October 4, 2013

5 Endings Vince Gilligan Didn't Use for 'Breaking Bad'

Breaking Bad Alternate Endings Vince GilliganAs one of the taglines for final season of Breaking Bad said: "All bad things must come to an end." Ending a great series, though, is such a challenge for the writers and creators of the show. How many times do the writers actually come up with an ending to a series that satisfies the audience? After the Breaking Bad series finale, Vince Gilligan revealed five endings he and his writers didn't use for Breaking Bad in a candid conversation with editor Kelley Dixon on the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast. Rarely will a showrunner be this honest about what he or she actually pitched as possible endings to a show that were never used. So listen and learn from the podcast below.

Spoiler alert: if you haven't watched the last episode or the final season of Breaking Bad, this post and the podcast below, by their very nature, are full of spoilers. Just in case you didn't figure that out already.

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety just below. The first 33 minutes of the podcast include Gilligan's revelations about the alternate endings that he and his writers considered for Walter White and why they wouldn't have worked.

1. Jesse dies. Walter tortures Jesse's killer.

This isn't technically an alternate ending, but more of an alternate version of the entire series. Before they even shot season 1, but after Gilligan had written the pilot, he pitched a gruesome scenario to AMC and Sony television executives. In this alternate version of Breaking Bad, Jesse would get killed in season 1 or 2, and Gilligan explains, "Walt is so filled with rage at the drug kingpin that kills Jesse, that he's out for revenge."

This was a character that they never had in the series, but Gilligan says that elements of this character could be found in Gus Fring, Tuco and Krazy 8. Walt somehow captures this guy and shackles him in a basement. Walt then sets up a shotgun across the basement pointed at this kingpin with a trip wire. Ultimately, Walt wants this guy to kill himself. Then Walt starts "lopping off bits of this guy" very precisely, starting with the toes and working his way up, "cauterizing with a blow torch."

Walter works very systematically, returning each day at the same time to torture the bad guy. The guy is such a badass that he won't trip the wire, and the torture continues for weeks. Walter Jr. was going to stumble upon this place and discover this "poor guy." Junior was going to try to help him, lean in and give him some water. Somehow, the kingpin realizes this is Walter's son, and only then does he pull the trip wire to kill both Junior and himself.

Gilligan pitched this idea in person to AMC and Sony executives. He admits that everybody in the room sized him up with a look that said: "You are seriously f*cked up."

2. Skyler kills herself.

Gilligan explains that he was "leaning toward" Skyler committing suicide, but the other writers said it was "a bridge too far." Gilligan admits the other writers were right. Here's how Gilligan pitched the idea:

Desperate, Walt and Skyler would be on the run, holed up in a Motel 6. Walt would come up with a plan, and try to talk to Skyler about it through the closed bathroom door. When Skyler won't answer, Walt would open the door and find Skyler in a bloody tub.

3. Skyler leaves with Walt and the Disappearer.

Gilligan described another scenario where Skyler leaves with Walt and the Disappearer, but he and the writers could never figure out how to get Junior to come along. The whole writing staff, Gilligan included, believed if Junior didn't want to go with the Disappearer, there was no way to force him to go.

4. Walter goes out Rambo-style and takes out a bunch of police.

When they introduced the M60 machine gun at the beginning of season 5, Gilligan admits they didn't know how Walt would use it. They were "planting the flag" with Rambo's machine gun, and they knew "something cool [had] to happen with that." Uncle Jack, Kenny and Todd didn't even exist yet in the writers' minds. Ultimately, the M60 helped them come up with the gang of creepy Aryans.

But before they came up with the Aryan gang, they batted around a few other ideas on how Walter could use the M60. Gilligan and the writers wondered if taking out a bunch of bad guys was too obvious. They also wondered if Walter actually wanted to get caught so he could get credit for his work as the mastermind behind the purest meth on the market. One scenario had Walter using the M60 Rambo-style on a bunch of police coming to take Walter away. That didn't feel right, though, because Gilligan and the writers felt that Walter should use the M60 on guys that were worse than him.

5. Walter saves Jesse from the Aryan gang in prison, mowing down the whole prison population.

Another version of the series ending had Walter rescuing Jesse from prison just before the Aryans are about to knock Jesse off. In this scenario, Walter just takes out the entire prison with the M60.

