If you’re a fan of the cable TV series Breaking Bad, about television’s most beloved meth maker who has also been battling cancer over several seasons, you will want to continue reading this article about info on last season’s episode Dead Freight, and on one of the show’s main writers and directors, George Mastras. Breaking Bad will begin its final season this Sunday (AMC,9:00 ET).
Yes, he’s that George Mastras, the one who wrote and directed last season’s compelling and ambitious episode, “Dead Freight.” It was the very first episode he’d directed. Mastras said of it: “It’s almost a mini-movie.” The episode featured a train heist as well as the shocking murder of an innocent boy.
It was most definitely an ambitious episode, but according to Mastras, there’s many more shocks and revelations to come in the final eight episodes.
Speaking about the final eight episodes, Mastras said:
I feel like they are some of the best episodes of the entire series. There’s the feeling that ‘yeah we’re really going to put it all on the line and we’re going to go for it.’ They were hard-fought, and we put a lot into breaking them. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into figuring out the last eight.”
Young Drew Sharp’s murder set up the rest of last season’s episodes. It also led to the break up of the long-standing partnership between Walt (Bryan Cranston), Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Mike (Jonathan Banks). The implications of Sharp’s death continue to reverberate all the way to the show’s ultimate conclusion, according to Mastras.
He adds about the train heist episode:
People will remember it as the train episode, but to me the heist is serving this moment where everything comes apart. It’s really about serving this crucial moment, which was going to be so important to all of these characters—what happens next after an innocent bystander was killed?”
The dispute between the three partners about their attitudes towards killing an innocent person is what leads to their break-up. Jesse feels as if it’s wrong to kill innocent people, while Mike is practical about it. although he claims he “don’t like violence,” he is not adverse to it if “it’s practical,” according to Mastras.
Walt’s attitude is, Mastras says:
…he’s going to do whatever he can to build his empire.”
Mastras knew almost from the beginning of writing the episode that it would include the death of an innocent bystander. Everything seemed to be going to well for Walt, and Mastras says “There’s this arrogance about him.”
After meeting with the show’s other writers, where there was a debate about whether or not the heist should go off without a hitch, they talked about what the consequences might be if something terrible and unexpected might happen — like the death of an innocent bystander.
The lure of the methylamine on the train proved too strong for the trio. Mastras and others spoke to experts on what happens when trains transport hazardous materials like methylamine:
We learned it’s weighed when it’s put in and it’s weighed when it comes out. So they would know if it was robbed. And if they know it was robbed that would be a problem for these guys. So from there it lead to the idea that they needed to replace the weight.”
While Mastras has compared the episode “Dead Freight” to movies like Oceans Eleven, and Western train heist movies, he has said it’s different in that
…it’s about the science. No one has a gun that they know of, but it’s still just as thrilling without weapons and people getting beaten up.”
Mastras has found that many DEA agents are fans of Breaking Bad. They have been “chemistry consultants,” according to Mastras, and have even shown him “pictures of blue meth,” the kind that made Walt famous in the meth world in the series.
Asked in an interview he gave with Hollywood Reporter about “Dead Freight,” Mastras replied:
It’s about the consequences of these characters’ journey and their fall into the abyss and challenging the audience about how far you’re going to follow these people and why do we follow these people? That to me is a big part of Breaking Bad.
On the final eight episodes that will begin Sunday night (on AMC at 9 p.m. ET), Mastras has said that “a lot of blood sweat and tears went into figuring out the last eight.” But, he also stated that writing them, he and the show’s other writers felt mixed and “bittersweet” feelings:
This has been such a great, tremendous experience for us all. It’s kind of sad to see it come to an end, but I think we’re leaving with a sense of satisfaction and jubilation.”
Breaking Bad is one of my favorite series on TV, cable or otherwise. While I always liked watching Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle, in Breaking Bad he has demonstrated just how extraordinary his acting abilities are. As Walt White, he has turned in “a transformative, unimpeachable performance,” according to USA Today. I would have to agree with that assessment.
Over the last five seasons, Mastras, the other writers, and Bryan Cranston have allowed us to watch, as USA Today says: “the complete moral disintegration of a man who thought he could dabble in drugs for the money and come away untouched.”
Even towards the end of the series, Walt White “still thinks he can take the money and create a whole new life with his wife and son (Anna Gunn and R.J. Mitte).”
There are obstacles that will confront Walt, as always. In the season premiere, the ways he tries to get around them “provide the opener with some of its most chilling moments,” according to USA Today.
What new surprise and obstacles are in store for Walt White, chemistry teacher gone bad, in the final season of Breaking Bad? I can hardly wait to find out! Tune in with me tomorrow night, and join in viewing the last episodes of one of cable TV’s best series ever!
Written by: Douglas Cobb