Breaking Bad ended nearly five years ago, and as fans struggle to fill the Bryan Cranston-shaped void in their hearts, they no doubt wonder why the show ended the way it did.
Walter White's demise wasn't exactly a shock: How long is a meth kingpin fighting cancer supposed to live, anyway? But according to Breaking Bad's writers, who recently sat down with Variety in honor of the program's 10th anniversary, there were more than a few endings percolating prior to the the series finale.
Creator Vince Gilligan says he was thrown off when a writer pitched the brazen idea of not killing off Walter White. Walt avoided death even as it haunted him at every turn, so why not let him survive when the chaos takes out everyone around him, including his family?
Gilligan told Variety:
"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 the show's final episode, Walt famously drops dead in a meth lab as the cops are closing in from the distance. That scene however, was subject to rigorous debate among the writing staff.
"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," said writer Sam Catlin.
In another version, Walt, suffering from a bullet wound, clings to life under a table at Los Pollos Hermanos, but eventually dies under the roof of his former employer.
There was also a fair amount of back and forth regarding Jesse Pinkman's (Aaron Paul) fate, and whether or not he could be used as something of a silver lining to balance out the show's avalanche of macabre plot twists.
In the end, Jesse is freed from his cage-dwelling existence as a shackled meth cook, but the show's writers originally had bigger plans for him.
"With Jesse, he is so broken by the end, but there’s that idea of “Maybe he won’t be so bad. Maybe he’ll lean into the good aspects of his character now,” said Gennifer Hutchison.
With that in mind, the writers thought they'd see Jesse escape to New Zealand and become a bush pilot, which sounds like the coda he deserves, despite all the murder and drug dealing, etc.