Steering all of this is a brilliant performance from Bryan Cranston, who with just the slightest change in the tone of his voice, dipping down a few octaves and drawling out a sentence, can sound like the most nefarious person in the room. It is a performance of sheer precision and immaculate craft, at one turn he is innocent and weak, breaking down in front of his family displaying very nuanced affection for his loved ones, but just one little tip over the edge and he is a ticking time bomb.
Following the events of Breaking Bad, Saul is living in Omaha under the psydonym Gene. When fans last saw him in the Bad episode "Granite State," he tells Walter "If I'm lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha." Co-showrunner Vince Gilligan says there will likely be more Omaha scenes in the show's future.
In Better Call Saul, Saul sees an intimidating looking guy in his Cinnabon, whom he worries is after him. Soon after, the man exits the store and hugs a young woman. The same thing happens to Jesse Pinkman in the Breaking Bad episode "Rabid Dog," when he sees a man whom he thinks Walter has hired to harm him. The guy turns out to just be waiting for his daughter.
Jimmy invites the Kettlemans out to eat at Loyola's, because he doesn't want them to see his horrible office. In Breaking Bad season four's "Cornered," Mike and Jesse have an awkwardly silent meal at the same restaurant before Gus shows up. Later on in Bad, Mike and Lydia meet there.
Both Jimmy and Walt have a thing for denting metal objects. In Saul, the camera shows that the trash can at Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill already has dents, suggesting that's Jimmy's default whipping post. Walt, meanwhile, takes it out on a paper towel dispenser in the season two Breaking Bad episode "Four Days Out" after a meeting with his oncologist. The motif returns in the season five episode "Gliding Over All," when Walt returns to the same restroom.
Jimmy's crummy office is in the back of a nail salon, exactly the type of establishment Saul tries to convince Walt and Skyler to buy to launder their money in season four's "Open House." H/T Buzzfeed
The opening credits' an inflatable Statue of Liberty was introduced as gaudy topper to Saul's office in season two's Breaking Bad episode "Better Call Saul," just before Jesse gives the famous "you want a criminal lawyer" speech.
Veteran Breaking Bad director (and helmer of this episode of Saul) told The Hollywood Reporter this desert scene was shot in the same spot the famous "Say My Name" showdown happened. Bad producers called this stretch of desert their "backlot," because they used it so often. Also shot there: the season four scene in which Gus, Jesse and Mike are blindfolded on their way to Mexico.
Tuco shows off his salsa making skills in Saul, and later makes some delicious-looking burritos in Bad after kidnapping Jesse and Walt. Unfortunately for our heroes, Tio Salamanca warns his nephew when Walt tries to slip some ricin into Tuco's burrito in the season two episode "Grilled." Tuco does not take that well.
In Saul, Tuco gets annoyed when No-Doze argues with Jimmy on his behalf. That becomes deadly in Bad, when No-Doze reminds Walt and Jesse who they work for. Tuco is ticked No-Doze is speaking for him, and beats him to death in the season two episode " Seven Thirty-Seven." Tuco actor Raymond Cruz told THR his character's reactions are more extreme in Bad, because he's a meth addict, while in Saul he hasn't yet started using the drug.
As he's tackled to the ground by police officers, Jimmy screams that he's got bad knees. He told Walt and Jesse the same thing in the season two episode "Better Call Saul" after they kidnapped him and drove him to the desert. "We thought he must have taken a lot of bad hits on the ice of Chicago and he probably messed up his knees falling down all the time," said writer Thomas Schnauz. "When we did it in Breaking Bad, we didn't have a reason that he had bad knees, but it's nice when we can tie those threads together."
When Jimmy wanders around the wilderness looking for the Kettlemans, he's treading in familiar territory to Breaking Bad fans. The segment was shot near where Walter killed Mike in the season five episode "Say My Name." (H/T to @hypergenesb for spotting the similarity, which was later confirmed by Bad alum and Saul writer Thomas Schnauz)
Saul's office decoration was seen in multiple Breaking Bad episodes, including season three's "Caballo Sin Nombre," in which he gave Jesse a big stack of cash. Episode three of Saul gave that a nod during its theme song. (H/T @BDF331)
Some mysterious graffiti tagging appears in both Jesse's trashed house in the season four Breaking Bad episode "Probem Dog" and on the phonebooth Jimmy frantically tries to contact Nacho at. (H/T Reddit).
