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Previously on 'Breaking Bad'

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'Breaking Bad' star Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan, the show's creator. Submitted photo.
  • 'Breaking Bad' star Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan, the show's creator. Submitted photo.

Last season, the AMC series Breaking Bad ended with Jesse shooting Gale. One meth cooker killing another.

It seemed that point blank. And Vince Gilligan, the show's creator, told critics as much.

Then fans started weighing in with their opinions, and "an ambiguity I never saw coming" emerged, Gilligan said. Now, suddenly, he had some wiggle room.

So what happens when this series about high school chemistry teacher-turned-methamphetamine cooker Walter White begins its fourth season? We'll find out at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 17.

Here are two things that can be shared now: The show will continue to take Walt "from an absolute lack of understanding about the business to a greater and greater understanding of how it works and what it means to be a criminal," Gilligan said in an interview.

And while Breaking Bad, one of TV's best series, is far from finished, its star, Bryan Cranston, thinks "it's not going to end well" for his character.

"I want this series to end at the right time," he said. "I don't want to stay a year too long. That would kill me if everyone felt there was an asterisk: The first four years were great, but the fifth year or sixth year wasn't. I have a feeling we're going to be able to guide it into exactly where it should end."

In an interview, Gilligan talked about the end of last season and the eventual end of the series.

NUVO: With Jesse and Gale, did you really see it that Gale was shot, he's dead, the end?

Gilligan: Because there's been so much attention about this, so much ambiguity about this - the viewers see this in such an ambiguous way - I'm a little reluctant now to be too firm on what happened and what didn't happen. I can tell you that I didn't think the ending was as ambiguous as apparently it has turned out to be. I was directing that episode, and in my mind's eye, Jesse was staying very steady on his target and the camera was coming around to meet him. Because it seemed scarier to me to shoot it that straight at the viewer than to shoot a gun a little off at the viewer.

But having said that, it really made us think, in the writers' room. And I can't really tell you where we come down on it, but I can tell you that, as with a lot of the most fun moments for us, the writers, on Breaking Bad, sometimes find that opportunities present themselves, and the way the audience perceives something offers you an escape hatch. And you realize that you can go in another direction than you thought you could go in. I can tell you for sure my writers and I spent our first day in the writers' room talking for hours - literally, for hours - about whether or not we're heading in the right path. I'm being coy here, but don't take it for granted that he's not dead, and don't take it for granted that he is, either.

NUVO: Where did the ambiguity come from?

Gilligan: Interviewers like yourself said to me, "So what really happened?" And I would say, "What do you mean?" And they would say, "It looks like he pointed his gun in a different direction at the end of the show?" I said, "Really?" And I don't really get online to look up the show, but all of my producers and writers do, and they gave me in a nutshell what people were saying and how they were reacting. They started telling me that people thought this might have gone in a different direction. Then we consider. We think about things.

NUVO: When you have a show where the main character is constantly in trouble and has to constantly escape, how hard is that to keep fresh?

Gilligan: It's tough. And at a certain point, we will reach a point of diminishing returns - like every show in the history of television - and we won't be able to continue that juggling act. I can tell you right now, I hired really smart writers. We bust our asses day in and day out to try to keep things fresh and unpredictable. I like to believe we're pulling it off.

NUVO: Do you have an endgame in mind?

Gilligan: Not an endgame so much, but I have a hard time seeing the show go past season five. All I can look at in any given season is that one year that we're on, right then and there. Right now, I can't see past season four. I'd like to tell you we have the whole series plotted out to the bitter end, but that'd be lying to you. And it's a good thing - you've got to be able to keep it fresh and mixing it up.

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