‘Bad’ to the Bone: Walt’s a Kingpin as ‘Breaking Bad’ Returns

Bryan Cranston (right) and Aaron Paul in the season premiere of "Breaking Bad" (Photo: AMC)

“Breaking Bad” wrapped up its last season with an explosion that rocked the worlds of all the characters involved when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) convinced an enemy of his enemy Gustavo (Giancarlo Esposito) to become a suicide bomber and blow Gus up.

Now, as “Breaking Bad” returns for the first half of its final season, that event triggers a change in Walt that keeps the action high and the risks even higher.

“In those last five minutes, we definitely saw Walt win a 13-episode-long chess match that he had been playing for the entire season,” Executive Producer Vince Gilligan told XfinityTV at a Comic-Con press event for the premiere of the final season. “Now he is a winner; now he is king. [The question is] what happens next?”

This is a totally different Walt than the one with whom viewers are familiar. He went from a man who was struggling to keep his family alive to one who has very grandiose visions of his future — and he is a little drunk on power.

“I think the interesting component [of] this was Walter White’s opportunity to get out,” Cranston points out. “The lethal threat has been thwarted. He overcame odds. Gus had all the cards. He had henchmen, money and video cameras. Walt was really the underdog and he beat him … Instead of opting out, he opts in. It’s no time for shrinking violets. He is a preening peacock.”

Here’s what Bryan Cranston had to say on “The Today Show” this week:
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This new Walt doesn’t sit well with his wife Skylar (Anna Gunn). When she discovered him laughing maniacally at the end of last season when he realized she had given away all his money, it was as if a wild animal had been released from a cage. At the beginning of this season, she takes to her bed in terror.

“So much of her [last season] was trying to keep control of an uncontrollable situation,” Gunn says. “Now, she is in a deeper trap that for her is so horrible because she has always been a pragmatic person, thinking, ‘If we do this, we can finally get out and be OK.’ Now she can’t move.”

The final season of “Breaking Bad” is being divided into two parts — eight episodes now and eight episodes next summer. This was done at Gilligan’s request because he wants to be hands-on in the writing room and the edit bay, and he wants to weigh in on every prop and piece of music that is used as the series moves towards its series finale.

“We are closing in on the ending,” Gilligan says. “We are sitting down for the last eight episodes now and we have a lot figured out. [At the same time], you would be surprised how little we have. You want to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. You want to stay as flexible as you can for as long as you can. You want to allow yourself receptivity to better ideas as they come down the pike. Certain things about the end of ‘Breaking Bad’ are close to what I had from day one, but I didn’t have the whole thing figured out. There is a lot of invention left.”

For his part, Cranston says he doesn’t think too much about the ending. Whatever Gilligan wants is fine with him. He adds, “This is a journey. I don’t have any designs or thoughts on the outcome. I have ideas, but no desire [for how it should end].”

But Dean Norris, who plays Walt’s law enforcement brother-in-law, feels there should be a confrontation between the two men and that should be the last big arc for those two characters.

“Hank hasn’t connected the dots because of his personal relationship,” Norris says. “You get an idea in your mind of who someone is. He thinks it would be ridiculous [if it were Walt]. I think when he finds out it will be a pretty awesome concept.”

The new season of “Breaking Bad” premieres Sunday, July 15, at 10 p.m.9c on AMC.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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