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Alternate endings that almost made it onto Breaking Bad

Whether you picked up with the series in the early days of 2008 or indulged a bleary-eyed, pulse-pounding binge long after it left the airwaves, you can likely pinpoint the moment amid the 62-episode run of AMC's blistering crime drama Breaking Bad that made you fully acknowledge its status as one of the best TV shows ever produced. That moment might've come when Bryan Cranston's Walter White stood boldly in the New Mexico desert brandishing a revolver in his tighty-whities. It might've come when Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman stood teary-eyed over the body of his lost love Jane (Krysten Ritter). Or it might've come when we finally found out what happened to that pesky Ricin. 

For many, that moment came in the series' harrowing final episode, which saw a not-dying-quite-fast-enough Walter White trying to do the smallest bit of right in the world, even as he fully accepted the role of a vengefully fatalistic, glory-hungry sociopath. It's been nearly seven years since Breaking Bad aired its final episode, and series' faithful devotees continue to have decidedly mixed feelings about its full-on shoot-em-up final moments. Even still, most continue to agree that finale offered a fitting enough end to Walter White's sordid, exceedingly bleak saga. 

While series creator Vince Gilligan is undoubtedly among them, he's remained quite vocal about the fact the Breaking Bad writing team considered multiple possible endings for the series, each as gloomy and emotionally punishing as the last. As covered by The WrapGilligan explored them all in the final Breaking Bad Podcast. And while few were as satisfying as a bunch of meth-dealing Neo-Nazis falling in a steely rain of M-60 fire, there are still some compelling what-ifs in the bunch. 

Here's a few alternate endings Gilligan claims almost made it into Breaking Bad.  

The "Walt goes full Rambo" closer

In the early moments of Breaking Bad's fifth and final season, viewers were treated to a stark black-and-white vision of a bedraggled Walter White, now on the run, utterly alone, and gazing into the trunk of his car. In that trunk was a cache of firearms that made many believe Walter was about to go to war, though most hadn't a clue with whom he was prepping to tangle. 

Perhaps more important was that Walt was walking into battle with a massive M-60 machine gun in tow. Action movie lovers can no doubt tell you that is a serious piece of firepower; one which infamously became the weapon of choice for John Rambo himself in the famously hyper-violent franchise. In Gilligan's own words, the weapon was selected for that very reason, as the original plan was to see Walt go full Rambo himself. 

"Rambo's machine gun, something cool has to happen with that. Our original version was that Walt would use it somewhat in Rambo fashion. Hand held." That vision changed with Gilligan and company realizing that Walt's cancerous condition would likely prevent it. "The closer we got to the end we realized how Walt's cancer would resurface and how sick Walt would be. That felt wrong for Walt to go out brawn over brain, go out like Rambo. Walt on his best day was never Rambo. Very late in the game we came up with mounting it in the trunk and using the garage door motor as a way of sweeping it back and forth and automating the process. Everyone, me included, loved the moments where Walt was MacGyveresque."

Whether you loved Breaking Bad's finale or not, it's hard to argue with any of those insights. And yeah, the MacGyver-y trunk mount was absolutely epic.   

The "Walt kills cops and/or storms a prison" conclusion

After selecting such a heavy-duty weapon for Walter's final stand, it became vital for the Breaking Bad creative team to figure out who Walt would use it against. In the end, it was the despicable band of Neo-Nazi scumbags who'd kidnapped his former partner Jesse, allowing Walt's final stand a modicum of redemption. 

That wasn't always the plan. In fact, as the season began unfolding, Gilligan and company initially had eyes on seeing Walt break badder than ever by using that M-60 against law enforcement in a Western-style showdown."We thought, gee, is it too obvious he'd use it on a bunch of bad guys? He wanted to be known as Jesse James. He wants the credit," Gilligan explained. "So we had versions that we talked about for instance where the police come to get him. He uses it on the police. But we didn't like that. It just didn't seem right."

Another version of Walt's last stand involved him potentially utilizing the M-60 in breaking Jesse free from a more legit form of incarceration than his Nazi prison. "We had a version where he goes and breaks Jesse out of jail just as the Nazis were gonna knock Jesse off in jail, and he comes in and uses an M-60 to lay waste to an entire prison or a prison bus."

Calmer heads prevailed, and it was decided that having Walt gun down people who really have it coming worked best. "If he's going to use this M-60, even if it's slightly less surprising, let's see him use it on guys even worse than he is."

Call us crazy, but we're glad they made that choice, because it was supremely satisfying to see Uncle Jack's crew feel the wrath of Heisenberg. 

The "Shakespearean Skyler" ending

In the history of television, there haven't been many characters as unfairly reviled as Walter White's wife Skyler (played to utter perfection by Anna Gunn). Sure, she wasn't always fair to Walt, and yes she did have a torrid affair, but in comparison to the vile, deceitful things Walt actually did to her, and all the trouble he wrought on the family, we really don't get why so many people cast Skyler among Breaking Bad's villains.

Luckily, Vince Gilligan never saw Skyler as such, even if he was deeply uncertain on how her story should end. Her final moments were certainly tragic in their own right, but it seems Gilligan initially considered other endings for Skyler, one of which involved her suicide.   

"I was leaning toward that and the other writers were like, 'That's a bridge too far. Let's not do that.' And they were right," he recalled. "I think that would have been very unnecessary. I was thinking at some point she went with the Disappearer. We talked about every option under the sun... and one of them was that Skyler leaves with Walt and the Disappearer. But we could never figure out how to get Junior to go along. There's no bringing Junior if Junior doesn't want to go. We talked about a possible version where Skyler and Walt are tied up at a Motel 6 kind of place and he's talking to her in a bathroom saying, 'It's going to be alright, I've got a plan. Skyler? Skyler?' And he finally forces the door open and she's in a bloody tub or something like that."

Intriguing as those endings might've been, none ring entirely true. And as it is, we fully believe Skyler got the ending she more or less earned. 

The "everybody dies but Walt" finale

Heading into Breaking Bad's final episode, the biggest question on the minds of most fans was who would survive the coming carnage. The series had by then developed a serious reputation for killing off major characters, and the final season had already seen several key players meet their ends. And while there was a fair share of bloodletting in the final moments of the Breaking Bad finale, many were genuinely stunned that so many of the main characters actually survived the fray.

If that same piece in The Wrap is to be believed, Gilligan initially had eyes on a bigger body count for Breaking Bad's final season, and two characters extremely dear to Walter White were apparently tapped to join the departed masses.

"This wasn't necessarily a finale ending, but it was an idea Gilligan kicked around before Season 1 even began," reports The Wrap, recounting "a sequence in which a very ruthless drug dealer would kill Jesse. Walt, 'filled with rage,' shackles him in a basement. He rigs a tripwire with a shotgun, so that the dealer can kill himself by pulling it. Walt wants the dealer to do it, so he begins torturing him from the ground up. He starts at the toes and begins 'lopping off bits of this guy and cauterizing it with a blowtorch or something.' This goes on for weeks, but the dealer won't kill himself. Eventually Walt Jr. discovers him and tries to give him some water. When the dealer realizes Walt Jr. is Walt's son, he trips the wire and kills them both."

Look, we were as happy as anyone that Jesse and Walt Jr. survived the final season, but that setup is as vintage a Breaking Bad scenario as one could imagine, and we're actually sort of sad we didn't get to see it.