The Breaking Bad finale aired on September 29, 2013, but the series peaked two weeks earlier. That Sunday evening, AMC broadcast “Ozymandias.” The antepenultimate chapter of chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White’s saga is as irresistibly brutal as a hit of Heisenberg’s blue crystal meth. Over the course of the 47-minute horror show, Walt orchestrates the murder of his Drug Enforcement Administration agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader, betrays his protégé Jesse Pinkman, abusively fails to convince his stunned wife, Skyler, and son, Walt Jr., to join him on the lam, and then kidnaps his own infant daughter, Holly.
The shocking twists even led fantasy author George R.R. Martin, who conceived the regicidal psychopaths of Game of Thrones, to write that “Walter White is a bigger monster than anyone in Westeros.” In the third-to-last installment of Vince Gilligan’s intricately plotted drama, Walt finally pays for his depravity. Like the subject of the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem that the episode is named for, he loses his empire, which in the end is reduced to desert rubble.
“For a bright man he turned out to be very, very stupid in many ways,” Bryan Cranston, the program’s four-time Emmy Award–winning star, told me recently. “I guess it was his hubris that blinded him to common sense.”
The downfall was five seasons in the making. Capturing it required beautiful but unforgiving filming locations, clever writing and direction, and one of the most surprisingly gut-wrenching acting performances in television history. This is the story of Walter White’s reckoning.
Part I: “Unbelievable Force, Brutality, Cruelty, Angst, Terror”
Vince Gilligan (creator–executive producer): People give me credit personally for having some sort of master plan for where the series was going right from the earliest days. I did not. We truly did not. The only thing we knew for certain: We wanted the show to end as well it could. Not to say we wanted a happy ending necessarily, but we wanted an appropriate ending.
Melissa Bernstein (coexecutive producer): They wanted it to be an ending that they were proud of, that would stand the test of time. Vince would literally bang his head against the table. There was a lot of pacing going on and a lot of anxiety.
Moira Walley-Beckett (writer–coexecutive producer): It was clear to us in the writers’ room that at that point in the season all the chickens were coming home to roost. Every consequence for each of Walt’s choices was playing out with unbelievable force, brutality, cruelty, angst, terror—everything. And it was all gonna happen in that one episode. And had to happen.
Gilligan: We had a strong feeling that Hank Schrader should find out who Heisenberg really was. That was kind of a no-brainer. That had to happen. ... But other than that, we didn’t know Hank was gonna die.
Walley-Beckett: Everybody’s demise was on the table. We just had these intense conversations in the room, major arguments for and against each situation. It became clear whose fate should fall which way.
Gilligan: It was very important to us that Hank go out like a man; go out like the bad-ass DEA agent that he was.
Walley-Beckett: It was incredibly intense to write.
Bernstein: One thing I remember really clearly is when we got the script. I read it in the house I was living in in Albuquerque. I had to take breaks. Actual breaks between acts. It was gut punch after gut punch. It was making my heart palpitate to the point that I had to stop and just, like, cry, and think deeply. It was such an intense experience just from the get-go. It was wild.
Bryan Cranston (Walter White): It didn’t shock me because I was always anticipating being taken away by what Vince Gilligan was always consistently coming up with. But that one was truly a remarkable revelation, because so many things came to conclusion.
Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman): It was just a final beatdown, just a battle royal to the finish. In that episode, a lot of things happen that were just really hard to bear.
Dean Norris (Hank Schrader): Vince had told me two years prior, almost verbatim, what my last lines would be. So when I read [the script], I was like, “There they are.”
Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader): I sent out an email. I’m sure I did. Everyone was talking about how beautifully written it was. And I said, “If I don’t read it, does that mean it won’t happen?” Because I knew what was coming.
Cranston: When I read that he grabbed the baby and [ran] off, I thought, “Oh my God.” I’m holding my head, squeezing it together like, “Oh, God.” It’s such just gripping drama. What’s more important is that it comes at the right time. I always say that Breaking Bad was the perfect television show because it would’ve made a terrible movie, right?
