“Because I said so.” Have four words ever been so chillingly, yet rousingly, delivered? Walter White’s Season Five conversation ender put the definitive mark on his transformation from mild-mannered science teacher to ruthless drug kingpin. The brilliance of Breaking Bad is that this transformation can be viewed either as a triumph of Nietzschean ‘Superman’ ethics or as the moral turpitude of hubris run amuck. Sure Walter White is a badass – but he’s also a very bad, bad man. Breaking Bad is one of the only shows in recent memory that can ‘have its cake and eat it too’ – at once both celebrating and decrying Walter’s actions. How does it get away with this? Because it’s just so freaking good… ‘Because it says so’.
At Comic-Con last weekend, Vince Gilligan and the entire cast were on hand for a roundtable discussion regarding the show. In today’s edition, creator Vince Gilligan discusses how his vision of the show changed (or didn’t) since day one, takes exception to the notion of Walter White as a sociopath, puts down any Breaking Bad movie rumors, and more. For the full interview, hit the jump.
VINCE GILLIGAN: We finished shooting the first eight about three weeks ago and I finished doing my pass on the editing of episode six. I still haven’t watched the final two episodes of the first eight; but I’m real happy with the first six. I have every confidence that the final two will be just as great because they were directed and written by some very smart folks. So that’s where we are. We’re almost through the first eight.
Are we going to see you explore the relationship between Walt’s two sons: Jesse and Walt Jr.?
GILLIGAN: I do see Walt Jr. and Jesse as different sides of the same son. The coy[est] answer I can give is that we will continue to deepen the viewer’s understanding of all these characters as much as we can. There are a lot of revelations yet to be played out throughout the final sixteen.
GILLIGAN: Immensely. There’s my vision of the show and then there’s of how it would be received. I can’t believe I’m here at Comic Con talking about the show. I didn’t believe for the longest time it would see the light of day. I didn’t think we would even shoot a pilot. And then once we did shoot a pilot, I had trouble believing it would go on air as a series. And then when it did go on air for a year/year and a half, I thought the most story we could possibly milk out of this thing would be three years. And now look here we are at the beginning of season five. My vision for how things would shake out and how much people would enjoy it continues to astound. But as far as the story goes, we have abided pretty closely to the original pitch we gave to Sony – which was we’re going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. We have abided by that. All the twists and turns of character we have produced over the seasons – I certainly have not seen all of them coming. My writers and I have come up with them week-by-week and day-by-day. But the ultimate point of the show: taking a good man and, by will, transforming himself into a bad man. That was always with me from the beginning.
GILLIGAN: I think this weekend – being in that ballroom last night with thousands of people screaming for the show like we were The Beatles… It’s helped me come to the realization that we’re onto something. This really does have a fan base, despite the fact that in Nielson terms, [with] the numbers we get, we would have been cancelled after the first commercial break if we were on CBS. But what we lack in Nielson victory, we more than make up for in the depth of enthusiasm fans have. It’s wonderful. And it’s really taken me awhile to wrap my head around the idea we are at the end of this thing. But this weekend has really been a watershed moment.
Do you think Walter is a sociopath? Has he always been a sociopath? Or did he switch into a sociopath?
GILLIGAN: There’s the old saying about Hollywood – success in Hollywood doesn’t turn you into a bad guy, more to the point it magnifies those flaws already within you. I’m paraphrasing it, but that’s ostensibly the idea. One thing I love about this show is that everybody has their own take on it. I don’t think that my take is any more valid than anybody else’s. Because I’m so close to it, I can’t see the forest from the trees. But in my opinion, Walt always had those weaknesses and foibles within him, he was just too scared to let them out. I think the cancer diagnosis freed him and liberated him from a great deal of fear – which you would think would be a good thing. To live a life of fearful constraint seems like a terrible thing and for the most part it probably is. But he’s gotten a little too free these last few seasons. And the darker side that has always been within him is just rearing to get out.
Whether he’s a sociopath – a sociopath, as I understand it, is someone who doesn’t have any care at all about the feelings of others – so I don’t know in that strict clinical sense that Walter White is a sociopath. I think he is capable of feeling guilt for the things he does. I think he felt bad about how Jane died for instance. I just think he’s headed on a darker and darker path, where feelings of guilt, feelings of morality disappear into the distance and the feeling of power overwhelms all. Sociopath – may be too strong a word; but he’s definitely a bad dude… At the beginning of Season Five, my writers and I sat around for a great many hours thinking how do we come up with a character scarier and more formidable than Gus Fring? How do we do that and then how do we portray that? Who’s going to do a better job than Giancarlo Esposito? And then we thought to ourselves we’ve already got a character that’s badder than Gus Fring – he’s our star.
GILLIGAN: [Walt letting Jane die] was a tough moment. It scared me and it scared the executives at AMC and Sony. To their credit, they did not stop us from doing it. They did want to talk about it and say this is a big moment. Are you sure you’re not doing it too soon? And we talked it over and they said go for it and we did. That was a watershed moment in the sense of taking a character to a very dark place. Since then it’s been slightly easier to have him do terrible things.
Are there plans for a movie?
GILLIGAN: I love the idea of it, and I learned a long time ago, ‘Never say never.’ But I have to say that my writers and I intend to tell every bit of story we can tell in this final sixteen. So, at this moment in time, I would say that the odds are a bit remote. If a year or two down the line [we] think of something else we could do, or if there’s anyone else left standing when the dust is cleared, who knows? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. But that would be wonderful. I’ll tell you what I’d really like – now that you’ve put it that way I’d love to have people watch all these episodes on a big screen because, once a year, we watch the premiere episode on a big screen with Dolby sound, 7.1 stereo. It is so thrilling. Anyone who likes this show would like it even more up on a big screen. I would really like for us to have the ability to show it on the big screen. Because it is a different experience. But having said that – no plans at the moment for a movie. I want to get it all said and done in these sixteen.