But as Walt's cancer returned, Gilligan admits, "it felt wrong [for Walt] to go out like Rambo, brauns over brains. Walt, never on his best day, was Rambo." Very late in the writing process, they came up with the garage door opener contraption to automate the process. Gilligan says that he and the other writers always liked it when Walter came up with a MacGyveresque solution to his problems.

Why the Actual Ending of Breaking Bad Works So Well (and Why It's Called "Felina")

Gilligan describes their approach to the ending of Breaking Bad by defining what he calls "organic vs. inorganic storytelling." Gilligan defines "organic storytelling" as letting the characters tell you where the story goes, whereas "inorganic storytelling" in this particular case is the writers deciding on a specific end point for the story, driven by the question: "what is the ending that will satisfy us the most?" The writers combined organic and inorganic storytelling by planting the M60 at the beginning of season 5 without knowing how Walter would use it, therefore letting the character make decisions about a device that the writers introduced.

Gilligan also explained that he and his writers had a lot of lead time to go through all of the ideas for the series ending. This meant first, they could pitch and discard the bad ideas, then the mediocre ideas, then finally come up with the good ideas. Gilligan admitted that they really didn't think way ahead of themselves. Instead, they mined their own history by looking at moments from earlier seasons to see if they could use them in later episodes. This made those moments feel like they were planted as seeds earlier in the series to set up the final episodes.

"Felina," the title for the final episode, comes from the Marty Robbins song "El Paso" that plays in the Volvo as Walter tries to steal the car. Gilligan explains that the man in the song "El Paso" kills another man because of his love for "wicked Faleena." The man leaves town, but eventually returns on his horse because his love for Faleena is stronger than his fear of death, and he gets killed upon his return.

Gilligan felt that the story in the song captured the essence of Walter's decision to return to Albuquerque. Writers assistant Gordon Smith and script coordinator Jenn Carroll pointed out to Gilligan that if they changed the spelling to "Felina," the title becomes an anagram of "finale."

Gilligan gives a lot of credit to his team of writers for coming up with better ideas, as well as credit to the editors, producers and the rest of the Breaking Bad crew. Ultimately, he believes for the finale, "[it] felt right and proper that [Walt] went out on his own terms. He went out like a man."

Personally, I think the ending of Breaking Bad was perfect, but maybe you have other opinions. How do you think Gilligan and his team should have ended Breaking Bad? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Link: Breaking Bad Insider Podcast -- AMC

[via The Wrap]

Your Comment

34 Comments

The ending was perfect, it was surprising, and in the same time logical. Somehow, Walt and "Heisenberg" merge together. Walt accept his bad choices without hiding behind any kind of excuse. And I loved the last moment between Walt and Jesse, no words, just a look.
It's probably the best series ending I've seen.

October 4, 2013 at 6:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I second that

October 4, 2013 at 7:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave

"i felt the rigthers wer layz and wlt dyed at tha end i mean cum on thts jst bad writng"

--IMDB

October 4, 2013 at 7:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

I take it you haven't seen The Shield.

February 11, 2016 at 6:35PM

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Wow, I genuinely believed that all the past plot points were planted intentionally for the epic finale. But the actual process is even more genius. Fascinating read

October 4, 2013 at 7:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave

Aside from Walter acting like a ghost and conveniently evading a police presence guarding Skyler's apartment after they know he is in town and it's likely that they would have been on high alert around her. The ending was as perfect as I have ever seen in any TV show or even movie. The people who really deserved it, got what was coming to them. The last scene where Walt is walking through the lab and then places his hand on the large stainless steel tank and then drops to the ground said it all. It's our work that defines us and puts purpose in our lives and Walt clearly loved his work.

October 4, 2013 at 7:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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You voted '-1'.
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Perfect? Not at all. I love BB, I enjoyed the finale but I've thought of a dozen better ways to rewrite the last two episodes.

Walt should have told the Nazis that Lydia was dying (they could call to confirm). He would then be in the powerful position as their ability to create (and distribute) meth would be in jeopardy. They'd be pissed but he'd have the ability to tell them that if they brought him Jesse (and expositionally noted that all the Nazis must gather to see what he is going to do). When Jesse is there we would have had the suspense that of asking if Walt was going to kill him or not. He could have said some words, yada yada and then "attacked" Jesse. When they both were on the ground, he pushes the trigger and the rest of the episode plays out like it did.