You’d have to compress and truncate and skip over and extract a tremendous amount of material, of growth and development, and the downward spiral of this man, and the disintegration of his soul. All that would’ve been lost, because you’ve gotta get on with it.
Rian Johnson (director): “Ozymandias,” it was very out of the blue. Something shifted around with the schedule. It was a very last-minute call. I think Vince had told Moira that she could choose a director to work with and we had a really good experience on [Season 3 episode] “Fly,” and once again I lucked out. When I got the script, I was like, “Holy shit.”
Walley-Beckett: He’s such a great director, such a great partner in crime—we call each other the Wonder Twins.
Gilligan: I read a lot of poetry in high school. Walt Whitman, we got him in the show, obviously. “Ozymandias,” that was one that always stuck with me. I always pictured this giant broken stone head buried by sand in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
Walley-Beckett: That was an image that I had, being a fan of that poem. I’d wanted to use that poem for a long time and wrote it into an early draft of a play that I wrote like 10 years before. But when we started breaking the season, it flashed so powerfully in my mind as a theme for Walt, and Vince was super keen on that.
Johnson: We were coming back in the van from the desert location and as I was looking at the desert, I turned to [Walley-Beckett] and I was like, “I think I have an idea for a promo for the show.”
Walley-Beckett: We set up a recorder and Bryan came in in between scenes and he was like, “What do you guys want me to do?” And we were like, “Read the poem.” And he was like, “Why? What are we doing? What?”
Johnson: He didn’t quite know what to make of it. I think he was like, “What the hell is this?”
Walley-Beckett: I was like, “Just read the poem.”
Cranston: It was a surprise. I was not familiar with the poem. And I’m glad that they introduced it to me. It escaped me, that poem. But boy, it was just so apropos.
Bernstein: To hear him say those words, it still gives me chills.
Part II: “Are You Gonna Fuckin’ Kill Me Already? I’ve Gotta Get to the Fuckin’ Bar.”
The previous episode ends with a cliff-hanger: After luring Walt from Albuquerque to the nearby To’hajiilee Indian reservation, where his fortune is buried, Hank arrests his nemesis. What the DEA agent doesn’t know is that his brother-in-law has summoned a band of Nazis that, despite the meth king’s attempt to call off the ambush, opens fire. Following a flashback, “Ozymandias” picks up with Walt begging gang leader Jack Welker to spare the wounded Hank’s life.
Johnson: I haven’t done much TV, but the episodes I have done, it seems like there’s usually a couple, like maybe two, maybe three, really intense scenes in the episode, where you’re like, “That’s gonna be a tough day.” You want to kind of build up to it. It really did feel like while making “Ozymandias” that every single day had one of those scenes.
Gilligan: Hank does catch Walt. He would’ve carted him off to prison had it not been for this sort of satanic intervention in the form of these crazy white power drug gangsters showing up.
Michael Bowen (Jack Welker): I’m like, not anywhere near this character, you know what I mean? It’s pretend. It’s not real. My mom was Jewish. I had this girl come up to me at a Circle K and ask me if I knew where to get any meth. She thought I was this character. It was the most bizarre thing and it’s kind of frightening.
Walley-Beckett: We knew, within the reality of the circumstances, that there was no way that Hank could live.
Brandt: As much as I love the show, and I love the storytelling, there was a huge part of me that didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want this horrible thing to happen to Hank even though I knew it was gonna.
Walley-Beckett: We unpacked Hank a lot over the course of the series. He did seem like this jovial, jocular kind of ordinary guy. Until he’s traumatized. And we have whole episodes dealing with [his] PTSD. And then almost being critically wounded. … We see that he’s actually a pretty deep thinker.
