‘Breaking Bad’ Finale Wrap-Up: Cast and Creator Talk Alternate Endings, John Wayne Inspiration and Character Futures
And so, it has come to pass that 'Breaking Bad' aired its series finale "Felina," putting a conclusive cap on the tale of Walter White that wrapped things up in a surprisingly clean manner. Given the chaotic nature of the series however, creator Vince Gilligan, as well as stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul had plenty to say about the roads not traveled by the 'Breaking Bad' series finale, as well as insight into unexplained character moments, inspirations, and the likely futures of those left standing.
Spoilerists be warned for the 'Breaking Bad' series finale, but no doubt fans of the series had come to expect a somewhat bloodier end, or at the very least a darker approach than one that saw Walter White largely making things right for his family, taking out the bad guys and freeing Jesse, before dying a peaceful death surrounded by the chemistry he loved.
Both Cranston and Paul admitted some part of themselves to have preferred a darker end of the series, as Cranston told EW “because of his love for his family, there was a thought of mine that, ‘Would it be a more perfect hell for him to have to see his family die – his wife, his son, baby daughter — and he lives?’ And there’s some merit to that too. But ultimately, I think this is the best ending. A real satisfying ending."
Surprisingly, Gilligan revealed in his own interview that the writers hadn't explicitly felt that Walter had to die by the series' end, kicking around alternate versions in which Walt saw his family die, or Jesse ultimately pulled the trigger on his former mentor, or even one that saw Walt get away with everything altogether. Instead, Gilligan and his writers felt it important to Walter White to take at least several steps along the path to redemption, and ultimately succeed in his primary goals of avenging Hank, and providing the money for his family's future, before his final demise.
Jesse meanwhile, had had his fill of bloodshed with the final act of strangling Todd "Ricky Hitler" Alquist, and symbolically rejected Walter's final order to be put out of his misery. Giligan cited the classic John Wayne film 'The Searchers' as inspiration for the final showdown, wherein Walter fully intended to kill Jesse for partnering with Jack to make his signature product, but the sight of a broken and pitiful Jesse in chains ultimately changed his mind. When last we saw Jesse jubilantly speeding away from the scene, fans were left to wonder what might have become of Jesse after the fact, whether he really did move to Alaska, or end up raising Brock in Andrea's absence.
Paul believed that Jesse would have at least hopefully been able to see Brock from a distance, as Walter had shared one final look at his own son Walter Jr., while Gilligan had a more hopeful outlook on Jesse's future:
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. Some people might think, ‘Well, he probably got two miles down the road before the cops nailed him.’
But I prefer to believe that he got away, and he’s got a long road to recovery ahead, in a sense of being held prisoner in a dungeon for the last six months and being beaten to within an inch of his life and watching Andrea be shot. All these terrible things he’s witnessed are going to scar him as well, but 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.
As for a few leftover bits of business needing to be resolved by the finale, GIlligan admitted in the post-show 'Talking Bad' interview that the very specific character beat of Walter removing his watch and leaving it atop a gas station payphone had two reasons behind it, neither of which were explained onscreen. Gilligan joked that the "artsy fartsy" reason for the gesture lay in Walt symbolically severing ties to his former partner (who had given him the watch as a 51st birthday present), whereas in reality producers had realized the original "Live Free or Die" flashforward had shown the grizzled Walter White without any watch on his wrist. Oops!
Finally, at long last fans invested in the series-long threat of ricin poisoning had finally gotten to see the drug implemented on Lydia, something Gilligan admitted to be a fortunate coincidence of storytelling. Subscribing to the "Chekov's Gun" principle that a deadly instrument introduced early in a story must be utilized by its end, the writers had decided to finally close the loop by serving up the duplicitous Lydia her just desserts. Some thought had been given to the idea of having Lydia present for the final shootout, though ultimately the writers were proud to be able to at last incorporate the dreaded ricin into a deserved character end.
We'll likely have more on the 'Breaking Bad' finale in the coming days, but in the meantime, what say you? Do you feel like the finale wrapped up Walt and Jesse's story in a satisfactory fashion, or would you have preferred a different path? Go inside the 'Breaking Bad' finale in AMC's behind-the-scenes look below, and tell us in the comments what you thought of TV's most powerful drama!