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The Iconic Marie Moment In Breaking Bad That Almost Didn't Happen

There are some episodes of Breaking Bad in which nearly every single scene qualifies as "iconic," and season 5's "Ozymandias" is at the top of that list. The third-to-last episode of the series is a companion to "To'hajiilee," in which Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) finally cuffs his long-sought suspect, Heisenberg, after discovering the drug kingpin to be his own brother-in-law, Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Unfortunately for Hank, justice proves to be quite fleeting, because Walt has gotten into business with an even more lawless group with no compunction about showing up and gunning down lawmen. Walt pleads for Jack (Michael Bowen) to spare Hank, but even Hank knows he is doomed.

The fallout from this desert shootout produces many of the most gutting reactions in all of Breaking Bad, including the moment when Marie (Betsy Brandt) figures out what has happened to her husband during Walt's phone call with Skyler (Anna Gunn). Marie's look of sheer devastation is instant and unforgettable, but the shot of her absorbing this crushing news almost didn't happen.

Betsy Brandt insisted on being part of this painful conversation

According to Betsy Brandt, she made a direct request to Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to capture that shot of her silently suffering in the scene. The actress spoke to Collider about how important it was to her for fans to see Marie's face when the news of Hank's murder comes to light.

"I remember I said, 'There needs to be a scene... where I'm on the phone. There needs to be a reaction from her. I need my side of that," Brandt explained. After Gilligan responded to say that they had another plan for how to film the conversation, Brandt said she finally convinced him to at least get the cameras rolling just in case.

"Vince was like, 'We were going to shoot it like this,' it was going to be a stylized thing," she recalled. "And I said, 'I just really feel like I want her to have that.' And they were like, 'OK. We're going to shoot it. We don't know if we're going to use it. We may stick with Plan A.' But they ended up using it."

The result spoke volumes about the character's mindset

According to Brandt, Marie was caught completely unaware when the news about Hank struck. The phone call between Walt and Skyler wasn't necessarily going to concern Hank's whereabouts; the immediate focus for Skyler was the issue of where he'd taken her baby daughter Holly. Meanwhile, Walt is attempting to clear Skyler's name with the police listening in by insisting he forced her into assisting with and covering up his crimes. However, when Walt brings up the subject of Hank, Marie jumps to attention.

"There's no word from Hank. And I'm like, 'What's happening?'" Brandt said to describe her reaction in that moment. "I haven't heard anything from him. And she's aware then." Brandt said that she played it as though there's always "a current of worry because [Hank's] job is dangerous, and she knows this," and with Walt's crimes out in the open, "it raises the stakes more." Still, it's clear from the shot of Marie's reaction that she is immediately gutted by what she sees in Skyler's face after Walt tells her about Hank. "When she gets that news, I think it was more shock at the immeasurable loss and I think there's a moment of, 'How can I go on?' And, 'I don't want to,'" Brandt explained.

One thing's for sure — the tragedy of what happened to Hank would not have been complete without seeing the impact on Marie, so it's a good thing Brandt spoke up.