Norris: The shield you put up for yourself to deal with all the bad guys and shit you see is to be kind of jocular. “It doesn’t matter to me.” A tough, rough exterior. I never believed that that’s true for people. I think that’s just a thing they put on to deal with all the shit.
Bernstein: Hank was a real moral compass. He went through so much, through panic attacks, and we got a real examination of masculinity.
Brandt: Dean and I met in the waiting room, waiting to meet with Vince for the first time. I didn’t know him but I recognized him, but I couldn’t place from what. I can’t remember but I know that face and I love that guy. And I said, “Hey, can I ask you a question? You think this is a drama or a comedy? I think it’s funny.” And he said, “Yeah, I think it’s funny, too.” I probably went in and leaned into the comedy more because I thought that’s what he was going to do. He’s like, “I leaned into it more because you put that out there!”
Norris: From literally the first time we met at the audition, we’ve been really good friends. She’s just a really sweet person. It was so nice to have that to work with. Because it made all of our scenes easy.
Brandt: If nothing else, I felt like we were well-matched. Even before I knew him and before I knew we were gonna get [the job], I just immediately felt comfortable with him. And still do. I love Dean.
RJ Mitte (Walter Jr.): He’s Uncle Dean Norris, man.
Gilligan: It was tough for the crew, because we all loved Dean Norris and we loved the character Hank.
Cranston: Saying goodbye to Hank was saying goodbye to Dean. And so it really helped the actors bring emotion.
Norris: I don’t want to say it was a party atmosphere, but it was certainly an end-of-the-school-year kind of thing going on.
Gilligan: It was really important to us that he went out with his dignity intact, and that he didn’t go out cowering in fear or anything like that. He went out on his own terms, as much as that was possible.
Cranston: Walt was unable to take a look at his culpability. And then to plead with [Jack], because I got [Hank] into that position—everything that was happening, now unraveling in Walt’s world, was due in no uncertain circumstances to himself.
He was a man that didn’t have the luxury of operating out of his ego for most of his life. And then in the last two years of his life it became primarily functioning by ego. So now we look at this situation, and he was desperate and pleading. It was so hard for me to understand why a man wouldn’t plead for his own life.
Hank’s last line to Walt is crushing: “You want me to beg? You’re the smartest guy I ever met, and you’re too stupid to see—he made up his mind 10 minutes ago.”
Bernstein: To allow him to be the smart one in that scene, and to have the right instincts, and to stick to his guns, I think it was satisfying and certainly helped mitigate the horror of watching him go down.
Cranston: From a cop’s standpoint, he just knew. He was never gonna get out of there alive.
Norris: I remember asking Rian Johnson a couple days before, I said, “Hey, I know there’s going to be a camera with my perspective to the bad guy and there’ll be one with my perspective to Bryan. I just need one little private camera [on me]. He’s going to go out hard, but anybody who knows they’re gonna die is gonna have, obviously, a moment of, ‘Goddammit it’s over.’” And he gave me one little camera. So there are three cameras on that final scene.
Johnson: It was really important to him that he had a moment to himself right before he actually gets shot. Little things like that where he’s like, “I’d like a moment where I just gather myself, a moment of dignity right before he turns his face to [Jack] and says the last line.”
Norris: There’s just a moment that I kind of ripped off from True Romance, when Dennis Hopper is getting grilled by Christopher Walken and he’s just giving it right back to him the whole time, and there’s one little moment where you see he’s like, “Oh, fuck. I’m gonna die.”
Bowen: I know Dean from back in the day. He’s a great actor. I went on auditions, I was trying out for the same scale plus 10 jobs to feed our families. And here I am helping him end his run. It was pretty heavy looking into his eyes. It was difficult. But he was making jokes about it. “Are you gonna fuckin’ kill me already? I’ve gotta get to the fuckin’ bar.” Shit like that.
Norris: Part of deflecting that kind of tension is to just kind of fuck around a little bit.
