The first of the final eight Breaking Bad episodes won’t be unveiled until Aug. 11, but the show’s cast, plus creator Vince Gilligan, were on display at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills on Friday to answer reporters’ questions about the critically acclaimed AMC drama. Similar to the Breaking Bad Q&A session at Comic-Con, there was little information about the second half of season 5, though Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, and other cast members did touch on the finale, a documentary, and the possibility of a Saul Goodman spin-off, among other topics.
• Asked about how Gilligan and Cranston envisioned the ending of the show when it was being hatched in 2008, Gilligan couldn’t recall his original intention for the finale. “I couldn’t see that far ahead,” he says. “I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” Cranston said that he recalled discussions about the design and transformation of the character, but “we never discussed where it was going to end up. It was just too big a subject. And as the seasons went on, I never found out. I never asked. I never wanted to know. The twists and turns of my character were so sharp that it wouldn’t help me to know. So I was just holding on, much like the audience was, week to week.”
• There will be a two-hour retrospective Breaking Bad documentary that will be included in the Blu-Ray/DVD complete box set. The doc will tell the history of the show using behind-the-scenes footage shot over the course of the show, including interview footage from the pilot. Cameras followed the cast and producers even more intensely through the production of the final 16 episodes. There will be a segment that features Cranston and co-star Aaron Paul reading the series finale script for the first time.
• On the matter of whether terminally ill chemistry teacher Walter White (Cranston) was changed on his journey to becoming a meth kingpin, or that the journey simply revealed things already festering inside of him, Gilligan said, “the longer we did the show, the more I subscribed to the latter.”
• Asked about the audience’s surplus of sympathy for Walt’s partner in crime, Jesse (Paul), yet lack of sympathy for his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), Paul answered: “Jesse, obviously, is a drug dealer, he’s a murderer but for some reason you really care for him and want to protect him…. With Skyler, when I watch it, I feel for her so much. She just wants to protect her family, but I think the audience is really rooting for the bad guy and so Skyler ends up being the bad guy for the audience.” Gunn added that she had discussed it with Gilligan and the writers because they were initially confused by the reaction. “There was this feeling of ‘What if I were in that position?’ and there seemed to me to be a sense of putting their frustrations and their feelings of dreams deferred into the character of Walt,” she said. “And the person who actually stood in the way of Walt the most consistently was Skyler. Gus, other characters like that who were more villainous, came in and out of things, but she was the one who most consistently said, ‘You can’t just do things and not have consequences.’ So therefore, she became kind of a villain to people who really, really identified with Walt and were behind him and were rooting for him.…. You couldn’t know as much about her as you knew about Walt’s intentions, because had the audience really sympathasized greatly with her and sided with her, then you would have lost your sympathy for Walt. And then the show I think would have really been thrown off balance, so in a way it was really brilliant in terms of its construction. And it worked.”
• How much bad is left in Jesse and how much good is left in Walt? “[Jesse] is just emptied out. He just wants out of the business, he wants to stay as far away from Walt as possible,” said Paul. “Walt’s true colors were definitely revealed to him toward the end of last season… He’s terrified of this man and just wants nothing to do with him.” Deadpanned Cranston: “Walt has a large reservoir of good to be shared with everyone else and he spreads his joy throughout the last eight episodes, literally. I think everybody will be satisfied with the ending where we hug it out.”
• Speaking of that ending, Gilligan did say that he was very nervous about coming up with a capper that would satisfy everyone. Ultimately, though, he and the writers realized that the “best hope we had to come up with something that hopefully most people will like was just to satisfy ourselves…. I’m very proud of the ending. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I am very cautious in my estimation, in general, of how people will respond. I hope I am not wildly wrong in my estimate, but I think most folks are going to dig the ending… You be the judge.”
• Gilligan still has his sights on a spin-off featuring slippery lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), but there is no official greenlight yet: “It is my fervent wish that there will be a Saul Goodman spin-off,” he noted. “I really hope it happens. It’s for powers bigger than me to figure out if it can come to fruition, but I would very much like it to be the case. And creatively we’re working toward it.” Added Odenkirk: “I would love to do it. I would do it in a second.”