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Vince Gilligan Says There Was A Much Harsher Version Of The 'Breaking Bad' Finale They Didn't Use & More

by Kevin Jagernauth
September 30, 2013 11:26 AM
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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.

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  • theomer | October 1, 2013 4:47 PMReply

    Ultimately a disappointing finale to a masterpiece of a show. I got a feeling since last season's descent into ridiculousness (the train caper, the magnets caper, the toilet revelation) that Gilligan will pussy out on the finale and choose the safe path aka satisfying the lowest common denominator group of watchers and going by the mASSES reactions on the Internet, he highly succeeded, although I'm sure in the coming years the show will suffer from this piss poor finale. It's sad when a creator chooses to cather to it's public and doesn't do what he think it's right for the show. God forbid the ending is bleak or controversial. I wonder now why did he kept babbling about evil, unredemptive Walter when in the end the character achieved almost everything he wanted. Maybe instead of being afraid to be compared to the 'ambigous' and 'unsatisfactory' ending of The Sopranos he should've aspired to reach the level of The Shield's finale.

  • Twigs | March 29, 2014 12:51 AM

    Ultimately an amazing finale. Not the climax of the show by any means, but there is no law saying the ending has to be the climax, as with The Shield.

  • Jeff Andrews | October 1, 2013 5:36 PM

    I think saying it was "disappointing" is going a bit too far. At its worst, maybe a little underwhelming, but overall I thought Gilligan and his writers did a great job with it. And yes, while Walter achieved killing the neo-nazis, getting to talk to Skyler, and getting money to his son, I think it's a stretch to say that he got everything he wanted. His family is still completely destroyed and his son still won't talk to him. Walter is still wanted by basically every law enforcement in the country and he is dying. It is by no means a "happy ending".

    I thought it was brilliant to bring Elliot and Gretchen back into the mix, and have him visit them one last time. Really helped tie the series together. I also loved that the "trained assassins" turned out to be Badger and the other drug dealer whose name I forget.
    Jesse being the one to kill Todd was great, and I loved that he got away. And while some might see that as too happy, it's not clear at all what will happen to Jesse. Sure, he escaped the neo-nazis, but what is the rest of his life going to be like? Probably not so great.

    Also, I loved that the only person able to kill Walter White turned out to be himself with his own weapon. That was wonderfully done. I really don't see the show suffering from the finale. If anything, it will cement its status as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

    "Am I still dead?" -- The Monkey's Paw --

  • Lee | October 1, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    Vince Gilligan stated, on the Talking Bad finale, that he was said that Walt Jr would never know Walt didn't kill Hank. Why would he say this? As if there was no option whatsoever that Walt Jr couldn't find out. Obviously he could, given the fact that neo-nazi bodies are there and SKYLAR KNOWS.

  • joe bush | October 4, 2013 10:38 AM

    The neo-nazi bodies will give Jr. the impression his father worked with neo-nazis.

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