Bowen: It did kind of mess me up. I was a little emotional. I’m glad they weren’t on me on some of the close-ups. It would’ve been out of character.
Norris: We did the death scene, and it was pretty much one take.
Walley-Beckett: We felt very strongly that we would never show Hank in the aftermath; that we would cut to this wide [shot] of birds and the red cliffs.
Gilligan: That area around To’hajiilee has a lot of these sandstone cliffs, buttes and whatnot, that I guess—I’m not a geologist—have a high iron content. They have that rusty red color.
Norris: I heard [Johnson] say, “Cut.” And he goes, “That’s how you die on TV.” That felt really good.
Walley-Beckett: We have footage of Hank with a bullet hole in his head. As a safety, we shot it. But we knew we would never use it. And we never did. If you go in my Instagram, there’s a cute picture of Dean and Bryan shaking hands or something, saying goodbye when we popped him off. He has a gunshot wound in his neck.
Paul: We’re a family. I just got back from our 10-year reunion. It was so nice to have the family back together. … One of us gets killed off, it’s a sad affair. It’s awful, how it happened. You were rooting, obviously, for Hank to figure this all out. He was this very smart guy. The fact that he had to die was intense. But also it’s just nice sometimes to kind of rip the heart out of the audience.
Norris: That afternoon I got on a plane and went to another job. It was weird.
Brandt: I did not go out to the desert, even though that was technically his last scene. I got together with him after. But I didn’t want to be there. And it wasn’t about me. That was his moment. And I also, and I feel like you may think less of me, but I have to be honest. I’ve said this enough, I don’t want to lie about it. I have never watched that scene.
Part III: “The Worst Possible Thing You Could Imagine”
When Hank dies, the lingering fumes of Walt’s humanity immediately evaporate.
Walley-Beckett: It was an incredible moment shooting that and watching Walt go through that and just dry up. Just the life gets sucked out of him. And his mouth opens and he can make no sound. He just collapses in stages, like this lumbering statue in the poem. Walt crashes to the ground into the dust and sand.
Johnson: You want it to feel like a monumental statue that’s tumbling and falling. I remember being on location and looking at the way specifically that desert earth, when you stepped in it, all these cracks just kind of went across the surface, spidering out from your foot. And I thought, “How great if when his face hit the ground, it cracked like that?” And we gave it to the effects guys to work on. The practical effects guys, they came up with this ingenious rig that was like a jigsaw. When his face contacted with it, the pieces split apart and like, created that effect.
Gilligan: The ground literally splits beneath his face. Those little details were what excited me so much every time we were lucky enough to have Rian direct an episode for us.
Cranston: To have someone at the helm who remains calm and forthright and yet still accessible, not so demanding to a point where you can’t bend his ear. He was really great to work with.
Brandt: You’re aware that it’s good but it doesn’t feel like a lot of work. It feels easy.
Gilligan: He’s like an aikido master or something. I don’t know what the right analogy is. He’s just kind of hanging out and smiling and the crew loves him and he doesn’t seem to doing much and yet he is. I think what you realize is that a lot of the great directors, what makes them great, [is that] they’ve already done the work before they’ve showed up at set.
Johnson presided over arguably the most viscerally upsetting moment of the series: Walt telling Jesse Pinkman, whom he’d just given up to the Nazis, that he chose not to intervene as he watched his mentee’s former girlfriend Jane choke and die after an overdose.
Bernstein: It’s so cruel. The writers, I think they had some elements that were just on [index] cards that were floating for a season. When is this shoe gonna drop? That one was always on their mind. And Vince, as you can tell, is a completist. He did not want to leave any loose ends untied. And that was a big one. What more appropriate moment to close that one question? It was such a reflection of where Walt was.
Paul: The fact that he was actually there that night and watched Jane die and kept that to himself the entire time, through all of Jesse’s turmoil and pain, was really hard for me to stomach. It was something that I always felt he needed to know, but the moment I read it, and I saw that he was in fact going to find out, I instantly took that back, and just thought, “Well, maybe he doesn’t need to know. That’s just too ruthless.”
