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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Sunday’s episode of Breaking Bad, “Confessions.”]
The ricin-cigarette secret is finally out of the bag.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) has figured out Walt (Bryan Cranston) poisoned young Brock (Ian Posada), and responded by punching out Saul and pouring gasoline all over Walt’s home.
It’s something Breaking Bad writer Gennifer Hutchison says was a long time coming but calls the scene the episode’s hardest to get right.
“It was such a question of what would Jesse do? How would he retaliate?” Hutchison tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We went back and forth on the level of the retaliation. Would he go straight to Walt? Would he go to the house? Would he make a move against the family? What he does has big implications for Walt later.”
She admits to feeling guilty for putting Jesse through all this pain, saying he probably could have been happy had he simply gone away to Alaska like he’d planned.
“Jesse isn’t happy, but he’s starting to have the faintest glimmer of hope,” she says of the scene in which he contemplates moving away. “He was so close to redemption. It’s like, ‘Just get in the van!'”
The episode featured another big surprise — Walt’s devious confession tape that pins many of his crimes on Hank (Dean Norris).
“Walt’s idea is Hank will know that even if Marie is right and [the DEA] won’t believe the confession, it’s still going to hang Hank up enough that Walt will be able to run up the clock before he goes to jail,” says Hutchison. “Walt’s idea is no one will ever see this tape. It’s just for Hank.”
Below, Hutchison also breaks down the awkward dinner scene and why it was so fun to have Marie (Betsy Brandt) suggest Walt kill himself.
The Hollywood Reporter: How long have you and the writers known Jesse would find out about Walt’s role in Brock’s poisoning?
Gennifer Hutchison: We knew that we wanted to have him find out at some point because it’s such a game changer for him. We knew this season we definitely wanted that to be a revelation because it would be such a split for Jesse and Walt. It wasn’t just that he poisoned Brock, it was because Walt lied.
THR: The episode has a very evocative scene with Walt and Jesse in the desert, where Jesse demands Walt just tell him something true. What was writing that scene like?
Hutchison: That was a great scene to write and one we were all excited about, because we’ve seen Jesse being manipulated by Walt often and kind of just take it. We wanted a scene where he says, “I know you’re not telling me the truth, just level with me.” Of course Walt is able to break through that by sheer force of will. If Walt had continued to argue with him at the end of the scene, it wouldn’t have worked, but stepping forward and pulling Jesse in [for the hug] did, since he’s so raw.
THR: Before he leaves Saul’s office to go meet the guy that will give him a new identity, Jesse says, “Alaska, that’ll be good.” In your mind, would Jesse have been happy if he’d gone ahead and left Albuquerque?
Hutchison: That was the intention of that moment. Aaron played it so beautifully. It was definitely there in the script. Jesse isn’t happy, but he’s starting to have the faintest glimmer of hope. “Maybe Mr. White is right. If you get in the van, it will all be OK.” He was so close to redemption. It’s like, “Just get in the van!”
THR: Do you have any guilt about putting Jesse through all this?
Hutchison: Absolutely. He’s been so broken at this point, you kind of want to give him a hug. Aaron is so amazing. He’s playing these scenes, and afterward I would go up to him and say, “I feel so terrible.” But he’d be like “I’m fine!” It’s difficult being on set. I do get emotional seeing these actors play these scenes.
THR: Walt’s confession tape was a big move. Fans have been wondering what he’d do — how did this idea come about?
Hutchison: We’d be in the writer’s room trying to figure out what Walt’s next move would be. We had this idea that Walt would try to blackmail Hank with “I paid for your medical treatment.” We had this idea of him blackmailing him, and we were in the room, and the idea came up to have him confess to the police, which would have been a step too far. So we liked the idea of the video because it’s a threat and it goes to show how far Walt will go. But it’s not so far as to involve the rest of the police. It’s a really great dig at Hank, and yet you get the idea that he could actually sell this story. What he’s saying had some sincerity in the video. It’s absolutely believable Hank could be the mastermind. The video is enough to mess Hank up.
Walt’s idea is Hank will know that even if Marie is right and [the DEA] won’t believe the confession, it’s still going to hang Hank up enough that Walt will be able to run up the clock before he goes to jail. Walt’s idea is no one will ever see this tape. It’s just for Hank.
THR: That dinner scene was very uncomfortable, but there’s some humor there. How’d you balance that?
Hutchison: We knew pretty early on that we wanted them to have a summit. We wanted the two couples to come together. It’s so great having Hank versus Walt and Marie versus Skyler. Bringing them together in the same room was great. But we also knew at this point, they’re all scared of each other. Hank and Marie kind of have to fear for their personal safety, and Walt has to be worried about Hank exposing him. So they needed a public place.
We loved the juxtaposition of these happy families and this very awkward dinner. It’s a scene where Marie tells Walt to kill himself, so we wanted to get a little levity to cut the darkness. We went with a really chipper guy (the waiter), and we just loved that. The restaurant we ended up shooting at, I asked them what their most popular appetizer was, and it turned out to be table-side guacamole, which is great because that’s something these characters would not want to order.
THR: Which scene was the most difficult to break?
Hutchison: It was probably the very end of the episode, with Jesse coming in with the gas can. It was such a question of what would Jesse do? How would he retaliate? We went back and forth on the level of the retaliation. Would he go straight to Walt? Would he go to the house? Would he make a move against the family? What he does has big implications for Walt later. Jesse breaks into this house and starts pouring gasoline. That would be difficult for Walt to explain.
THR: What was the most fun scene to write?
Hutchison: It probably was the dinner scene, just because it’s tricky because you have so many conflicts. Every single person in relation to the other person has complaints. Especially Marie and Skyler. I think it’s just fun for Marie to tell Walt to kill himself, which was such a shocking thing to say. And the four of them together was so great. It was one of the last scenes we shot for the episode so that was a great way to end it.
THR: You wrote the now-famous “I am the danger” monologue. What’s it like having that blow up and be such an iconic speech now?
Hutchison: I didn’t realize how big it would come. Now they use it in the promos. It’s been really cool, but it’s definitely strange to have this somewhat iconic line being attributed to you.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
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