Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Breaking Bad ahead.
When AMC's enthralling crime drama Breaking Bad finally came to a close after five eventful seasons, its two main characters were changed men and there was a whole lot of blue meth in Albuquerque. Fans sat through a nail-biting climax where it seemed that any or all of the main characters could be killed off, and if things had gone just a little differently in the writers room then they may well have been.
Showrunner Vince Gilligan has talked previously about the writing process for Breaking Bad's final season and the many, many potential endings that he considered before finally settling on Walt rescuing Jesse and then dying in a meth lab. Previously mentioned alternate endings include one where Jesse kills Walt, another where Walt is the only survivor and an ending where Walt more or less gets away with his crimes.
Speaking in an interview with Entertainment Weekly on the subject of Breaking Bad and upcoming spin-off Better Call Saul, Gilligan was once again asked about the ending that he eventually went with and the other finale ideas that had been dreamt up. Gilligan admitted that he regretted setting up pieces of the finale so far in advance, because when he was establishing a certain scene he had no idea what the context for it would eventually be.
"We really had boxed ourselves into a certain number of corners well in advance of the ending. Out of cockiness or stupidity, 16 episodes from the end, we had Walter White show up in a beard, long hair, and a new set of glasses, buying an M60 machine gun in a Denny’s parking lot. We didn't really know how we were going to get to that story point — we didn't even know what that meant or what Walt was going to use that machine gun for. So that was kind of ill-advised."
The way Gilligan describes the process for creating the show's finale makes it sound almost like an exercise in a creative writing class, where he and the other writers found themselves with a Point A and a Point B and had to fill in the space in between. By that point in the show, however, it had become customary to open each season with a flash-forward prologue, and there were probably much tighter corners that Gilligan could have painted himself into.
As it was, the machine gun scene left a wide range of directions for Gilligan to take the show in - some of them very dark indeed. Given that the show had earned a reputation for shocking moments, high tension and major character deaths, many fans were steeling themselves for an ending where Walt, Jesse and every other major character in the show was killed. As Gilligan relates, that ending was definitely on the table.
"In those final months and weeks of breaking the end of the Breaking Bad story, anything and everything was fair game and open for discussion. We talked a great many times about killing off Saul and we were open to it. We would have done whatever it took to come up with the best, most satisfying ending to Breaking Bad, including killing off Saul.
"At one point, we talked about killing off every major character, and one particularly dark week along the way we talked about killing everybody — having some sort of Wild Bunch bloodbath of an ending. But you live with those ideas for a while and you think, 'What do we need to kill all these characters for?' Just because an ending is dramatic or perhaps overly dramatic does not ensure that it will be satisfying."
Breaking Bad season 5 did not go well for Jesse, and that's saying a lot considering everything he'd been through in previous seasons. By the time 'Felina' rolled around he was literally in chains and being forced to mass-produce meth for a group of white supremacists. According to Gilligan, Jesse nearly ended up in a more conventional kind of prison, where Walt's M60 machine gun would have been his only hope.
"The question always came up: 'What the hell do you need a gun that big for?' We had an idea for the longest time that Walt was going to break into the downtown jail in Albuquerque and just shoot the s— out of the jail with this M60 machine gun and rescue Jesse. Of course, we kept asking ourselves, 'Well, how bad is Walt going to be at the end here? Is he going to kill a bunch of upstanding, law-abiding jail guards? What the hell kind of ending is that?' And then we had some version of it where he’s going to shoot up a prison bus. We had so many crazy ideas."
It's definitely interesting to hear that Gilligan shied away from finishing up the show with Walt as a total monster, and instead decided to give him a little bit of closure and redemption. It's also just as well that he decided not to opt for the Wild Bunch ending and have everyone - including Saul - killed off in the finale.
Do you have other ideas for how Walt could have used that machine gun in the Breaking Bad finale? Share your thoughts on these possible alternate endings in the comments.
Better Call Saul is expected to begin airing November 2014 on AMC.
Source: Entertainment Weekly
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