A disgruntled AMC employee leaked the script of the Breaking Bad finale today, revealing the final fates of main characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman one week earlier than expected.
According to a report on EW.com, the final episode will show Walt awaking from cancer surgery and finding that almost everything that happened to him during the show's run was a dream. He still works as a high school chemistry teacher, his wife Skyler is still pregnant with their child and nearly everyone who has died since Season 1 is still alive.
The shocking ending is bound to polarize fans and is already being compared to the controversial finale of the Sopranos, which many criticized as an unfitting coda to one of television's best series.
Although at first denying the authenticity of the leak, AMC has now swung into full damage control mode. The network has dispatched several of the show's writers to explain how the finale came about and why viewers should still tune in.
"On behalf of all the cast and crew of Breaking Bad we are outraged that someone would violate the trust we have placed in them and leak this information before its intended air date," explains creator Vince Gilligan in a statement on AMC's website.
"Although the outlines of the revelations are accurate, it still makes for compelling television, and we hope viewers give it a chance and watch it live."
Debuting in 2008, Breaking Bad has been hailed as one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time. It currently holds an unprecedented 99 score on review aggregation site Metacritic and won the Emmy for best drama last night.
The leaked ending is attracting fierce criticism online, however, from devoted fans who feel let down by an uninspiring finale. The harshest critique concerns the final scene, where the camera zooms out to reveal that Walt's hospital is inside of a snow globe and on the bottom of the snow globe read the words "property of the DHARMA initiative."
"WTF is this? LOST or something?," writes one unsettled viewer on Tumblr. "Why is Breaking Bad copying from one of the worst finales of all time? #epicfail."
Indeed, according to the EW article, Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of Lost, was hired to help write the final episode. In a statement on his Tumblr, Lindelof vigorously defended the ending.
"Not everything was a dream," he explains. "The first few episodes were real. Walt really does cook meth with Jesse in the Winnebago. But they only do one cook. Everything after that was a dream while Walt was under the knife.
"I think it's better this way. After killing Emilio and Krazy 8, they get scared straight. Walt goes back to his normal family life. Jesse is moving back in with his parents and trying to find a job in the retail sector. It's a happy ending. People like happy endings."
The final episode of Breaking Bad is set to air Sept. 29 on AMC.