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Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston Shares Firm Beliefs About Debated Finale Detail

I don't think it's a particularly blasphemous judgment to say that Breaking Bad fans are of different minds when it comes to the highly discussed series finale, titled "Felina." From those who don't believe Bryan Cranston's Walter White actually died to those who will forever begrudge Todd's neo-Nazi uncle (to the millions of opinions in between), Breaking Bad fans are a detail-oriented group. One particular character action that has flummoxed some viewers for years is the moment in the finale when Walt parts with the wristwatch that Aaron Paul's Jesse gave him. Creator Vince Gilligan previously shared his reasoning for Walt's decision, but now Cranston has offered up a different explanation.

After the Breaking Bad finale aired back in 2013, Vince Gilligan actually did clarify the choice to show Walt taking off his watch and leaving it atop the payphone he used to scam information about Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz. Gilligan claimed the practical explanation came down to continuity. The writers only came up with the idea to have Jesse give Walt the watch as a birthday present after the diner birthday was filmed for the Season 5 premiere, in which Walt wasn't wearing a watch, so the pay phone bit in the finale was written to reverse-engineer justification for the premiere.

A fine explanation, to be sure, but Bryan Cranston isn't buying such tomfoolery. While appearing on the podcast That Scene with Dan Patrick, the actor brushed aside that error-tethered excuse and shared his thoughts on the creative choice being much more tied to story and character. In his words:

No, this was not continuity. It was specifically written in the script that he leaves it behind specifically to not be a part of that world anymore. He’s transitioning. He knew that was the end of his days. He knew he was not going to survive beyond that day, and he was leaving everything behind, and that was a symbol of that.

It's 100% understandable that Bryan Cranston is going to side with a notion that speaks to the storytelling brilliance of Vince Gilligan and Breaking Bad's writing staff, and that he wouldn't be as quick to chalk it all up to the idea that the premiere's flash-forward was filmed before all the narrative puzzle pieces were formed. Granted, Walt and Jesse's watch connection wasn't as integral to the story as, say, Dennis Hopper's watch was to the plot of Speed, but it still enjoyed as meaningful an arc as a non-living Breaking Bad object gets.

walter white leaving wristwatch on payphone in breaking bad

Bryan Cranston continued, explaining that the motivation behind leaving the watch at that payphone was all about separating End of Days Walt from the person he was before.

To me, it was leaving the past. Ridding himself of any talisman that put him back to who he was at the beginning of the show or any association with that. He was given that watch by Jesse Pinkman.

To be sure, when Vince Gilligan first explained the idea behind Walt's watch moment, he did share a similar sentiment to what Bryan Cranston said, calling it the artsy-fartsy reason. And in the scheme of things, Cranston isn't necessarily wrong, in that I'm sure the finale's script wouldn't have featured a note about there being continuity errors. That said, Cranston possibly would have remembered the continuity aspect had it come up on the set at all, so that conversation must have been relegated just to the writing team.

There are still lots of Breaking Bad mysteries to debate while rewatching the series on Netflix, and while waiting for Better Call Saul Season 6 to debut and link the prequel spinoff to the flagship drama, hopefully with Bryan Cranston involved in some capacity.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.