With all those moving parts, what cracked open the ending [to Breaking Bad]? And when did it become apparent that Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz would play a key role in the final two episodes?
The biggest single fear we had was what to do with that damn machine gun. At the beginning of the final run of 16 episodes, we had Walt buy a machine gun in the trunk of a Cadillac. That was the thing I remember freaking us out the most because we did that, I committed to that. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my career was committing to the idea of Walter White buying a machine gun when we did not know what he was going to do with it. We had no clue. There were literally months on end when I was completely freaked out. We’d be in the writers room’ for a full day, and I’d be slowly banging my head against the wall — not enough to hurt myself but just enough to jar the ideas loose. And everybody was kind of worried about me.
Once we figured out this machine gun, that was when the dam broke and things started slowly to click together. It was after that point that we figured he’s got to win. He’s lost everything because of his hubris and his pride and his ego. He’s lost his family, he’s lost his soul. But he’s got to win on some level. He’s at least got to deliver that money to his family. How the hell does he do that once the world knows who he really is? When we figured out that Gretchen and Elliott could be the mechanism by which Walt wins and gets that money to his family, that was a good day.