Creator Vince Gilligan Discusses BREAKING BAD Series Finale; Says It Will Be Polarizing and Makes Comparisons to CASABLANCA’s Ending

     January 3, 2013


AMC’s Breaking Bad is one of the best shows we’re likely ever to see on television, and it will be a sad, sad day when the series wraps up its final season later this summer.  It seems like an impossible feat in hindsight, but there’s nary a bad episode to be found in Breaking Bad’s entire four and a half season run as creator/showrunner Vince Gilligan has magically been able to maintain the show’s ridiculously high quality for nearly five years now.  As such, Breaking Bad’s final run of episodes comes with some impossible-to-meet expectations.

As Gilligan and his crew are busy scripting the show’s concluding eight episodes, the showrunner recently spoke up about his approach to the series finale and addressed those dangerously high expectations.  Hit the jump to see what he had to say.

vince-gilligan-breaking-badSpeaking with Vulture, Gilligan admitted that the writers room has been taking twice as long as normal (three and a half weeks) to break each of the final episodes.  They know the pressure is on, but Gilligan also knows that there will inevitably be people who don’t like how the story ends:

“It’s going to be polarizing no matter how you slice it, but you don’t want 10 percent to say it was great and 90 percent to say it sucked ass. You want those numbers to be reversed.”

At the time of the interview Gilligan was busy finishing up the story for the third to last episode, but he’s upfront about the fact that he hasn’t had a clear plan for the series finale all along:

“I had this strange confidence in the beginning that I had an idea [for the ending] that was sound,” he said of Walt’s fate. “But I look back at the life of the series and realize I cycled through so many possible endings, it would be disingenuous to say I had always had it figured out. It has evolved in the last five years and probably has some evolving left to do… I read interviews with showrunners all the time who say, ‘I know exactly where this thing is headed.’ I always find that very interesting, and I don’t doubt them for a minute. It’s just I can’t see my way clear to do that because the characters in Breaking Bad are in a state of constant change by design,” he said. “When a character will be a different person five or six or ten or sixteen episodes from now, it’s hard to predict the future.”

breaking-bad-series-finaleWhen looking back on other famous endings, Gilligan sees the conclusion of Casablanca as pretty perfect:

“No one gets everything they wanted. The guy doesn’t get the girl, but he has the satisfaction of knowing she wants him. And he doesn’t get her because he has to save the free world. What better ending is there than that?” Gilligan said. “I’m not saying we’re going to approach that or reach in that direction. Our story doesn’t line up [with Casablanca]. But we’re looking for that kind of satisfaction.”

In crafting the show’s finale, Gilligan reveals that the writers have indeed been looking to the series’ pilot:

“Are there echoes of the beginning that we should have in the end? There’s a certain kind of circularity that might be pleasing,” Gilligan said. “We think a lot about that, in fact.”

breaking-bad-series-finale-bob-odenkirkGilligan also talked about wanting to give a satisfying conclusion to all the show’s characters, not just Walt and Jesse:

“Sometimes it’s hard to give them all their due and make them all wrap up beautifully. That’s another big fear I have,” he said. One outcome that’s probably safe to assume? Saul will survive. “I like to think of Saul as a cockroach in the best possible way,” Gilligan said. “This is a guy who’s going to survive while the rest of us have been nuked into annihilation. He’ll be the worst-dressed cockroach in the world.”

Saul’s a character that I feel is important to have some sort of conclusion, but I won’t necessarily be angry at Gilligan if they fail to wrap up the mystery of Walt Jr.’s breakfast obsession.

Finally, the showrunner confirmed that the series finale will be the last we see of Breaking Bad.  Those holding out hope for a movie down the road shouldn’t hold their breath:

“Rightly or wrongly, there will be a conclusive ending,” he told me. “Our story from the beginning has been designed to be close-ended. It’s very much designed to have a beginning, middle, and end and then to exist no more.”

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad will start airing on AMC in July.  Given how incredible the series has been thus far, I’m inclined to believe that Gilligan will more than deliver when the show’s finale airs.



  • grittster

    “Our story from the beginning has been designed to be close-ended.”

    Goodbye Walt.

    • David

      But wouldn’t Walts death be the expectation? Hasn’t this show thrived on the unexpected?

  • patl

    So sad to see this show go, but i like that its going on its own note and pretty flawlessly at that. Truly the best show on television.

  • AnthonyG

    Walt: ‘Jesse, if you don’t get out now you’ll regret it. Maybe not today and maybe not today but soon and for the rest of your life.’

    Jesse: ‘Yo, what about us, we’re 50/50 partners… bitch.’

    Walt: ‘We’ll always have Albuquerque.’

    • AnthonyG

      maybe not tomorrow*

    • Shaun

      That needs to be filmed, as a gag reel scene, and added to season five DVDs.

      But if the show actually ended that way, I’d be OK with it.

  • Brian

    Just think: By Christmas, we’ll have a complete comprehensive BluRay box of all 5 seasons. I can’t wait.

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  • LEM

    I have faith in him because this show has very few missteps and seems that from beginning to end he actually cares about it.

  • Mike

    From what he said, on them looking back to the pilot in terms of this being a cyclical thing, I think we’re going to see Walt in the middle of the road, gun-in-hand, taking on someone head-on.

    This time, however, I don’t think he’ll be quite as lucky as he was in the pilot.

  • dogg

    The cancer will get him.

    • josh

      I disagree. He WANTS cancer to get him, always has. And he gets angry when it doesn’t.

      Walt never wanted a long life – he wanted a meaningful, powerful, significant life. I think him living out a natural life as a failure who killed people he loves is one of the worst punishments imaginable for him.

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  • Strong Enough

    How about they all survive? WHAT A TWIST!

  • VicManMan

    I predict Jessie will poison him with the ricen he was ironically supposed to use on Gus. That’s why they make it a point to keep showing that Walt has it. Those cancer like symptoms from the season premiere will turn out to be the ricen starting to take effect.

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  • LEM

    I just want Jesse to get out with a load of money and retire to a tropical island. I hope he finds out the extent to which Walt has betrayed and used him and in turn helps take him down while getting himself out.

    • megan

      This is EXACTLY what I want too!

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  • IB Bill

    Vince has a difficult task. I just hope he doesn’t do an ending like the Sopranos. I know the Sopranos’ ending works in a way, but it’s still deeply unsatisfying — and I think hypocritical. But enough of that …

    In some ways, this entire season is an epilogue. That’s what makes it interesting. What’s difficult to keep in mind is that Walt and Jesse are monsters. They are cold-blooded murderers who trade on the weakness of others. It’s so easy to forget this, especially since Walt was such a good man when this show started. Hank had to remind us in the mid-season finale that he’s chasing a monster. Walt is a monster. Jesse is a monster. Skyler has been corrupted.

    But they can’t get away with it, no matter how cool they are about it and how interested we are in their tale. Then it’s just Oceans 11 — the cool kids can do whatever they want because they are cool and witty and the camera is following them around. (The camera makes everyone a hero.)

    Hank is the hero here, and his partner, and the DEA, and the local police.

    If it were me, I’d have Walt grow his conscience back. I dunno if you can do that in eight episodes, but hey, Alec Guinness got it in one second in Bridge over the River Kwai and it was believable. He needs a “My God. What have I done?” moment followed by falling on the explosive trigger.

    Question is, exactly what will that be?

    I’d play it, Hank catches Walt and turns him, Jesse and Skyler state’s evidence, in the first episode. In the remaining episodes, you have all the drama therein associated. You either have them take down pieces of the cartel and the European corporation and then have USA Network’s Marshall Marshall from In Plain Sight reading the witness protection agreement while Mary looks on disapprovingly.

    However, they have the flash forward from earlier this season to deal with, indicating Walk is on the run. But you can work that into the last episode.

    I dunno. Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    For some reason I think it would be the coolest thing if on the last episode when Walt knows he’s gonna do something that’s gonna get him killed, he would make the exact same video he mad in the first episode towards his family

  • Anonymous

    For some reason I think it would be the coolest thing if on the last episode when Walt knows he\’s gonna do something that\’s gonna get him killed, he would make the exact same video he mad in the first episode towards his family

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  • cam

    I believe Walt is faking his cancer comeback so he can eventually fake his own death and escape.