It’s now ten years since the beginning of Breaking Bad, and five years since it ended. It remains a high water mark in TV, and is still one of Netflix’s most-binged shows (it’s also the show that prompted lots of people in the UK to cave and get Netflix, when it was showing Breaking Bad the same day as the US broadcast - it’s a long time ago now, but if you got the service in or around August 2013, they have Walter White to thank for your 54 direct debited monthly fees).
While the finale was one of the all-time greats, bringing Walter White’s tale to an incredibly satisfying conclusion, one question remains unanswered.
Why, when Walt was hiding out in a cabin in the penultimate episode, was the only DVD available to him Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium?
Amid all the tension, all the buildup, all the holy-shit-what’s-gonna-happen, there they are, two copies of the wholesome Dustin Hoffman/Natalie Portman toy shop fantasy.
In what was in no way a waste of an opportunity to meet one of the greatest writers in television history, we sat down with the incredibly polite creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, and demanded answers.
“That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked that, so I can address it in a public forum. I have not seen the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. I feel very guilty about it. I generally go to great efforts in my life not to publicly insult anyone, and I feel bad that using the movie in that episode could have come across that way. The title is just so funny and goofy. Having not actually seen the movie I can’t speak for its merits, but the title? Oh man.
“I didn’t write that episode, ‘Granite State’, but we were all in the writers’ room pitching details for it before Peter Gould went off and wrote the script. Someone said ‘Well, you know, I guess he’d have a DVD player in the house, because he won’t be able to pick up any TV stations up there in the mountains.’ So we thought, well, maybe let’s give him some DVDs. Shall we give him good DVDs, or shall we give him bad DVDs?
“Someone said Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and I just laughed and laughed. It’s not a dig at the movie, but it’s just a really funny title. And then I thought oh, you know what, he should have two copies.
“After the show aired, the writer-director of the movie, Zach Helm, was very kind. He said he was a big fan of Breaking Bad, and he was so sweet about it that I felt bad. I worried it came across as a kick in the pants or an attempt to be insulting, and I felt bad about that, because he’s a talented gentleman who was very pleasant about the whole thing.
“It really came down to nothing more than the title really making me laugh in the room. It was not in any way ‘Ooh, we hate this movie and want to publicly upset the guy who made it’. It was nothing like that. He’s got a good sense of humour. I was very impressed with his response to it all. It was classy - a lot more classy than we were.”
There you have it. It’s just a funny name. Magorium writer-director Zach Helm claims to have also never seen the finished film, telling TMZ: “Having myself endured the ignominy of watching the technicolor train-wreck that is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium multiple times every day for over a year, I can attest to it being the perfect Kafka-esque hell for a character of such moral ambiguity as Walter White.”
He also stated that the two discs seen in the show are “exactly two more copies than are allowed in my house”.