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"Breaking Bad:" Chat with Vince Gilligan

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walt White (Bryan

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walt White (Bryan Cranston) in a scene from AMC's show "Breaking Bad." Credit: AMC



   Attention must be paid when the best show on television wraps for the season, and so today, some more attention for "Breaking Bad," which concludes an immensely satisfying 3rd on Sunday. 

 I chatted with creator Vince Gilligan yesterday, and an abbreviated version of our discussion below; we talked at some length about Sunday's finale, and for obvious reasons, won't get into any of that this morning, but "BB" fans may want to check back on Monday for a post-game show.

 You should know my inherent bias here - I love "Breaking Bad" completely, and fully believe this will be (if not already is) one of the great shows in the medium's history; hard to believe sometimes that "BB" is just two and a half seasons old (the first season was only seven episodes but still established this as an entirely unique, original and addictive creation).

  In a quick catch-up for like-minded fans who may otherwise may still be groggy after last night’s Celts/Lakers game...on the penultimate episode of the season, entitled "Half Measures," Walt took the advice - entirely unintentional you can be sure - of Mike (Jonathan Banks - another incredible actor on this show) - who said "no more half measures" when, as a cop, he allowed a wife beater to go home and ultimately kill his wife. Mike's point: He shoulda killed the guy when he had a chance.
 Jesse - who bizarrely became the moral center of the show this season, which is a comment on how depraved Dorian Grey/ Walter White has become - decided to exact revenge on the two street dealers who killed the eleven year old boy. The bicycle-riding boy had been their unusual fence, securing deals and then (at least in the case of Jesse's former associate) even gunning 'em down. Perhaps on Gus's orders - that's left unclear - the boy was murdered because Jesse had been so infuriated by the fact that these dealers had been using a kid to score their deals. So to make peace with the Jesse, the poor lad had to go.

 In the closing minutes, we see Jesse approaching the two dealers "High Noon"-style. He was clearly outgunned, and the end of Jesse was near...when....zzzzzooooommmmm...out of the dark barrels Walter's battered hybrid. The dealers go flying, and when one is still alive, Walter puts a bullet in his head.

 Yes, Walter = Tony, as fans well know, just as Jesse = Christopher.

  No half measures by Walter. He just killed two vicious street thugs.

 Jesse was agape. Cut to credits.

 So there you have it. Sunday...well, I'm not going to spoil anything. Just see for yourself.

 Let's go to that promised chat with Vince:

  I asked him about his relationship with AMC, cognizant (naturally) of the fall-out and near-rupture Matthew Weiner had over "Mad Men."

 "It's the best working relationship I've ever had in my life. I've never had it this good and first and foremost, they have a fearlessness about allowing me to tell this story. I'm so lucky I can even believe it's on the air in the first place. But what could have happened [had it been on another network] because I've been through it though not with AMC, is that eventually, executives in charge would have said, 'we love it we love it we love it...but it's a little dark. Can we lighten it up? Does Walter have to be quite so bad, and does it have to be crystal meth? As it often becomes especially with movie scripts it becomes death by a thousand cuts...'

  Where do you go from here in terms of story-telling?

 "You'd be surprised how little I know. Except for the second season in which we spent the first month laying out in broad strokes at the end of the first where we would go, we usually don't plan that far ahead....My basic pitch for the series is that we take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface, or rather take our protagonist and turn him into our antagonist. That's where we're continuing to head for but I'm not sure where we are on the spectrum between the beginning point and the end point. There are a couple of factors - we don't know how many more seasons we have. Luckily, we have Bryan Cranston and he remains...interesting and understanding as a human being. He has such likeability, and he's such an easily sympathizable person - he's so talented that he allows us the viewers to continue to relate even when he does the most reprehensible things. I don't think any other actor could pull that of...I don't know how much further we can take it but I want to stretch it just before it breaks.

 "I could imagine in season four we seem to be heading in the direction of the sort of seduction into criminality of Sklyer [Anna Gunn, equally deserving of a best actress nod]. She may be working with him, dipping her toe in but getting more and more involved..."

 [As you know, Sky wants Walt to buy the old car wash where he used to work, so he can launder his money through a business that would seem believable to friends...and of course the IRS.]

 "Gus? [Giancarlo Esposito, another brilliant performance]. I do think that old saying - the enemy of my enemy is my friend applies. That may keep them [Walt and Gus] together a little while longer if indeed the cartel is missing around the back door.


  "I don't know where we end or how long we have, which is like life, but I think that for a perfect sense of closure at the end of this series, I'd want to see that" - Hank finally nailing Walter - "myself, and as a viewer and a fan, I'd want to. We hate to punish these characters and a lot of this show is [punishing them; Hank! Jesse!]. I love these characters and I feel the pain myself every time Jesses gets battered [physically AND emotionally.] But so much of this is about cancer [and] how these terrible decisions of Walter's are eating away at his loved ones. That's what the show is about...

  "But Hank is a very smart guy and a good cop. And the fun we had with the episode ["Sunset"] was that we wanted to get him just literally inches away from catching Walter and not quite make it because Walter outsmarted him one last time..."

 [Naturally, in the fourth, Hank has other worries - notably how to walk again...]

 Finally: Will there be a fourth?

 Good news, fans. Gilligan says the pickup is expected, and that ALL the core cast will be back next season.

And for those who didn't see today's Newsday review...


THE SHOW "Breaking Bad"

CATCHING UP Walter (Bryan Cranston) has killed the two dealers - also in the employ of his drug kingpin boss, Gus Frings (Giancarlo Esposito) - who were about to gun down Jesse (Aaron Paul). He then tells Jesse in no uncertain terms to "run."

WHAT HAPPENS SUNDAY So as not to give anything away, let's pose the key questions here. How will Gus react when he finds out what Walter did? Will cold-blooded fixer Mike (Jonathan Banks) have something to say, too? Where has Jesse "run" to? Will Walter continue cooking, and, if so, who will be his lab partner, if obviously not Jesse, and does that pose certain risks?

MY SAY With Sunday's nail-devouring closer, "Breaking Bad" wraps one of the most satisfying seasons of any major series - "Lost" and "The Sopranos" included - over the past 10 years. So where's the buzz, the clamor for a best drama Emmy, the recognition? (At least, Cranston has won two best actor Emmys.)

The problem for "Breaking Bad" is one of tone. Like Walter White, or (for that matter) like water in a cave, "Bad" percolates far below the surface. A recent episode, for example, revolved entirely around Walter's furious pursuit of a housefly. Would Tony have chased a housefly? And yet this was "Breaking Bad's" very own "Pine Barrens" episode - bleak, hilarious and almost unbearably sad. Time to take a bow, "Breaking Bad." Time for that Emmy.





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