How much stronger is that than the convenient happenings? Like Jack would have cared so much to prove Jesse wasn't his partner? Are we really to believe that all the Nazis were in the room in front of the gun?

The 2nd last episode needed some more events too. I think it should have ended with the lasers pointed at Gretchen and Elliot.

October 4, 2013 at 8:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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HEAVY SPOILERS HERE:

I appreciate your comment, but the finale was, in my opinion, the perfect way for the show to end. The Neo Nazi's didn't give a shit about Lydia and she was probably only kept alive because Todd liked her. After Walt, Jesse and Todd stole the methylamine in "Dead Freight" Lydia's only purpose was to distribute the product. Once the gang stole Walt's money they had no need and no desire (except for Todd) to cook anymore meth. This fact was evidenced when Uncle Jack said that he would kill Walt and then Jesse via a gunshot to the head in "Felina".

October 4, 2013 at 10:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Walt specifically comments that the supply of methylamine is running out by his calculations and Lydia acts in a way that confirms this.

Like my adjustments or not, the last two episodes had some very weak writing in them.

October 6, 2013 at 12:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brooks

yeah, not really into your ending, no offense.

October 5, 2013 at 9:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Allen

Yeah, no offense, but I don't think your ending is very good

October 5, 2013 at 9:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Allen

Thinking the finale wasn't perfect is a matter of personal taste. Suggesting your own ending is clumsy, arrogant and juvenile. When you write, produce and direct your own series, I'm sure you'll appreciate some amateur's "corrections".

October 5, 2013 at 10:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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FabDex

In addition, remember that the neo-nazi's dont need to sell meth anymore, they already got 80 million bucks. The only reason they are is because Todd likes Lydia. Your rewrite doesnt really hold together.

October 11, 2013 at 2:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Zf

I like your adjustments. I felt the scene in the shed was forced and too convenient. But then again, for me, BB has turned into a highly stylised soap opera somewhere in the beginning of season 4, consisting of mainly people talking to each other emotionally in closed rooms. It was still better than most TV shows but that doesnt mean it was great. Skyler had the same frown-zombi face since season 4, Walt unconvincingly became this bad ass since season 4 and then loses all his powers when neo nazis arrive, Hank was a bubbly kinda guy who turned to a whiny whinger in season 4 and in general, like I said, it turned to be a very well produced, art house, soap opera. Sorry all, I'm just saying it as it was for me. A Soap Opera.

October 11, 2013 at 8:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I thought the ending was perfect and felt satisfied with the way they closed it out. The final frames with Walt picking up the mask, Badfinger's Baby Blue kicking in, Walt's reflection in the tank, the cops approaching, the bloody hand print and the final overhead were a fitting finish to Walt's tragic journey. It was very interesting to read about the various story options. Thanks for the post!

October 5, 2013 at 5:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dennis

My breaking bad ending:

I thought the ending was fantastic, I wouldn't have changed anything. I would've added a couple of minutes. I really wanted to see a little more of everyone. I imagine a montage of all the main characters one last time (Donnie Darko style). I just wanted to see what everyone, who was still alive, was doing in that exact moment (which seemed after midnight). Just to show how awful their lives had become...

Imagine this...

We're in the final scene. Walt holds his bloody wound, stumbling through the lab as he inspects the familiar meth-making equipment.

CUT TO: MONTAGE

1. Skinny Pete and Badger are smoking weed with a circle of friends, oblivious to their role in everything.
2. Gretchen and Elliott, still shaken, stacking the tower of cash into a vault.
3. Brock, awake in bed in a room full of foster children.
4. Lydia, lifeless, spread across her expensive bed sheets--the ricin has finished her. Her daughter, holding a pillow pet, stares at her dead mother.
5. Marie at home, drinking alone at her wet bar, grieving.
6. Saul reporting to his job early morning (different time zone) wearing a name tag with his fake name, he forces a smile to his new boss.
7. Walt Jr., awake, researching universities.
8. Skylar holding Holly, sitting at the kitchen table. Eyes full of fear. She looks at the lottery ticket with GPS coordinates.
9. Jesse drives his get-away car through a small unknown town. Its quiet, he has no idea where he is. He stops at a red light. He begins thinking, his expression numbs-- its all hitting him. The light turns green, Jesse his stunned and doesn't move, he continues to sit at the light. The light turns yellow. Then red again. He just sits in his car at the intersection, lost, in the quiet dead of night.

