Airing from 2008 to 2013, Breaking Bad was an all-time favorite among fans and critics alike, averaging millions of viewers per episode and winning 16 Primetime Emmy Awards. In fact, the series grew more popular over time, starting with just over a million views per episode in season 1 and ending with over four million views per episode in season 5.
Creator Vince Gilligan stated that the show was the result of his desire to make a story where the protagonist becomes the antagonist. The series faced some initial hurdles early on, including a lack of interest from most of the major cable networks, a location change from Riverside, California to Albuquerque for financial reasons, and a strike by the director during production of the first season.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, now an iconic television character, almost never happened, as AMC first offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick, who turned it down before Cranston was cast on Gilligan’s advice. It also had other great characters like Jesse Pinkman at the hands of Aaron Paul (who could use a Netflix movie as a sequel) and the many who migrated to Better Call Saul.
Although Breaking Bad could have continued for a sixth season, the decision to end the show was probably in the best interest of the creators and fans. Vince Gilligan really discussed the possibility, but it ultimately came down to keeping the story fresh and memorable.
“I was really looking forward to the idea of people suddenly moving in and saying, ‘Is that show still on the air? I used to see it. It used to be good,’ I wanted people to say, ‘Don’t finish it now!’
“It was me as much as anyone who said, ‘I want to leave the show at a high point in the plot.'”
Part of Vince Gilligan’s desire to tie things up was his experience working on The X-Files, which in his opinion went on too long, resulting in diminished quality and relevance. The outstanding reviews given to the final season of Breaking Bad apparently justify his decision, as they indicate that the cast and crew delivered a fitting conclusion to Walter and Jesse’s story.
The continued popularity of the show likely helped the series expand. The spin-off prequel, Better Call Saul, depicts the backstory of Walt’s criminal attorney Saul Goodman, and has managed to build on the success of Breaking Bad. Similarly, the follow-up feature film, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” is a testament to the successful handling of the narrative, which has kept fans engaged for years.