Last night, in what may be argued was the greatest finale to a television show ever created, Breaking Bad finally wrapped up after five seasons. All throughout this last season, Killer Mike has been recapping episodes, trying to get to the bottom of how exactly this epic arc would come to an end. The finale was just as exhilarating as fans hoped, and XXL hopped on the phone with Mike for an extended discussion about how this show manipulated its characters and its viewers and kept everyone guessing until the very end. As Mike says, show creator Vince Gilligan has earned a beer next time we run into him. So long, Breaking Bad. It’s been a hell of a ride. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
XXL: Let’s talk about it.
Killer Mike: Let’s get to this shit. Walter White died in a Christ-like criminal fashion. That was Christ-like for a criminal. What’s dope about this show is that the characters don’t just get taken for a ride, you get taken for a ride. A few episodes ago, I thought Walt was trying to be Gus—sustain this thing long-term, master it—but it was never about that. It took me watching the end to realize what this has all been about. What’s that saying about those who can’t, teach? When we got introduced to Walt, he was a teacher; his greatest legacy would have been one or two students doing something good and succeeding. Having that business opportunity that he was robbed of, I think awakened him, and having cancer awakened him to the idea that when you leave this earth, you need to leave behind some type of legacy. And what I loved about the end of that show was, he is freeing Jesse, settling his wife and letting her know that you don’t have to carry the guilt because you think I did this for you, and leaving his blood on that beautiful equipment they used to manufacture a horrible drug, and he truly left a legacy. And that’s what this small teacher who we met five years ago was trying to do—to die and be remembered. I thought he loved money, but it wasn’t about the love of money, it was about leaving a legacy. And I realized that more and more last night when he approached his old business partners; he realized what was stolen and gone, so he made sure his kids were taken care of, but what we saw last night was a man at peace that he had finally left his mark on the world. And that was incredible.
I thought what was incredible about the last few episodes was that we thought he only cared about money, then another episode goes by and you think he only cares about his family, then another episode goes by and you realize it’s all about what he’s leaving behind, what people think about him.
Exactly. And once he realized he wasn’t going to be able to clean up or sanitize that legacy, he totally embraced it. There will never be that type of crystal cooked again. [Laughs] That was the ’80s for cocaine—there will never be cocaine like that again. We were talking about what it all means? I got it in that last scene. It was all purpose-driven.
That whole scene with Elliott and Gretchen, I thought he was going to kill them the whole time.
I knew he wasn’t gonna kill them, but I thought he was going to do something hurtful—I didn’t think kill, but something hurtful. Because at the beginning of the season when I saw that big-ass goddamn machine gun, I knew that was reserved for Uncle Jack. I didn’t expect the brilliance of a high school teacher to put it in a fucking trunk, and essentially just make a sewing machine-type trigger device. I never expected that. And he did it beautifully. That scene was one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in movies or TV in my life. My wife and I watched it twice last night, and the best shot was when he shot Jack, THE BLOOD SPLATTER HITS THE CAMERA! Immediately, YOU’RE A BODY IN THE GODDAMN ROOM NEXT TO JACK. Incredible. Whoever got high and thought of that—because that’s what writers do, they smoke weed and tweak ideas—whoever did that, they deserve an Emmy for that shot. Literally, that shot. Jack said hold on, put the lit cigarette in his mouth! Jack had got accustomed to the money, Jack wasn’t expecting to die, he’d bought a nice cashmere sweater. [Laughs] Uncle Jack had put a little extra pomade in his hair, his ponytail was a little tighter, Uncle Jack knew that he was winning. And [Walt] took those motherfuckers out mercilessly, and it was beautiful.
I had problems with The Wire, and I’ve said this before, because in my lifetime I know real life Stringer Bells, and they didn’t die, they own clubs. I never liked that morality of The Wire—fuck that. All that Wire shit was cool, but I’ve seen it my whole life. I’ve never seen the evil, suburban, maniacial meanness of this show. The no sense of sympathy, empathy or apathy for anyone that Todd had—everything was a matter of business. This show I think was more brilliantly written than any show. And I actually watched Talking Bad for the first time, and when Vince [Gilligan, the show's creator] was talking about the John Wayne movie and Westerns, Breaking Bad really reminded me of a lot of the old Westerns that I saw growing up with my grandpa. Especially the old spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood, where morally, the lead guy was compromised. Morally, there was always a darkness on it.