Breaking Bad recently celebrated 10 years since the very first episode was broadcast in the US on the cable channel AMC - until then, a channel not associated with original programming, but now being able to boast of taking a chance not only on this, but also the acclaimed Mad Men.
It now stands as nothing short of one of greatest television shows ever made with its 62nd and final episode, ‘Felina’, broadcast on 29 September 2013, being one of the most hotly-anticipated events in TV history.
By this point in the show, Walt was fully out-of-control, with his cancer also beginning to take hold, while Jesse was a broken figure. Things were building to an inevitable head, and the show bowed out with Walt collapsing from a shrapnel wound from a shoot-out - after Jesse had refused Walt’s request to kill him - surrounded by his chemistry equipment as police rushed in, guns drawn.
It has been described as one of the greatest finales ever, with fans and critics alike agreeing that it brought proceedings to a satisfactory conclusion. In a way, it was perhaps the most obvious way for the show to end, but it also felt like the most fitting.
But, of course, fans of the show will always wonder whether there could have been yet another twist in the tail for the characters; whether the show could have ended altogether differently.
With people involved in the show coming together around the tenth anniversary to discuss it, there have been some fascinating revelations about how it was put together, and they don’t come any bigger than not one, not two, but three other ways that were discussed to end the show.
Variety interviewed the show’s creator Vince Gilligan, alongside the core team of writers Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett, Sam Catlin, George Mastras and Gennifer Hutchison - and Gilligan revealed:
“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 fucking dark.”
In addition, when asked whether there was a lot of debate over the decision to have Walt dying amongst his equipment, Catlin said:
“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.”
Meanwhile, Schnauz and Gould revealed the third possibility, saying:
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.”
Could these alternative endings have worked better?
Perhaps they would have done. Gilligan revealed: “I run into more people who were sorry he died at the end. This whole thing about ‘Geez, is he really dead or not?’”
In a previous interview, Gilligan explained how the final ending came to pass, saying:
“When our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money.”
Are the alternate endings better? They’re interesting for sure, but for our money Vince got it right.
(Images: AMC/Sony Pictures Television)