End times may be near, but the end of this day is nowhere in sight. It's a stinging-cold February night outside an Albuquerque firehouse, and Bryan Cranston a.k.a. Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, a.k.a. Mr. Lambert, a.k.a. the most frightening meth-lord emeritus in the Southwest is confiding in a visitor about one of the difficulties of filming this pivotal moment, which will air in one of the last-ever episodes of Breaking Bad. ''The amount of heat loss through a bald head is remarkable,'' he notes. ''It feels like you're wearing an ice pack on your head. It just starts going down your spine.''
Fittingly enough, a bone-chilling feeling is also permeating the scene. Cranston is wearing a dirtied and bloodied tan jacket, a duct-tape bandage on his hand, and a few stitches by his eye. (''Accidentally hit a deer with my car,'' he deadpans.) Walt has something extremely important in his possession, something more valuable than 1,000 gallons of methylamine, something that a certain someone desperately wants back. As the cameras frame him in the twinkling city lights, he paces by an old Chevy pickup. ''Answer the phone!'' he barks into his cell. ''Pick up!'' In the conversation, which is loaded in all sorts of ways, he thunders lines like ''Toe the line or you'll wind up like [REDACTED]!'' He ends the call by saying cryptically, ''I still got things left to do,'' and breaks his phone in half. The one who has destroyed everything in his path must leave no trace.
''This is the most desperate he's ever been,'' Cranston says during a break from shooting. ''Everything's collapsing around him. Everything that he planted, all the seeds are sown, and now it's harvest time. In a very, very bad way.''
You'd pump him for more details, but the raised eyebrow and wicked glint in his eyes indicate that perhaps it's best to, you know, tread lightly.
One of TV's most cunning, unflinching series is fast drawing to a close. You know this because (a) you're an obsessive fan or (b) your friends and co-workers are obsessive fans and have nagged you so many times to check out this insanely addictive show before it's gone that you are considering dissolving them in a vat of hydrofluoric acid. Over the past five seasons, AMC's intricate neo-Western/'70s thriller has laid out a mesmerizing character study of Walter White, a stagnating Albuquerque high school chemistry teacher with squandered potential who is handed a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. To leave behind money for his family who include a pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and a teenage son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) he turns to cooking crystal meth with a scumbag junkie ex-student, Jesse (Aaron Paul). In the process, he turns himself into a ruthless drug kingpin whose insatiable hunger for respect and power rots his soul. See: allowing Jesse's drugged-out girlfriend, Jane (Krysten Ritter), to choke to death. Almost fatally poisoning a child. Terrifying his wife by telling her that the danger is not on the other side of the door but in fact he is ''the one who knocks.'' Blowing off half the face of drug kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Ordering the executions of 10 men in three prisons within two minutes. Lies stacked upon lies stacked upon lies...