Welcome back to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul. While Alan Sepinwall provides his always excellent coverage of the series (here’s his write-up of the most recent episode), here we will look at some of the details viewers may have missed, callbacks to Breaking Bad, references to other shows or movies, and theories on the direction the series is heading. We scour Reddit threads, Twitter, listen each week to Kelley Dixon’s Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, and attempt to curate the best intel about each episode.
This week’s episode, “Witness,” was obviously ripe with not just callbacks to Breaking Bad, but returning characters from the parent series. There were three, to be exact. Let’s start with the biggest:
We’ve all known that Gus Fring would return to the series since the end of last season, when an anagram of the season two episode titles spelled it out for us:
It was only a matter of time, and according to Vince Gilligan in the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, there were some considerations made into dragging it out as long as possible, perhaps to the fifth or sixth episode of the second season. Ultimately, however, they decided to bring him in earlier. Even so, Gilligan — who directed the first two episodes of the season — wanted to make viewers wait for a while for it by pushing it beyond the first episode and deep into the second episode.
The wait could have been even longer, but realizing that the episode was running too long, Gilligan and editor Kelley Dixon made the decision to cut one scene and use the dialogue from it as a voiceover in another scene. So, what Mike is telling Jimmy in voiceover as Jimmy walks inside the Los Pollos Hermanos is actually dialogue taken from a cut scene between Mike and Jimmy in Mike’s car. The reason the episode ran long, of course, is because Gilligan spent so much time following Gus’s guy around as he picked up stacks of cash hidden in various parts of Albuquerque, which we know to be Fring’s M.O. from Breaking Bad. There was, in fact, a lot more footage of the stakeouts, but Gilligan trimmed it down.
One note of interest there is that when Mike is looking out into the city, his vantage point is that from a place in Albuquerque right next to the mall with the Cinnabon inside where Gene works, which is set in Omaha on the series.
We do finally meet Gus when Jimmy tracks one of Gus’s men inside the Los Pollos Hermanos. How does Gus know that Jimmy is working with Mike, and therefore, that Mike is tracking Gus? I struggled with that question myself, rewatching the scene inside Los Pollos Hermanos several times to see if Jimmy gave anything away. As it turns out, according to Gilligan, Jimmy simply tingled Gus’ “Spidey sense.” He knew Mike was following him not because of any one thing, but because Gus is a smart man who had a hunch.
It’s unclear if Jimmy and Gus will ever cross paths again. In Breaking Bad, we are given the impression that Saul has no idea who Gus Fring is when he sets up a meet between Gus and Walter White. In their initial meeting about Gus, Saul tells Walter that he doesn’t know Gus, but he “knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy” who knows Fring. That, however, could have been posturing. It’s hard to imagine that Gus and Jimmy will never meet again on Better Call Saul.
Speaking of Gus, he’s still driving that Volvo.