What We Want From a Virtual Reality ‘Breaking Bad’

Vince Gilligan is working on an immersive throwback to his magnum opus.
By  · Published on June 7th, 2017

Vince Gilligan is working on an immersive throwback to his magnum opus.

If you’ve ever wished to live out the high-octane shenanigans of Breaking Bad against a backdrop of its sumptuous cinematography, you’re in for a treat. Or at least, we’re hoping so. That’s what we imagine Gilligan’s new virtual reality team-up with Sony’s PlayStation to be like.

Virtual reality is slowly moving towards the mainstream. It may still be too early to decide how that quest will turn out, but prominent actors, writers, and directors have begun embracing the platform as a method of storytelling. While mostly still in its embryonic stages, VR’s immersive and transportive qualities disregard the fourth wall entirely. So, when you can step into a fictional world and directly interact with its elements, a captivating narrative is of the utmost necessity. That’s where Breaking Bad comes in. Perhaps, it is the perfect fit.

According to Sony Interactive Entertainment’s global chief executive Andrew House, Gilligan is reportedly especially keen to test out VR technology. Together, Gilligan and Sony aim to create a “non-game, virtual reality experience.” That’s all we pretty much know about it for now. Nevertheless, this announcement leaves us with plenty of room for a good dose of speculation about where it’s heading and what we’d like to see.

For many of us, Breaking Bad was a sublime journey. It’s easy to see how it served as an inspiration for many a crime movie. And if its impeccable pilot is anything to go by, we have much to look forward to with this virtual reality version of the story. The potential sensory overload that a VR experience would add to the iconic world of the show is both exciting and innovative.

The Story

The possibilities for Gilligan and Co. are endless with this aspect. Sony won’t release details on whether this project a one-off experiment or a series of some kind. But how much more of a story like Breaking Bad will viewers get to immerse themselves, especially when the show is seen as such a perfectly complete entity as it is? Will it be based on core characters at all or perhaps spin-off certain secondary players within the canon? Or will it be a full-blown sequel in apt synchronicity with the original series and Better Call Saul?

That’s the beauty of Breaking Bad. A subplot lurks behind every character, regardless of their direct involvement with protagonist Walter White. The show is richly populated with themes examining multiplicities in identity and goals. It’s mainly about questions of morality and responsibility.It would be optimal for the VR experience to capture some of that spirit regardless of what its plot turns out to be.

It would be optimal for the VR experience to capture some of that spirit regardless of what its plot turns out to be. Part of the exhilaration of watching Breaking Bad is figuring out who to trust and hoping like hell that you’re right (but you’re usually not). It’s going differ much more being in that environment too.

The Setting

Breaking Bad is as much about its visuals as it is about the story. The show was touted as the ultimate definition of “cinematic” during its run, and for good reason. Walter White’s tiny, claustrophobic, boring life turns into something sweeping and practically majestic. He dips his toe into the criminal underbelly, and suddenly a literal new world opens up to him.

That’s where the inherent interactiveness of VR comes in the handiest. The Breaking Bad VR experience will rely entirely on computer graphics, and that makes the world-building potentially limitless. Think a version of the showdown in “Ozymandias” with several points of view, set in a sweltering, expansive desert. You feel the sun prickle across your skin as it’s crawling from the tension rather than the heat alone. It’s concurrently vast and contained.

Or there’s a potential to go small with the environs but bombastic with just character. Something like Season 3’s “Fly” could be foundational for exploring how VR could be used beyond flashy action sequences. Despite it being a bottle episode, featuring a set that’s as claustrophobic and bizarre – almost like a blip in the rest of the narrative – might be ideal for the format. A story like that remains deeply psychological without large production value, proving that narratives focused on character development can be equally thrilling.

The Characters

Breaking Bad details Walter White’s odyssey to a minuscule degree. This not only occurs in the character’s conscious decision-making but through motifs and metaphors as well. Meanwhile, Better Call Saul retraces the steps of fan favorites, Saul Goodman, Mike Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring (who becomes a regular in Season 3). Both shows cross over quite a bit with featured players too.

The question becomes, who is likely to return to a project just “based” on Breaking Bad? It could very well not feature anybody we’re familiar with. But should Gilligan decide to include some old faces again, it isn’t as though he’s short of compelling characters. Even those with more fulfilled storylines like Jesse Pinkman or Skyler White could be (and should be) considered in the running, given how much emotional pull they give to an overall plot about ruthless drug empires and faithless, dishonest men.

The point is, practically any POV would make for a compelling VR experience when it comes to Breaking Bad. There isn’t much to worry about with Gilligan himself at the helm. He knows where to take his characters and his plots to new heights. If anything, it’s a mark of how powerful his stories are. Fans flock to his latest endeavors regardless of the medium. It would also be wonderful exposure for VR as a format. More importantly, it isn’t unfathomable for Breaking Bad to be adapted for a wholly enveloping and enticing experience. Because as a regular old TV show on cable, it already is.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)