Better Call Saul is dropping weekly on Lightbox right now – and it’s slowly catching up with the start of Breaking Bad. While we wait, here are four fanservicey ways the new show could tip its hat to the old one.
Better Call Saul, the often-prequel sometimes-sequel series to Breaking Bad, is back with its fourth season. It promises ten more episodes to explore bumbling but ultimately well-meaning lawyer Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) slithering transformation into the bumbling but ultimately ill-spirited fixer Saul Goodman.
This slow-burn comedy of terrors has played a calm, largely unshowy hand when it comes to crossovers with its mothership show. We’ve had appearances from the supporting criminal cast that crossed paths with Walter White but that’s been it. All have been in plots that require them. These are the people that Jimmy McGill would have met on his way to help the dad from Malcolm in the Middle break bad, it makes sense for them to be there.
While this muted, reasonable approach has paid many dividends when it comes to making Saul stand on its own two feet as a work in its own right, it has somewhat denied itself and its audience the raw joy that a solid meaty chunk of fanservice can provide.
There’s no thrill quite like the closely grouped stars of the stories you love suddenly, and for no reason, reminding you that they form a constellation. When Angel showed up in the last season of Buffy, I thrilled. When Buffy (kinda) showed up in the last season of Angel, I gasped. When Quark helped the Enterprise-D find the Duras sisters, I felt just a little more complete.
When Kensi from NCIS: Los Angeles helped the Hawaii Five-0, I felt nothing because I don’t watch those shows and only just found out that happened from TV Tropes, but I’m sure someone out there was really jazzed to see their two favourite shows connect. That’s the feeling Better Call Saul is refusing us. But it doesn’t have to be this way. To celebrate its fourth season, streaming now on Lightbox, here are four suggestions how Better Call Saul could service the fans with hat-tips to Breaking Bad.
1. Mike Goes Undercover in Walter White’s Science Class
Mike Ehrmantraut, the almost cartoonishly grizzled enforcer slash parking lot warden is a firm fan favourite on both Bad and Saul so what better way to please the fans than reveal that he has untold history with the man who would become Heisenberg. What if, with his increasing involvement with Gus Fring’s meth empire, Mike decides he needs to go back and learn some of the science behind the industry.
So he goes undercover as a weathered, deadpan teen in Walter White’s science class. There could even be a telling call-forward to Mike and Walt’s tumultuous future relationship when Mr White gives the student he knows as Eike Mhrmantraut a stern-talking when he dispassionately executes a fellow student.
2. Jesse Pinkman: Child Detective
Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman was always the innocent, somewhat moral barometer against which we measured the steep incline of fortune and ethics on Walter White’s behalf in Breaking Bad. There is no reason he couldn’t serve the same purpose on Better Call Saul. Since Saul is still a few years from Breaking Bad’s timeline (though promos for season four promise events that take place during the mother show), Jesse would be still be but a young lad.
What better moral barometer for Jimmy McGill than puckish boy detective Jesse Pinkman always nipping at his heels? He could try to help but make things worse. He could squint to express every emotion. All the Pinkman favourites. And then at the end of the show, he hits his head on the ground and forgets it all. That’s why he’s on drugs in Breaking Bad, to dull the pain! It all fits perfectly.
3. Skyler White’s Guilt Monologues
Saul, like Breaking Bad, has gotten a lot of mileage out of pushing traditional narrative convention. To integrate Anna Gunn’s criminally underrated performance as Skyler White – the most complex and interesting character on Breaking Bad – into Better Call Saul, they should push the conventions of the form even further than they ever have before. I propose that every single time a male character performs or orders an act of violence for purely selfish reasons (which is to say several times an episode) Skyler appears on screen and directly addresses the audience. “Oh really?” She’ll say. “And I’m the bitch? Because I did my best in a terrible situation to keep my family afloat, I’m your least favourite character? But this guy, this guy who shoots people for money” – that bit will change depending on what’s just happened – “Oh he’s fine, you love him. BULLSHIT!”
Or words to that effect.
4. Put Walt Jnr in the background of every shot
Season four of Better Call Saul drops every Tuesday night, exclusively on Lightbox. You can watch it, and much more right here.
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This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox.