Among the many theories on how "Breaking Bad" will end is that Bryan Cranston's Walter White will die, but Cranston himself thinks there may be a far harsher fate for Walt.
When asked about the death theory by an audience member during a New York Times-sponsored TimesTalk in New York on Tuesday, Cranston replied, "There's a good case for that, that maybe that's the fitful end. And yet, what if the thing he wanted the most — which was the togetherness of his family — what if he lived, and they didn't? Wouldn't that be a worse hell to be in?"
[Related: 5 Must-See 'Breaking Bad' Episodes]
While Cranston and his co-stars, along with series creator Vince Gilligan, were gathered for the TimesTalk panel, a sillier potential "Breaking Bad" ending was discussed: the Interweb favorite that has Walt going into witness protection as Hal, the bumbling dad from Cranston's pre-"Bad" series, "Malcolm in the Middle."
"That might not be as far-fetched as you imagine," three-time "Breaking Bad" Emmy winner Cranston joked. "DVD extras!"
Meanwhile, Gilligan told the sold-out audience of "BB" fans that the episode he considers the series' best hasn't even aired yet. It's the sixth of the final eight installments, titled "Ozymandias," a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem about how all great leaders eventually fall.
In a new promo clip for the final episodes, Cranston recites the poem to an ominous effect, and one as haunting as Walter White's famous "I am the one who knocks" speech.
"It's gonna knock your f--kin' socks off when you see it," Gilligan said of "Ozymandias," directed by Rian Johnson, who also directed Season 3's "Fly" and Season 5's "Fifty-One."
Other highlights from the "Breaking Bad" gathering:
- While discussing how much he immediately wanted the role after he read the pilot script, Cranston said he told his agents to get him a meeting with Gilligan as soon as possible, because he wanted to pitch himself before a slew of other actors did. "I wanted to lift my leg on him and spray him with my scent," Cranston joked.
- Remember the bathtub scene from the second episode of the series, "Cat's in the Bag…"? Gilligan and two-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul will guest-star on the August 12 episode of "MythBusters," where they join hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage to test whether or not hydrofluoric acid will really melt a hole in the floor, like Jesse did after ignoring Walt's instruction to purchase a plastic tub. The "Breaking Bad" special episode of "MythBusters" sprang from an interview in which Gilligan told Vulture he'd like to do a crossover episode with "MythBusters," because "I'd dig seeing those guys prove or disprove some of the crazy stuff we've done on 'Breaking Bad.'"
- RJ Mitte, who plays Walt Jr. (or Flynn, as he prefers), was 14 when he shot the pilot episode, and will turn 21 on August 21, meaning he's spent a third of his life on the show. "These people are the reason why my personality is who it is," Mitte said. "These are people that pretty much raised me while I was growing … I know I wouldn't be who I am … without this whole group." By the way, the favorite breakfast food of Mitte, whose Junior loves his morning meals? Bacon.
- And from one of the TimesTalk panel's sweetest moments … to this: Dean Norris on filming the cliffhanger ending in "Gliding Over All," Season 5's eighth episode, in which his DEA honcho Hank makes a shocking discovery about brother-in-law Walt while using the bathroom at the White House. "That was just so effin' funny, that he decides to take a crap, in somebody else's house — and just for the record, because I've been asked about this — I knew it was going to be a dump, so I went to the furthest bathroom so as not to make a smell," Norris said. "Not only that, but it wasn't a quick turd. He had to take some time … but how about talking to your director and saying, 'How exactly am I gonna take this crap?' That's a conversation … I'm a grown man, and I'm having this conversation with another grown person."
The potty talk was tempered by another sweet moment when Norris and Betsy Brandt — who plays Hank's wife, Marie — both got emotional while talking about their characters and working together on the series.
- Paul, whose Jesse Pinkman became one of the series' most beloved characters after initially being scheduled to die in the first season, delighted the audience by reciting his "Yeah, b---h, magnets!" line, prompting Cranston to joke that's how newlywed Paul proposed to his wife. " Yeah, b---h, marriage!" Paul obliged.
- And about that giant configuration of magnets, the one Jesse and Walt used to destroy evidence in the Season 5 premiere "Live Free or Die" — it was constructed of Styrofoam and painted to look like a real magnet, and Vince Gilligan thought it was so cool that he kept it, moved it into his house, and had it turned into a coffee table.
Watch the entire TimesTalk event, which also includes Paul reminiscing about how Cranston liked to tease him about his fear of Jesse being killed off, Bob Odenkirk and Gilligan discussing the latest on the potential Saul Goodman spinoff series, and Gilligan's very practical advice for aspiring screenwriters.
The final eight episodes of "Breaking Bad" begin on August 11.