In this week’s third episode of Better Call Saul‘s second season, “Amarillo,” we discovered where Saul Goodman got his taste for television commercials and learned more about his fondness for showmanship. It also, unfortunately, pushed forward Saul‘s potential Skyler White problem, though I hope the writers find a way to keep us on Kim’s side.
It was a great episode for Breaking Bad callbacks and Easter eggs, however. The following details were gleaned largely from rewatching “Amarillo” several times and listening to Kelley Dixon’s excellent Better Call Saul Insider podcast with Gilligan and Gould.
The Texas Waltz
Three things about that opening teaser, from the Insider podcast: First of all, the production crew actually painted that Texas mural on the side of a building in Albuquerque to give the impression Jimmy was in Texas. They even managed to age down the newly painted mural to make it appear as though it had been there a long time. It took five days to paint. The owners of the building liked the mural so much that they ended up keeping it on the wall.
Second, it was so hot that day that air conditioning had to be pumped into that bus so the senior citizens wouldn’t melt. They were professional and understanding. However, during Jimmy’s big speech, the phone of one of the old men on the bus began ringing, and while some actors might have gotten irritated, Bob Odenkirk was kind and funny, joking with the senior citizen by asking if he could wait and take the call after he finished his big speech.
Three, the episode’s writer, Jonathan Glatzer (in his first stab at writing for the series), specifically suggested that Jimmy refer to his grandparents and “Nana” and “Bobo.” Exec producer Thomas Schnauz bet him that Gilligan and Gould wouldn’t let that in. Schnauz lost the bet.
The Pink Pig
You may recognize the pink pig that Mike’s granddaughter was playing with. It was the same pig that Mike used in a fifth season episode of Breaking Bad, putting it in front of a keyhole to distract an assassin.
You can actually buy the pig on Amazon. The reviews are great.
The Walking Dead
I didn’t realize until they mentioned it in the Better Call Saul Insider podcast that Kerry Condon, who plays Mike’s daughter in Better Call Saul, was also in The Walking Dead. She played a woman in one episode who wanted to be a walker so she could be with her husband.
Alpine Shepard Boy
The Alpine Shepard Boy from this episode, of course, was seen before (in the same woman’s house) back in season one.
In fact, it was the title of the 5th episode in season one (it was changed to “Alpine Shepard Boy” when the original title, “Jell-O” was rejected on copyright grounds).
In the Better Call Saul podcast, Vince Gilligan accidentally let slip that these two guys will be back in the seventh episode of the season. We can assume that Jimmy’s commercial-making days are not over.
I’m Ready for My Closeup
Also, this is a detail that I didn’t pick up on the first time I watched. Struggling to find something other than a dolly to film the commercial, Saul notices the old woman coming down on her chair lift and zeroed in on her mode of transportation.
That chair lift was what was used to ultimately film the commercial.
The scene with the alleged gunshots was interesting, because we don’t know exactly what’s going on in Stacey’s mind. Does she actually believe that she heard gunshots, or is she playing upon Mike’s sympathies to get a better living situation? That was intentionally left vague by the writers, who won’t admit either way, but they have left open the possibility that the question might be more fully explored later on in the series.
The Backflip Painting
If you’re wondering what the deal is with this painting, it was originally painted on a wall in Africa by a graffiti artist. It was a smaller part of a bigger painting. The Saul people loved it so much that the artist excitedly reproduced this section for them to put in Jimmy’s office, where it fits perfectly.
Ice Station Zebra
My favorite detail from the episode was the movie Kim and Jimmy were watching in this scene. It was called Ice Station Zebra, and Jimmy was so fond of this moment with Kim that he would later, as Saul, name the holding company he used for tax evasion purposes Ice Station Zebra Associates.
An interesting note about the use of the 1968 film for this scene is that the producers on Saul had to note all the actors who were seen onscreen for this scene because they — or their estate — received royalties for it.
Red is the Color of Criminality
One final note from the podcast. This week, production designer Tony Fanning was on, and in the course of talking about set design, he and Gilligan noted that they had to remove the color red from one particular piece of the set because, in the show, “red is the color of criminality,” which basically confirms Vince Gilligan’s color theory. Not coincidentally, Nacho appeared at the end of the episode wearing red when he asked Mike to get rid of a guy for him.