‘Breaking Bad’: Vince Gilligan Explains Why Walter White Left Gray Matter, Says ‘He Overreacted’ to Feeling Inferior

There never would have been a Breaking Bad if Walter White hadn’t left his original company, Gray Matter.

The entire premise of the show focuses on Walt trying to make money to support his family in the wake of his lung cancer diagnosis. If Walt had stayed at the multi billion dollar company, he would have had enough net worth to pay for treatments and keep his family well cared for after his death.

Walt’s former business partner Elliot Schwartz offers to pay for Walt’s treatment, but his pride forces him to refuse the charity. Later, showrunner Vince Gilligan explained precisely why Walt left Gray Matter in the first place and why he couldn’t accept Elliot’s generous offer.

Walter White helped start a multi-billion dollar company

Skyler and Walter White
Skyler White (Anna Gunn) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) | Ursula Coyote/AMC

Before Breaking Bad begins, Walt started the company Gray Matter Technologies along with his college friend Elliot. At the time, Walt was in a romantic relationship with his lab assistant Gretchen before the two abruptly broke up during a 4th of July weekend celebration with her family, HuffPost reported.

Walt sold his share of the company to Elliot for just $5,000. By the time Breaking Bad begins, Gray Matter is worth $2.6 billion. To make the situation even worse, Walt’s ex Gretchen and Elliot are married. Meanwhile, Walt lives a typical middle-class existence with a modest salary as a high school chemistry teacher.

Walt left Gray Matter because he felt inferior

Showrunner Vince Gilligan explained that Walt left Gray Matter after discovering how wealthy Gretchen’s family was during that holiday celebration.

“I think it was kind of situation where [Walt] didn’t realize the girl he was about to marry was so very wealthy and came from such a prominent family, and it kind of blew his mind and made him feel inferior and he overreacted. He just kind of checked out. I think there is that whole other side to the story, and it can be gleaned,” Gilligan explained.

He continued: “This isn’t really the CliffsNotes version so much. These facts can be gleaned if you watch some of these scenes really closely enough, and you watch them without too much of an overriding bias toward Walt and against Gretchen and Elliott.”

Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz aren’t meant to be the villains

Elliot, Gretchen, and Walt
Elliott (Adam Godley), Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) | Ursula Coyote/AMC

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Even though they made money off Walt’s mistake, Gilligan insists the Schwartzes aren’t meant to be evil.

“…Most viewers of Breaking Bad assume Gretchen and Elliott are the bad guys, and they assume that Walt got ripped off by them, got ill-used by them,” he said. “I never actually saw it that way.”

He went on, explaining how it’s because of their status that people hate these two characters. “The short answer here is that I think people tend to think of Gretchen and Elliott as the villains because they’re a couple of rich happy people, and they seemed to be arrayed against our hero, Walter White, but the truth may be not so quite on the nose.”

Instead, Walt suffered from a lack of self-confidence and a deep inferiority complex. It wasn’t Gretchen and Elliot’s fault how Walt saw himself. Him hating their success wasn’t about them — it was about him.