As we prepare for the yearlong, mid-season break of AMC’s utterly captivating Breaking Bad, there seems no time quite like the present to look back at some of the first half of the final season’s best quotes. Vince Gilligan’s series has moved in some interesting, new directions — including a few startling attempts to make the audience hate Walter White — but the writing is as crisp and clever as ever. Few shows on television do dialogue like Breaking Bad. There are no throwaway lines, every conversation is filled with hidden meaning that reveals things to come, or offers us extra insight into the characters. This has been true from the beginning, but this season has featured no shortage of memorable dialogue (most of it belonging to Walter and his reluctant partner Mike Ehrmantraut). Join us in remembering ten of the best moments so far. Here’s hoping that Hank and Saul get an opportunity to shine in the finale. We’ve missed them this year. If you’re still playing catch up with season five, consider this your spoiler alert. Drop your favorite quotes in the comments, and tell us how you’ll be “breaking bad” this Sunday.
“Yeah, bitch! Magnets!”
Apart from being damn funny and using Jesse’s catch phrase within the context of the story, it’s a moment of vindication. Jesse’s the third wheel in Breaking Bad’s criminal enterprise — not nearly as street smart as Mike, nor as book smart as Walter, but he winds up conceiving of an idea that could not only save their asses, but actually works. Audiences relate to Jesse since he’s the most moral of the trio, and it’s nice to see the guy everyone has so often overlooked and manipulated succeed in such a big (and funny) way. This is a great human moment for Jesse, where we remember that underneath it all, he’s still just an excitable kid.
“Because I say so.”
This line, which comes late in the first episode of the season, gives viewers a hint of how much Walter has been changed by the events of the past few seasons. The mild-mannered, geeky chemistry teacher is starting to be pushed aside by the force of Heisenberg’s personality. What we see is quite surprising. Heisenberg is Walter at his most intense and arrogant — and nothing captures his ego better than this line and the snarl on his face. When Mike asks him how they know the magnet plan actually worked, Walter’s deadpan response is, “Because I say so,” even though there’s no way he can know for sure. This is when we realize Walter’s ego will run amok in season five.
“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”
While the idea that Walter might be getting a bit of a big head and too arrogant for his own good becomes a recurring element of this season, Mike is always around to knock him down a peg. This line does exactly that — a subtle reminder to the fledgling kingpin that just because he took out Gustavo Fring, it doesn’t automatically make him the new number one. The late Fring had an incredibly organized and well-run empire. Walt, meanwhile, is just an upstart drug lord still learning the ropes. These moments with Mike and Walter are always interesting, because no matter how tough Walter feels, his body language almost always betrays the fact that he’s scared of Mike. The former grizzled cop is keenly aware of that, and doesn’t see the oh so scary Heisenberg that Walt presents to his underlings.
“I thought you were the danger.”
This is one of the few moments where Skyler actually pulls her weight this season — the other being later in the same long exchange with Walt where she chillingly reveals she’s waiting for his cancer to come back. Skyler, like most of the characters, isn’t as smart as Walter — but she demonstrates here that while he’s fooled a lot of people with his silver tongue over the past four seasons, she’s on to his game. She’s razor sharp as she quickly and coolly puts him in check, using his own barb against him. Walt convinced Skyler that he’s a dangerous man capable of striking fear into hardened criminals when he previously (and awesomely) told her, “I am the danger.” He’s so convincing that she becomes terrified, and now that he needs her to believe everything is fine, she’s not going to give him the satisfaction. You can’t have it both ways, Walter — and in this instance, Skyler wins the battle, if not the war.
“Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head.”
This is a fantastic line from Mike, because it reminds us of the old school cops and robbers films he seems to enjoy (we see him watching The Big Heat later in the season), which also makes it a self-referential witticism about the show at large. Mike’s economical in all he does. He makes smart, precise moves, and his way of speaking is no different. The line is darkly humorous, because we know Mike’s done this a few times — and it becomes grim when we remember he’d execute Lydia without hesitation if not for Walt and Jesse. This isn’t Mike’s finest moment of the season (that’s coming later) or of the series (nothing will top his “half measures” speech), but it’s another astute moment where character actor Jonathan Banks reminds us that he should have been a bigger star. That world-weary face and delivery makes any tough guy wisecrack instantly cool.
