Comic-Con 2013: 'Breaking Bad' panel live-blog
Time for the final day of Comic-Con, and the final Comic-Con appearance of "Breaking Bad." The AMC drama was a big hit last year in Ballroom 20, despite not being an overtly Con-friendly series, and the farewell panel has been updated to the convention center's enormous Hall H. On hand will be stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, R. J. Mitte, and Bob Odenkirk, plus creator Vince Gilligan. Assuming the ballroom wifi holds up, I'll be live-blogging the whole thing, so check back frequently for updates.
11:17 a.m.: We're running a couple of minutes late already. With "Doctor Who" coming in for a 50th anniversary panel immediately after this one, seats are in as high a demand as I've seen so far at the Con. The line for people still hoping to get into H (where odds are probably very poor until at least "Community" is over) is snaking practically to the Mexico border.
11:21 a.m.: And we're off! Chris Hardwick's back in Hall H to moderate this one. He talks up the show's 13 Emmy nominations this year and says "BB" will "go down in history as one of the best shows" in TV history. He plugs the final season premiere August 11 at 9 p.m. Unsurprisingly, AMC has picked him to host the "Taking Bad" after-show, notes how many people complain about his enthusiasm on "Talking Dead." "I understand that tonally the shows are different, so I will give 'Talking Bad' the respect that 'Breaking Bad' deserves," he says. He says the show will be "more of a retrospective of the series," since it didn't exist in earlier seasons.
11:22 a.m.: A trailer of where we've been until now, starting with Walt in the pilot running over his pants, through all the highlights (Krazy-8, Tuco, Tio's bell, Tortuga's head, the meth boy, introductions of Saul and Gus. many "Bitch"es from Aaron Paul, Jane's death, the plane crash, the Cousin and their shootout with Hank, the box cutter, the crawl space, Tio's final bell, Skyler in the pool, the train heist, the prison massacre, all the way through to Walt opening the trunk on the mahine gun in the future, among others.) Suffice it to say, the show makes for an exceptional trailer.
11:26 a.m.: The cast comes out. Dean Noris is not dressed as Xena this year, but Cranston has entered wearing one of Walt's trademark drab green shirts and glasses. The effect is really disconcerting. And awesome.
11:27 a.m.: Ah, now I know why Cranston looked odd. He was wearing an incredibly realistic Walter White mask. Underneath, he's grown his hair back out and looks more like Hal or Tim Whatley. He walked the floor in the mask, tried to use a higher voice to pretend like he was a fan who made the mask. "So it was fun meeting you, and you met me."
11:28 a.m.: Hardwick asks Gilligan to sum up the emotional experience of both beginning and ending the series. Gilligan didn't forsee any of this happening, including being here in Hall H. Hardwick says it's incredible that a show like this is in this room. Paul: "Yeah, bitch!" Paul has lost count of the number of times people yell "Bitch!" at him.
11:30 a.m.: Was Walt always this bad guy, or did the experience really change him? "I think every single person can run the gamut of emotions," Cranston says. "Under the right circumstances — desperation, need greed, depression — you push those buttons at the right time, and anyone can become dangerous. And that's what happened to Walter White." Cranston says many people had many questions about when he made the turn from Mr. Chips to Scarface, and he feels it happened in the very first episode when Walt decided to cook meth.
11:31 a.m.: Cranston is just staring at the mask now, and has put it over his mic stand so he can talk into his own face. "You are an attractive man!" he tells it. Hardwick brings up Walt's first chemistry lesson of the series about "growth, decay and transformation." Cranston says the entire series is about change. He basically has to put his lips on the mask's lips to be heard. This is disturbing and hilarious. And now Cranston is making Paul talk into the mask. Paul: "Ohmigod, what's happening?"
11:33 a.m.: Paul is talking about Jesse's transformation from a knuckleheaded kid who was impressed by Walt into the scarred adult who wants to stay as far from Walt as possible. Hardwick asks what it's like to shoot these emotionally horrible scenes. Paul says while the show is dark, "The set is very loose and very comical," because of Cranston. "He's the most professional person I've ever worked with, but also the most immature man I've ever experienced."
11:35 a.m.: Scattered cheers for Skyler after Gunn is asked about her evolution. Gilligan told her that she was a parallel to Walt, "in that she had dreams deferred." Life threw both of the Whites some curveballs. "I think she's got the same kind of things living inside of her that he's got inside of him, so when she finds out what's going on with him," rather than turning him in, "she very specifically stays in the situation and thinks she can outsmart it in the same way he thought he could outsmart it."
11:37 a.m.: Does Gunn think this is a good family? "It was always my belief that they really love each other," she says. Through all the power plays between Walt and Skyler, "I think they continued to try and reach through that." Even at the end of season 5A, they were still trying. "It's not a normal family, but what makes a normal family?"
11:38 a.m.: What was this experience like for Mitte? He turns 21 in August, and started the show when he just turned 14, so he spent his teenage years on the show. He wouldn't be who he was today without the show, Bryan and Anna, and everybody. "Most people had high school," he says. "I had 'Breaking Bad.'"
11:41 a.m.: Hardwick notes how one-dimensional Hank seemed at the start, and how incredibly human he is now. Norris loves Hank. "I think he's saddled with morality, and he can't get around it," Norris says. "He's the one guy — his conscience won't allow him to do the wrong thing, to his detriment. He could've lied about beating up Jesse Pinkman and avoided getting his head almost cut off by a couple of Mexican dudes, but he didn't. I think he's that guy."
11:44 a.m.: Many cheers for Saul when Odenkirk's name is mentioned. "I'm just a big fan of 'Breaking Bad' who got a good seat," Odenkirk says. Hardwick asks what Odenkirk thinks of Saul: "He's a sweet fella. He's very good at law. He's got taste and clothing and office architecture. He knows how to put on a show. He's a fun character to play. It's all written. Everything I say is scripted." Because of his background, fans assume he improvises. "The key to Saul, and Vince has said it to me, and I've had fans say it, is he's good at what he does. That's the thing. You see a lot of boobs on TV, they're always fun to laugh at... but in the case of Saul, he's funny, and yet he actually gets stuff done."