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.
While this week’s episode, “Sunk Cost,” was short on Breaking Bad callbacks (although there were a couple), there were nevertheless some fascinating and noteworthy details from the episode.
The teaser in this week’s episode is actually a flash-forward to the Breaking Bad years, which might be difficult to discern without the context provided at the end of the episode. The tattered sneakers, the bullet holes in the stop sign, and the weeds in the tire also signify a passage of time. The Los Pollos Hermanos truck passing through basically illustrates that Gus Fring will eventually own that route with the help of MIke Ehrmantraut, as we learn later in the episode.
The Good Samaritan
The discussion on the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast between showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, and director John Shiban and writer Genny Hutchinson about the first encounter between Gus and Mike is insightful, not only for the way the scene was shot (wide, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) but for the way it was written.
At this point, Gus already knows a lot about Mike — probably from one of Hector’s moles (Nacho?) — so Gus is trying to tease out Mike’s motivations. “Mike has a very unusual set of motivations, especially for a criminal. The fact that Gus teases out why Mike is doing what he’s doing means that maybe Mike might be vulnerable to some kind of manipulation,” Gould suggests. “How on Earth does Mike end up becoming Gus’s right-hand man?”
That’s the question posed in this scene: What does Gus learn about Mike that allows him to manipulate him into becoming his right hand? Is it simply the guilt of having accidentally gotten a good Samaritan killed last season? Or is there something more? What does Gus have on Mike? Or more importantly what will Gus have on Mike?
The Detention Center
This is a tiny detail, but it’s just too good to leave out. When Jimmy is arrested and taken to a detention center, the show uses an actual former detention center about an hour and a half outside of ABQ as the setting. “Now, ironically, even though there are still cells and cots and bars and handcuffs around, it is now a Girl Scout retreat,” they say in the Insider podcast. In fact, in the hallway where Jimmy is being perp walked, there are rainbows and unicorns painted on the wall, but the art department covered it up. (The cops in that scene, by the way, are actual cops, one of whom has acted as an advisor on the show.)
It’s worth noting that here that, on social media, Ernesto has become this season’s cult hero of Better Call Saul.
But you know what? I’m not even going to dignify the insane theory floating around that Ernesto is Gus Fring’s son. No.
There’s a showdown brewing between Chuck and Jimmy, and it’s likely to happen in a courtroom. My guess is that Jimmy will seek to discredit Chuck in order to boost his own case, and he has no shortage of witnesses who can testify against both Chuck’s character and his mental health. One key witness, however, that may prove to be crucial is Chuck’s ex-wife, Rebecca.
Here’s the synopsis for next week’s show: “Jimmy asks a favor of Mike,” and here’s one for the following week: “Jimmy looks to Chuck’s past to secure his future.” I suspect that the favor that Jimmy asks Mike is to track down Chucks’ ex-wife, Rebecca, who Jimmy did happen to mention in last week’s episode. There was also a teaser scene with Rebecca last season (recall, she was played by Ann Cusack — sister of Joan and John Cusack). I believe they have been laying the groundwork for a crucial role for Rebecca. The past that will come back to haunt Chuck (and secure Jimmy’s future) is what Rebecca will have to offer about Chuck’s disdain for Jimmy, and perhaps the origins of Chuck’s condition.
In other words, this trial may get very nasty, and very personal, and when it’s over, there may not be a relationship between Jimmy and Chuck anymore.
The Mexican Doctor
Many will remember the Mexican doctor in this episode who provides Mike with a bag of meth as the same doctor who treated Mike after a gun shot wound in Breaking Bad. But the details go even further. Here’s Mike in Saul walking out of the office and seeing the chickens.
Here’s Mike feeding the chickens while recovering in Breaking Bad.
Some may have been confused as to why Kim Wexler is showering at the gym next to her office now. She didn’t leave Jimmy or move out, nor is she too angry with Jimmy to go back to their apartment together, as some might have thought. She simply showers at the gym because she sleeps in her office sometimes because it allows her to squeeze in more work.
That Shot, Though!
Let’s admire the cinematography in this shot for a moment, which reminded Vince Gilligan of The X-Files, where he got his start. “If Mulder and Scully had held hands like this, people would’ve shit their … ” Gilligan said in the Insider Podcast. Gilligan, of course, got his television start on The X-Files, and the director of this episode, Joh Shiban, was a also a long-time director and executive producer on The X-Files and the spin-off, The Lone Gunman.
In fact, the it was John Shiban’s son who played Mulder and Scully’s baby in The X-Files. That baby is 16 years old now.