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Warning: Breaking Bad spoilers ahead! Read forward at your own risk!
AMC's Breaking Bad turns ten years old in 2018, and many fans have started to look back on the legacy of the beloved drama. A game-changing series primarily centered on an anti-hero's ability to think his way out of tight situations, that tendency to improvise was very much a constant in the real-life creation of the show as well. In fact, Vince Gilligan recently opened up about the history of the series and admitted that the tease of the machine gun in Season 5 represented the hardest plotline for the writers to figure out. Gilligan explained:
I figured, 'Wow, 16 episodes. Oh man, we got all the time in the world. We'll figure it out.' No idea what the hell Walt needed this thing for, which was so idiotic in hindsight. And I gotta tell you, the reason I remember it very distinctly is because working on the final four or five episodes of Breaking Bad, and my writers very astutely reminded me over and over again, whether I wanted to hear it or not, that we needed to work this machine gun thread into the storytelling. At a certain point, I so did not want to hear it, and furthermore, I would have these flights of fancy where I would say, 'You know what? Let's pretend the machine gun thing never happened.' And they would say, 'Okay. We can do that, but what's the point?' I said, 'What would we do without the machine gun?' And they would, again rightly say, 'Well, it doesn't really matter what would do, story-wise, without that because we gotta pay that thing off.' Then I would get mad and sometimes I would pound my forehead against the wall, literally, because I don't know why, that helped. Or at least I felt like it did.
An old storytelling cliché dictates that if you see a gun early in a story, then it will have to go off by the end of the narrative. Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad team showed Walt getting his hands on a huge machine gun at the beginning of Breaking Bad's fifth season, but they had no idea how to pay it off at the time. They had to figure it out by the time the series finale aired in 2013. Although the machine gun eventually did pay off, the process of weaving it back into the story from premiere to finale became so tricky that Gilligan was ready to write the tease off and forget about the machine gun entirely until his team convinced him to stick with it.
Eventually, the Breaking Bad writing team did manage to figure out a way to work the machine gun into the story by creating circumstances in which Walt needed to kill an entire room full of white supremacists, who were the clear go-to bad guys for the series finale. However, Vince Gilligan also noted that the creation of Jack and his gang was more of a constant evolution than one definitive "eureka" moment. Gilligan continued:
So, I don't remember the big eureka moment. I remember, obviously we talked about, well, what do you need a machine gun for? It's not just for killing one guy, it's for a whole squad of guys. So, slowly but surely we started to figure out, 'Well there's gotta be a gang in there somewhere,' and the white supremacist gang led by Uncle Jack came into being. As always, we tried to play chess 20 moves ahead, but that's as hard as it sounds. It's really hard to figure that stuff out. So I don't remember any particular eureka moment.
Of course, that machine gun dilemma was far from the only "painful" conundrum that Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad writing team had to work their way out of over the course of the show's run on AMC. Elsewhere in his interview with Uproxx about the legacy of the show, Gilligan similarly reflected on the Season 3 episode called "Sunset" in which Hank cornered Jesse and (unbeknownst to him) Walt in the RV at a junkyard.
Although the episode made Walt look like a genius for his ability to trick Hank and escape the trap, the reality of the situation was that it took several professional writers weeks to crack -- with them even pitching the idea of Walt simply killing Hank at one point. In the end, they figured out a way to have Walt trick Hank into thinking that Marie had ended up in the hospital so that Hank would race away, but the sequence depicted in the show doesn't even come close to showing how much thought went into these major creative decisions.
With all of that said, even with the difficulties in cracking these situations, the Breaking Bad universe still wows audiences to this very day. That will continue when Better Call Saul returns for its fourth season, but for now, you can check out CinemaBlend's midseason premiere guide to see what shows are on the horizon for the next few months.