Aug. 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM ET
Get ready for a thrill ride when “Breaking Bad” kicks off its final eight episodes Sunday.
“We’re at the top of the roller coaster — no stopping now!” “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan told TODAY.com as he threw his hands into the air.
The award-winning drama about a chemistry teacher turned very, very bad is picking up right where it left off last year, with DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris), realizing that mild-mannered brother-in-law Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is Heisenberg, the ruthless meth boss he’s been doggedly tracking. From the moment the final season begins, the show careens toward a finale that should answer the question as to whether Hank can bring Walter to justice before cancer takes out the drug lord.
“I’m doing my best,” Norris told TODAY.com about Hank’s efforts. “We’ll see if it’s good enough.”
Whether the DEA agent succeeds or not, the stars of the show are confident fans will be pleased with the final ride.
Anna Gunn, who plays long-suffering wife Skyler White, said the first five episodes are exciting, while the final three are breathtaking.
“There were a lot of chain e-mails between the actors as we got into those because the season starts like a rocket and never abates, never eases up on the audience,” Gunn told TODAY.com. “But those last three are so much more emotionally upsetting. We started reaching out to each other, saying, ‘Can you believe this?’ and sharing those feelings through e-mail.”
Part of what has made the drama so gripping is Cranston’s portrayal of Walt and his transformation through five epic seasons.
“Chemistry empowered him. He felt godlike when he was around it. But he developed a fear of success that made him implode into depression. As a teacher, he could hide in an impeachable position,” Cranston told TODAY.com about Walt’s pre-Heisenberg mindset. “By the time he’s 50, he’s fully cast and his (cancer) diagnosis blew everything open for him.”
Though the character has seemed beyond redemption at times, the audience has steadfastly cheered him on despite his numerous bad deeds. And a lot of it has to do with Skyler, whom many fans dislike. Gunn said early on that even she wondered why Gilligan had made Skyler such an unlikable character.
“(Skyler) was kept shrouded from the audience on purpose,” Gunn explained to TODAY.com. “Had you sided with her, then you would have stopped siding with Walt and most likely the show would have suffered.”
Though Skyler’s heart has mostly been in the right place – her family – she herself broke bad. Just a little.
“She consistently said, ‘What you are doing is wrong, dangerous and has consequences,’ ” Gunn pointed out. “She knows what she has done was terribly wrong. She’s totally in a lost place, morally. She’s in purgatory.
“She desperately thinks with (Walt’s) cancer coming back, they can get out of the business and just let the clock run out. But the smarter part of her says that’s not likely.”
After all, Walt is the danger.
Aaron Paul, whose character, Jesse Pinkman, had looked to the former chemistry teacher as a father figure, said Walt’s true character has been revealed to the young man – and Jesse wants nothing to do with him in the last eight episodes.
“He’s just emptied out. He just wants out of the business and to stay as far away from Walt as possible,” Paul told TV critics last month. “He’s terrified of this man. He wants to get away … if he can.”
That’s how much Walt has transformed.
The key art for the final episodes teases, “Remember my name,” and it’s feels like the name left on the lips of the audience will be Heisenberg. But if fans really want to know, just ask Paul.
“Do you want me to tell you how it ends? I will if you really want me to tell you,” Paul, who is once again up for an Emmy for best supporting drama actor, told TODAY.com with all the sincerity only an actor of his caliber can muster. He then launched into a long, ad-libbed tale that was more entertaining than saying he can’t say anything.
Though no one from the cast or crew will spill any hints, what they will say is that the ending is just right.
“It ended as I wanted it to,” Gilligan said.
And Gunn believes the finale is perfection.
“I felt every single character ended up as they should and the story ended as it should,” Gunn said. “There’s a sort of gravity to it, very somber.”
As for Cranston, he said only that he knows how much work has gone into making sure the faithful get some measure of satisfaction at the end.
“I know it will be nothing closely related to ‘The Sopranos.’ There won’t be anything ambiguous about it,” Cranston said of the HBO drama’s abrupt black-screen final scene that left audiences hanging. “I think of it being more like Chuck Lorre – ‘Big Bang’– because you know we’d have to go out like that.”