‘Breaking Bad’ Creator Reveals Alternate Endings

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 1st, 2013 at 8:41 am,

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad Rabid Dog Breaking Bad Creator Reveals Alternate Endings

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[WARNING: MAJOR 'BREAKING BAD' SPOILERS AHEAD!]

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After five seasons spent surprising audiences with Breaking Bad, creator Vince Gilligan was charged with doing it one last time. Gilligan had to script an ending for the show, batting back the flood of emotions that surely comes when one severs long-lasting relationships that are both creative and personal, while also steering his vision toward a satisfying end.

Did Vince Gilligan succeed? The words “satisfied” and “fitting” have been popping up all over the web and more than 70% of respondents in our poll say that they “Loved” the finale, so the consensus seems to say that he did. But the long road to the end of Breaking Bad surely included a few detours, and in the aftermath of last night’s series finale, Gilligan has opened up about some of the alternative ways that the series could have ended.

Here’s Gilligan in an interview with EW on some of those alternatives and why the Breaking Bad creative team ultimately decided on something somewhat redemptive and very final for Walter White.

“We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don’t think it was a necessity for us.

“There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending, but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it.

“There’s no right or wrong way to do this job – it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends.”

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad Blood Money Breaking Bad Creator Reveals Alternate Endings

When discussing why the writers ultimately decided to free Jesse from murdering his former partner, Gilligan seemed as if he felt genuinely bad for what Aaron Paul’s character had been subjected to over the show’s run.

“We talked about Jesse taking Walt up on his offer to kill him or Walt turning around to find Jesse had a gun on him. We talked about every permutation we could conceive of, and we went the way we went ultimately because the bloodlust had been satiated prior to that moment by seeing Jesse throttle Todd (Jesse Plemons) to death. [...] This poor guy has wound up having to kill over and over again. The first time he did it was to save Mr. White as well as himself, and it’s not a natural fit for him, and it’s something that’s stolen a big, important piece of his soul. And we thought to ourselves, ‘You know what? Let it end with Todd. Let that be the last person this kid ever kills. Let him go on from here to have a decent life.’ “

Prior to that, Gilligan talked more about his imagined and somewhat tranquil life for Jesse following his escape, saying:

“We always felt like the viewers desired Jesse to get away. And it’s up to the individual viewer to decide what happens next for Jesse. [...] the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature.”

It’s interesting to hear Gilligan speak about Jesse Pinkman’s character with detachment, as if he wasn’t the one who ran Jesse through the ringer for all these years, but it’s more interesting to hear Gilligan reference viewer concerns while discussing the finale and its construction.

Not to kick up dust, but there are several high profile dramas that closed with decidedly less fan-friendly episodes than Breaking Bad (most notably, Lost and The Sopranos), but while those episodes are often regarded as less than satisfying, they were surprising and did manage to push audiences to passionately debate their meanings (even still).

best tv moments 2010 lost reunion Breaking Bad Creator Reveals Alternate Endings

Those finales took a risk that Breaking Bad avoided as Gilligan snipped and tied off every loose thread, but it’s not clear whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. What it is, though, is surprising, considering the kind of risks and shocks that defined Breaking Bad throughout a run that seemed to answer to no one besides Gilligan.

Did Walter White – who got to give money to his family, attain a small amount of closure, and rub out his enemies - get an unearned happy ending? Perhaps, but it would be hard to argue that what the fans got was unearned. It’s just unclear if it was the best ending that they could have gotten.

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Breaking Bad aired January 20, 2008 – September 29, 2013 on AMC

Source: EW
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  1. “It’s just unclear if it was the best ending that they could have gotten.”

    And guess what? It’s going to remain unclear, because as Vince said, there was no right or wrong ending. For me, Breaking Bad ended with a satisfying and logical conclusion. It made me feel that watching the show over the years was worth it. Something that Dexter failed to do with its finale (and last few seasons to be honest).

    • Why does everyone feel the need to bring up Dexter in every discussion of Breaking Bad (and vice versa)? They’re not even similar shows, why do people insist on comparing the two, as if they’re supposed to deliver the same kinds of viewer entertainment? Is it so much to ask for these days to judge each show on its own merits without playing “let’s find the best TV show and deem all others inferior?”

      Everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinion, I don’t care if you love or hate Dexter. But can we just for once talk about the show at hand without bringing up other shows?

      • Dude. They’re two big shows ending in the same time-frame. Hence, people make the comparisons. nbd.

      • They were two shows that are very similar as compared to their fanbase and the timing of their finale. Due to this Dexter and Breaking Bad will be compared to each other up until the next couple of big hit shows ends.

