Breaking Bad Ozymandias video essay

This week marks the three-year anniversary of the end of Breaking Bad — which seems crazy because it feels like in that time, we’ve never stopped talking about it. While lots of great shows have run out of steam or even faded into obscurity by the end, Breaking Bad stayed strong through the finish, delivering one of the most satisfying endgames in recent memory.

For my money, though, that final season peaked not with the actual finale, “Felina,” but the third-to-last episode, “Ozymandias.” That’s the one where all the chickens come home to roost, where Walt finds that even his brilliance can’t keep his many misdeeds from rippling outward to everyone he cares about. And it’s the subject of a new video essay that delves into why, exactly, “Ozymandias” was so effective. Watch it below. 

Evan Puschak published his Breaking Bad Ozymandias video essay on his YouTube channel, The Nerdwriter.

Puschak believes “Ozymandias,” written by Moira Walley-Beckett and directed by Rian Johnson, is Breaking Bad‘s best episode, but not because of all the violent moments and dark plot twists. Or at least, not just because of all the violent moments and dark plot twists. “What makes drama work, what makes it interesting, isn’t climactic action scenes or the bombastic declrations of colorful characters, or even big ideas,” says Puschak. “It’s the succession of reactions that cascade off of every choice, the chemical and emotional reactions of people living together on Earth.”

Breaking Bad had plenty of big, buzzy watercooler moments, but lots of shows deliver those without coming close to matching Breaking Bad‘s impact. This show remained gripping precisely because it was a show that favored character development over splashy twists. We were with Walt every excruciating step of the way, as he (d)evolved from a seemingly mild-mannered family man to the ruthless kingpin of his own criminal empire. We were with Jesse and Skyler and Hank and Marie and Walt Jr. as Walt’s actions slowly poisoned their lives, often in ways they didn’t even realize at first.

So when Hank finally dies, or Jesse finally hears the truth about Jane’s death, or Walt Jr. finally discovers the truth about his dad, it feels at once intensely satisfying and unbearably painful. Which is Breaking Bad in a nutshell, really. Not to take anything away from the two episodes that follow “Ozymandias,” “Granite State” and “Felina,” but I think I’m inclined to agree with Puschak here — “Ozymandias” feels like perhaps the purest distillation of what this show is all about.

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