“I’m not your wife. I’m your hostage.”
To say that the marriage between Walter and Skyler is severely damaged is an understatement. When we saw Walt’s formerly loving spouse and co-conspirator trying to drown herself, ushering the kids out of house, and wishing his cancer would come back, we felt things hit an all-time low. Much of the Internet has been critical of Skyler White over the past five seasons, and while she hasn’t exactly impressed us either, certain scenes have allowed her to shine and get a few digs in at her unhinged hubby. Perhaps the most telling line of dialogue in the first half of season five, the one that really encapsulates Walter and Skyler’s crumbling marriage, is the one mentioned here. Skyler isn’t a wife anymore in the traditional sense — she is a hostage, trapped in Walt’s criminal web. The dark beauty of it all is that even though we know she loathes him at this point, Skyler knows she’s in a mess of her own making.
“I’m in the empire business.”
Walter wowed us with this badass line, and we can’t help but be giddy seeing Heisenberg come to the surface and assert his dominance — but it also serves as a potent reminder of just how much Walter has changed over the course of five seasons. It’s hard to imagine the meek man in seasons one through three even imagining a thought like this, let alone voicing it. By season four, we can see the wheels turning in Walter’s head, but by season five the transformation from Mr. Chips to Scarface is almost complete. The entire scene is powerful, because Jesse makes logical and accurate points to contradict what Walter’s saying — points that are completely true (early on, Walter needed less than a million bucks to be good, now five million isn’t nearly enough). We come to finally realize just how bitter Walt is about Grey Matter — his old company that he dumped too soon — and how that bitterness has festered and finally found an outlet through Heisenberg. It’s a chilling moment, but… completely awesome too. Breaking Bad wonderfully creates these dichotomous experiences of rooting for the baddies, while clutching the knot in the pit of our stomachs.
“Say my name.”
Episode seven of season five has a number of memorable lines, but the opening speech from Walter stands as one of our favorite moments from any of the collective seasons. The build up to Walter going “full Heisenberg” is finally complete in this moment — a scene wherein our former chemistry teacher turned Tony Montana not only reveals to the outside drug world that he’s the notorious Heisenberg everyone’s been whispering about, but does so while flaunting it in the face of men who could easily kill him. Not content to merely reveal his “drug lord identity,” Walter goes even further — insulting his competitors’ product to their face. It’s ballsy, since humiliating the competition you’re trying to employ isn’t the best way to start a partnership, but Heisenberg pulls it off with style to spare.
“You did fine Todd, you applied yourself, that’s as much as I can ask.”
While season five has been filled with moments showcasing Walt’s menacing alter ego, there was one interesting scene where we got a glimpse of the old Walter White — the high school chemistry teacher who encouraged kids to apply themselves. With Jesse out of the picture, Walter turns to new assistant Todd to help him cook a new batch of meth. Jesse has become a master chef in the time he’s worked with Mr. White, and no one expects Todd’s first go-round to be gourmet quality. The fledgling student is self-conscious about his lack of experience, but Walter calmly tells him that he knows Todd did his best, and that’s all he can ask. Todd also gives Walt the respect he’s desperately craving by offering to cook for free until he “gets this right.” While Todd’s approach certainly has our conspiracy sensors tingling, the entire scene is a rare humanizing moment for Walter in a season that has thrust him deeper into the darkness. This line isn’t nearly as thrilling as the others, but it’s a welcome reminder of why we cared for the character in the first place.
“Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.”
We expected nothing less than a line like this to commemorate the passing of Mike. While everyone grew fond of the former cop turned henchman, it seemed like a preordained conclusion that Mike wasn’t going to make it to the curtain call. The scene where he meets his end is a beautiful one — the way his final moments are shot are quite striking in terms of composition, but this final line, this final, “If you,” to Walter is befitting of his character and their stormy relationship.