Breaking Bad shook the world of television during its run on AMC. From the show’s humble beginnings when it premiered in 2008, the story of the rise and fall of Walter White lead it to become one of the greatest series of all time. As such, for the show’s 10th-anniversary, creator Vince Gilligan met up with the core writing team who cooked up the now legendary saga for a retrospective interview.
The writers and Gilligan sat with Variety for an hour-long discussion about the series, including questions about the finale, the episode “Ozymandias,” and how they decided to tackle the writing process. Check out the video clips and excerpts above and below, then share your thoughts in the comments.
If you need a refresher of what went down in the series, there’s a one-minute animated clip summing up the whole thing.
When did you know the fate of each character?
Gilligan: Late in the game. We went through every possible permutation.
Catlin: There was no possibility that Walt was going to live.
Gilligan: Yeah, we all knew that.
Hutchison: Walt had to die.
Gilligan: There was a hive mind with these wonderful writers, where I don’t remember who said what, and it doesn’t even matter whose idea was whose. But I remember one afternoon, somebody said — and I was kind of into it for a while — “Wouldn’t it be really ironic if Walt is the only one to survive this?” Because it does seem so obvious that Walt should expire at the end of the final episode — but maybe he’s the only one left alive. Maybe he still does have a death sentence, but we go out on him alive, and maybe his whole family’s been wiped out. That would have been really f—ing dark.
For Walt to die among his equipment, lovingly caressing it — was that something that took a lot of debate to arrive at?
Catlin: There was debate about that, and there was one pitch that he would die ignominiously on a gurney in a hospital, sort of pushed aside as a John Doe while life continued without him. I think the thinking behind that was, so much of what he chased was a sense of status and a sense of importance. It would have been more grim for him to be just tossed aside and overlooked at the end.
Schnauz: There was the other pitch where he had been shot, and crawled into a restaurant, sort of a “Blood Simple”-esque scene, ending up underneath …
Gould: … a Pollos Hermanos table.
Gilligan: I run into more people who were sorry he died at the end. This whole thing about “Geez, is he really dead or not?”
The story of Walter White is still relevant because he felt like he wasn’t getting his due. I think that we’re seeing that mentality in all kinds of spheres now.
Catlin [to Gilligan]: You always very much resisted Walt as a metaphor for a time and a place: “This is America and he represents that.” It was always, Walt is a singular person who just happens to be in this environment. He didn’t represent anything else other than all the nuances of this particular character. In hindsight, yeah, you can make all those conclusions and stuff like that, but we never talked about that or used that as a way to break story.
Gilligan: Exactly. It really was — we’re talking about one man. But having said that, once it’s out there in the world, it’s not ours anymore. I don’t argue with anyone who tells me, “Oh, I think Walt’s still alive,” or “I think it’s about the failed American healthcare system,” or “I think it’s this or that.” It’s whatever you want it to be. We owned it, if we ever did, for a very brief, finite window of time. And then it left the writers room, and then it went out to the world.