— Vince Gilligan has only 16 episodes left of his critically acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad,” but the creator/showrunner has some bad, breaking news: He has no idea how the show is going to wrap up.
“Wish I did,” he told TODAY.com before he and his writers headed back into plotting out how chemistry teacher-turned-meth dealer Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) is going to end his days in the upcoming fifth and final season. “I have certain hopes and dreams for how the characters will wind up, but I don’t have anything nailed down plot-wise.”
In the course of four seasons, Walter has slowly morphed from cancer victim with a brilliant (if terrible) idea for raising money to provide for his family once he’s shuffled off the mortal coil, into a hard-edged, murderous drug lord. All that can make for problems in figuring out to wrap things up in a nice bow.
Though there will undoubtedly be plenty of nastiness and gore in episodes to come, Gilligan said contriving scenes like the one from October’s season finale where (SPOILER ALERT!) a fellow drug lord ended up with half of his head missing are not the point of the series.
“We don’t set out to make the show shocking,” he said. “I know you’re rolling your eyes when you’re (reading) this, but it’s true. We’re telling a very dark story and we’re involved in a very dark world, and to paint it as anything less than unpleasant would be disingenuous. We’re looking to be showmen and women, trying to give the audience something to talk about the next day around the water cooler. But the ultimate goal isn’t to be gruesome or bloody — it’s to be dramatic.”
Gilligan, whose other key TV job was working as a producer/writer/director on “The X-Files” from 1996 to 2002, said he will miss the series once it’s over. “It’s been the best job I’ve ever had, and I suspect I’m going to look back on it with a great deal of nostalgia. But after 16 more episodes, it will be time to end it all. It was always intended to be a finite, closed-ended show. You have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.”
So what’s next? Gilligan said he’s keen to do a Western, and he’ll probably return to feature films, where he got his start. (He wrote the scripts for “Home Fries” and “Hancock.”) He’s enjoyed his time in television, but feels it “sidetracked” him from why he really got into the business.
But before he can head back to Hollywood, there’s the little issue of Walter White. Not since Tony Soprano has an irredeemable killer been so, well, identifiable. And we all know just how “The Sopranos” ended: by irritating most of its core fans with a non-ending.
Not ticking off the viewers, said Gilligan, “keeps me awake at night. It gives me nightmares. The closer we get to the final episode, I assume the worse it’ll be. But that’s why we’re ending after 16. You want to go out with fans of the show still being fans. The best we can do is be disciplined and honest in our storytelling, and not go for the bells and whistles. Let the chips fall where they may.”