Back to Walt, he sees his distorted reflections and suddenly falls to the ground. The police burst into the scene to find a dead Walter White on the meth lab floor.

THE END

October 6, 2013 at 1:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Batayola

+20

October 6, 2013 at 4:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Wihelm

I have to admit that your ending is better :D

October 6, 2013 at 6:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alejandro

I have to admit that your ending is better :D

October 6, 2013 at 6:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alejandro

Awesome.

October 6, 2013 at 11:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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August

Cool addition bro :)

October 11, 2013 at 2:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Zf

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!

April 3, 2016 at 9:19PM

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Danny
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The ending was great, very well written and I'm glad it didn't end with Walt going all Rambo with the 60. I was a MP in the service and had to lug that beast plenty of times..it's heavy, deadly as heck and not brand new user friendly. I'm glad that they showed how Walt used his smarts with the weapon to take out Jack and his pack. My favorite ending for a series.

October 6, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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August

Walt should have become the kingpin and lost his family.

October 7, 2013 at 2:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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RJ Blooks

Someone said to me it would have been the "perfect ending" if after all the action there has been a short snippet of Walt frozen to death in the car he was stealing at the start of the episode showing that all those satisfying and conclusive events prior had been some death hallucination. I would have been screaming NOOOO for weeks though.

October 10, 2013 at 7:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sky

My Breaking bad ending with a twist.

Walt kills off that bad guys one by one each one in a different way , Then Hanks wife shows up when he's about to leave, she followed him ,she tells him he shouldn't have got involved in the drug business. They show flashbacks about how she was involved in selling meth herself with rival drug dealers. thus the reason why she kept telling Hank to arrest Walt.She shoots Walt in the head execution style after him trying to talk her out of it, As she is leaving she runs into Jesse where he accidentally shoots her and she dies. Jesse leaves the building where police surround him only for him to get shot to death when trying to pick up the phone to answer the call of his ex girlfriends son who's wondering where his mom is. THE END

October 10, 2013 at 7:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The one

Felina = Fe Li Na

Fe = Iron (Dominant element in Blood)
Li = Lithium (Used in creation of Meth)
Na = Sodium (Major element in Tears)

Felina = Blood, Meth, Tears

I like this version of the title better. :)

October 10, 2013 at 8:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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J. Anthony

They should have filmed at least 2 more seasons.
-1- Walter going to jail and cooking/running jail
-2- another escaping jail and going to cook in Mexico.
Awesome ideas.

March 18, 2014 at 9:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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SM

Brooks Reynolds, I'm glad you don't write for television.

April 29, 2014 at 8:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ethan

LMFAO!!!!

June 9, 2014 at 1:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I thought the finale was ideal. I always knew Walt was going to die, whether it be by force or cancer, and in this regard, hoped that he would have enough time to reach closure (ie, getting the money to his family) before he died. I appreciate that he was at least able to get the $9+ million to them, but would have liked it better if he would have gotten the full $80 million to them. Either way, the finale was fine. My issue with the series is when Hank put so much effort into bringing Walt down after learning of his involvement in the meth business. I mean, seriously, look at your own damn thief of a wife. Also, he knew the devastation he would cause to Walt's wife and kids, who he so dearly cares about. Not to mention that Walt is only months away from kicking the bucket himself, since his cancer relapsed. It was just stupid.

June 1, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nolan

Good ending but the writers should have given drew sharps parents some closure. Walt should have written them a note explaining what happened.

July 25, 2014 at 12:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kevin d

I liked the ending but didn't love it. Felt too... safe. The Shield still has the best finale I've seen, and it's not even close.

February 11, 2016 at 6:38PM

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One thing nobody realizes about Marty Robbins 'El Paso', is that Felina never comes out when he's shot. Felina was a one time girl, who he had his one time with early in the song. During the song, the gunslinger is shot, and collapses on the road. He imagines Felina coming out to usher him out of this world, because it makes the dying process easier for him. The real Felina would've never even thought about the gunslinger after their liason because it didn't help her survive in her world.

The cowboy mythos is full of idealized love in the face of the banality of relationships and human behavior.

February 23, 2016 at 6:52AM

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