‘Breaking Bad’ Creator Vince Gilligan Has Completely Turned on Walter White: ‘He Was Really Full of Himself’

Memories of the complex antihero haven’t aged well in the eye of his creator

Vince Gilligan and Walter White
Vince Gilligan and Walter White

Walter White was never meant to wear a white hat, but the man who would become Heisenberg was still someone “Breaking Bad” fans rooted for — to a point.

But time and distance can reshape perspectives, even for Vince Gilligan, “Breaking Bad” creator and executive producer, who seems to have had a complete change of heart about his complex antihero. In a Q&A with The New Yorker, Gilligan bites hard on the hand of the protagonist that fed him for five Emmy-heavy seasons. And his opinion of Walter White only worsens with time.

“The further away I get from ‘Breaking Bad,’ the less sympathy I have for Walter,” Gilligan said, moments after musing on a much sunnier recent ending for his spinoff series “Better Call Saul.”

“[Walt] got thrown a lifeline early on,” Gilligan said. “And, if he had been a better human being, he would’ve swallowed his pride and taken the opportunity to treat his cancer with the money his former friends offered him.”

While Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill “finds a little bit of his soul” (and also survives) in a redemptive final episode of “Saul,” Bryan Cranston’s Walter White went down in a hail of gunfire by his own design, a moment that “Breaking Bad” fans saw as heroic at best, self-actualizing at worst.

“He goes out on his own terms, but he leaves a trail of destruction behind him,” Gilligan said. “I focus on that more than I used to.”

Whatever had us rooting for White at the height of his Heisenberg powers was hiding a trove of character flaws, Gilligan said, that just haven’t aged well.

“After a certain number of years, the spell wears off,” he said. “Like, wait a minute, why was this guy so great? He was really sanctimonious, and he was really full of himself. He had an ego the size of California. And he always saw himself as a victim. He was constantly griping about how the world shortchanged him, how his brilliance was never given its due. When you take all of that into consideration, you wind up saying, ‘Why was I rooting for this guy?’”

Though Walter White is a long-dead fictional character from a TV show that ended in 2013, Gilligan might be mindful of his creation’s own words: “You cross me, and there will be consequences.”