"Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan paid a visit Sunday night to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition, "From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White's Transformation in 'Breaking Bad.' "
Before a sold-out audience of several hundred fans, Gilligan sat for a conversation with eminent newsman Charlie Rose. Over the course of the 75-minute chat, he discussed the exact point at which Walt "broke bad" (Gilligan placed it in episode 4 of the first season, when he declines to accept money for his cancer treatment and decides to cook more crystal meth instead), his own experiences with drugs ("I took too many Sudafed one time") and the difficulty of working on a network drama (he's a fan of "The Good Wife").
Of course, with the series headed into its final, 8-episode stretch on Aug. 11, Gilligan also addressed, however indirectly, Walter White's fate. The writer said that, while he admired the gutsiness of the notorious series finale of "The Sopranos," the conclusion of "Breaking Bad" will be more conclusive.
" 'Breaking Bad' was always much more of a finite construct," he said. "Most TV shows are designed by their nature to be open-ended, to be indefinite, to go on forever. It's hard to get a TV show going, and once you get it going, you don't want it to end and I didn't want 'Breaking Bad' to end. But I knew creatively when your self-imposed franchise, as was the case in 'Breaking Bad,' is to take your protagonist and turn him into your antagonist, that is a continuum you've just ascribed for yourself, and there's only so bad that bad could be. By its very nature this is something that has a limited shelf life."
"I'm very happy with the ending," he added.
While Gilligan assiduously avoided any spoilers, the same couldn't be said of his interlocutor who, perhaps exhausted by the strain of appearing in three different TV shows, accidentally dropped a small detail about the season ahead. As their chat was winding down, Gilligan, with characteristic humility, was reflecting on the difficulty of topping "Breaking Bad" and the dangers of trying to write something "great."
When he sat down to write the show, he didn't imagine he'd ever be "sitting here at the Museum of the Moving Image talking about it with Charlie Rose. I didn't think any of those things would come of it," he said.
[Spoiler alert begins now.]
That's when Rose spilled the beans. "Speaking of that, who in the world gave you the idea to include me in the next-to-last episode?"
"Well, uh, that's a bit of a spoiler there," said Gilligan, sounding ever so slightly irritated.
"I spoiled it?" Rose asked.
Gilligan groaned in response, wobbling his hand in the air as if to say "sort of."
"I didn't describe anything. How does that spoil anything?" Rose said in his defense. "The check will still be in the mail."
"The check should still clear," Gilligan conceded -- though Rose may want to hurry to the bank.
[End spoiler alert.]
Later, Gilligan gave a small group of reporters a tour of the exhibition, which includes iconic props, costumes and production materials from the series. On display are the drab tighty whities Walt wears in the series premiere, his "Heisenberg" ensemble and the bright pink stuffed bear that floated ominously in Walt's pool in season 2, among other mementos.
Alas, Walt's beat-up Pontiac Aztec remains somewhere on the Sony lot, Gilligan said.
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