The Pivotal Breaking Bad Scene That Almost Didn't Happen, According To Rian Johnson

This article is going to dive into spoilers from Breaking Bad. I know the show has been around so long that its spinoff program, Better Call Saul, has come and gone. Still, if you haven’t yet seen Breaking Bad and still want to remain 96% pure, then back out now.

Take a poll of a random sampling of dedicated television watchers that they likely will tell you that the Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias,” from the final season of the award-winning drama, ranks as one of the best Breaking Bad episodes of all time. And that’s saying such, seeing as Breaking Bad is considered by many to be one of the greatest television programs of all time. So much happens in that episode, from the neo-Nazis finding Walter’s stash of money to Hank dying, to Walt confessing in front of Jesse that he watched Jane die way back in Season Two. What a brutal moment. And according to Rian Johnson, who actually directed the episode, that confession almost didn’t happen, because of troubles they were having on set that day. 

Rian Johnson is making the rounds recently to discuss his sequel to Knives Out, titled Glass Onion. The movie once again brings back Daniel Craig’s deliciously brilliant detective Benoit Blanc, but moves him to a new location, with a whole new crop of suspects. But during an appearance on CinemaBlend’s official ReelBlend podcast, Johnson detoured to Breaking Bad and talked about filming “Ozymandias.” And he shocked the hosts when he seemed to remember, in the moment, that he almost didn’t get the Jane confession moment because the sun was setting and they were losing light. Said Johnson:

The big thing I remember is that the location is in a valley. Which meant we were fighting the daylight. We had even less daylight than we would have because we had to wait for the sun to get over the valley. And then we lost the sun early because it went behind the other side of the valley. So we had to be really efficient. And I remember the day going smoothly. … (But) we got towards the end of the day, the shadow was creeping, and I realized – suddenly I panicked and realized we had forgotten to cover one important moment. We had forgotten to get the shot of Walt, where they've dragged Jesse out, and Walt comes up to him and tells him what he did to Jane. The most heartbreaking moment! So literally, the shadow is creeping across the ground, you can see it moving. And I said, ‘Grab that camera, grab Bryan, grab Aaron.’ And we pulled, literally all the crew, it was like raising the flag at Iwo Jima. They were running to put the camera down. And you could see the sun coming. We put Bryan and said ‘Stand here, right here, and now go!’ And we just kept the camera rolling and got like… Bryan just walked in and fucking nailed it. He did three line readings, and the shadow in the valley is crawling up his calf. We’re just about to lose the light. And he nailed it! And I think the thing is, I think there's an urgency and an energy to what he's doing, where you can feel that rush that we had trying to get that final setup. That's one of those really fun moments. I'll definitely never forget that.

Television is magic. Honestly, all storytelling – film, television, books – they are all miracles that probably should happen. You hear about moments like this, and the obstacles facing the crew, and you have to marvel how anything gets accomplished, and still look so incredible. In that scene, we witness the death of a major, major character and the decimation of Walt’s criminal empire. It won’t go down as one of the best Walter and Jesse partner moments, because it doesn’t involve magnets (bitch). But it’s memorable and legendary. And looked like this:

We still have a lot of debate about Breaking Bad versus Better Call Saul, though there is no wrong answer no matter what side you choose. We’ve even pit Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece against The Wire, though once again, there’s no wrong answer. And now when you watch the above scene, I hope you think of the hustle that Rian Johnson put in to get it captured on film.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.