Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul returned for season 5 last night, and fans of Vince Gilligan's dark crime drama saga got an especially nice cameo surprise. The Better Call Sual Season 5 premiere featured a cameo by late (great) actor Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), who Breaking Bad fans best know as "Ed," the enigtmatic underworld coyote who set up new identities for Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Saul Goodman, when their crime empire eventually fell apart. Forster died after a battle with brain cancer back in fall of last year. The actor was 78. In addition to the cameo, Better Call Saul's season 5 premiere ended with the message "Dedicated to our friend Robert Forster."
Warning! Better Call Saul Season 5 Premiere SPOILERS Follow!
If you aren't aware (or just need the reminder), Better Call Saul tells a three-pronged story, which serves as a prequel, interquel, and sequel to the events of Breaking Bad. The sequel portion of the story follows Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman in his new identity as "Gene Takovic," a Cinnabon manager in Omaha, Nebraska. In the opening of season 5, we get an extensive sequence in the Gene timeline, which draws Ed back into the picture.
When season 4 left off, Gene had suffered some kind of panic attack or other health ailment that landed him in the hospital. Being registered in the system sent "Gene" into panic mode that the underworld forces after him would be on his trail again. He goes into hiding for a bit, and just when he thinks it's all safe and clear, Gene finds out that he's indeed been exposed. Not by any cartel or hitman, but instead by a cab driver named Jeff (Don Harvey) who recognizes him from his "Better Call Saul" commercials.
Having finally been recognized, Jimmy calls up Ed for yet another extraction, relocation, and false identity. However, as Ed (still posing as a vacuum salesman) is explaining the high cost of this operation, Gene feels that old Jimmy/Saul edge resurface, and he instead chooses to handle the situation with Jeff his own way...
Speaking to EW, Better Call Saul EP Peter Gould revealed that Forster actually got to shoot his season 5 premiere cameo on the same day he shot his other cameo in the recent Breaking Bad movie, El Camino:
"That was actually shot on one of the days that they were shooting him in El Camino. And at the time I thought, "This is just great, efficient producing." It was fun to have that half of the phone call done. But now looking back on it, it's so much more meaningful to have one last look at Robert in our world. We had the screening of the premiere episode, and there were nine members of his family who came, and it was just so wonderful to see them. And, you know, we miss him. I think if Vince and I had had our way, we would've done a lot more together. It's a very special thing to have him on the show. And, of course, it's completely organic because we had no idea it was going to be our last chance."
Indeed, Forster's Ed was a pivotal character in the Breaking Bad universe, who had room to grow into a much bigger role. Just one of the many reasons the Oscar-nominated actor will be missed.
Better Call Saul season 5 is now airing on Mondays on AMC.