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Hank Schrader central to final 8 Breaking Bad episodes

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The scoop:

Dean Norris's character Hank Schrader will be instrumental in the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, reports Canada's National Post. When Norris reportedly asked series creator Vince Gilligan if his character could be killed off so he could pursue another acting gig, Gilligan responded, "I need you. What else am I going to write about in the last eight?"

Schrader's apparent centrality to the rest of the show's storyline is a big revelation for a fan base that is accustomed to being unsure about what to expect next, especially given that the show will conclude this summer.

Rolling Stone interviewed Vince Gilligan:

"We are in a decidedly undecided state," says Gilligan, taking what seems like a welcome break from the writers' room. "There's an undercurrent of tension­ – related to how we feel about the terrible prospect of ending it badly."

Do you now think that Walt broke bad long before this show's narrative started – maybe around the time he realized he'd given away a share of a billion-dollar company for $5,000? 

Yeah. I'm gonna do a bad job paraphrasing it, but one of the truest statements anyone's ever said about Hollywood is, "Success in Hollywood doesn't change you so much as it reveals who you really are, deep down inside." That analogy could be applied to a lot of life-changing events. In the case of Walter White, finding out in that first episode that he's dying of terminal cancer frees him, as he puts it. It means that he is now awake, and this awakening from sleepwalking through the first five decades of his life, this sudden lack of constraint or inhibition, allows him to be the person that he truly is. Unfortunately, the person that he truly is is most definitely not all good.

Why would Walt keep the Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass book that's so intensely incriminating? And why would he keep it in the bathroom, where Hank could easily see it?

Well, we've never actually seen Hank use his bathroom before, but, having said that, you gotta picture that probably Hank has used it before. It was definitely [laughs] a mistake on Walt's part. But I think – I guess the bigger question of Walt keeping it, rather than discarding it, speaks to something within Walt that also allows him or compels him to keep that plastic teddy bear eyeball that kept turning up over and over again in multiple episodes. But having said that, him keeping the book of poetry anywhere in the house does, admittedly, put him at risk. But it also speaks to his comfort level. He has been a criminal now for what seems to be a very long time, and he is kind of used to the feeling of it. He's kind of used to the lifestyle, to the point that he doesn't look over his shoulder perhaps quite as much as he ought to.

All these characters are like Schrödinger's cat right now. They're just sitting in that box, right? 

They kind of are. They're either dead or alive. I'm not sure what's going on inside that box right now.

In my cover story, Bryan Cranston mentioned that he asked you a bunch of questions about the flash-forward. When he asked, "Why am I back?" you told him, "To protect someone." Is that an answer that you're gonna stick with? 

I wouldn't shy away from sticking with that, just because it's been in print, but we really are – we're questioning everything at this point. It doesn't give me great pause to have that out there. But having said that, we're not, at this point, afraid to change it, either. Our prime directive here – our mandate – is to make the ending as satisfying and as dramatic as possible. To that end, we've got a lot of good ideas, I feel, but any minute that a better idea comes along, we'll jettison the good idea for the better idea, no matter where it may take us. So could go either way. Could wind up being exactly that, or could be something different.

Walter White is now a total sociopath. 

He is becoming – if not out-and-out sociopathic, he does seem more and more divorced from the consequences of his actions, and more removed from feelings of guilt or ownership of some of these terrible events that have been happening. I think the interesting thing about Walter White to me is in that moment, when he says, "It's a terrible thing what happened to this child," I think he means it. I don't think he's simply lying to Jesse to get Jesse to do the things that he wants him to do, although there's certainly an element of that. But when those moments arise in Walt's life, I think he feels bad about these things, but he's made out of Teflon these days, I suppose. These kind of moments, they affect him a little bit, at least, and then they just kind of wash off his shoulders. He's at a point where he does not take responsibility, and I guess, in a way, it makes sense that he doesn't, because if he did, he would very quickly stop cooking meth and stop being a criminal, and then we wouldn't have a TV show. [Laughs] He'd suddenly take up gardening and, I don't know, do something more pleasant, and then the show would end.

Hank's discovery that Walt is Heisenberg poses some problems for him as a professional.  He looks like an idiot, and he also looks possibly complicit, since he accepted what turns out to be drug money from his brother-in-law to get his therapy. How much have you discussed that idea? 

Well, that's good attention to detail. That's what I love about viewers of this show. We try not to let anything slip, and they don't either. Yeah. Everything you just said. All good points. All true. It is, suffice it to say, it's a good thing Hank was sitting down, and it was a good thing he had his pants off and was on the toilet when the biggest revelation of his life hit him. We almost thought of putting in some really amazing sound effects in that moment, but then we figured nah, that's going too far. [Laughs] It is indeed an "oh, shit" moment. The ultimate "oh, shit" moment. But it is – all joking aside – it's the single biggest, most horrible revelation that this man in his 47 years on this planet has ever had, and all that goes with that is in play and can be expected, in some form or another, to drive the narrative going forward into the final eight episodes.


In lighter news, Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman could be the mayor of Las Vegas in a spinoff.

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