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You've now had a few minutes to gather your breath, wipe away the tears and start to process that brutal and poignant series finale of Breaking Bad. Whether your predictions were on the money barrel or off-base, you will most certainly want to read what series creator Vince Gilligan had to say about this satiating last-ever episode, which saw the fall of meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston). "Ours is nothing if not a definitive ending to the series," says the show's mastermind, who also wrote and directed the episode. It's a heady challenge to wrap up five seasons of one of TV's most daring, beloved and obsessed-over dramas in a manner that's provocative and satisfying, and Gilligan was keenly aware of it as he and his writers toiled away for endless hours in search of the perfect ending. "I think plenty of people out there will have had a different ending for this show in their mind's eye and therefore we're bound to disappoint a certain number of folks," he says, "but I really think I can say with confidence that we made ourselves happy and that was not remotely a sure thing for the better part of a year. I feel that the ending satisfies me and that's something that I'm happy about." Gilligan spoke with EW about the fates for Walt and Jesse, the possible alternate endings, the classic Western movie that turned out to be a huge influence on the ending and the most structurally important scene of the finale.
On choosing an ending for Walt in which he was afforded a sliver of redemption before dying
"We didn't feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don't think it was a necessity for us. There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he's standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it. There's no right or wrong way to do this job -- it's just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He's just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money. Of course, Walt for years now has been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. ... For years now, he thought if he makes his family financially sound -- that�s really all he has to do as a man, as a provider, and as a father. They're going to walk away with just shy of 10 million in cash, because of Walt's machinations with Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliott (Adam Godley). But on the other hand, the family emotionally is scarred forever. So it's a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished."
On the decision to spare Jesse and allow him to escape
"We found over the years that the way we can please the majority of the audience most of the time is to tune out as much extraneous factors as possible and please the eight of us in the writers room. If we can make ourselves happy day in and day out, we had a pretty good chance of making most viewers happy as well, and that's what held us in good stead for six years. With that in mind, all [of us] in the writers room just loved Jesse (Aaron Paul) and we just figured he had gotten in way over his head. When you think of it, he didn't really have a chance in the early days. Walt said, 'You either help me cook meth and sell it, or else I'll turn you in to the DEA.' So this poor kid, based on a couple of really bad decisions he made early on, has been paying through the nose spiritually and physically and mentally and emotionally. In every which way, he's just been paying the piper, and we just figured it felt right for him to get away. It would have been such a bummer for us, as the first fans of the show, for Jesse to have to pay with his life ultimately."
On what happens to Jesse now
"We always felt like the viewers desired Jesse to get away. And it's up to the individual viewer to decide what happens next for Jesse. Some people might think, 'Well, he probably got two miles down the road before the cops nailed him.' But I prefer to believe that he got away, and he's got a long road to recovery ahead, in a sense of being held prisoner in a dungeon for the last six months and being beaten to within an inch of his life and watching Andrea be shot. All these terrible things he's witnessed are going to scar him as well, but the romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature."