1:28 pm - 07/23/2012

'Breaking Bad': Showrunner Vince Gilligan talks about 'Madrigal'

The second episode of Breaking Bad marked a distinctive shift from the heisty shenanigans of the season premiere. “Madrigal” set a leisurely pace right from the cold open, which suddenly sent the viewer to a sauce-flavoring taste-test in Germany. From there, “Madrigal” focused mainly on Mike, the brutal badass-with-a-heart-of-gold (at least with regards to his granddaughter). We talked to Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan about the evolution of Mike, why Walt still wants more money, and last night’s cameo by Humphrey Bogart. (Read Ken Tucker’s review of “Madrigal” here.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The show has had some pretty unexpected opening sequences in the past, but I’m having trouble remembering anything as out there this week’s taste-test in Germany. [lol are you forgetting the mariachi band's 'heisenberg' music video? or the montage of wendy prostituting and drugging herself to that lovely 'windy' song?]
VINCE GILLIGAN: We always like to surprise our viewers, and the idea of suddenly opening in Germany seemed like fun. We also wanted to start showing you the business of Madrigal, the company that financed Gus Fring. Is Madrigal all corrupt? Or was it just a couple of executives?

The way that Schuler kills himself, with all the precise movements inside of the bathroom, reminds me of that moment last season when Gus went into the toilet to vomit out the poisoned tequila.
Interesting! I had not heard that before. I suppose the two men are similar in that they are both very economical: They do not waste any movements. But that was not intentional, that resonance.

I want to talk a little bit about Mike, who we saw a lot of in this episode. He’s evolved so much from when he just seemed like a Gus Fring heavy back in season 2.
It’s a testament to the great actors on this show — Aaron Paul, Dean Norris who plays Hank — that those characters became more important over time. Jonathan Banks is just fantastic in the role.

When Jonathan Banks looks at you in real life, do you get the sense that he’s staring directly into your soul?
Jonathan Banks in real life is, like Giancarlo Esposito, nothing like his character. He’s a very nice man. I will say, though, that there’s this thing he always says to me: “I’m gonna punch you right in the heart.”

I believe that Mike was watching The Caine Mutiny on television. Is that a bit of foreshadowing? Certainly, the image of Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg insisting that nothing is wrong while the ship is tossed around in a hurricane seems like it could apply to Walt.
That is The Caine Mutiny, one of my very favorite movies. I was very lucky with that, actually, because it can be very expensive to use clips of movies, which is why you don’t see too many clips on the show. But Caine Mutiny is owned by Sony/Columbia, our parent company. And yes, it may have some connection to where Walt is at this point.

Are you a big Humphrey Bogart fan?
Oh, yes. Wish I could have met him.

What are your favorite Bogart movies?
The Big Sleep and Casablanca, and The Maltese Falcon. High Sierra. Oh, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre!

I always enjoy how Walter approaches the drug trade in strict business sense, using terms like “distribution.” Even his pitch to Mike is very business-y — “We’ll be owners, not employees.” Can Breaking Bad be read as a portrait of an American businessman?
Absolutely. One of the main ways we view the show is as a portrait of decay. Walt in particular right now thinks that his business is expanding, but he’s also decaying before our eyes — certainly morally.

There is that great part of the episode when he notes that he’s 40 thousand dollars in the hole, after four seasons and every bad thing he’s done. I think that Walt actually likes being 40 thousand dollars in the hole, because it gives him an excuse to keep cooking. The irony is that his family is now set up with a car wash business that is very lucrative and could be paying for everything. They could have a very good life with the car wash.* But Walt wants the “fat stacks,” as Jesse describes it. That’s how he measures his success.

This is getting a bit grand-scheme, but in your view, was Walt always someone who wanted the fat stacks? Or was he a normal guy who got a taste of the good life and then wanted more?
It’s a little bit like what they say about Hollywood success. It doesn’t make you a bad person; it just accentuates the bad parts of your personality, the parts that maybe you had to keep hidden before you were famous.

Based on Jesse’s reference to “The Crystal Ship,” can I assume that someone in the writers’ room is a Doors fan?
Well, I don’t think anybody is at the point of putting up posters. But who isn’t a Doors fan?

Because Hank stressed Mike’s last name so much, I looked up the etymology of “Ehrmantraut.” It apparently means something along the lines of “all-encompassing strength.” Thoughts?
Really! Well, I have to admit that, despite all the German in this episode, I don’t speak a word of it. We have very talented translators who took what I wrote and translated it into German for the opening sequence. That name is actually the last name of a friend of my girlfriend Holly. I like to put in the names of people I know into the show, sometimes.

How many times have you put in names of acquaintances into your show?
Well, the neighbor in last season’s finale — who Walter sends in to “check on his stove,” who he’s basically willing to sacrifice — was named Becky Simmons, after a friend of my girlfriend. And she was played by my mom.

So in a sense you were willing to send your mom into an exploding house. What’s going on with that?
You know, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me about that!

*It's obvious that it's not about his family anymore. They're set up great with the car wash now thanks to the money Walt made and Skyler fixing all the tax shit. His ego is so big and his pride and greed is just over the top now.

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neversquare 23rd-Jul-2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
put this shit under a cut ffs some of us are behind
rivadavia 23rd-Jul-2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
smh at u being behind
neversquare 23rd-Jul-2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
don't mock my disability
coconutoil 23rd-Jul-2012 07:00 pm (UTC)
lol mte
copasetic 23rd-Jul-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
i'm sorry. i had to reformat it like 3 times and must've forgotten the cut the last time i did it.
brosling 23rd-Jul-2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
invisible_cunt 23rd-Jul-2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
ahh i totally didn't think of the parallels between the dude hanging up his jacket, etc in the washroom, and when gus was going to make himself vomit
soapboxrhetoric 23rd-Jul-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
this is the first thing i thought of and i was immediately tense when watching it
coconutoil 23rd-Jul-2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
ncc_gqmf 24th-Jul-2012 01:08 am (UTC)
rivadavia 23rd-Jul-2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
i love vince gilligan (ღ˘⌣˘ღ) ♫・*:.。. .。.:*・
hotcement 23rd-Jul-2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
he way that Schuler kills himself, with all the precise movements inside of the bathroom, reminds me of that moment last season when Gus went into the toilet to vomit out the poisoned tequila.

DITTO. glad i'm not alone. lol that he didn't realize it tho.
_______awshucks 23rd-Jul-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
I thought this too! I was waiting for Schuler to nicely fold his coat and all.
hotcement 23rd-Jul-2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
yeah i was legitimately surprised that he hung it up lol, it seemed so sloppy
almondcroissant 23rd-Jul-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)

Especially after he hung his coat
ts231 23rd-Jul-2012 06:06 pm (UTC)
i'm surprised to see that the scene with schuler killing himself wasn't meant as a reference to gus with the poison, because that was the first thing i thought of. at first, i thought schuler was doing the exact same thing.

peasantings 23rd-Jul-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
My little sister was forced to watch the opening scene of this with me because the computer and TV are in the same room in my house. Hope I didn't scar her for life.
peacetrains 23rd-Jul-2012 06:11 pm (UTC)
This episode was so fucking good, even though it didn't advance the plot all that much. There was so much tension in every scene and I love getting to see more of Mike.

I am still so creeped out by that ending, though.
dedradawn 24th-Jul-2012 01:00 am (UTC)
It advanced in that Mike lost enough money to work with Walt, which he said he wouldn't.
ncc_gqmf 24th-Jul-2012 01:09 am (UTC)
It also established that there are 11 people (or 9 now I guess) who have a lot of information about Gus's business and may not be as loyal as Mike thought they were.
jessicastamina 23rd-Jul-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
i can't get over what hank said in that meeting with his boss. the idea that the computer was encrypted and they wouldn't have found anything on it but because of that whole magnet scheme the DEA/APD found out about the cayman island accounts is insane. also there's a part in the preview for next week that looks like mike is looking out of a jail cell. i hope i'm wrong. and what's his connection to lydia? why did she keep saying they'd be after 'us'??? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS
peacetrains 23rd-Jul-2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
I think Lydia is talking about the DEA. They were all employees of Gus/Los Pollos, so the DEA was going to be investigating all of them now.

I'm surprised more people aren't talking about that scene with Hank in the DEA office. Like, what was that look he had when the chief was talking about Gus being under his nose the whole time and he never even knew it? DOES HANK KNOW? I think that might be the first time he started to suspect something was up with Walt, or maybe I'm reading to much into it.
invisible_cunt 23rd-Jul-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
from what i remember, hank knew
but nobody was believing him since his theories were empty to them
plus he also monitored gus's relationship with different causes such as being on the hospital board and having close ties with the dept
tuesdayfternoon 23rd-Jul-2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I really think Hank peeked at the laptop and saw something that he didn't understand until that very moment tbh!