Cranston: You invest in this character, you empathize with him and root for him despite creating a drug that is detrimental to anyone and everyone. You were already involved in his endeavor that was dubious, from an audience standpoint. And then the writers just started twisting the allegiance, testing the audience. “Now do you still back him? What about now? What about if he did this?” And then just kept twisting and twisting and twisting. And my character did lose faith from a lot of people. They said, “When you did this, I just couldn’t follow you anymore. I just hated you then.”
Bernstein: He’s turned into this bad man. Because I think one of his saving graces was looking out for Jesse and feeling like he cared about him. But to betray him to this horrible group of Nazis? And to send him to some horrible death? And then twist the knife? It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine Walt doing.
Paul: It just showed what Walt had become.
With Hank dead and Jesse now a prisoner of the Nazis, Walt is left with a single barrel of money and a Chrysler with a bullet-torn fuel line.
Walley-Beckett: We had this whole pitch of an image of Walt as a dung beetle, rolling this barrel through the landscape. It was really exciting to imagine.
Bernstein: Scouting for that scene was fantastic. Rian, and Moira, and Brett Dos Santos, he was our [first assistant director] at the time, we’re out in this beautiful New Mexico desert, and looking for a very remote piece of land where Walt could be the dung beetle, just rolling his barrel.
Johnson: For me, I just wanted to get as much scope as possible. The longest possible lens that we could afford to get. I remember just sending the B-camera crew out in a truck way the hell out. And we were on walkie-talkies. “Did you get it? Can you see him?”
What really makes that scene play is the music track [“Take My True Love by the Hand” by ’60s folk group the Limeliters] that I had nothing to do with. I didn’t hear that track until I saw the episode airing on TV, and I think that’s actually the rug that ties the room together.
Walley-Beckett: Everything came full circle in this episode. What if [Walt] just rolled past these abandoned pants from the pilot and didn’t even notice them? And what an amazing Easter egg for those who did. That was so cool.
Part IV: “It Was Biblical”
After driving home in a truck he buys from a man on the reservation, Walt instructs Skyler and Walter Jr. to pack. Unbeknownst to Walt, Marie has just erroneously told them that Hank has arrested him. Junior, gobsmacked by the revelation that his father is a drug lord, and Skyler, suspecting that her husband killed Hank, know they must protect themselves from Walt.
Walley-Beckett: The velocity and the urgency and the horror of the circumstances of all the characters was unstoppable in its momentum.
Cranston: Walt was just stunned that Skyler felt she was in danger from [him]. He couldn’t get over it. He’s spinning out of control at that point. He lost not only his wife’s love, he lost his wife’s trust and faith and he lost his son.
Walley-Beckett: When [Skyler] pulls the knife, we had to coordinate that with the stunt people and teach them the fight, and make it all real and rehearse it and practice it, and Anna [Gunn] and Bryan took it so seriously and yet they’re rolling around on the floor laughing, because it’s so tense. You have to have an escape valve.
Johnson: When you’re doing a fight scene like that you do it in little pieces and you have to be very precise and you have to be very careful so no one gets hurt. Because we had been doing wall-to-wall emotional plumbing until then, to have a moment where they’re kind of rolling around with a knife, the scene where they almost kill each other, it was oddly a little bit of a break.
Mitte: I grew up with a single mom, so I kind of had that backstory. I’ve had my fair share of asshole stepdads. And I kind of had an incident similar to that—not to that level—and it kind of was defused the same way. It’s a standoff. It’s a lose-lose. Everyone’s losing. No one’s winning this situation.
Cranston: His attempt to disarm her was really only intended to do just that, not to cause her any harm. But that escalated the tension and Junior jumped in.
