Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has discussed the show's ending in detail, revealing some hiccups along the way.
Having come to an end in September 2013 after five seasons on air, the Breaking Bad finale left fans feeling a mixture of emotions. Gilligan explained to Entertainment Weekly why it ended the way it did.
The showrunner said, "The very design of Breaking Bad was that it was a finite, close-ended series. Most TV series are designed to go on forever or as close to forever as television allows, but from the get-go, Breaking Bad was designed to be finite, to express a continuum that was by its very definition finite: our guy is a good guy and he becomes a bad guy.
"Of course, in the early days I really wasn't thinking about the ending that much, because I was just feeling lucky to have a show on the air at all, so that feeling of great good fortune didn't really wear off or become old hat until at least season three. But in season four, I was starting to think and my writers were starting to think that we should have an endgame in mind."
He continued, "How many more seasons do we have? That was a question I began to ask in season four. And it was the focus of a great deal of discussion starting in season four, but there was not a great deal of clarity surrounding that discussion. All of my writers had a slightly different opinion - we had seven writers in a room and like eight opinions about when the show should end. Some people thought sooner, other people thought later, and we all had to keep in mind the idea that we didn't want the show to end.
"Finding yourself on a show that's appreciated by its intended audience is a very rare and lucky thing, so when you win the lottery like that, you don't want to rush its conclusion; you want to keep it going as long as you can. But the thing that scared me more than anything was the idea of shooting past Breaking Bad's expiration date, so to speak, and having people say, 'Man, that show used to be good but it jumped the shark and hit its peak a long, long time ago'. That would have been the worst thing for me."
He added that he regretted including one particular scene that caused them some trouble in the writing room, "We had so many versions of the ending, and 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. I wouldn't recommend to my fellow showrunners doing that unless you really know where it's all headed. That led to a great many dark nights of the soul, many days in the writer's room where I was like, 'We're never going to get there'.
"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**t 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. But the crazier ideas went away bit by bit and step by step as we kept filling in the blanks of each episode."
Gilligan is currently working on Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul expected to make cameo appearances.