In case my enormous best moments photo gallery didn't tip you off, I'm a bit of a Breaking Bad aficionado -- and by the looks of it, many of you are, too. Vincent Gilligan, creator and producer, is aware of his series' fan base and enjoys talking about how nail-biting and marvelous it is just as much as his devotees do. I've frankly never read an interview with him that didn't make me appreciate his work even more, and when he took a media call earlier this week to discuss the future of Breaking Bad and Sunday's Season 4 finale "Face Off," he sounded as excited as his questioners did about what's going to go down. Below are the highlights for your nerve-racking pleasure.
On Gus not falling for Walt's car bomb
I think it stems not from the parking garage itself but I think his Spidey sense started tingling back in the previous scene when he was talking to Jesse. That was kind of, you know, strange sort of subdued behavior on the part of Jesse. And I think that it's that moment that it all stems from is when Jesse's sort of eyeballing him very intent with this very-controlled-but-not-completely-controlled anger simmering underneath... And this is an amazingly smart individual who has not come as far as he has without being very cautious and being one hell of a chess player. And I think all of those things contribute to his sixth sense, if you will.
On the season finale
Gee, if I ruin anything for you you'd be bummed. Let me think, what can I say? What coy thing can I say that doesn't ruin anything? The title, "Face Off", is strangely appropriate and that's about all I can say. I'm really looking forward to everybody seeing the last episode. It came out really well and I think -- I'm hoping, the main thing people say when it's all over is wow. It's the culmination of a lot of chess playing, a lot of gamesmanship over the course of not just 13 episodes of Season 4 but gamesmanship that occurred between Walt and Gus prior to Season 4. This really is Russians versus Fisher and we're not going to know until the very end which one is the Russians and which one is Fisher, and that's intentional.
On Breaking Bad's ambiguities
Certainly as we've left it up to this point it's kind of ambiguous as to who Gus was before he met Don Eladio and became involved with the Mexican drug cartel. We see in Episode 8 ["Hermanos"] of this season that his life is spared even though this kingpin, Don Eladio played by Steven Bauer, is so very angry at him and feel so insulted. Nonetheless, he's allowed to live and the question arises for the viewer, naturally: who was this man back in Chile? And that is definitely a bit ambiguous, and purposefully.
I guess I've got two reasons for it being that way. One of it is we may want to answer it later on in Season 5, or perhaps we won't and maybe we'll just leave it to the audience because it seems to be sometimes the audience's imagination is as good or better than anything that we can think of.
On constructing the most intense shots of the season (the final shot of "Crawl Space" and the gun imprint on Walt's head in "End Days")
The "Crawl Space" scene was directed by a man named Scott Winant who's a very wonderful director and a real benefit to us and to our show, as this was the second episode he had done. And that sequence at the end -- that amazing shot coming up out of crawlspace -- was shot on our sound stage and that whole crawlspace exists as a built set that's built up about four feet off the ground. They had this amazing wench system to lift the cameras straight up and it was something the grip department had built out of just, like, winches and stuff they had gotten down at, like, Pep Boys or something. It was a pretty amazing thing that they had built. It was a really brilliant shot that the director planned and the grip department and our wonderful director of photography, Michael Slovis, executed. It's just one of my favorite shots of the season.
And "End Days" -- I was the director on the scene with Aaron [Paul] pointing the gun at Bryan and I was just telling Bryan Cranston the other day because he had not seen the finished episode and I said, "I was standing right next to you on this stage for, like, nine hours and you're acting out this entire scene, and I had to wait until I saw it in the dailies until the cut footage to realize that you had the imprint of the gun left in your forehead. I didn't realize he was pressing that hard against your forehead. And I didn't even see it." It's weird because, as a director, I'm usually not tucked away behind the monitors. I'm up close so I can talk to the actors, and I was right next to the man and didn't even notice that until I saw it on film. I don't know why that would work out that way.
I'd love to take credit for it, but that was just the brilliance and commitment of the actors, that was Bryan Cranston grabbing that gun and pressing it into his own forehead until it left an imprint. I think it's a wonderful detail. I think it's one that people will note and comment on. And I wish I could take credit for it and say that I wanted it there and I planned for it but I didn't. It was a lucky accident, at least on my part.
On writing for such a dark show
The writer's room is a confounding place to be in and a fun place as well. I always liken it to be on a sequestered jury that never ends. But essentially it's six writers and myself sitting around a big table and discussing ad nauseum every possibility that we could think of story wise. And so anything is fair game. Anything is on the table.
The most horrible thoughts we can conceive of as humans are there to be put forth and discussed and examined and usually ultimately discarded, but I mean we do some pretty wild things on the show which is clear from watching it. And the only way you get to those kind of points in the script stage is to be kind of free and easy and courageous with your ideas no matter how stupid or ill-advised they may be in the writer's room. It's important to have a safe writer's room in that regard. I don't ever want a writer's room where my writers are afraid to throw out an idea because it may be too weird or too evil or dark or too stupid. You don't want to berate anyone for their ideas. As dark as you think the show may be you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that was said in the writer's room.
On the series finale
I wish I had the final moment or the series finale in my head, but then again, I don't wish I did because that would leave a lot of invention. There's a lot of invention left to be done on Breaking Bad. We've got 16 more hours to fill and honestly I don't exactly know where it's all going to wind up. And I think that's a good thing.
My writers and I, when we get back in the writer's room in mid-November, we're going to do it the same way we've always done it, which is sort of build it brick-by-brick and sort of very carefully pick our way through the story. And yes, I guess I'd love to say I did know where it was all going to end. The best I can say is I've got hopes and dreams for the characters but I don't have any solid plot moments for them yet.
And I have certain questions that I know I want to answer that the audience probably wants answers to as well. But other than that I would say, no, we're going to find it when we find it starting in November.
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