Watching Breaking Bad for the first time delivers thrills and heart-stopping surprises unlike anything else on television. The story of a downtrodden chemistry teacher with a fragile ego and a hunger for excitement transforms from a small-scale tale into a seismic journey of character evolution.
Creator Vince Gilligan revolutionized binge-watching television, as many episodes of Breaking Bad ended on brilliant cliffhangers, seizing the audience’s attention and demanding them to watch another hour. The best Breaking Bad cliffhangers expertly lead into the next phase of the story, and they remain memorable a decade after the series finale.
1. “Full Measure” (Season 3, Episode 13)
The last scene of season three completely changes Jesse Pinkman’s character arc for the final two seasons, and it also irreparably damages the relationship between Walter and Jesse. When Walt asks Jesse to kill Gale Boetticher so that Gus has to keep them both as meth cooks, Jesse loses a part of his soul. The screen goes black as the gun fires, sending shivers down the audience’s spines.
2. “Gliding Over All” (Season 5, Episode 8)
The show runners’ decision to keep Hank in the dark about Walt’s true identity for almost the entire show pays off in devastating fashion during the final scene of season 5A. Hank pretends to be blind to Walter’s crimes until it all clicks for him on the porcelain throne, producing one of the iconic Breaking Bad cliffhangers. The show not airing again for almost an entire year created palpable anticipation for the final block of episodes.
3. “To’hajiilee” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Hank’s fate hangs in the balance at the end of season five, episode 13 in this Breaking Bad cliffhanger. Todd and his uncle fire shots at Hank and Gomez, thoroughly overpowering the police officer while Walt watches from afar. Walt never intended to get Hank killed when he became a drug dealer, and the viewers sit on pins and needles, wondering whether the show will eliminate such a vital character.
4. “ABQ” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Walt impacts a lot of people indirectly throughout the show. The first colossal sign of his carnage manifests at the end of season two when a grief-ridden air traffic controller causes two planes to crash right over Walt’s house. Viewers must ponder the violence and tragedy the antihero starts to build up over the first 20 episodes, culminating in this Breaking Bad cliffhanger.
5. “Half Measures” (Season 3, Episode 12)
Walt and Jesse engage in one of TV’s truly toxic relationships. They are often there for each other, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Walter careening into two drug dealers about to take out Jesse signaled a new era of their partnership and set up perfectly for the season finale, and one of the great Breaking Bad cliffhangers.
6. “One Minute” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Hank ends on the receiving end of the Salamancas when Walt escapes their grasp. The brawl between ASAC Schrader and the brothers ends in death and devastation, and one of the biggest Breaking Bad cliffhangers with Hank lying in the parking lot and viewers left to ponder whether the agent will survive until the next episode.
7. “Blood Money” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Walter and Hank finally come to verbal blows over the crimes the former committed throughout the entirety of the series. Viewers are left to wonder whether the formerly soft-spoken chemistry teacher possesses the venom to actually harm his brother-in-law in order to save his hide and evade the authorities one last time. Talk about one of the big Breaking Bad cliffhangers!
8. “Crawl Space” (Season 4, Episode 11)
The last scene of “Crawl Space” remains a masterclass in horror, thriller, dramatic filmmaking, and Breaking Bad cliffhangers over a decade later. Walter’s terrifying shrieks of glee cast an ominous cloud over the series as the show keeps everyone on the edge of their seats in the epic battle between Gus and Walter. Will Walter dip any lower, both literally and metaphorically, as Gus closes in on his family?
9. “IFT” (Season 3, Episode 3)
Skyler spends most of the series at Walter’s mercy. When her husband becomes a meth dealer and ruins her family, she must sit back and watch the chaos to protect their son and relatives from the truth. Skyler proudly telling Walter about an affair she had with her boss gives her the leverage she so desperately searched for throughout the first three seasons.
