Running a successful television show is a bit like being in a relationship. Every time you achieve one significant milestone, the question immediately evolves into how will you achieve the next.
"You're dating? When are you getting engaged? You're engaged? When are you getting married? You're married? When are you having kids?
"You're greenlit? When are you going to series? You have a premiere date? When's your finale? You're renewed? How will your show end?"
That's the unavoidable question currently facing the cast and crew of AMC's Emmy-winning Breaking Bad, which returns with its final 8 episodes on August 11. All involved have been understandably mum on Walter White's final stand (although we do know it will involve a trunk full of weaponry), but in the August issue of GQ, coverboy Bryan Cranston -- and BB creator Vince Gilligan -- open up, a bit, about their series finale.
"We sat around this table talking about every possible kind of ending," Gilligan says. "Sometimes you start talking really macro. Like, 'What kind of responsibility do we have to find a moral in all this?' 'Is this a just universe that he lives in, or is it a chaotic universe which is more in keeping with the one we seem to live in?' 'Is there really karma in the world? Or is it just that the mechanisms, the clockwork, of the universe is so huge and subtle in its operation that we don't see karma happening?' We talk about all that stuff and then, at a certain point, you stop and say, 'Let's just tell a good story.'"
"I keep coming back to M*A*S*H," Gilligan continues. "From the first episode, these people sit around and say, 'All I want to do is go home.' So of course they all get to go home in the final episode. Sometimes the best moment in a TV show is an unpredictable moment, but sometimes it's actually being predictable ... Maybe I'm too close to it, but I think these final eight episodes have a real chance of satisfying ... not everybody -- there's no way to satisfy every last viewer -- but the bulk of our viewers," Gilligan adds. "I certainly hope so. They satisfy me, and that's saying a lot."
Cranston "had notions" of The End, he says. "Like, 'What if he created this toxic world around him and, because of his actions, everybody he loved died and he had to stay alive?’ But then I'd think, 'He's wrought so much, he has to die. Doesn't he?' But if he dies, what does he die of? Maybe he dies of cancer. After all this other danger! But my true answer of how I wanted it to end, my honest answer, is this: however Vince Gilligan wants it to end."
Since they were never going to get big answers from Gilligan, Cranston or their cohorts, GQ turned to three top-notch showrunners to offer their takes on how Breaking Bad should end:
Dexter's Scott Buck:
"Walter is the baddest, richest motherfucker in the Southwest. But he's alienated all those he cares about. He remembers why he did this in the first place ... to help his family. He feels a small tickle in his throat, reaches for a tissue, coughs. The tissue is soaked in blood. It's too late."
The Walking Dead's Glen Mazzara:
"Walt and Jesse take Gus Fring's chicken operation on the road -- a meth-dealing food truck. Hank gives chase; Walt crashes into a school, wiping out an honors chemistry class. He grabs some potassium chlorate and tells Hank to say hello to his little friend."
Parks and Recreation's Mike Schur:
"First, I'd revel in the fact that I am a brilliant world-building genius. I would watch old episodes and say, out loud, to no one: 'Good God, I really am amazing.' Maybe I'd invite all of my writer friends over and ask about their projects, and when they'd say, 'People really liked our Halloween episode,; I'd go, 'Did they? Well, I made this,' and play the 'I am the one who knocks' speech and laugh in their faces. Then I'd call Vince Gilligan and ask him what to do, because even in this hypothetical dreamworld, he's the only one who can end the show properly."
Breaking Bad premieres August 11 at 9 p.m. on AMC and for more from Bryan's GQ interview (on stands July 23), click here!