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'Breaking Bad' Alternatives: Vince Gilligan Considered Killing 3 Main Characters; Says One Makes It To Freedom

by Edward Davis
October 1, 2013 12:09 PM
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Breaking Bad, Season 5

“Breaking Bad,” “Breaking Bad,” “Breaking Bad.” The saga and conclusion of Walter White’s transformation into Heisenberg and then his minor redemption in the last episode is all anyone can talk about (here’s our review of the final episode and look for a podcast later in the day). Was the episode too neat and clean? Did Walter White get what he “deserved”? Does deserve have anything to do with a moral universe that’s so complex and chaotic, and where sins don’t always go punished? Without question, the finale and the whole arc of the show is one that’s going to be pored over, and over. But what about the alternative endings and other things we learned in the wake of the show?

The convivial Vince Gillian is always eager to speak on any subject on the show and in yesterday’s “Breaking Bad” Insider podcast, he gave up a couple of fascinating what-if nuggets. Combined with the various interviews out there, and some of the various questions audience members have, we decided to collate seven factoids you might find pretty interesting to say the least. Oh, and it if it isn't obvious already, spoilers abound so buyer beware.

"I pitch some of these ideas and a lot of them probably sound ludicrous." - Vince Gilligan

1. One scenario had the writers killing off Skyler.
An early scenario Gilligan pitched was Skyler (Anna Gunn) committing suicide while on the run with Walter. It would have taken place right around “Granite State" when Walter is relocated to New Hampshire.

"I was leaning towards [this idea] and the other writers were like, 'that's a bridge too far, let's not' and they were right,” Gilligan said on the podcast. “I think that would have been unnecessary. I was thinking along those lines. At some point I was thinking she went with [Walter and] the Disappearer [Robert Forster’s character]—and we talked about every option under the sun, every permutation, every possibility. And one of them was Skyler leaves with Walt and the Disappearer. We could kind of see where Skyler would go, if she was zombified, after she knew of Hank's demise.”

The reason they dropped these ideas was that they could never see Walter Jr. being a party to running away after the revelations of what Walter had done. “We could never figure out how to get Junior to go along because Junior... there's no bringing him if he doesn't want to go.”

breaking bad, season 5

“We talked about a possible version where Skyler and Walt are tied up at a Motel 6 kind of place and he’s talking to her in a bathroom saying, ‘It’s going to be alright… I’ve got a plan. Skyler? Skyler?’ And he finally forces the door open and she’s in a bloody tub or something like that.”

2. What Gilligan calls the “bad pitch” or the worst one ever that made studio execs groan with distaste. It included the death of Jesse Pinkman.
One of Gilligan’s early ideas before the pilot was that Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) would get killed in season one. Walt, so filled with rage with the drug dealer responsible, would go out for revenge. Walter would lock him up in a basement, torture him every day, removing his toes one-by-one and cauterizing the wound with a blowtorch so he wouldn’t bleed out. Walter would give the drug lord a way out—a trip-wire connected to a shotgun pointed at him would finally give him relief from the pain. But the drug lord, being so bad-ass, would never take that option out. This would continue for weeks until Walter Jr. would discover him and try to help. The drug lord, realizing this was Walter’s son, would pull the tripwire, killing them both.

Gilligan said he pitched this idea to the studio execs and everyone was like, "Eww, you are seriously fucked up." “You’ll notice we never actually did that scene,” Gilligan said and he noted throughout the podcast that his m.o. was coming up with wild, morbid, dark ideas and the writers of the show would rein him in. “The good thing about these pitch out meetings is that you pitch out your story to the best of your knowledge, but everyone realizes you can switch things up,” he said.

3. One iteration of Walter’s escape involved a new wife.
They obviously went a little wild with the “what if” writing scenarios. “We talked about Walter having a new wife, a new job,” Gilligan said of his time up in New Hampshire. “We talked about him teaching at some sort of learning annex, teaching chemistry.”

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Final Episode

4. In Gilligan's mind, Gretchen and Elliott do give Walt Jr. and Holly Walt's money.
Some have wondered if, in the wake of Walter’s death, Elliott Schwartz (Adam Godley), Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht) turn to the cops. Gilligan doesn’t believe they would. “Because I believe—and it’s up to anyone whether they want to believe this – but I believe Gretchen and Elliott are scared enough that they are going to get the money to Walter Jr. and therefore the family,” Gilligan said. The showrunner said the most obvious alternate viewpoint is that it dawns on them that they are not in danger and go to the police. Vince sees their debate like this: “It’s not like we’re being blackmailed to kill someone, we’re just being blackmailed to give a guy’s money to his [innocent] children. Let’s just do it.” Gilligan says simply, “I believe Walt’s plan worked.”

