“Breaking Bad” fans who are still struggling with their final goodbyes to Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and the rest of the characters have a little to be thankful for right now. "No Half Measures: Creating the Final Season of 'Breaking Bad,'" a feature-length documentary shot during filming of the hit AMC drama's final season in Albuquerque, is now available exclusively as part of the series’ Blu-ray box set, a barrel-shaped thing of beauty available beginning Tuesday.
The documentary kicks off in the desert, where the final scenes of the series were shot to act as flashbacks in episode 514, "Ozymandias." Rian Johnson directed that episode, and one of the more touching moments in the documentary show him asking creator Vince Gilligan to call "cut!" on the show's very last take ever. At which point, Gilligan tears up in a way that tells you this all meant something immeasurable to him.
And that's probably because the show could've just as easily never happened. Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton isn't shy about sharing his initial thoughts on the show's premise, remembering in the documentary that he told everyone the show was "nuts" and warned them all that "it's your career." This was not a success that anyone could've ever predicted, except maybe for leading man Bryan Cranston.
Cranston, who was cast when he was best known as the dad from sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle," says he knew that "Breaking Bad" was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and admits wanting to "spray my scent all over that character" to make sure Gilligan cast him in the role. Luckily Gilligan had written the part with Cranston in mind.
As No. 1 on the show's call sheet—the spot designating the series lead actor—it was Cranston's unofficial job to set the tone on set. The result? A sense of humility and appreciation for being part of something great, with lots of joking around between takes. As evidenced by Cranston pulling down Walter White's signature tighty whities to bare his behind to the camera during Aaron Paul's final scene on camera. Yep, that's all captured for the documentary—the side of Walter White no one ever knew they needed to see.
There are plenty of other moments that help shed more light on the magic of the little meth show that could, including:
- Dean Norris and Betsy Brandt (Hank and Marie Schrader, respectively) chose to watch Walter White's confessional tape for the first time while the cameras were rolling to get a true reaction.
- The hilarious alternate ending that popped up online, featuring Cranston's "Malcolm" TV wife Jane Kaczmarek, was all Cranston's idea.
- Cranston and Paul read the final script together, over beers, at Cranston's house for cameras. While Cranston narrated the action of the machine gun massacre, complete with sound effects, Paul's mouth was wide open in shock, not unlike the reaction most fans had when it aired.
- As each cast member wrapped shooting on their final scene, Gilligan, Cranston and the crew presented them with huge character posters signed by everyone. (For Brandt, Cranston pointed out that he wrote, "I'd do her" next to the photo of Marie.)
Two months after the series finale aired, the cast has gone their separate ways and made plans for what's next, but during the cast Q&A after a Monday screening of the doc, Gilligan admitted he still has a few (very nitpicky) regrets: Jesse Pinkman's teeth stayed "too pearly white" for a true meth addict; Hank once referenced the DMV when it's actually called the Motor Vehicle Division in Albuquerque; and Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) once referred to Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) as "Don Salamanca," when in Spanish it would have been "Don Hector."
Looking back, if those tiny details were their only half measures in 62 one-hour TV scripts, that’s a good sign of a successful run.