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“Uh, why didn’t we do this sooner?”
The dark drama, which premieres its fanatically anticipated fifth season Sunday night, drew nearly 4,000 fans to Ballroom 20 at its first ever showing at the convention Friday evening. Buoyed by a Joss Whedon panel lead-in, the series’ creator Vince Gilligan and principal cast attracted a packed house and die-hard fans whose applause seemed to stun the panelists, some of whom had their own geek fun.
Gilligan walked on stage wearing a white “Heisenberg” T-Shirt (that would be a caricature of star Bryan Cranston’s Walter White’s alter ego).
A be-wigged Dean Norris (Hank Schrader) entered wearing a Xena Warrior Princess costume, making him look a bit like Hagar the Horrible’s wife.
And the ultimate moment came when Cranston and co-star Aaron Paul walked onstage wearing yellow hazmat suits, with the former carrying a baby-doll in the same garb.
Moderator Mike Schneider from TV Guide roused an already-on-their-feet crowd with a single rally cry.
“All hail King Heisenberg!”
Inevitably, the first topic was season four and how Gus Fring’s glorious face-melting death in the finale would impact season five.
“Can there be a happy ending to all this?” asked Schneider.
“Happy ending? Have you been watching?” joked Cranston.
“Perhaps a happy ending is if Walt dies. He’s become so toxic and cancerous,” said Gilligan.
Added Cranston, “None of us know what’s in this man’s head,” pointing to Gilligan, who took his own photos during the 40 minute panel.
Here are a few burning questions (mostly) answered by Gilligan and his cast during their lighthearted, fan-centric panel discussion:
1. Will Walt’s cancer return?
“We haven’t forgotten what brought us here,” said Gilligan. “The irony is that he wouldn’t have gotten the best oncology care had he not cooked all that meth. He’s in state of remission. But will that continue? Who’s to say? “
“You’re to say!” said Cranston, cracking up the crowd again.
2. What is Jesse Pinkman’s state of mind this season?
“He’s happy he’s alive. He was a lost kid, and then Mr. White came and screwed everything up,” said Paul. “If he finds out about Jane [Jesse’s girlfriend who OD’d in season two] and Brock [the young boy poisoned by resin last season], he will go out guns-a-blazing for sure.”
3. Did Walt really poison Brock?
All signs point to yes, said Cranston, adding that Walt didn’t intend to really kill the child. “I correctly guessed the right dosage, didn’t I?” he said.
4. How will Skyler move forward now that she’s painted herself into a corner?
“When she hears that Walt was the mastermind of Gus’ death, that’s a hammer that drops on her so hard,” said Anna Gunn, sporting very chic, non-Skyler-like red skinny jeans. “She is terrified of him now.”
5. Could Jesse still die, as was planned in season one?
“It could happen any minute,” said Cranston, laughing, as the crowed erupted in a booming round of boos.
In between the season-five banter, there were plenty more laughs, including with Jonathan Banks (Mike the Cleaner), who killed with his droll, opening line to the audience.
“Where is my senior citizen base here? Everyone looks 12! Is there anyone over 60 out there?” he asked to big applause (the room didn’t seem to boast anyone over 45).
Betsy Brandt (Norris’ on-screen wife Marie) said she took some credit for Hank getting his mojo back post-shooting injury. “There was that two handed scene…that was a good one!” said Brandt, cracking up about Marie’s generous sexual offering to an injured Hank last season. “Her relationships are the most important thing to her.”
Ever the generous showrunner, Gilligan deferred credit for the show’s improbable plot evolution to his writers, many of whom — including Peter Gould and Moira Walley-Beckett — were in attendance. Also on hand was producer Melissa Bernstein and other devoted crewmembers who took the train from Los Angeles for the event.
“My writers and I, the seven of us, sit together in an ugly room near the Burbank airport for hours and hours a day, and work it out,” said Gillgan. “It’s an organic, living process. For example, Mike’s character wouldn’t have been on the show had we been able to book Bob Odenkirk for that role in season two.” (During this response, Cranston took an iPhone video of his boss and the crowd.)
The panel addressed the tone of season five — “it’s very eerie and creepy,” said Paul — and the possible conclusions Gilligan could be cooking up for the series’ finale in 2013.
“I think of that story about Alexander the Great, who, when he heard he’d conquered all the world, he wept,” said Gilligan.
“So at the end of the series, Walt is left alone, weeping?” asked Cranston.
“Yep, in his underpants,” said Gilligan.
Watch the Comic-Con trailer, below.
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William Jackson Harper
Friends: The Reunion