10 years, bitch! Can you believe it’s been a decade since Breaking Bad first went on the air and fundamentally transformed the landscape of TV drama? In honor of the occasion, series creator Vince Gilligan joined standouts Giancarlo Esposito, Bob Odenkirk, Betsy Brandt, Dean Norris, R.J. Mitty, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, and of course, The One Who Knocks himself, Bryan Cranston on the Hall H stage at Comic-Con to share memories from the making of the show and reflect on its legacy.
Living up to his good-guy reputation, Cranston was quick to pimp the Omaze charity campaign (which could land you a trip the RV with Cranston and Paul, and goes what? They’ll cook for you. No, not meth, calm down.)
Next, Gilligan talked a bit about keeping the series grounded in reality in order to keep the narrative propulsive. “It felt important to never treat the violence in the show as entertainment…there always had to be consequences on this show.” For example, if you’re going to choke a person to death, Gilligan wanted to make sure they showed how painful and difficult and hard it is to choke a person to death.
They also spoke a bit about the turning points for the show and the moment they knew the series was starting to have an impact. For Cranston, it was around Season 3 when he realized that people were stealing the directional signs off the set — something that not only made him get lost, but helped him understand that the show was really resonating. For Gilligan it was when Cranston won the Emmy after only seven episodes of the series.
So, you knew it was going to come up: Will we see Walt and Jesse on Better Call Saul? Well, Gilligan and Gould have always said that’s a possibility, but more than ever, it sounds almost like a done deal. “I think there’s an excellent chance that any and all of these people might show up,” Gilligan said gesturing to the cast members on the panel, but he was also clear you shouldn’t expect it too soon. “I will say, because we never want to jerk you guys around, you will not see Walt or Jesse in Season 4… but I suspect we wold be sorely remiss if those characters didn’t appear on the show before it ended.” Who else might pop up? Well, Odenkirk was quick to point out that Agent Schrader knows Saul from the first time they meet on Breaking Bad, and that certainly seems like a story primed for the telling.
As for Skyler, Gunn remembered that the moment she was sold on the show was when Gilligan told her that Skylar was “going to be like Carmela Soprano but she’s in on the crime.” Gilligan also shared that Skylar wasn’t supposed to find out about the crime quite so fast, but when they saw Gunn’s performance, they knew they had to change it. “We [realized we] can’t keep the secret anymore because it’s just not believable that this woman, played by this brilliant actress [wouldn’t know],” Gilligan explained. So they decided that they had to move that reveal up into the story. Gilligan also emphasized that it’s an important note to writers; listen to what feels honest to the characters instead of clinging to the ideas you had in your mind.
Of course, the original plan was famously to kill Jesse after Season 1 and send Walter on a dark, sad journey in Season 2 (they still pulled that part off), but what you may not know is that Cranston had a blast toying with Paul’s expectations after that. Every time he would read a script, he would go up to Paul and give him an over sincere hug before he asked him if he read the script. Of course, Jesse didn’t die in any of those episodes, but Paul always went running for the first look he could get at the new pages. In fact, the whole cast was nervous they would die every time they got a new script.
Gilligan once called Breaking Bad a sociological experiment. So how did that experiment turn out? “I was really young and dumb when I said this,” Gilligan said, “I never knew the show would turn into this and what I wanted to do was see if we could start the show with a very lovable character and see if one-by-one we could shake off the fans like ticks on a dog…I will say the harder we tried, the harder you guys hang on.” And Gilligan was quick to give all the credit in the world to Cranston for making Walter White a character that audiences were willing to stick around for despite all the horrible things he did.
How about the possibility for spinoffs based on other characters? “Anything’s possible,” Gilligan replied, emphasizing all the characters and performers are worthy of their own series — but also quickly clarifying that doesn’t mean they’re all going to get them. As for some kind of reunion series, Cranston was quick to more or less shut the idea down, saying that the end result was so perfect they wouldn’t want to mess it up or tarnish the memory. Thank goodness.
For more on the Breaking Bad legacy, be sure to check out our Better Call Saul panel recap and stay tuned for more coverage out of SDCC.