10. “Cat’s in the Bag . . .” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Walter’s innocuous beginnings as a meth cook in the New Mexican desert start to erode with haste after his gas mask is discovered. When the scene ends, it’s incredibly tempting to find out whether the desperate Walter will already be in trouble with the police.
11. “Confessions” (Season 5, Episode 11)
Jesse and Walter’s friendship ends in gasoline-fueled despair when Jesse finds out about his former teacher’s betrayal. He goes to Walter’s house with hate in his heart and adrenaline rushing through his veins. The final scene brilliantly encapsulates the last season's tension, stakes, and pace.
12. “Seven Thirty-Seven” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Most season premieres don’t end in suspense the way “Seven Thirty-Seven” does. Tuco Salamanca kidnaps Walt and Jesse, and the antagonist’s unstable personality and mental state give viewers a frightening image of what might happen to them when the next episode airs, in one of the scariest Breaking Bad cliffhangers.
13. “Bug” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Walter and Jesse still have some positive feelings for each other in the show, at least in this episode. This fact makes their physical brawl at the end of “Bug” hit like a rock to the face. Viewers want the two men to fight back against Gus, but the new leader of the cartel has successfully forced a wedge between the father-son duo.
14. “Dead Freight” (Season 5, Episode 5)
Todd Alquist, played by the Academy Award darling Jesse Plemons, demonstrates his psychotic tendencies in one split second when he shoots an innocent young bystander in front of Walter and Jesse. The cliffhanger surely leaves most viewers with jaws hanging to the floor in shock.
15. “Four Days Out” (Season 2, Episode 9)
The cliffhanger at the end of “Four Days Out” serves more as an emotional question mark than a plotting one. Walter acts distraught over finding out that he no longer has cancer.
While most people would be overjoyed at the news, Walter was just getting started with his newfound life as a criminal. What will he do now that he has to face the consequences of his actions alive instead of dead?
16. “Crazy Handful of Nothin’” (Season 1, Episode 6)
Walter gets his first major victory of the show when he almost blows up Tuco’s compound to gain an advantage in their drug partnership. The cliffhanger effectively sets up for the season finale and the impending danger of the meth trade that Walter feels enthralled by.
17. “Mandala” (Season 2, Episode 11)
Walter faces an earth-shattering moral dilemma when he must choose between attending his first drug deal with Gus or the birth of his daughter in the hospital. The scene slowly unveils the curtain on Walter’s decaying psyche and ethics.
18. “Granite State” (Season 5, Episode 15)
The penultimate cliffhanger in Breaking Bad applies a subtle climax to Walt’s reprieve in the winter snow of New Hampshire before he returns to New Mexico to close all loose strings. The episode manages to follow up the roller coaster ride of “Ozymandias” with a thoughtful bridge between the antepenultimate and final episodes.
19. “Sunset” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Gus turns the stakes up to 100 for the first time in the third season when he instructs the Salamancas to kill Hank instead of Walt. The decision to ramp up the intensity with so many episodes left in the season demonstrates Vince Gilligan’s desire for daring creativity.
20. “Negro y Azul” (Season 2, Episode 7)
A cliffhanger doesn’t have to signal someone’s impending death, or a climactic finale will commence. Sometimes, a cliffhanger can be a mellow, tender glance at two people enjoying each other’s company for a fleeting moment. Jesse and Jane watching TV together symbolize the calm before the storm in both character’s lives.
21. “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” (Season 1, Episode 7)
The last scene of season one demonstrates the evil aura Tuco possesses over not only his enemies but also his allies. When Tuco nearly kills one of his men right in front of Walt and Jesse, it forces the pair to think about whether they have the fortitude to survive the drug game.
22. “Rabid Dog” (Season 5, Episode 12)
Walter and Jesse are supposed to meet in an open space to air their grievances, but Jesse doesn’t hold up his end of the agreement. When Walter calls in a hit on Jesse at the end of the episode, it truly frightens audiences to see the moral descent of the protagonist so many came to root for.