10. A Boy and His Tarantula
Episode: "Dead Freight" (Season 5, Episode 5)
The power of this opening sequence is only felt once "Dead Freight" ends. Without the knowledge of where it all leads, the episode's seemingly random opener is something that Breaking Bad rarely ever is: cute.
There's a little boy, who we've never seen or met before, riding his dirt bike through the desert. He pumps the brakes when he sees a tarantula crawling around the dirt; naturally, like any adventurous youngster would do, he plays with it and puts it into a jar for safe-keeping. The sounds of a freight train, way off in the distance, capture the boy's attention. He hops back onto the bike and pedals off, probably to get a better look at the locomotive.
Well, not "probably," it turns out. That's exactly what he does by the end of "Dead Freight," with soul-destroying results. Thus is the character-driven power of Breaking Bad: No person, whether they're a main character or just an unfortunate pawn in the show's overall storytelling, is insignificant. They're all worthy of a little back-story, and a whole lot of audience sympathy. —MB