With no due respect to House, the final season of Breaking Bad can be summed up in two words: everybody dies. That’s not technically true — Pinkman need for speeded away, there’s still a Walt (Jr.) in Skyler’s life, Huell hasn’t left his hotel room in nine years — but it might as well be, considering the body count in the finale, let alone the 15 episodes preceding it. But according to creator Vince Gilligan, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the original death tally was A LOT higher.
You opted to kill Walt, definitively closing the door on his story. But you left it open for Saul (Bob Odenkirk) by letting him live. At the time, you knew there was going to be a Saul spin-off. When you guys were deciding the fates of Saul and others, were you thinking about the spin-off?
That’s a good question, and on the face of it, it would certainly read like we were being strategic in our thinking, if not mercenary, to ensure that Saul Goodman stayed alive because we had already talked publicly about our desire to do a Better Call Saul spin-off. Having said that, in those final months and weeks of breaking the end of the Breaking Bad story, anything and everything was fair game and open for discussion. We talked a great many times about killing off Saul and we were open to it. We would have done whatever it took to come up with the best, most satisfying ending to Breaking Bad, including killing off Saul. But the more we talked about it, the more we thought, “You know, we don’t necessarily want the end of this series to be a bloodbath.” At one point, we talked about killing off every major character, and one particularly dark week along the way we talked about killing everybody — having some sort of Wild Bunch bloodbath of an ending. But you live with those ideas for a while and you think, “What do we need to kill all these characters for?” Just because an ending is dramatic or perhaps overly dramatic does not ensure that it will be satisfying.” We thought to ourselves, “Let’s just go with what feels right to us.” And there’s no mathematics to this. You just have to feel your way through it blindly and go with your gut, and that’s what we did. And in the case of Saul, we thought to ourselves, “Saul Goodman is kind of like a cockroach, in the sense that he’s probably going to survive all nuclear wars and he’ll still be out there somewhere after mankind has become extinct. He’s a survivor and therefore it’d be weird if he didn’t survive. Walter White, on the other hand, got a death sentence in the first act of the very first episode. It would be less than satisfying perhaps if he didn’t die at the end of the whole thing.”
This is what it sounds like in Vince Gilligan’s brain at all times: