Better Call Saul Writer on That Breaking Bad Reference: "It Felt Like a Big Deal"

A new player is in the game. The first full episode of Better Call Saul in the black and white Gene timeline, Monday's "Nippy" is set some six months after Ed the Disappearer (Robert Forster) extracts Saul Goodman from New Mexico to Nebraska in Breaking Bad. The episode catches up with the criminal lawyer's assumed identity, Omaha Cinnabon manager Gene Taković (Odenkirk), in fall 2010, weeks after the death of meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Last we saw Gene, he had been made by Albuquerque cab driver Jeff (Pat Healy, replacing Dan Harvey) — and in "Nippy," he teaches Jeff how to break bad.

Saul/Gene comes up with a "Slippin'" Jimmy McGill-style scheme to rip off a mall department store, a plan that requires precision, training, recon — and batches of freshly-made Cinnabon treats. "This whole thing, it seems crazy," the sweater-clad "Jeffy" says about the heist that no one will ever know happened if executed properly.

"Crazy? I'll tell you what's crazy," Saul/Gene/Jimmy shoots back. "Fifty-year-old high school chemistry teacher comes into my office. The guy is so broke, he can't pay his own mortgage. One year later, he's got a pile of cash as big as a Volkswagen. That's crazy." 

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Before it came tumbling down in Breaking Bad, it was Saul's wheeling and dealing that helped chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook Walter White grow his operation into the Heisenberg empire. Sure, White was sitting on a pile of cash as big as a Volkswagon — or enough to fill a storage unit and several barrels buried in the New Mexico desert.

The Walter White reference "felt like a big deal," writer Allison Tatlock told "That was pitched in the [writers'] room so that was definitely part of the episode as broken. And I remember a stage direction in the script where I said something like, 'Holy sh—! Did Gene just invoke Walter White?'"

The stage direction written in the script was "just to underline the fact that we did think this was significant and that we were letting our viewers in on the fact that we know that we're heading towards the Breaking Bad years in our narrative, even though now we've jumped ahead," Tatlock said. 

A Season 4 episode of Better Call Saul dipped into the Breaking Bad era when the cold open of "Quite a Ride," set between the events of Breaking Bad Season 5 episodes "Ozymandias" and "Granite State," revealed the moment that Saul called in his extraction to Nebraska. In Season 6 episode "Fun and Games," Saul flash forwarded to the Breaking Bad timeline post-breakup with wife Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), only to flash forward even further with a return to the Gene timeline in "Nippy." 

And in the August 1 episode of Better Call Saul — titled "Breaking Bad" — the spinoff just might back in time to explore the Breaking Bad era from another perspective. Saul showrunner Peter Gould has announced that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will reprise their roles as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in the final season of Better Call Saul, which concludes with Episode 13 on August 15.