Sentras and Sizzle-Lean: Seven Things That Changed Before the ‘Breaking Bad’ Pilot Ever Aired
As the world prepares to feast on this weekend’s Breaking Bad series finale, many are praising creator Vince Gilligan for delivering what may turn out to be the most celebrated, well-executed story arc in the history of television. He seems to have known absolutely everything that was going to happen, and has yet to drop the ball on a single twist or turn, leading some to believe he truly did have the entire story worked out on day one.
But, as Walt said in the pilot episode, chemistry isn’t just the study of matter, “it’s the study of change.” And there were plenty of things in the original script that became something else entirely. Here are the seven biggest abandoned ideas Gilligan wrote into the original pilot script. They’ll blow your mind harder than a snort of “the blue stuff.”
1. Who the hell is Marion Alan Dupree, b***h?
In the original version of Vince Gilligan’s pilot, our hero Jesse Pinkman was inexplicably named “Marion Alan Dupree.” Of course, we can understand the idea of tinkering around with character names before finding the perfect fit, but Marion Alan Dupree? He sounds like a Confederate general or a pimp from New Orleans’ French Quarter.
2. It took place in Ontario, CA, not Albuquerque
Albuquerque, New Mexico is such an important part of Breaking Bad, it’s unimaginable that the show could have taken place anywhere else. Breathtaking both in its beauty and its utter bleakness, the eclectic landscape of the “Land of Enchantment” has essentially become its own character.
But in the original script, Walt and his future minions were all residents of Ontario, California—a town so indistinct that Gilligan could only have chosen it to symbolize how unextraordinary Walt’s life was. In all fairness, Ontario does appear to have a pretty decent shopping mall, and it’s also the birthplace of the ICEE slushie drink, so perhaps it’ll be the setting for an edgy future series about the dangers of compulsive shopping and brain freeze.
3. Walt drives a 1991 Nissan Sentra Wagon, not a Pontiac Aztek
Walt’s vehicle started off as a 1991 Nissan Sentra wagon of unspecified color—a respectable choice for a dowdy schoolteacher character scraping by in suburbia. But then something wonderful happened in Vince Gilligan’s brain. Somewhere between the pilot and the shooting script, Giligan realized that there is one type of vehicle way more depressing than a crappy old car: a crappy new car. Who didn’t let out a combination groan/chortle when the Walt’s car was revealed as the Aztek? You can almost see the scene where the car salesman pressured him into it convincing him it was “sporty” and then knocking off a few hundred bucks off the price because it’s painted the most depressing color known to man. Genius.
4. It’s not his birthday
Can you imagine if the Breaking Bad pilot didn’t have that scene where Skyler makes the number “50" with Walt’s veggie bacon as a special birthday treat? It was such an important/tender/existentially intense moment that Gilligan called back to it in the first episode of this final season, when Walt pathetically arranges himself a bacon “52" while getting breakfast at Denny’s. How would we even know how much time had passed from the beginning of the series to the end without the bacon thing?
In additional to the lack of numerical bacon, there’s no depressing surprise party waiting for Walt at home with boxed wine and half inflated Mylar balloons. It’s not Walt’s birthday in the original pilot script. It’s just a day like any other and Hank and Marie come over and everybody goes out for dinner at Applebee’s.
5. Move over bacon, now there’s something leaner
Also, while we’re on the subject of the birthday bacon, it should be noted that in the original Breaking Bad pilot script, Skyler served Walt the classic eighties cured meat product “Sizzle-Lean” instead of the “veggie bacon” that actually ended up in the filmed episode. Perhaps a fact checker clued Gilligan in that Sizzle-Lean had gone the way of Pepsi Blue and crispy M&M’s. The good news for those suddenly nostalgic for the eighties breakfast meat? You can likely find an unopened box of it that’s been sitting in the back of your mom’s freezer for the past twenty years.
6. And by the way, he’s not 50. He’s 41
Not only is it not his birthday, he’s practically a spring chicken. Gilligan described Walt as age 41 in the original script making him much closer in age to Skyler and slightly less hopeless about what life might still have in store for him. In the present day, 41 is an age in which men are still toying with the idea of starting a rock band and women still crank out at least three more kids thanks to the miracle of modern fertility treatments.
Fifty is way harder to deal with than 40, and Vince Gilligan wanted to make sure that Walt’s plate was piled sky high with pain and regret—along with, of course, a side of veggie bacon.
7. Walt was a flirt
Not once in the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad have we seen Walt hit on another woman besides Skyler.
(*Writer’s Note: Several wonderful “Breaking Bad” nerds have contacted me to point out there there was a brief flirtation with the school principal near the beginning of Season 3. I stand corrected and hope I won’t be locked in a cage with only Nazi Todd to feed me ice cream. Still, our pilot Walt remained pure, and didn’t flirt a wink until he broke bad for two full seasons.)
In the pilot original script, a fellow schoolteacher named Margaret is clearly interested in firing up his Bunsen burners. She and Walt share two scenes with sexually charged eye contact that seem to indicate he wouldn’t need much persuading to be lured into infidelity. But no, that’s not our Walt. After all, he’s not in the wooing business. He’s in the empire business.
Check out a copy of the original Breaking Bad pilot script here.
Liz Brown is an Associate Editor for Hulu.com