Edited at 2012-07-23 06:37 pm (UTC)
hershelwalker 23rd-Jul-2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
I personally thought that look was just for the audience. but of course there's a huge possibility that he does know.
jessicastamina 23rd-Jul-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
ah, that makes sense. I was thinking she meant the names on that list she had (not the dea) would be after her and mike. and i think at the very least hank has to be suspicious of walt. I want to know what marie is questioning walt about in the preview for next weeks ep!
celtic_thistle 23rd-Jul-2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
omg I'd love it if Hank caught Walt

And Walt's dumb ass killed Hank

And then Walt's family and Jesse kill him


coconutoil 23rd-Jul-2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Ikr? Fucking magnets.
ascot_gavotte 23rd-Jul-2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
I find it hard to believe that the DEA can't unencrypt a computer.
wastedaudio 23rd-Jul-2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
Honestly that whole scene with Hank at the DEAs office convinced me that Hank definitely knows Walt's involved. During last weeks episode, as the were bagging the laptop, you see Hank with a horrified look on his face, like he seen something unbelievable. Later he says he sneaked a peek at the laptop but the entire thing was encrypted. This week Hank's boss get forced out of the DEA because he and Gus were friends. It really leads me to believe that Hank seen Walt on the laptop, and is covering it up because he doesn't want the same fate as his boss, being forced out of the job he loves.
filmorejive 23rd-Jul-2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
last night was so good! super intense and tied up a bunch of lose/set up a bunch of things so shit can really start going down. and that ending, ugh!
spankmypirate 23rd-Jul-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
The last scene with Walt and Skyler creeped me out so bad, omg. I literally felt my OWN skin crawling. Anna Gunn played that really well.
americnxidiot 23rd-Jul-2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
omg I know. I was cringing the entire time.
anydoppelganger 23rd-Jul-2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
ugh Walt is so creepy, Skyler really needs to leave him
wits 23rd-Jul-2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
I actually started dry heaving, I was so disturbed
ascot_gavotte 23rd-Jul-2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
idk it was less creepy than in the premiere. Why was Skyler lying in bed all the time anyway? I kind of assumed Walt was right and she was worried about Ted and everything they've done.
spankmypirate 23rd-Jul-2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
I think she's feeling depressed and scared of Walt, probably lying in bed to avoid interacting with or facing him.
ncc_gqmf 24th-Jul-2012 01:11 am (UTC)
I think she's just ("just") traumatized and depressed over everything that's happened.
blenderhead 23rd-Jul-2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
That scene made me feel physically ill.
tuesdayfternoon 23rd-Jul-2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
"Well, I don’t think anybody is at the point of putting up posters"

lol, I need to remember that line for future use
anydoppelganger 23rd-Jul-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
I recently read Vince Gilligan's commentary for season 4 on the AV Club. He is such a cool guy and I love how he always praises all his actors.
la_petite_singe 23rd-Jul-2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
I will say, though, that there’s this thing he always says to me: “I’m gonna punch you right in the heart.”

*DED* I have to start saying that, that's excellent. And yeah, that was definitely the weirdest cold opening ever; it was like the S2 premiere of Lost where I thought for a few seconds that I'd sat on the remote and changed the channel. But then I was distracted by how awesome of a job it would be to be a chicken nugget sauce tester.
fantasialopez 23rd-Jul-2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Dream job, tbh
fantasialopez 23rd-Jul-2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Fantastic episode last night. I just know Mike's actions with Lydia are going to come back and bite him in the ass though, which sucks because I love Mike.

beesknees7 23rd-Jul-2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
omg I love it
fantasialopez 23rd-Jul-2012 10:12 pm (UTC)
She drew me an amazing Ron Swanson portrait. I still need to get it framed, though.
dorisdaydoll 23rd-Jul-2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
Omg so cool! In the style of Mexican milagros paintings!
mandramoddle 23rd-Jul-2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
I'm still jonesing for tater tots with "bad ass" sauce.
celtic_thistle 23rd-Jul-2012 09:15 pm (UTC)
mte that shit looked delicious
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