A great final season of television should be like a great novel: Everything that came before should mean something. All along, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad has been about great, efficient storytelling. Every element is necessary and irreplaceable. A final season should make use of all of those elements: It should be like an amazing, unpredictable, mind-blowing new song with elements of the rest of the album interwoven into the narrative.
That is exactly what the final season of Breaking Bad has been so far. Everything from the previous five seasons informs this sixth season (or season 5B, if you prefer). By calling back to earlier episodes, Vince Gilligan is rewarding his audience for paying attention and, in the process, enriching those earlier episodes, which mean more now that we’re seeing how they inform the final eight episodes. I don’t know how else to say it except that all the callbacks and parallels from the last five episodes has been really f***king NEAT.
I have taken the liberty of cataloging 25 of the callbacks and parallels from the first five episodes of the final season (the final season, for our purposes, is only the last eight episodes of the series). There may be more. There will no doubt be more in the final three episodes. People will probably continue to spot them for years to come. Some guy in 2016 watching the entire series for the sixth time may spot something new in “Rabid Dog” that he’s never seen before and his mind may finally explode all over his laptop. In the decades to come, people are going to look at this series as the perfect example of how to make a great, entertaining, compelling, intense and intelligent series that rewards its audience as much as it challenges it. These brilliant callbacks are just one of the many reasons why Breaking Bad will persevere.
1. In the season premiere, the remote control car — which narrowly avoids being crushed by Walt’s car — is a callback to a first season episode in which an oblivious Marie crushed a remote control car.
2. Walter White’s confession in “Confessions” is a callback to his confession in the pilot episode.
3. In “Rabid Dog,” Skyer says to Walter after Jesse dumps gas all over their house, “I knew this would happen! I told you someday someone would show up at our door.” That’s a callback to Walter White’s “The One Who Knocks Speech,” in which Skyler expresses fear that someone dangerous would show up to their front door.
4. Hank’s conversation with Walt is also a callback to The One Who Knocks speech.
5. In that same episode, Saul refers to Jesse as a rabid dog — like Old Yeller — who needs to be put down, just as he’d described Gale Boetticher as a problem dog that needed to be put down. The respective episodes are “Problem Dog” and “Rabid Dog.”
6. In “Buried,” Jesse visits the Dog House restaurant, which is where he bought a gun in season two.
7. In the season premiere, Walter White throwing up in the toilet echoes the way that Gus Fring threw up in the toilet in season four.
8. Carol’s oranges in the season premiere call back, again, to the oranges that fell on Ted in season four (both of which foreshadow death).
9. The spider in “Buried” calls back the spider in “Dead Freight.”
10. Jesse on the merry-go-round in “Buried” echoes Walt getting a scan in “Gliding Over All.”
11. Walt coming home on his last three birthdays.
12. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the death scene in this season’s “Buried” and in this fourth season’s “Salud.”
13. When Uncle Jack finds blood on his shoe after killing Declan and his crew, that’s actually a callback to Mike finding a spot of blood on his jacket back in the season four episode, “Thirty-Eight Snub.”
14. In “Rabid Dog,” just as in the pilot episode, Walter White is still holding his gun in his tighty-whiteys.
15. The hug in “Rabid Dog” and “ABQ.”
16. Jesse after getting beat up by Tuco, compared to Walt after getting beat up by Hank.
17. “Blood Money” vs. “Gliding All Over”
18. Walt’s treatment of Lydia in “Blood Money” was a callback to the way Gus treated Walt when Walt came to Los Pollos Hermanos.
19. What is up with Jesse taking rides with bald dudes?
20. The cockroach from “Blood Money” was a visual callback to the season two episode, “Peekaboo.”
21. Walt’s surrender in “To’hajiilee” mirrors Gus’s bring it on from the fourth season episode, “Bug.”
22. Again, in “To’hajiilee,” Hank gives Walter the wave he referred to in season four’s “Bullet Points” with the French Connection reference.
23. This shot, from “To’hajiilee,” echoes that from the season two episode, “Grilled,” which led to Hank’s PTSD.
24. Note the pool in “Rabid Dog” and the meth cooking device in “Grilled.”
And this from To’hajiilee.
25. Here are mirrored shots from the pilot episode and “To’hajiilee.”
The shots, of course, are from the To’hajiilee, which is where Walt buried they money, a callback to he and Jesse’s first cook.