asks another of Gus’ former guys for the info, but Mike figures it out and kills him first. He then goes to kill Lydia, but her concern for her daughter gets to him, and she is spared -- on the condition that she supply him with methylamine. Eager to replenish the $2 million he had planned to leave to his granddaughter, Mike reconsiders Walt’s proposal and agrees to go into business with him and Jesse.
Episode 7, “Say My Name”
“Shut the f--k up and let me die in peace.”
Jesse wants out of the business and the hell away from Walt. The DEA is closing in on Mike, who Walt worries will flip if he’s arrested. Walt demands that Mike give up the names of Gus’ remaining men, but Mike refuses. Walt shoots and mortally wounds him, staying with him until he dies.
The premiere of the second part of the final season of “Breaking Bad” will be shown on AMC Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.
Ellen Killoran is the Media & Culture Editor at IBTimes. She previously contributed to The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and The Daily, and co-produced the HBO...