Breaking Bad featured an unforgettable ending, but series creator Vince Gilligan considered a handful of other conclusions leading up to the finale. Debuting in January 2008, the neo-western crime drama ran for five seasons until coming to a close in the fall of 2013. The award-winning series, which consisted of 62 total episodes, starred Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as partners in a meth cook operation that ultimately spiraled out of control. While the central character, Walter White (Cranston), accepted his deadly demise in the final moments, that wasn’t always the plan.
After Walt enlisted Jesse Pinkman (Paul) to assist in his plan to cook meth to acquire a new income source for his family, the pair emerged as leaders in the drug trade. Jesse went along with Walt’s decision as the cancer-stricken man kept his actions hidden from his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and their son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte). Following risky run-ins with other drug dealers and members of the cartel, Walt and Jesse fell into dangerous situations with antagonists like the Salamanca family, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Jack Welker (Michael Bowen), and Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons). Along the way, however, they found allies in lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), but even those relationships didn’t last forever.
When Walt could no longer remain on the run after his identity as “Heisenberg” was unearthed, the man decided to tie up loose ends before his impending death. Once he set up his family financially, Walt decided to rescue Jesse, who was being held hostage at a compound led by Jack and Todd. Walt already had plans to target the men after they killed his brother-in-law. Walt shot up the compound with a machine gun, killing the men while giving Jesse a chance to escape. Cranston’s character was mortally wounded in the attack, but before he passed away, the figure took one last walk around the on-site meth lab. Following the end of Breaking Bad, Gilligan shed light on multiple alternate endings that were considered.
Walt Goes Full Rambo
According to the Breaking Bad Insider podcast (via The Wrap), Gilligan revealed Walt’s use of the M60 machine gun could have gone much differently. In the original version, Walt was going to ambush Jack Welker’s neo-Nazi compound “in Rambo fashion.” He was intended to hold the gun while it rained bullet into the building full of his enemies. With the return of the character’s cancer, it didn’t feel right to transform Walt into a figure emulating brawn. Instead, the series had Walt use his brains to mount the gun into the trunk of his car, which Gilligan claimed was “MacGyveresque.”
Walt Transforms Into Jesse James
In addition to the discussions in turning Walt into a Rambo-like figure, there was also an idea to transform the central figure into Jesse James, as shared in the podcast. Worrying Walt’s attack on bad guys like Welker’s gang was too predictable, Breaking Bad toyed with the idea of the former drug kingpin using his high-powered weapon on police. To mirror a famous outlaw like Jesse James, the cops were set to find Walt while he was on the run. The encounter would have turned deadly quick when Walt pulled out the M60. The crew eventually backed off from the idea, claiming “it just didn’t seem right.”
Walt Breaks Jesse Out Of Jail
The third alternate ending for Breaking Bad shared on the podcast focused on a jailbreak attempt. Instead of Jesse being held hostage at the neo-Nazi compound, there were talks of him ending up in prison. To make amends, Walt would have shown up with the M60 to wreak havoc. Not only did the writers consider having Walt attack a jail to break out his former partner, but Gilligan revealed there were discussions regarding the site of a prison bus.
Skyler Takes Her Own Life
Gilligan also mentioned an alternate ending involving Skyler during his podcast appearance. According to the series creator, his team considered having Skyler leave with Ed Galbraith (Robert Forster), aka the “Disappearer.” Another option was to have Skyler go with Walt after Ed created new identities for the pair. That plan was scrapped when the writers couldn’t find a plausible explanation explaining why Walt Jr. would willingly agree to join his parents. That idea then took a turn when it focused on Walt and Skyler stuck in a Motel 6. As Walt reassured Skyler that everything would be okay, he would find his wife dead after taking her own life.
Saul Gets Killed
Another character that almost didn’t make it out alive in the Breaking Bad series finale was Saul Goodman. During a 2014 interview, Gilligan shared that anything was “fair game” when developing the ending. He noted that there were talks of killing Odenkirk’s character. Of course, the actor reprised his role as Saul to serve as the spinoff’s focus, Better Call Saul. His death, however, wouldn’t have affected the series since Gilligan created it as a prequel to the events of Breaking Bad.
Every Major Character Dies
In the same interview, Gilligan unearthed discussions to kill off every major character, and that presumably included Walt. He called it “some sort of Wild Bunch bloodbath of an ending,” referencing the violent western film from 1969. Gilligan reiterated that it was a dark week with those talks arose, but in the end, the team questioned the intent of killing all the major figures of the series. Though Gilligan labeled the alternate ending as dramatic, he figured it wouldn’t satisfy the viewers.
Walt Is The Only Survivor
Interestingly, Gilligan shared details into a similar alternate ending in an interview soon after the Breaking Bad series finale aired. Along the lines of killing major characters, Gilligan revealed there wasn’t a concrete decision made on Walt’s fate. Though Cranston’s character died as a result of his actions in the series finale, his death wasn’t always set in stone. In fact, there was an ending considered that had Walt as the last one standing as the rest of his family and colleagues had perished. Gilligan believed this version would be heart-pounding, but he described it as a “very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending.”
Jesse Kills Walt
Following Walt’s attack on the neo-Nazi compound with the machine gun, Jesse strangled Todd to death before acknowledging his former partner one last time. He then fled the area moments before the police converged on the compound as Walt was dying. In the same interview from 2013, Gilligan stated there was a thought to have Jesse kill Walt following the ambush. It would have insinuated Jesse took the man up on his offer to kill or for Walt to turn around to find a gun in his face. Either way, the writers deemed Jesse taking Todd’s life was to show his “bloodlust had been satiated.” Coincidentally, Gilligan then pondered Jesse’s future, hoping Paul’s character “gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature.” That idea turned into the Breaking Bad sequel film, El Camino, which followed Jesse’s fate as he eventually received a new chance at life in Alaska.