    • I agree totally. I don’t feel like this was unearned and it was a great finale. I also agree with your assessment of the Dexter finale as well. That show definitely needed to end as it had become rather formulaic, but I would have enjoyed the finale much more had they not included that last scene. It wasn’t a happy ending either, but was totally unnecessary and felt inferior to the somewhat ambiguous disappearance. Breaking Bad always felt different than these once-good shows that lost their way. It always felt like one long movie that never lost its cohesion, had a satisfying ending, and was out in five seasons with no room for any unnecessary fat.

  2. Compared to the ending of Lost, which I felt was a joke, the ending for Breaking Bad was an absolute masterpiece. My only wish would have been that Jesse would have been killed, as his actions and choices seems to have been naively excused by many in the blogosphere.

    • I should say that, although I thought the ending to Breaking Bad was great, it was also very predictable, as it is what most of my group of friends and coworkers who watched the show hoped would happen. No real surprises, and in that regard, it was satisfying.

      Personally, I thought it would have been funny if Walter would have permanently relocated and assumed the identity of “Hal”, kicking off the beginning of the show Malcolm in the Middle. :)

      • That would’ve been brilliant.

      • Then it would’ve been a joke. And one that’s already been done by Bob Newhart. But I admit that ending would’ve broke the Internet.
        The sopranos finale was a cop out. Chase was hoping for another season or movie.

        • Understand the show before calling the sopranos a cop out, it was ambigious and masterful

          • I completely disagree that the ending of The Sopranos was masterful. I do agree that it was a cop out. Same with LOST. What Breaking Bad did that both of those shows didn’t, was respect the audience AND the story at the same time. LOST gave us the ending to a show that none of us were watching…and ignored its own mythology and all the opening they gave themselves over the course of 6 seasons to make some risky decisions and provide some real answers and explanations for the yarn they started spinning. The Sopranos decided to avoid taking risks and making a decision about whether the main character we had been following for all the season of the show lives or dies. The entire crux of the show was always how Tony will (or possibly won’t) survive, and at the moment it mattered most, they cut to black.

            If you want to call tying off loose ends and wrapping the story up with closure predictable, that’s fine, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it served the story. It made logical sense. It rewarded the audience for sticking around for 5 seasons (stretched over 6 years), and it created a complete picture of the story.

            You don’t get angry that the picture on top of a puzzle is clearly visibile even when you’re still placing in the final handful of pieces…it’s just the picture becoming complete.

            • The sopranos didnt need to force feed me, not everything had to tie perfectly. Everyone has a mind and an imagination and the sopranos utilized it. There is 10000 of show endings like breaking bad, showing everything tied up and being satisfying. There has been only 1 ending like the sopranos.

              • Oh sure; Sopranos has a unique ending, if we ignore Everybody Hates Chris which deliberately parodied it. It was also a terrible one.

              • No the sopranos didn’t force feed it stopped feeding the audience about mid easy through the fourth season. Chase was being a baby and the final show just proves it

            • Please. if people couldn’t tell that most or all of the people of “lost” were dead but Hurley, Desmond, Michael, and Walt. Go watch it again. They all ceased to exist. They were clinging on to hope someone was coming. Breaking Bad captivated audiences because of it’s dark humor and it’s plausible storyline. Same thing with Weeds…a struggling mother becoming a drug dealing kingpin. Some of the shows that have ended with a bang are Breaking Bad, House, Sopranos, Weeds, and Burn Notice. Shows that left audiences hanging or failed to captivate or surprise were shows like Lost, Touch, and Lie To Me…to name a few.

          • “Understand the show before calling the sopranos a cop out, it was ambiguous and masterful”

            I understood the show, and found the ending was a cop out. At the time, there were talks of a movie or another season, and the diner scene is so stylistically different than the majority of the show, its ambiguity is both cynical and obnoxious.

            Also, it reinvigorated a song and band I found annoying when growing up.

            I don’t know if I liked Breaking Bad’s conclusion more than Six Feet Under, but they’re both up there.

            I’ll also give out a shout to Buffy’s, which, despite being an uneven show overall, had a great final season flipping the whole pretext of the show on its head.

          • I always liked the ending of the Sopranos. To me, it felt like it was saying that the whole show was one big slice-of-life of Tony Soprano and those around him. I felt like what appeared to be meaningless tension was meant to convey that while we were quietly ending our voyeurism of the Sopranos, their lives continued with all the attendant dangers and uncertainties. That was my interpretation, but if I was as invested in the characters as most of the fans of that show were, perhaps I’d be somewhat unsatisfied. It felt realistic and totally not-contrived to be a finale.