Chuck is checked into the same hospital that Brock was treated at in season four Breaking Bad, when he was suspected of being poisoned with ricin. On the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, Vince Gilligan revealed that in Saul, actress T.C. Warner played the same nurse who kicks Jesse out of the hospital.
When viewers first saw this bus stop ad, Badger was about to get busted for selling drugs to an undercover cop in the season two episode "Better Call Saul," which introduced the world to Saul Goodman.
The Mike-centered episode of Better Call Saul calls back to Breaking Bad's "Dead Freight." The first shot in the Saul episode features the train Mike is taking into town from Philadelphia, with a similar shot featured in Bad's train robbery episode. A key part of Bad lore is that Drew Sharp, the young boy who ultimately is gunned down by Todd, discovered a tarantula in the New Mexico desert. Before leaving Philadelphia, a bartender remarks to Mike that Albuquerque is known for its tarantulas, to which Mike responds that he'll be on the lookout. (H/T Reddit).
The man who is squeezed into the Loyola's bathroom during Jimmy's meeting with the Kettlemans is the same guy who later helps rig up the magnet in the season five Breaking Bad episode "Live Free or Die."
Editor's note: Last year, RogerEbert.com contributor Dave Bunting began editing a series of video essays that arrange images from seasons of "Breaking Bad" in ways that highlight the show's motifs, colors and textures. Bunting published most of his video essays on the series at Press Play, and is finishing the series as a coproduction between that site and RogerEbert.com. Watch his take on Season 1 and read an essay by Nick Schager here. You can also view the video and an accompanying essay by Max Winter at Press Play. You can find his video essay and the transcript of an interview with series cinematographer Michael Slovis about Season 2 here or at Press Play, with an accompanying essay by Arielle Bernstein. Bunting also published videos about Season 3, Season 4, and the first half of Season 5 at Press Play. Bunting's concluding video, about the second half of Season 5, is below, with an essay by Scott Eric Kaufman. You can also watch this video and read a companion essay by Arielle Bernstein at Press Play.
The fifth season of "Breaking Bad" is an exercise in aggressive nostalgia. "Ozymandias," lauded by many as one of the strongest hours in television history ten minutes in, is especially committed to reminding the audience how different the world these characters inhabit is.
As they bicker, it seems as if the light is fighting to get in. The scene is brighter than it should be, in part because the one it imitates predates the arrival of Michael Slovis, who wouldn't sign on as director of photography for another year. That may seem like trivia, but Slovis dramatically altered the look of the show, and in this episode, he and Johnson take advantage of that difference to create a strong visual contrast between where the show began and where, as we all now know, it ends.
This is not to say that a slight shift in the palette or scheduling defines the aesthetic of the final season of one of television's most visually stunning programs, but it is indicative of the general ethos adopted by the talented people who directed these episodes: the day is late for Walter White, and to quote the man who thinks him incomparably evil, the night is long and full of terrors.
No messing around here! We will now spend these next eight episodes (and possibly well into the final batch airing next summer) wondering exactly how Walt is going to get from here to there, making us unable to entirely enjoy even the triumphs, because we know this low, frightening point is on the horizon.
Though Robert Forster only appeared in one episode of Breaking Bad as Ed the Disappearer, the vacuum salesman with a side hustle giving criminals new identities, the character is still a fan favorite, especially after he reappeared when Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was looking for a new life in Netflix's El Camino.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould said: "I was lucky enough to write and direct his one appearance on Breaking Bad. It's hard to believe, but he was only in one episode. I had such a great time with him. We'd been looking for an opportunity to have him back on Better Call Saul.
"And then Vince [Gilligan, Breaking Bad creator] wrote him into El Camino, which was great. Those things probably happened almost simultaneously... But the truth is, when I wrote the first draft of the season opener, I didn't think we would see him. I thought it would be too big a deal for us to reconstruct that vacuum-cleaner shop and to fly Robert to Albuquerque for just one side of a phone call."
Gould explained: "But then while they were shooting El Camino, Melissa Bernstein, our brilliant producer, called me up and said, 'How would you like to see him instead of just hearing him?' And I said, 'Hell, yes!' Vince agreed to shoot Robert's half of the phone call during the El Camino shoot, and El Camino was shot long before we started shooting this season of Better Call Saul. Robert was on board, so [laughs] I quickly rewrote the script to show his side of the conversation." 59ce067264