He's fought lung cancer into remission. He's built a million-dollar meth empire for himself. He's murdered drug kingpins, poisoned a little boy and been complicit in the shooting of another. But Walter White's long, dark journey on Breaking Bad – from hapless chemistry teacher to drug-dealing egomaniac – isn't over yet.
The acclaimed AMC series has eight episodes left, and creator Vince Gilligan spent an hour reflecting on the series with cast members at Comic-Con International on Sunday. Though they didn't divulge any details about how the series will end, they did screen the opening clip from the first episode of the upcoming season, which premieres August 11th.
The scene shows Bryan Cranston's White sporting a scruffy beard and full head of hair, looking tough and raggedy as he pays a visit to his Albuquerque home. The place has been deserted, kids are skateboarding in the pool in the back yard, and somebody's spray-painted the name "Heisenberg" on the wall. Before taking off, White opens up a light socket to retrieve the vial of deadly ricin he'd stashed there at the start of season five.
Who's the target for the poison? Could it be Hank, Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law? In a panel moderated by Chris Hardwick and featuring actors Cranston, Dean Norris (Hank Schrader), Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), Anna Gunn (Skyler White), R.J. Mitte (Walter White, Jr.) and Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman) – Gilligan would only say that he's "satisfied" with the show's ending.
"I am so sad this show's over. I'm going to miss these guys so much. I'm going to miss you guys and I'm going to miss Comic-Con," Gilligan told the audience. "I'm sad, sad, sad."
The latest Breaking Bad episodes find Mr. White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, in ultimate baddie mode, asserting himself in bold new ways and killing off anyone who stands in his path (including the colorful fixer Mike Ehrmantraut). But Cranston was in a goofy mood, slapping on a Walter White mask to mingle with Comic-Con attendees on the floor of the San Diego Convention Center before showing up to the panel.
It wasn't long before Cranston was getting raunchy with the mask, slipping his tongue between its lips. When asked what the vibe was like on set for the show, Paul assured the crowd that it's usually loose and comical.
"It's really because of this man," he said, gesturing at Cranston. "He's the most professional person I've ever worked with, and also the most immature man I've ever experienced."
Still, for all of Cranston's good humor, he offered penetrating insight into the inner workings of humankind.
"We have the full spectrum of emotions available to us, and if under the right circumstances – desperation, need, greed, whatever the case may be, depression – if you hit those buttons at the right time, anyone can become dangerous," he said.
During the Q&A session, Gilligan explained one of the show's more mysterious plot points: How did White slip the poisonous lily of the valley flowers to Brock, the son of Jesse's girlfriend?
"The way we worked it out in our timeline, he had just enough time to do it, but it would've been very tricky indeed," Gilligan said. "I think probably what he did is he kind of crushed some of the stuff up, put it in a juice box or something," and then somehow snuck it into Brock's school.
Walt's teenage son, Walt, Jr., is still in the dark about his dad's misdeeds, and actor R.J. Mitte said he's a bit skeptical that his character hasn't noticed something's up. But he said he's learned a lot from his role as the teenager.
"I'll be 21 in August. I started the show when I was just turning 14," he said, as awwws broke out from the audience. "Most people had high school . . . I had Breaking Bad."
Sunday marked the final day of Comic-Con, and while the schedule was thinner, the line for the mega-sized Hall H, where the Breaking Bad event was held, was as insane as ever. The sun hadn't even gone down Saturday before enterprising campers had gathered their sleeping bags and blankets to line up. Anybody who didn't secure a spot at a ridiculously early hour risked missing out.
But the room emptied out considerably when the Doctor Who panel wrapped up after Breaking Bad. As attendees in red Doctor fezzes and TARDIS dresses rolled out, the room filled with fans eager to see the panel for NBC's wacked-out sitcom Community.
Community creator Dan Harmon recently returned as showrunner after being fired last season, and he marked the occasion by stepping onstage in a homemade Iron Man outfit. Actors Jim Rash (Dean Pelton) and Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir) helped him pull off the suit, and in a blazer and T-shirt, Harmon discussed his goals for the 13 episodes that will make up the show's fifth season.
"Nobody wants to not fail more than me at this point," Harmon said. "I really, really have to make these 13 count. I don't consider them the last 13."
Asked by moderator Hardwick about plans for the season, Harmon said he wants to "re-ground" the show, get back to the "emotional basics," and do an animated episode. But, he added, he doesn't want to plan things out too much.
"If I made mistakes in season three, it had a lot to do with planning, over-planning – thinking about the finale during the shooting of the first episode," he said.
Later in the panel, Harmon apologized, again, for the controversial comments he recently made about the episodes of season four, during which he was replaced by showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port.
"When I said that naughty stuff about having watched season four, I was talking about my own experience watching it," he said. "But a fan of Community does not have to be a fan of Dan Harmon, and vice versa. I implore you to make that distinction. I am a creepy jerk."
Community has always struggled with the threat of looming cancelation, but its rabid fan base has helped keep the show alive. The cast members thanked fans for their support on Sunday, and reminded them of their latest Twitter campaign to push for six seasons and a movie.
For the cast of Community, dealing with uncertainty just seems to be part of the job.
"I've never felt secure for one single second on this show," said Gillian Jacobs, who plays Britta Perry. "But I never had steady employment before this show. So this is all I know."
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