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Throughout most of television's history, lead characters were almost always either good guys or bad guys, so to speak, but the early 2000s changed all that forever. The rise of the antihero was led by fan favorites such as Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, Omar Little and more, with many TV fans agreeing that Breaking Bad's Walter White deserves a spot on or near the top of Antihero Mountain. But it turns out creator Vince Gilligan has grown a little weary with the ongoing entertainment trend, and he's ready to see some true-blue heroes on TV again. In his words:
I watched a lot of TV growing up, a lot of '50s and '60s reruns. Back then, the order of the day was you had folks wearing white hats and you had folks wearing black hats. There were good guys and bad guys. But real people are various shades of grey. With Walter White, and loving The Sopranos and The Shield, maybe now we've got so many of them that maybe it's time for heroes again. I don't know if we can ever go back to characters who are all good or all bad, but maybe around the corner are more characters who are flawed and yet work very hard to do the right thing and want to be good, even when they're not. Even when they try and they fail.
Anyone growing up solely watching TV that has come out in the last 20 years may not have a solid inkling of how delineated the lines were between heroes and villains for the first 50+ years of the medium's existence. Sure, there were protagonists who stepped over the line, and antagonists who lent an occasional helping hand, but you wouldn't see shows like Profit or Dexter hitting primetime in the 1980s. And perhaps fittingly, the man who created one of the most iconic "quasi-monsters we love to root for" is now ready to see television return to its roots by ushering more clearly defined heroes back to the fictional forefront.
Vince Gilligan's biggest pre-Breaking Bad gig was as a writer and producer on The X-Files, which did center on two characters who almost always did the "right" thing, but also featured supposedly virtuous government workers whose motivations and morals were consistently iffy. Not exactly hitting the anti-hero mold as it would come to be recognized, but still balancing the line between right and wrong in different ways. (And while on the Paley Center for Media stage, via Variety, Gilligan claimed after his X-Files stint, he knew he wouldn't be able to survive showrunning a series with over 20 episodes a season, so don't expect Saul to double its episode count soon.)
So when it came time to create his own TV universe, and the characters that would populate it, Vince Gilligan chose not to introduce a chemistry teacher who wanted to completely eradicate the crystal meth problem creeping through Albuquerque, New Mexico. Instead, he inflicted Walter White with a major conflict -- he's dying of cancer and has to give his family a better life beyond his death -- and basically gave Walt free rein over how to fix that problem. Which, as fans know, included some truly horrible situations, not the least of which were watching his partner-in-crime's girlfriend Jane die and blowing up half of a man's face.
Vince Gilligan remained in the same crime universe with the spinoff prequel Better Call Saul, and while the first few seasons were more about exploring Jimmy McGill before his shyster turn as Saul Goodman, the show is now heading into darker times by embracing its inner Gus Fring. Star Bob Odenkirk recently admitted he is wary of making the deep dive into Saul's persona, because he actually likes Jimmy's nice-guy personality, and doesn't share those feelings for his Breaking Bad lawyer. And it sounds like Vince Gilligan might also be slightly dreading Better Call Saul's downward spiral, which likely won't be introducing any upstanding heroes in Season 4.
With Better Call Saul Season 4, Vince Gilligan & Co. are getting even closer to the point in the timeline when Heisenberg's origin story begins, so here's hoping he finds a new project at some point where he can create his own new TV hero to cheer for without any mixed feelings to wade through. But only after Jimmy slips his way into becoming Saul for the long haul. Find out what happens when Season 4 kicks off on AMC on Monday, August 6, at 9:00 p.m. And then head to our summer premiere schedule to see what else is on the way.