Breaking Bad’s legacy a lucky break for its cast

Breaking Bad will add hugely to Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul's marketability. Picture: AP

Breaking Bad will add hugely to Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul's marketability. Picture: AP

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With one episode left, fans of Breaking Bad will soon know how the story of Walter White ends – and if you think it can possibly be happily, you must be even more deluded than him.

Let’s hope that the finale – available in the UK from Monday – will bring catharsis.

But what happens next? Here are five likely outcomes of Breaking Bad’s success.

• All the main players will be in high demand. Dean Norris (Hank) and Betsy Brand (Marie) have already moved on to leading roles in Under The Dome and The Michael J Fox Show, while recent Emmy-winner Anna Gunn (Skyler) and nominated Aaron Paul (Jesse) should have their pick of scripts. And, of course, cheated-of-an-Emmy Bryan Cranston (Walt) has established himself as one of the best actors of his generation. Look for him in heavyweight film roles, like the upcoming biopic of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, though he’s also been linked to Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie.

• Meanwhile Breaking Bad’s creator Vince Gilligan can probably have a blank cheque for his next project (it doesn’t hurt that, unlike some TV showrunners with difficult artistic temperaments, he has a reputation for being a delightfully easy-going guy). It may be Better Call Saul, the prequel/spinoff following Bob Odenkirk’s shady lawyer character which the AMC network has hastily approved. But can it – or any other Gilligan show or film – ever better the critical approval he has now?

• In Britain, the show struggled to find a home on TV and has ended up being streamed through Netflix the morning after its American screenings. It’s been great PR for the online company, but it’s also the latest development in how we watch TV – expecting fans to wait months to catch up on US shows is becoming unsustainable. Expect to see more big dramas only available online.

• The Sopranos may have begun the acceptance of the anti-hero as a main character, but Breaking Bad has taken it even further, forcing audiences to confront the full horror of what Walter’s choices have wrought. Other shows which let their main characters off the hook, like the final series of Dexter, which has been much mocked in the US, now look silly. But can this trend go any further, or are we due a return to more heroic heroes?

• Some series decline in their final stretch, but if the last episode of Breaking Bad lives up to the previous seven, which have been the most acclaimed of its whole run, it will set a new standard for TV finales. It will never please everyone, but a good ending should demonstrate – like the whole series – just what heights TV drama is currently capable of achieving.

• Breaking Bad is available on Netflix from Monday.

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