Mitte: Bryan and Anna, they’re fighting over the knife, and I jump in and I pull him off of her. In that scene, I got worked up, and instead of doing the stunt move, I just went back into training and grabbed him by his belt and his collar and moved him. Just kind of threw him, and they were like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s not what we rehearsed!”
Cranston: I’ve just lost my wife and my son who I loved and who I know loved me. And now they fear me. And it’s like he could not reconcile that. And in a moment of abject impulsivity, he grabs the baby because he’s got to have something of his blood, of his family.
Gilligan: When Skyler’s trying to stop him from taking the baby, it just sort of scoops you out watching it. It’s rough. It hollows you out because you’re watching her be hollowed out. You’re watching her lose everything.
Walley-Beckett: That’s incredibly challenging kind of work for an actor. And she would take herself away and she would do her preparation quietly and we would get the camera all ready out in the street because we needed to shoot it a few times in a couple of sizes. [Walt] has to peel out, and she has to follow him and bang on the window with a baby and run down the street after him and collapse onto her knees.
It was so incredibly intense and so horrible for her to manufacture that, take after take. And at one point we had to hold because, like, the world went crazy. And it started to hail. And we couldn’t shoot.
Johnson: It wasn’t just that we couldn’t shoot as the hail was coming down, afterwards the ground was covered with hail. We had wait for the hail to melt before we could actually shoot it. It was biblical.
Walley-Beckett: It was dropping down like golf balls, bouncing off the street where she had to be, and it was like we had conjured such pathos and passion.
Bernstein: I think that image of her in the middle of the street, with blood on her outfit, almost like Jackie O. after JFK’s assassination, just seeing the pure heart-wrenching anguish across her face.
Paul: What Skyler went through. God. And what Anna Gunn went through. Skyler was the thorn in the side [of fans]. People were rooting for this meth kingpin. But I always just felt so bad for Anna, because rightfully so, [Skyler] was disagreeing with everything that [Walt was] doing.
Anna Gunn, in a 2013 New York Times op-ed: I enjoy taking on complex, difficult characters and have always striven to capture the truth of those people, whether or not it’s popular. Vince Gilligan … wanted Skyler to be a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised. But at the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter.
Brandt: It certainly wasn’t “Box Cutter” with the blood and gore, but it was just as awful. To me, there are moments in the series where Walt reaches a new low, and you think he can’t go any lower. And then he just takes the elevator down another floor. He’s just like way down into the basement.
Bernstein: As Walt’s driving away with her baby, after everything else that he’s done, it’s shocking. And you can’t not empathize with that kind of pain and misery and fear that she’s going through.
Gilligan: That’s a tricky thing to pull off because for my money, it’s operatic to the point [that] with a lesser actor it would be soap-operatic.
Mitte: What she brought in that episode was realness, was truth. It was this heart-wrenching decay of her family. Everyone she loved is now jeopardized.
Gilligan: The performance that Anna Gunn gives, it’s just magnificent.
While changing Holly’s diaper in a public bathroom, Walt realizes that he can’t keep her. He puts on his Heisenberg persona one last time to phone Skyler and angrily take sole responsibility for his crimes, including the killing of Hank. Walt then drops the baby off at a fire station before he’s picked up by a fixer who provides him with a new identity and a trip out of town.
Cranston: Why he gives the baby back, is that he calms down and he realizes this was a wrong move. “I can’t do this.” This is not in the best interest of anybody.
Bernstein: To see Walt do those horrible things to Skyler, but then to at least try to cover her with the police. And yelling at her through tears and choking on his own misery to try to do one last good thing for his wife and for his family. I mean, what?
Brandt: I remember [Johnson] saying, “I know Marie doesn’t know what happened, but she knows something is up.” And there is nothing bigger in her life than this other person. So when the phone rings, she’s on it. She’s been watching Skyler’s face for any hint of, “Where is my husband?”