          • Oh please get off your high horse trey. Like you’re so mentally above everyone to get that crap ending. The sopranos finale was a slap in the face to all. Get over yourself.

  3. I kind of hoped that they would have shown Jesse 10 months later with Brock in a woodshop teaching Brock and it switches to Walt Jr. getting the $9 million on his birthday.

    • And why wouldn’t you want Brock stay with his grandmother, his now legal gaurdian, rather than a drug dealer and murderer?

  4. My only gripe was that Walt and Jesse didn’t hug it out at the end. I would have cried like a baby. Otherwise it was fantastic.

    • Or Walter could have slowly lowered himself into a meth vat from a chain and given Jesse a thumbs up just as his head went under the water…

      ala T2.

    • Now THAT would have been unearned and impossible to swallow at that point in the story. His bond with Walt had been broken pretty effectively by that point, don’t you think?

  5. I don’t think walts ending was a happy one. He virtually lost his fortune and his family despised him. He did all of this for them and they rejected it.

    • You are correct. In the end, all he had was his “precious” meth lab. (Lord of the Rings reference.) He went from being a husband, father, and teacher to an alone and alienated drug manufacturer, dealer, and murderer, with no family or friends.

      It was, by no means, a “happy” ending for him.

    • He didn’t “do it all” for his family. He did it for himself! He even admitted that to Sklyer in last night’s episode. The conceit was that he said he did it for his family, but that was a lie from the start. He did it to satisfy his ego. Like he said, he was in the empire business. He did it all for himself, no one else. He died in the place where he accomplished his greatest work, the work his name will be associated with for the rest of eternity. Walt’s ending was as happy as it could have been.

      • I believe most would recognize that he did not have a “happy” ending. He may have lived off his ego and pride, but in the end, he had…

        No family, no friends, and a death wish.

        Sound happy?

        • Right. So although loose ends were tied up, this was in no way a happy ending for Walt. He had seen everything come to nothing. He had no family, no friends, and had realized his motives were selfish all along.

  6. I agree that the final episode was relatively predictable and there was not a lot of shock value… but as I read somewhere, possibly even on another article here on screen rant. The final episode was more the exclamation mark at the end, rather than being the ‘big finale’ this whole back 8 episodes have essentially been building, twisting and shocking the viewers, it is only fair to have the final hour be a wrap up and the team behind Breaking Bad executed it beautifully.

    It is without a doubt one of the most satisfying tv series that I have ever had the pleasure of watching…. I can’t wait to go back and do it all again.

  7. This was the ending that had to happen. The character arch was completed when Walt finally admitted that he was Hesinberg. And that he liked it.

    I loved it. Walt was a boss to the end.

  8. I loved the ending. Walt’s whistful stroll through the meth lab as if fondly remembering his experience as Heidenberg was as close to a happy ending as he was going to get.

  9. no he didn’t get an unearned happy ending, we got a happy ending. Walt died with his son hating him and never got to see him again. Although he was happy when he died there were many things he never got to do again. He was partly lying to himself that he enjoyed all of it more than having a normal life with his family.

  10. I wanted to be more shocked in a way, but at the same time I loved it. I almost wish I would’ve disliked the ending just to keep talking about it, but they really tied up every loose end, nail in the coffin, killed the story. After investing time in other series and seeing other finale’s I must admit breaking bad ended, on an ending, no speculation, just a wrap.

  11. Was it the ending we all wanted, possibly not. Was it the perfect ending? Definitely! Walt died with no family, no money but his empire and legacy left behind. Everybody Walt had a relationship with is now messed up. Elliot and Gretchen held to ransom. Skylar, Walt Jr and baby are living like squalors. Saul has lost his business and Identity, his bodyguard held in protective custody. Jesse is messed up beyond comprehension. Marie has lost her husband and not to mention all those who have died; Mike, Gus, Tuco, Steve and most of all, Hank: all of whom were fine until Walt had crossed their path.

    Walt dying seconds before the police arrived, content with knowing his legacy was left behind was a happy ending for Walt as his ego prevailed all. For everyone else, there is no happy ending. Everything he started this business for ultimately was for nothing more than boosting an ego (and leaving a legacy) tarnished by Elliot and Gretchen so many years before.

    Bravo to Gilligan who has created the greatest TV series ever made and it may not have ended in the showdown we all wanted, but executed with the brutality of the show and closing Walt’s story. Both Walt’s legacy AND Breaking Bad’s legacy left on the ground of that warehouse where it all ended.

