As work around the nation is still on hold this morning as everyone gathers around the water cooler/coffee machine/printer/Dan’s office to talk about the uneven sendoff to “Breaking Bad“ (though we seem to be in the minority on that opinion), creator/producer/writer/director Vince Gilligan has already carved out some time to talk to press about the finale, and has made some fascinating revelations. Needless to say, if you haven’t watch “Felina” yet, spoilers are ahead, but if you want to know the paths not chosen, then this should be a fascinating read.
Chatting with EW, Gilligan revealed that at one time a much more intense version of an ending was kicked around, but ultimately sidelined as they felt it was pushing things a bit too far. “We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don’t think it was a necessity for us. There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it,” Gilligan shared. “There’s no right or wrong way to do this job — it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends.”
But even if Walter White wound up paying the ultimate price for the path he’d chose, his partner in crime, Jesse—who his own share of blood on his hands—still managed to ride to freedom, something Gilligan says was fitting for the character. “…the writers room just loved Jesse and we just figured he had gotten in way over his head. When you think of it, he didn’t really have a chance in the early days. Walt said, ‘You either help me cook meth and sell it, or else I’ll turn you in to the DEA.’ So this poor kid, based on a couple of really bad decisions he made early on, has been paying through the nose spiritually and physically and mentally and emotionally,” he explained. “In every which way, he’s just been paying the piper, and we just figured it felt right for him to get away. It would have been such a bummer for us, as the first fans of the show, for Jesse to have to pay with his life ultimately.”
However, having Walt let Jesse go also served as a nod to a classic western, and storytelling into employed as well. “A lot of astute viewers who know their film history are going to say, ‘It’s the ending to ‘The Searchers.’ And indeed it is,” Gilligan admits. “The wonderful western The Searchers has John Wayne looking for Natalie Wood for the entire three-hour length of the movie. She’s been kidnapped by Indians and raised as one of their own, and throughout the whole movie, John Wayne says, ‘I need to put her out of her misery. As soon as I find her, I’m going to kill her.’ The whole movie Jeffrey Hunter is saying, ‘No, we’re not — she’s my blood kin, we’re saving her,’ and he says, ‘We’re killing her.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh my god, John Wayne is a monster and he’s going to do it. You know for the whole movie that this is the major drama between these two characters looking for Natalie Wood. And then at the end of the movie, on impulse, you think he’s riding toward her to shoot her, and instead he sweeps her up off her feet and he carries her away and he says, ‘Let’s go home.’ It just gets me every time — the ending of that movie just chokes you up, it’s wonderful. In the writers room, we said, ‘Hey, what about ‘The Searchers’ ending?’ So, it’s always a matter of stealing from the best. [Laughs]“
But even borrowing from the classics doesn’t mean there aren’t some moments that didn’t quite work in the script, and speaking with Vulture, Gilligan shared one deleted scene that wasn’t able to make it in, though it will appear in some format on the forthcoming DVD of the show. Here it is:
There was one scene cut from the finale script for budget and time reasons. It took place after Walt makes the call in which he pretends he’s the Times reporter. In it, a former student of Walt recognizes him. Walt pays him off and threatens him to make sure he doesn’t rat him out. But before leaving the former student, he asks, “What kind of teacher was I?” The former student replies, “You were good” and then says he remembered the time Walt sprayed different chemicals at a flame and it made different colors.
And so, still lots to unpack as fans continue to say goodbye to “Breaking Bad” and Walter White. Be sure to check out both EW and Vulture for more. And below, you can see Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reading the script for the finale for the first time together, on camera.