Breaking Bad 

Why Breaking Bad Season 1 Is So Short (& How That Was A Good Thing)

Breaking Bad season 1 is noticeably shorter than the other four seasons in the series. Here's why it was shortened and how it helped the series.

Breaking Bad season 1 was much shorter than the other four seasons within the AMC series. The debut season consisted of just seven episodes that aired in the first few months of 2008. Vince Gilligan’s series was initially planned to have 9 episodes in season 1; however, the 2007 Writers’ Strike forced the season to be cut short – a fortuitous turn of events, according to Gilligan.

Breaking Bad’s first season focused on Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) transition from depressed high school science teacher to underground meth cook. Walt’s cancer diagnosis pushed him toward manufacturing illegal narcotics in the hope of financially supporting his family. With the help of a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walt learned how to make an impressive product; however, his problems were far from over. After run-ins with the Mexican drug cartel, Walt adopted the name Heisenberg and decided to grow his own empire with his “blue sky” signature product. He conducted his illegal activities in secret in order to hide the truth from his family, as well as his brother-in-law Hank Schrader, who happened to be a DEA agent.

The series was written and developed by Vince Gilligan. When AMC greenlit Breaking Bad, the network ordered nine episodes to comprise the debut season. During production on season 7, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike. The strike occurred in early November, 2007, and halted production on the series for four months. The nine-episode order was then cut to seven episodes, which caused Gilligan to rethink how he wanted to shape the series. The writer’s strike had a negative impact on many in the industry, but Gilligan credits it as a “godsend” in an interview with Esquire. If it wasn’t for that strike, Breaking Bad could have turned out much differently.

How The Writer’s Strike Changed Breaking Bad For The Better

Breaking Bad Opening Scene

There were big moments planned for the final two episodes of Breaking Bad season 1 that, thankfully, never manifested due to the strike. Gilligan toyed with killing off Jesse early in the show’s development but quickly scrapped that idea. Gilligan did, however, plan to kill Hank by the end of season 1, since he wanted to sacrifice one of the main characters, explaining “that’s what the ballsy shows do.” When the season was cut short, Gilligan had a chance to think over Hank’s death, and decided against it, at least for that point in the series.

Gilligan and the rest of the creative team also had time to look at Breaking Bad‘s bigger picture. They realized that they were running out of scripts because they were blowing through big moments too fast. During the strike, the team figured that they should slow down the pace of the series. They also threw out the scripts from the final two episodes planned for season 1, and went in a different direction when developing the follow-up season. Gilligan believed that Breaking Bad wouldn’t have lasted so long if they went with the original plan, thinking it would have been a “less rich experience.”

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