Breaking Bad” creator-executive producer Vince Gilligan calls it “the luck of my ignorance” that he didn’t consider the pitfalls of his show’s edgy premise.
“If I’d thought about how tricky the tone could be, I probably would have spooked myself and given up earlier,” Gilligan says. “It’s a show about a guy dying of cancer and cooking crystal meth (to provide for his family). It could have been dark as night, so you have to leaven a story like that with humor, but if you salt in too much humor, suddenly we’re doing for crystal meth what ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ did for concentration camps.”
Instead, critics and viewers responded positively to the morally perilous and blackly funny criminalization of milquetoast Albuquerque chemistry teacher Walter White, memorably played by Bryan Cranston.
“He’s an actor who can maintain a link of humanity with the audience despite the terrible decisions he makes,” Gilligan says. “I think that’s one in a million.”
Embracing its second buzzworthy prestige series (to go with “Mad Men”), AMC recently ordered a second season of “Bad.”
“I got very lucky that there was an outlet for this show,” Gilligan says about landing at the new-to-original-drama network. “They’re just smart people who care about telling good stories.”
When “Breaking Bad” first aired, comparisons were made to Showtime’s pot-mom comedy “Weeds,” but Gilligan sees very different programs: “To my mind, our show is about a guy having the world’s worst midlife crisis and facing some serious existential issues.”
Key to the gripping portrayal of liberation through lawlessness, Gilligan adds, is understanding that Walt may feel trapped, but he isn’t.
“If we’d put Walt in a clever plot box so that Walt had no other choice but to cook crystal meth, it’d quickly be a very boring show,” Gilligan says. “But because Walt is often able to make the right choice and instead still chooses the wrong choice is what keeps our series interesting.”
Best episode: “Crazy Handful of Nothing.” “It ended with Walt essentially blowing up the den of a high-powered drug dealer,” Gilligan says, “but what really cinched it for me was what he does afterward. He goes back to his car and has this silent freak-out, just adrenaline coursing through his veins, the thrill of being alive. Then the moment passes and he looks almost sheepish and starts his car and drives away.”
Underrated character: “Jesse, Walt’s business partner/acolyte, played by Aaron Paul, is to me every bit as interesting as Walt. As our show progresses, his character seems to be becoming more a voice of morality, which is weird, because this kid was a drug dealer before Walt ever got in the business.”
Great line: “In our last episode, Jesse very enthusiastically says, ‘Yeah, science!’ It’s just saved their lives by allowing them to cook a giant batch of crystal meth and not get killed by this drug dealer: one good thing science has wrought, in this guy’s opinion.”