What Only Die-Hard Fans Know About Breaking Bad

What Only Die-Hard Fans Know About Breaking Bad


Just like at the counter of Los Pollos Hermanos,
there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes of Breaking Bad. From shocking character choices to the show’s
lasting legacy, here’s the stuff that only true fans know about the award-winning show. Once primarily a repository for old movies,
AMC launched Mad Men in 2007 and Breaking Bad in 2008, positioning itself as a major
“peak TV” player alongside the likes of TNT, HBO, and FX. Oddly enough, all those networks had the chance
to take on Breaking Bad and turned it down. As creator Vince Gilligan told the Television
Academy Foundation about his TNT experience: “Great meeting at TNT. Excellent meeting. The two executives who I pitched it to were
on the edge of their seat, they were loving it.” However, at the end of his breathless description
of the first episode, the executives final response wasn’t nearly as positive as Gilligan
had hoped: “And then they look at each other, when I
finished, I get ‘The End,’ and they look to each other and they say, ‘Oh, God, I wish
we could buy this.'” Evidently, they were scared off by the fact
that Walt cooks meth, so they asked Gilligan if he could make him a counterfeiter instead. Gilligan rightly thought that making Walt
a counterfeiter wouldn’t be the right formula, so he moved on to other networks. While Gilligan says the HBO executive he met
with wasn’t interested, FX actually bought the series, only to eventually reverse course. FX President John Landgraf eventually explained
why they passed on the show while talking to KCRW’s The Business: “So we had three dramas with male antiheroes. So, the question was, are we defining FX as
the male antihero network, and is that a big enough tent?” Ultimately, FX decided to branch out and greenlit
the Courtney Cox drama Dirt, instead of going with Breaking Bad. After all these rejections, things were looking
bad for the show. As a last resort, his agent sent it to AMC,
which was looking to expand its original programming slate. And the rest, as they say, is history. In addition to TNT, HBO, and FX, Vince Gilligan
also pitched Breaking Bad to Showtime in 2005. Gilligan later recalled to Newsweek being
about five minutes into his presentation when the network president quipped: “‘This sounds a lot like Weeds.'” Gilligan hadn’t heard of Weeds, so he asked
what that was, and the executive explained that it was a brand new Showtime series about
a mild-mannered suburban mom who, facing a financial emergency, starts selling drugs. That’s a premise very similar to Breaking
Bad’s story about a mild-mannered suburban dad who, facing a financial emergency, starts
cooking meth. Two representatives from Sony Television were
there with him, and he asked if they knew about Weeds. They had, but they told Gilligan that Weeds
and Breaking Bad were completely different. Gilligan briefly considered abandoning Breaking
Bad altogether, but ultimately, he trusted the Sony reps. And it’s a good thing that he wasn’t familiar
with Weeds. As Gilligan told Newsweek: “If I had known of Weeds weeks or even days
prior to that meeting, it’s likely I wouldn’t have had the will to go on.” The final episode of Breaking Bad aired in
2013, wrapping up five seasons in a way that gave closure to its main characters. As you probably know, the show ends with Walter
White dying among his laboratory equipment to the strains of Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,”
and with Jesse Pinkman escaping his life as an enslaved meth cook for Nazis. That episode was titled “Felina,” which just
so happens to be the name of the idealized young woman in the 1959 Marty Robbins song
“El Paso.” That particular song, a country music classic
that hit number one on Billboard, actually makes an appearance in the episode. The tune concerns an outlaw on the run who
returns to the town where he committed a grievous crime. Hey, you know who else makes a return to the
place where he committed some serious crimes? Walter White of Breaking Bad. Plus, in two strokes of wordplay genius, “Felina”
is an anagram for “finale,” and it can be broken down into three chemical symbols: Fe,
Li, and Na. Those represent iron, lithium, and sodium…which
just so happen to be vital ingredients in blood, meth, and tears. In other words, “Felina” is what Breaking
Bad was all about all along. While “dramedies” have been enjoying their
moment for a while, Breaking Bad is not that kind of genre-buster. It was an extremely serious show. There’s not much humor to mine in the story
of a man who descends into darkness when he becomes a drug lord in order to pay for cancer
treatments and prevent financial ruin for the family he’ll leave behind. The closest thing the show had to comic relief
was Dean Norris’s work as obnoxious, cocky DEA agent Hank Schrader. And that all stems from Norris’s confusion
over how to play the role at his Breaking Bad audition. As he said on Conan, he doesn’t necessarily
think it’s a full drama: “You thought it was a comedy.” “I did. It’s not?” “Well, it’s interesting because…” “It is kinda!” “I can understand why you…” “It’s a black comedy!” A lot of Breaking Bad characters die in horrible
ways. Walter White dies, Hank Schrader dies, Gus
Fring dies, and Jane Margolis dies, to name a few. But plenty of other characters survived the
series while coming very close to dying. In fact, creator Vince Gilligan nearly killed
off Jesse Pinkman in the first season, and he proposed offing Skyler White, played by
Anna Gunn, near the end of the series. He came up with the idea that Skyler would
go with her husband and the Disappearer on their hideout trip to New Hampshire after
all hope is lost. But while hiding out, Skyler offs herself
rather than continue to be with her monstrous husband. Ultimately, the idea was dropped because the
writers couldn’t figure out a way to bring Walt Jr. along, if the entire family was going
to go into hiding. As masterfully portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito,
Gus Fring is among the most fascinating villains in TV history. He runs his meth smuggling business with cruelty,
while never losing his dignity and poise. He also takes pains to never let his drug
empire interfere with his successful front, the fast food franchise Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus’ rise and fall is crucial to the series’
arc and Walter White’s transformation, but he surprisingly wasn’t originally part of
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan’s plan. By early season two, frightening drug kingpin
Tuco Salamanca served as the series’ “big bad,” a factor Gilligan wanted to explore
for a while. However, the actor who played him, Raymond
Cruz, had to bow out due to prior commitments. Gilligan told Digital Spy: “So [Raymond Cruz] became unavailable to us,
and we thought, ‘Man, we’re never gonna have a character as good and interesting as he
was,’ but we then thought to ourselves, ‘Why don’t we go in the completely opposite direction?'” And that’s how they decided to create a villain
who was a “buttoned-down, cold-blooded, soft-spoken businessman.” And thus, you get Gus. Setting and filming Breaking Bad around Albuquerque,
New Mexico, gave the show a vast and beautiful desert landscape where all sorts of criminal
activities could go on unnoticed. But it also presented an “Everytown USA” dynamic
to contrast with the dark journey of Walter White. It wouldn’t have been the same show were it
set somewhere else … and it almost was. In the 1990s, Riverside, California, earned
a reputation as one of the United States’ most active meth turfs, and that’s where Vince
Gilligan initially set his series. Studio Sony Television suggested to Gilligan
that he change Riverside to Albuquerque because the show would be cheaper to shoot there,
owing to tax breaks for TV productions. The rest, as they say, is television history. Breaking Bad fans love to visit the real-life
locations depicted on the show. One of the most sought-after locales is the
Whites’ humble home, although the people who live in and near the house are over it. The residents of the White house got so tired
of gawkers, and fans who stole rocks and other garden items as souvenirs, that they ordered
construction of a six-foot-tall iron fence. The homeowner’s daughter told Albuquerque’s
KOB that the fans: “They feel the need to tell us to close our
garage, get out of the picture, you know, tell us what to do on our own property.” Building a fence also put an end to another
intrusive fan activity, which involved re-enacting a moment from a third season episode when
an angry Walter White throws a pizza on the roof. In 2015, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
implored fans to stop: “Let me tell ya, there is nothing original
or funny or cool about throwing a pizza on this lady’s roof.” An “Easter egg” is hidden throughout the second
