'Breaking Bad' creator Vince Gilligan talks Season 5: Walt's arrogance and Skyler's prison

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breaking-bad-live-free-or-die1.jpgSunday (July 15) marks the beginning of "Breaking Bad's" fifth season for viewers, but the cast and crew are already halfway through the show's final run.

"As we speak here, the first eight are a done deal. We finished shooting them a few weeks ago, and I'm in editing on episode 6 today," creator Vince Gilligan told Zap2it in an interview Thursday. The show has 16 episodes to finish telling the story of Walter White's ( Bryan Cranston) descent from hapless cancer victim to amoral drug kingpin, with half airing this summer and the remaining eight set for summer 2013.

That's not to say, though, that Gilligan and his fellow writers have everything figured out. They'll reconvene in a few weeks to start work on the final eight episodes, which he says are "very much still a work in progress."

"We have a great many ideas about how the whole series wraps up," Gilligan says. "But there's a great deal of unknown as well, so we find ourselves terrified some days of not having figured out enough at this late date. But on the other hand, when we get a good idea after much hard work, we get to feeling very good indeed. The excitement of those moments counterbalances the terror."

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Gilligan also talks in the interview about Walt's enemy this season, Mike's ( Jonathan Banks) increased role and more. Some highlights of the interview:

Zap2it: It seems that with Gus out of the picture, Walt's biggest enemy now is his own arrogance.
Vince Gilligan: That's a good read. Walt, having killed Gus Fring [ Giancarlo Esposito] at the end of Season 4, is in a real sense the king now -- the king of his little Albuquerque meth-dealing world. And to that end, I think Season 5 is going to be a situation were we'll learn whether keeping an empire is as easy as wresting out of someone else's hands. And indeed, Walt's arrogance and his continuing slide from being essentially a good guy to a bad guy is going to bear some bitter fruit this season.

When you say "this season," are you talking about all 16 episodes, or just the eight airing this summer?
Probably a little of both [laughs]. You'll see some of that in these next eight, and perhaps beyond that as well.

What is Skyler's (Anna Gunn) state of mind going into this season?
Skyler is very much kind of a hostage in her own home in Season 5. I think she's someone who for various reasons doesn't feel able to call the police on her husband, doesn't feel able to tell her brother-in-law the DEA agent [ Dean Norris as Hank] what her husband is up to. And failing that, she essentially can't get him out of her house if he refuses to leave. ... Being the pragmatic person she is, she figures if I can't do any of those things, I better work very hard to keep him out of prison. I better hold up my end as far as the money laundering goes.

She's in a very untenable situation, and I think she's always known that, but at the end of Season 4 she came to realize it even more clearly. ... When we're in relationships with people we think we know the person we're sharing a bed with, and I think Skyler is no exception to that. ... She thought she knew who this man was. And when you saw her realize [she didn't] at the end of Season 4, it was one more terrible revelation on top of many others that this man was a more dark human being than she thought. So going forward into Season 5, she's trapped. She's in a very tough situation and is trying desperately to make the best of it. She's really taking it one day at a time, and sometimes even an hour at a time, trying to get through this nightmare.

Can you talk about the decision to bring Mike to the forefront a little more this season?
He definitely is. Mike is a character my writers and I love. And going back several decades, I was such a fan of the TV show "Wiseguy" that if you told me back in college when I was watching "Wiseguy" week in and week out that I'd get a chance to work with Jonathan Banks, I would have felt like I had died and gone to heaven. ...

The character has become more important to the life of the series than I ever would have guessed. ... He'll continue to be a very important start of the ongoing story. It's just so much fun to write for him. He's such -- the character is so much fun because he's a very capable man. He's got these world-weary eyes that seem to say he's seen everything and done everything, and he's not ruffled by much. Not much gets his blood pressure up. But there's a sort of sadness to those eyes too, as in he's seen far too much. Going forward, he'll have very specific reasons to do the things he does, very personal reasons to stay in this business he's chosen for himself. We'll learn a lot more about Mike this season.

What can you say about Laura Fraser's character?
Hopefully we can be kind of coy about her, but we do have a new character this season. ... Her name is Lydia, and she's a former associate of Gus's who we've not met until now but will play a pretty important role in the story going forward. Lydia is not of this world -- and when I say that, I mean not the world of Albuquerque and not the world of meth dealing. Yet in a very real way she is. She's going to be very much a wild card going forward and throw our characters for some loops.

"Breaking Bad" premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday on AMC.
Photo/Video credit: AMC