Best of the Small Screen, Dramas No. 10


Over the next 10 weeks I'll be taking a look at some of my favorite TV series, broken down into three groups (Limited Run Series, Comedies, and Dramas). In my post on March 1 I laid out the ground rules for these categories and this exploration, the biggest of which is no series that are currently airing. To read the whole thing, check out the post "Best of the Small Screen" from March 1.

We begin the final leg of this journey, dramas. As a reminder (in case you don't want to go back to March 1), this list includes only shows that have completed their run. That means shows like "Game of Thrones," which I love, can't be on this list at this time.

Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Number of Seasons/Episodes: 5/62
Network: AMC
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, and Bob Odenkirk
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Favorite Season/Episodes: Season four, 4.08 "Hermanos," 4.10 "Salud," 4.13 "Face Off," 5.05 "Dead Freight," 5.08 "Gliding Over All," 5.14 "Ozymandias," 5.16 "Felina"
About: There is a reason I said at the outset that a series had to be complete to be considered for this list. That's because so much can change as a series fulfills its final vision. One example of that being imperative is "Breaking Bad," a series that wouldn't have made this list prior to its fourth season. In fact, it wouldn't have made the top 50 for me. But something changed for me around the end of the third season. I enjoyed the fourth season a lot, which was my favorite, and some of my objections to character, story, and pacing melted away. When all was said and done (I binged the final 25 episodes in a three-day period), I was left impressed enough to consider the series for this list. After weighing other options, it made the cut. And it was due largely to how strong it finished in its final two seasons (19 episodes). As one might expect, the favorites list is heavily weighted toward that group. I had three characters I really enjoyed in the series (Gus, Mike, and Hank), and these episodes largely revolve around them. The season four episodes are heavily Gus-centric. "Hermanos" gives us some of Gus's backstory, which is great. "Salud" features Gus moving against the cartel, which is great, and "Face Off" is the climax of season four, and one of the most memorable of the series. Other episodes I enjoyed from season five include the train heist, "Dead Freight," and Hank realizing the truth, "Gliding Over All," from the first half. Then a couple episodes from the end of the series. "Ozymandais" is an exceptional hour. Sadly it brings us to the end of Hank, but it also is the full realization of who Walter is. The title is incredible and fits beautifully with the poem. Finally, the finale of the series was a near perfect achievement. It wasn't a happy ending, and it could never have been. But it fit. That is a rare and dynamic achievement. This is a series that was a strong technical achievement and vision, with some exceptional performances. Cranston, Paul, Odenkirk, Gunn, Norris and Giancarlo Esposito were great. This is a series that easily makes most people's all time lists, and while it's not as high on mine, it is worthy checking out.

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