How 'Breaking Bad' Could Have Ended

Breaking Bad is over. Can you believe it? I myself am in denial. Luckily, regardless of how empty life will feel without Vince Gilligan's mind-bending episodes every Sunday night, there will be years and years of re-watching and discussing to come. At least there's the sweet salvation that there will be more symbols and small details to rediscover in the five incredible, gripping seasons, and more questions to ask that might never be answered. Last night's finale left some satisfied and some still wanting. Here are three alternate endings suggested by the show's cast and creator that may or may not have been more fitting ends to the Mr. Chips-Turns-Scarface masterpiece:

1. Walt's left standing, but his whole family dies.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bryan Cranston considered the possibility of Walt's more spiritual demise, if the ones he loved perished:

Did Cranston feel that the meth lord-in-chief ultimately had to die to give many Breaking Bad fans the closure they were seeking? “Because of his love for his family, there was a thought of mine that, ‘Would it be a more perfect hell for him to have to see his family die – his wife, his son, baby daughter — and he lives?’” he says. “And there’s some merit to that too. But ultimately, I think this is the best ending. A real satisfying ending. And I’m so grateful for that.

As we saw Sunday night, most of the innocents lived — Skyler, Marie, Walt Jr. (aka Flynn), and baby Holly. But would it have been more of a punishment to Walt for his family to die, leaving him with essentially nothing but his $9 million? I'm not sure that the symbolic consequences of this would have been enough. For me, and a lot of other fans, the desire was to see Walter White die — we wanted to know that his life was finally and completely over. Even though after Sunday night's finale we know that the people he left behind have a lot of healing and recovering to do, we're relieved that Walter White cannot cause them any more pain in life. An ending in which Walter White has to deal with the implications of his dead family just wouldn't do it — plus, after he admitted to Skyler that he did it for himself, that creating the megalomaniac Heisenberg and building his drug empire was purely to feel powerful, I'm not sure how much he would actually be suffering if his family were dead.

2. Jesse shoots Walt.

Initially this is what I had hoped for — that sweet, misguided Jesse would finally be able to take the life of the man that essentially stole his. Jesse was roped into Walter White's web on a threat. He was just a kid being scared by a chemistry teacher into making meth to avoid being turned into the police, and yet, by the finale, we see him hardened and tortured by neo-Nazis with the only people he loved in the world dead or as good as dead. (What the hell happened to Brock?) In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, apparently that's what Aaron Paul wanted too:

In shooting the scene in which Jesse refuses to shoot Walt, Paul wound up (semi-)fulfilling a desire he’d possessed for years. “I always had the vision of Jesse pointing a gun to Walt’s head, I really did,” he explains. “I’m like, ‘It’s got to end like this,’" and deep down, I wanted Jesse to kill Walt. But the closer we got to the end, I realized I didn’t want that.

Honestly, I'm glad that Jesse didn't kill Walter White; he didn't give him the satisfaction of getting out that easily. If he wanted to die, he would have to do it himself. For once, Jesse didn't give Walt what he wanted — he would no longer blindly follow his orders. Plus, even though Jesse killed Gale, in my eyes (and most fans'), he's not really a murderer. If Jesse had killed Walt, he would have regretted it. I'm glad that the last person he killed was soulless, dead-eyed Todd. In fact, my only gripe with the finale was that it needed a lot more Jesse, but I have said that about every episode.

3. Walt gets away with it.

First of all, I'm not really sure what this ending (suggested in the writers' room, according to Vince Gilligan) would entail — Walt lays low and starts a new life in New Hampshire with his millions? That would feel so empty and unsatisfactory, and would stunt the character development we've seen in Walter White throughout five seasons. At least in Sunday's finale, Walt finally began feeling an iota of remorse for the irrevocable damage he did to the people that he claimed to love so much.

But, in some ways, it can be argued that Walt DID get away with it — he essentially died on his own terms, from a bullet from his own gun. Perhaps it would have been more satisfying if the cops had caught him, or if ASAC Shrader had been able to bring him to justice. But I'm glad we saw him weakened, long-haired, morose — much like the Walter White we saw in the first episode of Breaking Bad. In Sunday night's finale, he was no longer a legend, a kingpin, the one who knocks — he was a man trying to make amends too late.

Image: Ursula Coyote/AMC