I heard an interesting podcast with Vince Gilligan where he goes into a lot of detail about many aspects of the Breaking Bad finale, particularly about Walt’s machine gun. I was very surprised to learn that when the gun was introduced at the beginning of season five, they had no idea what they were going to do with it. The actual ending was far from being planned, and they just wanted it as a set piece for Walt to take on “a lot of bad guys.”
There were many ideas of what to do with the gun, and here Vince runs through some of the ones that were considered.
“Who does he use it on was the first obvious question. And at that point, we didn’t have Uncle Jack yet … we hadn’t thought of him yet, and Kenny and Todd, we didn’t have any of those guys … We knew there’d be a bunch of bad guys.
“Our original version was that Walt would use it in somewhat Rambo fashion, handheld, mowing down a bunch of guys. But the closer we got to the end, and we realized Walt’s cancer would resurface and we realized how sick he would be, that felt wrong to go brawns over brain, go out like Rambo. On his best day, Walt was never Rambo. So very late in the game we came up with mounting it in the trunk and using the garage door motor as a way of sweeping it back and forth, and automating the process. Because everyone, including me, loved those moments when Walt was MacGyver-esque.”
It seems weird to me that a show as seemingly well thought out and planned as Breaking Bad makes up major plot points like this on the fly. Those flashfowards were pretty big plot points to establish without a firm direction of where they were going, and it’s cool to see how the writers were so adaptable in thinking up uses for it later.
Here are few more ideas they had:
“We had versions that we talked about, for instance, where the police are coming to get him and he uses it on the police, but we didn’t like that, it that didn’t seem right. We had a version where he goes and breaks Jesse out of jail just as the Nazis are going to knock Jesse off in jail, and he comes in and uses an M60 to lay waste to an entire prison or prison bus … So we had every version of this. I’m not saying we got far with those, but we would talk them through for hours on end … But we were like, You know what? As bad as Walt is, we don’t want to see him killing good guys. If he’s gonna use this M60, even if it’s slightly less surprising, let’s see him use it on guys that are worse than he is.”
I think that was a smart call. The end of Breaking Bad was all about the redemption of Walt, and him gunning down a bunch of police officers would have thrown a wrench into that plan. I think what we did see was better than turning him into an unredeemable, fully-fledged monster by having him mow down a police station or prison.
The Nazis seemed like a kind of sudden development, but that makes more sense now that I know the backstory. In the end, I think this all worked out for the best, even if Walt got lucky with every single Nazi being in the line of fire of the sentry turret. As they said on the show, “He is smarter than you, he is luckier than you,” and that was true until the end.