season of Breaking Bad. Four non-consecutive episodes open with ominous,
black-and-white “teaser” clips, seemingly unconnected to the show. But string those four segments together, and
they form a cohesive whole, depicting the aftermath of a horrific plane crash. And when the titles of the episodes featuring
those clips are similarly placed together, in order, they form a sentence: “Seven-Thirty-Seven,”
“Down,” “Over,” “Albuquerque.” Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has said
that he and his writers “worked very hard” to come up with episode titles with “proper
dual meanings.” On the surface, “Seven-Thirty Seven” refers
to the $737,000 Walter wants to leave behind for his family. “Down” is about Jesse being “down and out.” “Over” concerns Walter thinking his drug-making
days are finished. And “ABQ” is an abbreviation for the show’s
central location of Albuquerque. Season two wraps up with a plane crashing
practically in Walter’s backyard, a 737 down over Albuquerque. Gilligan told NJ.com: “It seemed like a big showmanship moment,
and to visualize, in one fell swoop, all the terrible grief that Walt has wrought upon
his loved ones, and the community at large.” The central through-line of Breaking Bad is
pretty easy to see. Walter White, once a regular family man with
a regular job as a high school teacher, slowly turns wicked as he becomes more embroiled
in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. That’s all very literary, but television is
a visual medium, and Breaking Bad expresses its arcs visually. In an article for TDYLF, graphic designer
John LaRue points out that the characters’ trajectories can be tracked by the colors
of clothes they wear over the course of the show. Marie Schrader loves purple and wears it a
lot, but keep an eye out for the darker colors she sports during a kleptomania relapse. Walt Jr. apparently wears colors that indicate
support for other characters. Skyler White starts out favoring blue, but
her palette turns dark when she gets wise to her husband’s other life. As for Walter White, he wears drab khaki after
bad cancer news or a personal setback. However, when he gets more involved with Gus
Fring, more blue shows up in his wardrobe, a nod to his signature blue meth. Of all the horrible things Walter White does
in Breaking Bad, the very worst may be letting Jane die. Portrayed by Krysten Ritter, Jane is Jesse
Pinkman’s recovering addict girlfriend, whom he pulls back into the world of drugs. She dies after choking on vomit after an overdose
while Walter watches her die without doing anything to stop it. It’s a dark moment, and it was almost even
darker. As part of the Tribeca Talks series, Cranston
explained that in earlier drafts of the script, Walt was even more involved in her death. He said: “She starts to cough and she’s on her side,
and Walt looks at her, and pushes her shoulder so she’s on her back, essentially killing
her.” AMC and producer Sony Television objected
to that bit, not because it was too awful, but because it would mean Walt would “break
bad” too soon. That still represented an acting challenge
for Cranston. When Ritter shot the vomiting scene, Cranston
said that “[Ritter’s face] lost all characteristics,
and out of that came the face of my real daughter choking to death.” The actor added that even years later, he
still gets a little choked up about it. Breaking Bad’s fifth and final season premiere
hit AMC on August 11, 2013, ending with the on-screen message, “Dedicated to our friend
Kevin Cordasco.” That’s the name of a Breaking Bad mega-fan
who died earlier in the year after a long fight against cancer. Kevin Cordasco Sr. told The Hollywood Reporter: “He and his friends watched it obsessively
and ate pizza in his bedroom. There was something about the Walter White
character…the way he took control of his illness, and his life, that really resonated
with Kevin.” As it turns out, Cordasco’s godmother set
up a cast visit, getting Bryan Cranston to come meet his biggest fan. Gilligan apparently asked Cordasco if there
was anything he’d like the show to explore. Cordasco responded that he wanted to know
more about Gretchen and Elliot, the couple who, with Walter White, formed Gray Matter
years before the show started. Thanks to Cordasco, Gretchen and Elliot reappear
in season five. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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