    An emotional farewell to TV’s greatest characters.

  12. Great ending to one of the greatest TV shows ever…we will all be talking about this show for the rest of the year because of the heavy replay value….the only thing that would have been better is a “6th season” with Walt on the run from the Feds then leading up to the same epic finale.

  13. I f**ked Ted.

  14. i wanted it to end differently. not sure exactly what i was expecting but i didnt think his death would be so peaceful. i think he should have blew himself up in the lab. the meth manufacturing destroyed his life and the people closest to him. it helped turn him into the monster that was heisenburg so i think it would be fitting

  15. The finale was wonderful, and so true to the show. my only wish is that they had two more episodes to play out the exile and return, or at the very least a 2-hour finale to give each scene some breathing room. This show, especially seasons 4 and 5, will remain with me for a long time.

  16. I agree with comments by ( A Stranger, and Dave the Klone.) on here. The finale of Breaking Bad, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer gave me the closure I needed. Roseanna, Newheart, St. Elsewhere, Lost, and The Sopranos finales left me with unsatisfied feelings. I’m grateful when the writers respect the viewers enough to close a chapter of a story that so many have turned in to each week for seasons. We deserve to have a fitting end, not a cop out that it was ‘all a dream,’ or we’ll let it fade to black and let you decide what happens.

  17. I don’t know about anyone else, but the ending sort of reminded me of ‘Unforgiven’ or ‘Gran Torino’. Particularly ‘Gran Torino’, in that he owns up to who he is and what has to happen in order for things to be right, so it happens. I though it was beautiful. It could not have happened, logically, any other way. Brilliantly beautiful.

  18. I haven’t seen anyone really touch on this in any online discussions yet, and perhaps it’s because of my own personal interpretation of the scene, but at the beginning when he says “just get me to new mexico and I’ll take care of the rest” did it feel like him offering up what was left of his soul for a little divine intervention along the way? I mean, from that point forward with the keys falling into his lap, his journey towards his final destiny seems to come just as easily as Walt has faith it will…. It just seemed to me that this is the first time everything truly goes perfectly by his design since he started down his dark path. Sure things may have “worked out” for him in previous seasons, but they were always reactionary towards situations he hadn’t initially considered or planned for… Idk, maybe that was just my interpretation, and I certainly didn’t read to much into it otherwise.

  19. Walt in his last hour admires the lab with flashbacks of better times. Then inadvertently triggers a switch that reveals the $90 million,he briefly smiles then dies falling along side the money.We then see Jesse knocking on Brock’s door both and there reunion.Then back to last image of Walt and screen fades to black.

  20. My two cents is that the show was called breaking bad, and for all the bad that Walt broke, in the end, we as an audience got a happy ending, knowing that despite being without his family, he was happy they’ll get the proceeds of his crimes, which is what he set out to do. He was always intended to die, that’s what started the whole thing off.

    Jesse getting away with a few scars is pure fan service. Uncle Jack and Todd got more and more suspect in their motivations every episode as they had to dangle Jesse on a hook for the audience and find excusable reasons not to kill him.

    And further the show kept trying to pay fan service to respect our feelings. Gus dies and we see half his face blown off in detail – ‘cause he’s a bad guy. Hank dies and its artistically shot out of focus so we don’t get any graphic detail because he’s a good guy. Wouldn’t want anyone to see the true extent of the cause and effect of those actions. Not when it hurts the good guys.

    In the show the Shield, all bad actions had severe ramifications which echoed through to the final episode. There was no happy ending and when a character, even ones we liked or loved died, it was shown in explicit detail, no differently from a bad guy, because these people die, same as anyone else. It brought it home, more shocking and memorable.

    I was hoping with breaking bad for another Shield. Just because you can’t help but like a character doesn’t mean they deserve an unrealistically happy ending. How many people in reality get a happy ending? I loved the show and the smart ways the writers moved characters and plots around, but the last four episodes for me – the motivations got muddled to fit the outcome and it was just not as sharp for me.

    Still a classic show, wonderfully acted, written and shot, but the latter section really didn’t make much sense compared to the rest. (I mean seriously. How many times was Jack going to kill Jesse or Walt but was easily swayed not to for no reason – but had his mind made up for Hank, the drug dealers and all else without hesitation?!)

  21. I haven’t gotten around to watching the last 2 episodes of Breaking Bad yet…yes I have read spoilers. I just thought I would chip in and say I thought the way “LOST” ended was pretty good. It didn’t tie up all the loose ends and solve all the mysteries but they never did much of that in the show.

  22. there was another version where walt gets all azz raped see it here: