“Breaking Bad” threw its fans a serious curveball with the opening scene of Season 5, one that skips ahead in time and shows Walter White (Bryan Cranston) up to no good away from his home base of Albuquerque.
Zap2it asked series creator Vince Gilligan about the flash-forward scene, and he explained his thinking in opening the season with the sequence and talked a little about when the show will circle back to it. (Short answer: Eventually.) But first, let’s break down what happens in the scene (go here to read a full recap of the episode).
(It should go without saying that there are spoilers below, but for the record: There are spoilers below.)
Walt is apparently celebrating his 52nd birthday at a Denny’s. The series began with Walt’s 50th birthday, so it’s now two years since we first met him — and based on the events of the first four seasons, roughly a year ahead of the show’s present day. (The waitress also calls him “Mr. Lambert.”)
Walt looks very different than he does in the present (i.e., in the picture above): He has a full head of hair again, along with a full beard, he’s looking pretty ragged in an oversize jacket and jeans, along with different glasses than he normally wears.
Things really get interesting when Lawson, the guy who sold Walt his gun in last season’s “Thirty-eight Snub” and played by “Supernatural” and “Deadwood” veteran Jim Beaver, walks in the restaurant. They meet in the bathroom, where they exchange a few words and what looks to be an envelope full of cash. “I got your word this won’t wind up crossing the border?” Beaver’s character asks. Walt replies, “It’s never leaving town.”
“It” turns out to be a really large gun Beaver’s character has left in the trunk of an old Cadillac. Walt exits the restaurant, grabs a bag out of the trunk of a Volvo with New Hampshire plates, matching the state of his fake driver’s license (New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto gives the episode its title), and tosses the bag in the trunk with the gun.
Gilligan promises the show will return to this scene — sometime. “It’s certainly a good question that will pop very quickly into many people’s minds,” he says. “The best answer I can give is to expect an answer to that — just don’t have any expectations about when you’ll get that answer. It will be answered before it’s all said and done, but you may need a little patience.”
To these ears, Gilligan’s answer sounds like “Breaking Bad” won’t pick up this thread again until the second half of its final season — which won’t air until 2013. Shooting resumes in late November, and Gilligan and his fellow writers will begin working on the final episodes in a few weeks, including figuring out how to get the story to the point we saw in Sunday’s episode.
“It’s frightening or exhilarating, depending on how you look at it, how little we know sometimes about where we’re going,” Gilligan confesses. “… Those are the two emotions we feel when we plant our flag story-wise and say to ourselves and to the viewers, ‘This is where we’re headed.’
If I knew exactly how we’re going to get there, that would be wonderful. It would take a lot of pressure off. But on the other hand, it would leave out the possibility of my writers and I coming up with further interesting ideas or avenues into which to take our characters.”
So let the speculation begin: How do you think Walt ends up in that particular Denny’s, and why does he need such a big gun?
This post has been updated to correct Walt’s location and add the name of Jim Beaver’s character.