5. In case you’re wondering what happens to Jesse Pinkman after he escapes the Neo-Nazi compound, Gilligan has no doubts.
And as you might have guessed, Gilligan feels the same way about Jesse. “I gotta believe Jesse got away with it. I guess you can say a lot of law enforcement would be looking for him, but I gotta believe he got away.” Where? Gilligan says Alaska which is also a location he brought up in the recent EW interview. “All these terrible things he’s witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature,” he told the magazine.

Aaron Paul also mentioned on the podcast that the writers briefly mulled a post-credits scene that featured a bus pulling up in Alaska and Jesse getting off.

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  • Bob | May 17, 2014 1:22 AMReply

    Why the hell did they ruin the show with Walt JR. (Flynn) !? Everything about this show was close to perfect and they had to throw this idiot in it just to remind us that people love to mess up good tv shows and movies.

  • justine | December 28, 2013 6:09 PMReply

    All loose ends were tied up in the series finale. Walt was going to die anyway because of the cancer and might I add he outlived it, he should've died awhile back but he held strong. I wish instead of an apartment I wish that Skylar and the kids would move in with Marie since they're both husbandless. I also think they should have actually showed that Jesse made it to Alaska and isn't going insane considering the fact that everyone he had loved died.

  • Okwe Stabinawitz | October 2, 2013 1:43 AMReply

    I think that Walt thought of himself as a god and as Jesse as his surrogate Jesus, the boy without a mother, but in reality Walt is more like the devil. I think it would have been interesting to see Walt trick Jesse into sacrificing himself for the "greater good", only to allow more evil to continue. If Walt really got a rush from operating a meth empire he would want to see his legacy continue even after his inevitable death. By convincing Jesse to sacrifice him he would have created the facade of a man dying for the sins of others, but in reality he could have used that to continue a legacy. I don't know how this could have been done, but I think that would be an interesting ending.

  • BEF | October 1, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    There are spoilers here, but obviously, I'm posting in a spoiler article ....

    I know that most of the audience wants a bloodbath and revenge, but I think it would've been better just having a horribly depressing and isolating but realistic final episode of Walter rotting away in his cabin in New Hampshire with his barrel of money, getting cabin fever; some great final episodes, but Jesse was squandered all season just to have a showdown with the ne0-Nazis who were only introduced at the start of this season (and really their connection was only introduced at the first start of season five) and weren't really that much of a threat. I liked everything about the final season except the neo-Nazi enslaving Jesse subplot, which was resolved how that needed to be, but did it need to be there in the first place?

  • CBB | October 1, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    I thought Gilligan had a master game plan but it seems he just had a bunch of ideas on how the story would end up and saw which ones the writer's room liked better. Maybe I'm idealistic but I think Weiner is very clear on how Don Draper and the people around him will change and evolve up until the last episode of Mad Men.

  • Piotr | October 1, 2013 4:50 PM

    I'm amazed that in this era of Vince Gilligans and Aaron Sorkins and Matthew Weiners that people still don't get how TV works. They can't possibly have everything planned out. TV functions in such a way that what you envision cannot possibly always make it onto the screen. Writers write only as far ahead of them as they can see. A lot depends on production necessities. The great crime of LOST is that they said they knew where it was going. They were lying -- not only to the audience but to themselves. TV writers rarely know where it's going. Good TV writers leave enough doors and windows open that they can figure out a plausible, satisfying method of moving the story forward. That's why BREAKING BAD was so genius -- they kept finding surprising, satisfying ways to move the story forward. Matthew Weiner has no idea what's going to happen to his characters in their final season. Do you think he seriously had the whole thing envisioned when he wrote the pilot script? And everything you've seen on MAD MEN thus far has been note for note from Weiner's brain? Absolutely not, brosef. Absolutely not. It's one thing to learn what a showrunner is and learn all the good ones' names, but figure out what they do, too. That will help you wrap your brain around stuff like this.

  • Sean | October 1, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    At least give a week before giving out spoilers.
    There's still people catching up, or waiting for the blu ray.
    Hell, i would even wait a month before dropping spoilers.

    At least just don't put them in the headlines and on twitter. Don't sink down to EW's shitty level.

  • CB | October 1, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    Please, be careful with spoilers in the headlines. I've seen the finale, but some fans obviously haven't. Not everyone is American!

  • Skinny Pete | October 1, 2013 12:52 PM

    It is Tuesday, and if you are not American than it is perhaps Wednesday. So, who ever has not seen it..go watch the dam thing, break bad...steel it of the internet, if it is alright with your morality and if you don't get Netflix or AMC, bitch!

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