Has Walt’s cancer returned? How will Hank react to his big discovery? Will Jesse return to the meth business? Will there be a time jump in the final episodes? Below, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan (cautiously) addressed burning questions on a conference call with reporters about Sunday night’s midseason finale. Obviously, the following contains spoilers for those who did not see the episode. But, given Gilligan’s careful answers, this is pretty safe reading for those who wish to remain unspoiled about the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad that will air next summer.
Has Walt really quit the meth business?
Gilligan: We can either take him at his word or not … I tend to believe, personally, he was telling the truth when her told [Skyler] that. Have we seen him cooking his last batch? … We’re still working out the final eight episodes.
How much will Jesse be on the show now that he’s quit the meth biz?
Gilligan: He’s going to have plenty to do … Just because he’s out of the business doesn’t mean he’s off the show. It would not be the same show without [actor Aaron Paul's] wonderful contribution.
Given the scene of Walt getting a medical scan followed by his decision to quit the meth business, can we assume Walt’s cancer has returned?
Gilligan: The best way to put it is that we try to never have a scene in our show that adds up to nothing. If you go through to the trouble to have the crew build a set and shoot a scene, it better be important … it’s not for nothing that that scene is in there.
What can you tell us about that scene at the beginning of season 5 with Walt in a Denny’s?
Gilligan: It’s a future that is about a year ahead, 10-to-12 months ahead from the time of the first eight episodes. Is it a glimpse to the end of it all? Perhaps. You’d be surprise how little we have [written of the final eight episodes]. We have the broad strokes for the final eight.
Does that mean we can expect a time jump at some point?
Gilligan: That’s a good bet. The story up until now has taken about 14, 15 months from the pilot episode. Things will probably will jump ahead a bit at some point.
How could cautious Mike let Walt get the jump on him?
Gilligan: We all have our moments we wish we could take back. [Mike] was physically dominant over Walt at every turn …. We saw Mike not have much trouble handcuffing Walt to the radiator … Turning his back on Walt was a bad idea, but it was born of Mike having a lot on his mind … it was a tactical error … I guess the lesson is: Never turn your back on Walter White.
Where does Walt and Jess’s relationship go from here?
Gilligan: That last scene had a very nostalgic and bittersweet feel … and it feels like a goodbye scene between those two characters. … Jesse is coming into his own. He was much less an assistant and more of a partner [this season] … The partnership does seem to be fractured; there’s no repairing the fracture … Jesse had his gun in his waistband, he doesn’t trust his former partner as far as he can throw him.
How will Hank react to learning Walt is Heisenberg?
Gilligan: I have to be a little coy … but I can tell you this: It has been the subject of great debate amongst the seven writers, myself included … You run through every possible permutation … It’s hard to put yourself into Hank’s head at the moment… you’ve got to think, this probably the single biggest most horrible revelation he’s ever had in his life.
What else can you tell us about the final eight?
Gilligan: This is where it all comes to the end. There will be resolution. We’ll know where everybody stands… [The writers] are going to swing for the fences. It’s terrifying and it’s liberating to know these are the final eight hours. There’s talk of a movie — none of that is remotely on our radar. As far as I’m concerned, the end of this story is contained within these final eight episodes … We now have freedom to dispense with the timid storytelling we’ve been doing so far.
Is there pressure to stick the landing in the final episode?
Gilligan: You know in your heart that you should tune [the fan expectations] out … You also say to yourself that you got a lot of fans watching this show, but they’re all unique … So you know going into it there’s no way to please everybody. The most dangerous thing is to come up with an ending that [you think] pleases the widest swath of people … It makes you think about the old baseball joke that the last batter to strike out is to blame for the team’s entire loss … The ending will be judged with more scrutiny than any of the previous 61 episodes that came before. It’s healthiest and wisest to try and tune out [as if] the pressure isn’t there.
Doesn’t Walt have to be punished by the end of the series?
Gilligan: He doesn’t have to…. Someone in real life is getting away with murder as we speak… He could get away with the whole thing. Having said that, how satisfying would that be? … It’s a strange show. I’m very proud of it, but you find yourself very often rooting for a person that you should cross the street to avoid… He’s a bad guy. But because he’s smart and has worked hard and feels the things he feels so deeply, we grudgingly respect him … Some days I’m rooting for him, some days I want to see him hit by a car. Having said that, is the “satisfying” way the right way [to end the show]?