Cranston: We were setting up for a master shot of the bathroom with me and the baby. And it was the first time that we said, “OK, let’s do this,” and we gently took the baby.
Johnson: That baby’s mom was just off camera.
Cranston: That made this baby go, “Mama, Mama.”
Bernstein: It was like somehow she understood what was going on in that scene.
Johnson: That’s one of those pure lightning strikes of luck that you probably don’t get twice in a lifetime.
Cranston: It was me, [director of photography] Mike Slovis, Moira, and Rian. Our eyes bugged out.
Johnson: It started happening, and we all just looked at each other, like “Oh my God! Bryan, please don’t break character.”
Walley-Beckett: What was extraordinary was that Bryan went with it, you know. And it broke his heart wide open. It was more than I could ever have hoped for in the writing.
Cranston: We knew we had gold.
Gilligan: That was one of the best performances in the whole series. That baby looked so sad. I promise you, no babies were harmed in the episode.
Part V: “Then It’s Over”
The episode’s short teaser, a flashback to Walt and Jesse’s first meth cook and a reminder of the moment that Mr. Chips fully commits to becoming Scarface, happened to be the last scene shot in the entire series.
Gilligan: The very final day was my favorite day ever, I think, other than the first day.
Walley-Beckett: We’d been shooting the penultimate episode and the finale. Walt has a beard and hair because he’s gone off chemo and he’s in New Hampshire.
Gilligan: There was a certain hair requirement. We had to shave off his goatee. It was as simple as that.
Johnson: This was a hugely emotional day. So I just tried to really focus on getting the scene shot and then sit back and really enjoy it. It was like being at somebody else’s wedding.
Walley-Beckett: We were out there in the desert with OG Walt and Idiot Jesse—that’s what we used to love to call him.
Paul: We’re just crunched together in the RV, the symbol that started the entire series. It was somewhat poetic.
Cranston: It was a beautiful time. When it comes down to the last day, we’re in To’hajiilee, where we started cooking in the pilot, the same location, the same exact location.
Paul: The final moment, Bryan and I in the RV waiting for them to either yell, “Check the gate,” or “Ready to go one more time,” and we know if they’re gonna say “Check the gate,” that means Breaking Bad is done.
Brandt: You kind of don’t want Vince to say, “We got it.” Because then it’s over.
Paul: I think the last take, or the second-to-last take, Bryan walks by me, and he’s naked underneath his apron.
Bernstein: Bryan still found some opportunity to take his pants off. A total full-circle experience.
Paul: It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. You could hear Vince Gilligan’s incredible, contagious laugh outside the RV because he’s watching on the monitor. Everyone else followed suit.
Cranston: It was Vince who called the final cut and then we all gathered, and there were a lot of tears, and a lot of laughs. It was quite a time, and one of those experiences of a well-lived life, when you can say, “I have a lot of creases on my face because I’ve smiled a lot and I’ve cried.”
Gilligan: I had my camera with me and I was wandering around To’hajiilee. I’d wander around taking pictures and playing in the little hills or whatnot, getting faraway shots of the crew. And watching Rian work and watching Moira work.
Paul: I walked around the whole day saying, “This is awful. This is just terrible.”
Walley-Beckett: Those were pretty much the only sentences that he said the whole day. He couldn’t believe it was over.
Gilligan: Just to be there as kind of the first fan of the show, as a bystander, was the greatest experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Paul: That day we all decided to get matching tattoos. We did it that night at our wrap party at this bar, and it wasn’t like a thing that we were thinking about for so long. I kind of threw it out there, and it just spiraled into reality. So many of the crew joined in. It shows you that we were just so close. Bryan got the logo, “Br/Ba,” his first tattoo ever.
Cranston: You have those times when you realize that you’ve got something very special. Seals & Crofts sang a song when I was in high school, “We May Never Pass This Way (Again),” and that’s the truth of it.
Interviews have been edited and condensed. Through a representative, Anna Gunn declined comment for this story.