And then there were 16… At one point, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan never believed he’d ever shoot a pilot, then soon after he never thought Breaking Bad would ever air as a series. Eventually a three-year plan extended to five, and Gilligan found himself at Comic-Con staring at fans one day, reporters the next.
The Season Five premiere, “Live Free or Die,” drew 2.9 million viewers, and in the 18-49 demo, a +34% increase versus last season’s premiere and that total is missing customers from the Dish network. 11:30pm airings cumed the total to 3.5 million. Breaking Bad’s AMC younger sibling, The Walking Dead, which has no end planned in sight, has set the high bar for the network as far as ratings is concerned.
“You’ve come to the realization that you’re onto something,” Gilligan said. “That this has a real fan base, despite the fact in strictly Nielsen ratings terms we would have been cancelled after the first commercial break had we been on CBS. What we lack in Nielsen victory, we’ve more than made up for the depth of enthusiasm that fans have for the show. “
Given the series’ end looming over the horizon, I asked Gilligan how serious talks were to take the finale and put it on the big screen. Breaking Bad would certainly warrant that kind of treatment, as every viewer would flock to see how it all ends; we’ve even seen cast members Bryan Cranston and Betsy Brandt tease us about a movie finale and because of its cinematic qualities and limitless endings after four seasons a movie finale seems appropriate. No one knows how it will end, even the cast. I wanted to know once and for all if there was any real consideration to take the series finale to theaters.
“I love the idea of it and I learned a long time ago to never say never,” Gilligan replied. “But my writers and I intend to tell every bit of story we can think to tell in these final 16 (episodes). At this point, I’d say that the odds are very remote because we want to leave it all on the field. If after a year or two down the line, we were to think of something to do, or if there’s anybody left standing after the dust has cleared, who knows, your guess is as good as mine.”
“I’ll tell you what I’d really like, now that you put it that way, I’d love to see people get to see all of the episodes on the big screen. We do this once a year, and we’re going to do it tonight at Comic-Con where we watch the first episode on a big, honest-to-god movie screen, Dolby 7.1 stereo, it is so thrilling for me personally. Anyone who likes Breaking Bad would like it even more on the big screen. It is a different experience. Having said that, honestly, there are no plans for a movie.”
Gilligan insisted that he’s abided by the original pitch given to AMC and Sony–that he would take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. He explained, “The twists and turns of character and plot we have produced over the seasons, I certainly did not see them all coming. My writers and I came up with them week-by-week and day-by-day.”
“The ultimate point of the series was to take someone who is fundamentally good or someone who most of us are like, who tries to do his best to live a good life and willfully decides to walk a darker path and his way of doing that is to become a drug kingpin and we are still very much in that path.”
Vince’s Opinion of whether or not Walt is a sociopath (BTW, he does not think his opinion any more valid than anyone else’s):
“Walt’s always had those weaknesses and bad character traits within him, he was just too scared to let them out. I think the cancer diagnosis freed him, liberated him from a great deal of fear, which you’d think is a good thing. To live a fearful life of self-constraint seems like a terrible thing, and for the most part it’s probably true, but he’s become too free these last few seasons and the dark side is just raring to get out.”
“A sociopath as I understand it is someone who does not care about the feelings of others, I don’t know in the strict clinical sense, if I’m saying that Walter White is a sociopath–I think he felt guilt; he felt bad watching Jane die. I just think he goes further and further down a very dark path where feelings of guilt and morality disappear in the distance. The feeling of power overwhelms all and the feelings of guilt and morality succumb to that. Sociopath is a strong word, but he’s definitely a bad dude.”
On trying to come up with a replacement for Giancarlo Esposito / Gus Fring:
“I can say that at the beginning of Season Five my writers and I sat around for a great many hours thinking to ourselves about how we come up with someone who’s badder, meaner, scarier, and more formidable than Gus Fring and who’s going to do a better job than Giancarlo Esposito, who was absolutely stellar. Then we thought to ourselves, we already have someone worse than Gus Fring–he’s our star.”
On the pivotal moment when Walter watched Jane die in Season 3:
“That was a tough moment, I wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do. That scared me and that scared the executives at AMC and Sony. To their credit they did not try to stop us from doing it, they did want to talk about it. They did want to say that this was a big moment and ‘are you sure you’re not doing it too soon in the life of the series?’ We talked it over and they said go for it. I’m glad we did. That was a watershed moment. Since then, it’s been easier to have him do the terrible things that he has. So that was definitely a turning point for the character.”
• Gilligan hopes that viewers will feel like they’re electrified with anticipation rather than feeling like they’re being tortured during the mid-season break.
• Not counting the opening scene in “Live Free or Die,” the amount that has passed since the pilot is around 11 months. “He’s had a busy year,” said Gilligan.
• Gilligan was coy in answering a question on if the relationship between Walt and his “two” sons would be explored. “I do see Walter Jr. and Jesse as different sides of the same son in a way. Jesse does represent a sort of a son figure to Walt… we’ll continue to deepen the viewers’ understanding of all of these characters by the end of it all.