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Bryan Cranston Sounds Off On Breaking Bad Finale Theory

Over the course of its critically lauded, ratings-smashing five-season run on AMC, Breaking Bad set a bold new standard for what a small-screen drama could be. And what it could be was a white-knuckle crime saga driven by soul-crushingly human stories where even the "good guys" are quite often the worst of the bad guys. And for all 62 episodes of Breaking Bad's legendary run, the worst of the "good guys" was undoubtedly Bryan Cranston's schoolteacher-turned-monstrous meth kingpin Walter White, who eventually broke bad on the show in ways nobody could've foreseen in its early days.

By the series' end, even casual Breaking Bad fans were expecting Walt to go fully nuclear for a send-off befitting both his heartbreaking personal and often violent "professional" journeys. Titled "Felina," the series finale more than delivered, with an action-packed hour full of emotional resonance. One scene (in which Walt leaves his watch on a gas station payphone) has remained open to interpretation for even the most obsessive of Breaking Bad fans, however. Thankfully, series creator Vince Gilligan shed some light on the scene in a 2013 interview with The Guardian.

"We shot that teaser way back in episode 501, and we had Walt in the Dennys, making the 52 on his 52nd birthday. He was not wearing a watch. Then, later on, we came up with this fun moment where Jesse, on his [Walt's] 51st birthday, gives Walt that beautiful watch, and he has worn it ever since. And we thought to ourselves, uh-oh, we'd better get this right." 

So it seems the infamous watch scene in the Breaking Bad finale was essentially a necessary continuity fix conjured by Vince Gilligan and his creative team. But Bryan Cranston recently revealed the moment was far more symbolic for him. 

The watch scene in the Breaking Bad finale likely served a couple of purposes

Bryan Cranston's comments on the watch scene from Breaking Bad's finale came on Dan Patrick's That Scene podcastAnd according to him, the moment had less to do with patching a possible continuity error than with Walter White leaving the last remnants of his former self behind.

"No, this was not continuity. It was specifically written in the script that he leaves it behind specifically to not be a part of that world anymore. He's transitioning: He knew that was the end of his days. He knew he was not going to survive beyond that day, and he was leaving everything behind. That was a symbol of that. To me, it was leaving the past. Ridding himself of any talisman that put him back to who he was at the beginning of the show or any association with that. He was given that watch by Jesse Pinkman."

For all his continuity talk, Gilligan also confirmed the dual function of the scene via that Guardian series post-mortem, telling the publication there was also an "artsy-fartsy" undertone, though his read is slightly different than Cranston's. "Hopefully you don't think it's too artsy-fartsy — I think he's been wearing it all this time, and he knows he's heading for the end game. He hangs up the phone, looks at his watch and remembers that his now arch nemesis, or one of his many arch nemeses, has given it to him, and he doesn't need it any more. So he takes it off and leaves it."

Whether the moment signifies Walt leaving himself behind, or putting to bed matters with Jesse prior to liberating him from those vile Nazis, the watch scene ranks among one of the more subtly emotional moments in the finale — if not the entire series.