Writer George Mastras has been with “Breaking Bad” since the beginning when the AMC series, as he puts it, was the “little meth show that could.”
So it’s particularly satisfying for Mastras, now a producer on the show as well, to win his first Emmy nomination for an episode he both wrote and directed.
The episode, “Dead Freight,” aired last year during the first half of the series’ farewell season. In it, we see Walt (Bryan Cranston), Jesse (Aaron Paul), Mike (Jonathan Banks) and the other members of their crew plan the ultimate heist, pulling off the intricate feat of robbing a train of its methylamine payload and getting away undetected.
“It’s not a robbery in the classic sense of a western where you go in with guns blazing and rob the bank,” Mastras says. “That said, I was still like a kid in a candy store. I don’t know about you, but I loved playing with trains when I was a kid. So the idea of doing a train heist was a treat.”
But this being “Breaking Bad,” the robbery has repercussions. Early in the episode, there’s a teaser of a kid riding a dirt bike through the desert. Then comes the heist itself, which is incredibly complicated, with many moments of jeopardy and suspense and then, ultimately, jubilation as the characters pull it off. Only then do we again see the kid on the dirt bike who, as a witness to the crime, must be eliminated. (At least in the eyes of Todd, who draws a gun and shoots the boy.)
“The murder is the essence of the episode,” Mastras says. “You think you’re in ‘Butch and Sundance,’ rooting for these guys to get away with it. And then, as they’re celebrating, you pull the rug out from beneath the audience, and it’s back to ‘Breaking Bad.’ This is what the show is about. It challenges you: ‘Why are you rooting for these very bad people?’ We always have consequences to the crimes and violence. No one gets away clean.”
Which would seem to indicate that the show’s final run of episodes (there are six left, including tonight’s) will feature a freight train’s worth of fallout for all the primary characters.
Mastras chuckles upon hearing that prediction.
“Huh. [Pause.] Maybe. You never know,” he says. “It could be Woody Allen and ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ where the big takeaway at the end is: ‘There’s no consequences!’ Wouldn’t that be something?”
No, George Mastras. We fell for your misdirection the first time on “Dead Freight.” You’re not fooling us again.