Welcome back to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s Better Call Saul. While Brian Grubb 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 the phenomenal Better Call Saul Insider Podcast, and attempt to curate the best intel about each episode.
In this week’s episode, Jimmy goes full Saul Goodman.
1. This week’s episode of Better Call Saul, “Winner,” was the longest episode of Saul to date. In fact, it was the longest episode of either Saul or Breaking Bad, and they struggled to get in under one hour (it’s six seconds under an hour, without commercials). In fact, it took an entire weekend to remove two minutes from the runtime, which might have included pulling a few frames here and there. There are a few things left on the cutting room floor, including an extended karaoke sequence with Michael McKean that may ultimately make it onto the Blu-Ray. I believe there may have also been a scene with Nacho that got cut. Funny thing is: As long as the episode was, the pace was so brisk, and the story so absorbing, that it didn’t feel any longer than a typical episode.
2. When they thought to bring Michael McKean back, they figured they might be able to convince him to come back with a song, because McKean loves to sing. They also thought it was fun to have a guy in McKean known for singing (he was the lead singer in Spinal Tap) with Bob Odenkirk, who is known for his comedically bad singing from his improv days (reminder, Odenkirk’s bad singing was on full display when he sang during the 7th inning stretch of a Cubs game). Speaking of Odenkirk, this has nothing to do with Saul, but I found it amusing that he got drunk for the first time in 30 years in order to do his Drunk History episode.
3. Another note about that teaser: Apparently, ABBA — who performs and owns the right to “Winner,” the song used in the karaoke sequence — is very protective of their music. They have lots of integrity; they do not care about the money; and nothing gets licensed without personal approval. They are very particular when it comes to protecting their legacy.
Nevertheless, the music supervisor, Thomas Golubić — a longtime ABBA fan — thought he had a good in with the band. He was invited backstage at one of their concerts, and one of the members, Björn Ulvaeus, loves Breaking Bad, so they immediately hit it off and talked about the music in that show for a long time. Nevertheless, despite the rapport, securing the rights to “Winner” was the hardest thing Golubić had to do all season, and there was no Plan B. They had to ensure that the use of the song didn’t make fun and that it was respectful every time it was used (in the karaoke bar, and in Jimmy’s callback to the song in his monologue to the scholarship winner).
It’s not actually the first time we heard the song this season, either. They planted the song back in episode six. In a scene in the cell phone story, there is a muzak version of the song playing. ABBA had to approve that, too. In fact, they had their own hand-picked guy custom-produce the arrangement for the karaoke scene and the muzak.
4. One final note on the karaoke opener: It was shot in The Monte Carlo Steakhouse, a local place where Warren Buffet once had a hamburger with the cast members (and Vince Gilligan) of Breaking Bad back in 2013. Gilligan said that, though Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were there, the locals only asked for autographs from Buffet.
5. The scene where Lalo jumps out of a ceiling at the travel place? There were no visual effects used in that sequence. A guy actually jumped out of the ceiling (and apparently, there is plenty of crawl space above). The only “cheat” in that scene is that they placed a pad on the floor to land on. Thomas Schnauz, who co-wrote the episode, said that he based it on an actual video he saw on YouTube of a guy trying to rob a travel place by climbing in through the ceiling.
6. Giancarlo Esposito had a bad skiing accident, and as a result, he had to shoot all of his scenes in episodes 8, 9, and 10 after the principal shooting had finished. Moreover, body doubles are used, and Esposito could not walk. The scenes in which we see him involve him standing still or sitting. Otherwise, a body double is used.
7. A couple of lawyers we see at the opening for the Chuck McGill reading room are actually from back in Jimmy’s Davis & Maine days (via AMC)
8. In his hands in this scene, we see Gale carrying his notebook, which has his plans for the Superlab inside.
It’s the same notebook that Hank finds in Gale’s room after he is killed on Breaking Bad. (via AMC)
9. Remember how Werner wanted to look out into the sky when Mike killed him? Remind you of anyone else? (via Reddit)
10. Finally, a Redditor put together this parallel, and it is quietly devastating.