Vince Gilligan on the end of ‘Breaking Bad’

The Film Society Of Lincoln Center And AMC Celebration Of "Breaking Bad" Final Episodes - Red Carpet
Vince Gilligan teared up when writing the end of ‘Breaking Bad.’
Credit: Getty

Vince Gilligan, the creator of the groundbreaking hit “Breaking Bad”  is having trouble remembering to talk about things in the past tense.

“I say this in present tense but it’s all past tense now, which makes me sad anew,” he says with a laugh while talking about crafting the finale to his groundbreaking, award-winning series, “Breaking Bad.”

As Gilligan is adjusting to a life not spent chronicling the transformation of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from a mild-mannered, cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher to a ruthless meth kingpin, here’s a glimpse of what’s been on his mind.

He knew when to say when:
“I had some very, very polite discussions. I never had any arguments, but I had Bryan Cranston say, ‘Are you sure you want to end it?’ I had Sony and AMC say, ‘Are you sure you want to end it?’ And it all came from a place of enthusiasm for the show and a desire for it to continue, and I have those same feelings of enthusiasm and desire,” Gilligan admits. “I wanted the show to go on forever for reasons of creative satisfaction and personal satisfaction. But it wasn’t that hard of a decision to end it. I wanted it to end on a high note and not go past its expiration date, if you will.”

He doesn’t know what you’ve been writing about him and the show online:
“I have this phobia about Googling myself. I’ve never done it, and I don’t intend to start,” he admits. “I think my fear is I’m too interested, and if I started to look up fan reactions on the Internet, it would be a sort of rabbit hole that I would disappear down and never return. I stay away from it because I know my weaknesses, and I know that I would succumb to them. If you’re a really mentally, spiritually, emotionally healthy human being, you could do it. I know for a fact that I’m not, so I know it wouldn’t be wise for me to it.”

He understands why some people feel this second half of Season 5 is really Season 6:
“I think people should be allowed to call it anything they want,” he says. “I can definitely see the argument that it feels like six seasons. We call them officially 5A and 5B, but I think in terms of 62 episodes, 62 discreet pieces of story, and I think in the future when — knock on wood — people who haven’t even been born yet are watching this show, I hope, they won’t think in terms of what season a certain episode took place.”

He did not, in fact, tag along with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to get commemorative “Breaking Bad” tattoos:
“I did not get a tattoo. I am not a tattoo guy,” Gilligan says. “Bryan got the tattoo, and Aaron Paul got a tattoo. I think that’s wonderful, but I’m not a tattoo person. I’m not scared of needles or anything or how much it hurts. It just felt like… I don’t know. I have the Heisenberg hat. There’s more than one. I have the so-called hero hat, but there were actually probably four or five. I have the most-used one, I suppose.”

He scrapped the original ending long ago:
“I’m very impressed with J.K. Rowling for knowing where ‘Harry Potter’ was going to end. That is impressive,” he says. “I had ideas, in early going when I was writing the pilot all by myself, of where it would all end, and I discarded them pretty quickly once I hired my six writers. This last year, in fact, where we knew we had these final 16 episodes, we went through many, many possibilities. In fact, we went through every possibility we could think of because we didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. We wanted to think of every possible outcome. That’s why it took way longer than I thought it would take.”

Writing the finale brought tears to his eyes:
“I cried because it was over. I was in my condo in Albuquerque, writing the very last page of the last episode — I was writing the very last paragraph, in fact — and I started to tear up,” he remembers. “It was because I knew that is it. I was never going to get to write that character again. I mean, not on ‘Breaking Bad.’ It was a hard-fought battle, and it was a result of thousands and thousands of hours of work and emotion, and I teared up because as hard as it was those six years, I knew in that moment I was going to be very sad it was over. And I was and I am sad. But I feel right that it ended when it did, creatively.”

There won’t be a movie:
“I’d be very surprised. Every show is different, and I think it’s wonderful when there’s a movie version of a TV show,” he says. “But I always felt for this one show, for ‘Breaking Bad,’ that it would be a bit of an injustice to the show itself, to what we were trying to build all these years, for it to end in a fashion that didn’t feel complete and satisfying on the small screen. We’re leaving it all on the field with these final eight episodes.”

It doesn’t have to end poorly for everyone:
“I have to be careful the way I answer these questions, because I don’t want to ruin anything for anybody but I can tell you that the writers and I, we’re not out to punish any character,” he offers. “There’s the old saying that it’s very easy to extract emotion from an audience by being mean to a child or beating a puppy with a stick or something. We were not trying to go for those kind of feelings. We looked at these episodes as our last chance to end the story in as satisfying a manner as possible. The best answer I can give is that I’m very satisfied by the ending. That is not to say it’s a happy ending, nor a sad ending — nor to give any promise of how one will feel emotionally when it’s over. But it is to say that I hope it feels proper. Fitting. It feels fitting to me.”


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