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Published on July 20th, 2012 | by Ernie Estrella


‘Breaking Bad’ With Dean Norris & Betsy Brandt: ‘Hank is the Final Foil For Walt’

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Once Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was out of the picture in the Breaking Bad Season 4 finale, the most logical battle left for Walter White (Bryan Cranston) exists within his own family, brother-in-law Hank Schrader played by Dean Norris. Fring’s death validated Hank’s private investigation and re-empowers him, gives him supreme confidence this year. Season 5 boils it down to the criminal and the cop and we spoke with Norris and Betsy Brandt at Comic-Con.

“Walt has beaten Tuco, Gus Fring, and at some point we’re going to deal with a Walter-Hank confrontation.” Norris said. “Hank is the final foil for Walt– In terms of structurally, I think that’s the last big structural arc of the show. What happens, finally, when Hank finds out that Walt is Heisenberg? The story doesn’t end there, though.”

EDITOR’S PICK: BREAKING BAD creator VINCE GILLIGAN confirms no plans for a movie

So begins the Season Five chess match and up to this point, it’s been a single elimination tournament with White and Schrader on opposite brackets. But just imagine the possibilities of Hank finding out that his mild-mannered brother-in-law is Heisenberg and is not only responsible for producing the most sought-after crystal method in the Southwest, but is also responsible for a maelstrom of deaths surrounding him. Bear in mind, it’s not a question on if Hank will find out, it’s more a matter of when and how he’ll react. As Norris described, Hank’s Heisenberg obsession has become his white whale in Moby Dick.

“Hank put together a lot of other things,” Norris said proudly. “He was right about Gus Fring, which was a hard thing to be right about, so you see he’s smart enough to figure it out. And don’t sell Marie short. Brandt stated further, “Maybe it’s Marie who figures it all out and tells Hank. Anything is possible in this show!”

hank and marie breaking bad 2

But this major revelation to the Schraders would rock their world because right now they don’t know he’s a criminal. Brandt reminded us all, “We just think he’s dealing with death and mortality.”

“Once you have an idea in your mind of what a person is,” Norris continued. “It’s hard to imagine that that person is a completely different person. Maybe Hank will kick himself and say that he should’ve saw this and he should’ve saw that, but really, it would be ridiculous for Hank to ever think Walt had anything to do with this. Hank is used to dealing with hardcore criminals, badasses in the cartel, and DEA agents, it’s ridiculous to imagine Hank would put Walt and Heisenberg together (at an earlier time).”


“That’s the reason why I think that last confrontation is going to be epic because he’s going to be like, ‘Holy shit! What? This guy?’ It’s going to take some time to process that and figure out how to proceed. Throughout this entire show, Walt has had the secret, and Hank has been not-in-the-know, at some point, Hank is going to know, and he’s not going to know I know. That’ll be some fun stuff.”

There are major complications of Hank knowing. The Whites pay for his extremely expensive medical treatments, but then again, Walter is responsible for Hank being shot. Walt’s put the Schraders and his own family in danger repeatedly; he started out as just a criminal cooking meth and has murdered a long line of people to get to where he is now. Walter is his brother-in-law, he is the father of Hank’s niece and nephew and has now roped Skyler into the mess too.


“That’s what’s going to make this great,” said Brandt. “Some things are not going to be black and white. (Speaking as Marie) it would be hard for Marie to turn Walt in or to not beg Hank to think twice about turning in her brother-in-law and now her sister.”

“Those complications are what’s going to be a big part of the show,” Norris said. “Because they built up those complications. All of those complexities, are what’s the story is going to be dealing with–the push and pull of what do you do?  Even if you are a moral person, is it really the right choice to lock him up or do you have to extricate him from that whole business? “

hank schrader dean norris

So if Walter is the anti-hero, does that make Hank the anti-villain? We’ve grown to like Hank, and respect him for his pursuit of the truth and detective skills. He’s the proverbial fly in the ointment for the late Gus Fring but also our protagonist. If you didn’t root against Walter last season, is it possible to root for him again”

“We live in weird times where we have these shows with these anti-heroes,” Norris said. “We have people cheering serial killers left and right and center. Tony Soprano and Dexter and all of these guys are stone cold serial killers. Hank is a throwback to John Wayne characters and that’s what he feels akin to, a time when people did the right thing only because it was the right thing to do and I think that’s what builds up that final confrontation. Vince Gilligan has those ideas of black and white, justice and where does it come from and how does it play out.

Hank understands that people have their vices but takes his job seriously, “He believes there needs to be order imposed on chaos. That’s his job and that’s what he was put in the world to do. One thing is that he LOVES his job–“

“I love how you play that, it feeds him,” Brandt added.

How does that passion feed into the bigger issue at hand? “I think that will help him at the end of the day with the Walt thing,” Norris said. “You have someone who’s committed to what he does and Hank’s committed to what he does and that makes it complex when the final confrontation comes.”

The old switcheroo
The fight between Hank and Walter at the pool in episode 2.10 was originally supposed to be between Marie and Walt but Brandt was in the hospital giving birth to her son and couldn’t be present for the scene. Norris stepped in.

On why the writers never wrote Brandt’s pregnancy into the show.
“We’ve always wondered why they didn’t.” Brandt said. “I think that the fact that it’s just the two of us, it just raises the stakes. There’s always been a character that can’t co-exist with Walt and now that’s Hank.

Lab Notes:

  • Once Hank and Marie know about what Walter and now Skyler have done, part of emotion behind Marie’s state of mind is the anger towards Skyler because she contributed to threatening her family which is just the two of the. Skyler has a husband and two kids, so it would be huge to Marie to lose that.
  • Hank’s character in a huge way is reflected through Marie.
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