Class is back in session. The second half of the fifth season of Breaking Bad kicked off on Sunday, Aug. 11, and brought with it another onslaught of complicated moral questions. Series creator Vince Gilligan tells the Daily Beast that the episode's most shocking moments were just as startling to the writers as they were to the audience — but explains why they decided to tell the narrative the way they did [SPOILER ALERT].
"We've got a sh-tload of story left to tell," he tells the site. "And we've only got seven more episodes after this one in which to tell it. So we'd better make hay while the sun is shining."
On Sunday's high-intensity episode, viewers were transported several years into the future, when a bushy-bearded Walt (Bryan Cranston) is seemingly back into the rhythm of his pre-drug lord days in Alberquerque.
An encounter with his old neighbor hints that things aren't completely back to normal, however; upon greeting her in the driveway of his dilapidated home, she freezes in terror and drops her groceries.
Flash-back to present day, to the moment after Hank (Dean Norris) discovers that Walt is indeed Heisenberg, the very man he'd been trying to track down for a year. Walt discovers not too soon afterward — following an unpleasant rendezvous with the toilet bowl — that Hank is onto him. What follows is a highly emotional confrontation.
"Everyone who sees that first episode says to me, 'My God. I didn't think these guys would come to a confrontation so quickly,'" he tells the Daily Beast. "And the funny thing is, we didn't either. The writers and I, just like the viewers, we all said, 'When Hank and Walt are nose to nose and toe to toe here, and Hank is accusing Walt of being Heisenberg, when does that come? Is that the very final episode?' …That's a surprisingly hard part of the job — figuring out how to portion out plot."
"In our initial breakdown, we had it broken up into eight equally sized squares; you know, what's going to happen where in these final eight episodes," he continues. "Once this thing gets going, and it gets going very quickly, as you've seen, it just rolls along like gangbusters. It has to because we've got so little time left."
As for Walt's returning cancer, Gilligan says, he and the rest of the writers made the decision to add that plot point exactly because they wanted to add to the moral chaos.
"It makes the morality of the story more complex in the sense that Walt has a point," Gilligan says of Walt using his cancer as a justification for his crimes. "It's kind of a douche bag point, but it has validity nonetheless. We love these kinds of story complications, and that's as good a reason as any to bring his cancer back."
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