We’ve spent so many years analyzing, scrutinizing and poring over every detail of all five seasons of Breaking Bad, that it’s surprising when a detail, Easter Egg, or callback we might have missed surfaces years later. Better Call Saul has been brilliant about highlighting old Breaking Bad scenes, sometimes giving them completely new meaning. Take, for instance, this scene from Breaking Bad that suddenly makes a lot more sense in light of this week’s episode of Better Call Saul, “Nailed.”
In this week’s Better Call Saul, of course, Mike left behind a witness in pulling off his heist against Tio, and that is probably going to come back and bite him in the ass next week.
Sometimes, Saul or Breaking Bad also include details that are cool, but completely unintentional. For instance, in this week’s episode of Saul, Jimmy tries to convince two officials at a local school that he was doing a documentary on Rupert Holmes, the singer of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” That, it turns out, was an unintentional nod to the show’s parent network, AMC. In addition to writing and performing the “Escape,” Rupert Holmes wrote all 56 episodes of the first ever scripted series on AMC, Remember WENN. That wasn’t why they chose Holmes, however. They chose him because they thought it would be funny to hear Jimmy McGill sing “Escape.”
Just like they thought it would be funny to have the badass driver of the ice cream/drug-smuggling truck in the beginning of the episode sing a Spanish song that literally translates into, “I want to touch your butt/No, don’t touch my butt.”
There are also some callbacks that are intentional, but so esoteric that few people probably recognize them. For instance, in the first season of Better Call Saul, costume designer Jennifer L. Bryan dressed Saul in exclusively brown, double-breasted suits, and no one else in the entire season — featured cast member, recurring cast member, or even background extra — wears either a brown suit or a double-breasted suit. They wanted Jimmy to stand out.
This season, Jimmy has been wearing mostly grey suits to illustrate his maturation, or at least his attempt at maturation.
There are a lot of people who work on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, however, and sometimes cool details are slipped in that not even the showrunner Vince Gilligan catches until he’s told about them. On this week’s Better Call Saul insider podcast, Gilligan discusses one cool example with costume designer Jennifer L. Bryan.
Recall that, in the final season of Breaking Bad, Todd (Jesse Plemons) had Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) locked in a room, forcing him to make meth for Todd’s white supremacist organization. Jesse was in that room for a long time, and the writers on Breaking Bad had conversations about the smallest of details, like: “Would Jesse be wearing the same outfit the entire time he was locked up?” The writers arrived at the conclusion that, if he did wear the same outfit that entire time, it would almost certainly rot off his body.
So, the writers needed to come up with a new outfit, but they wanted something that made sense. They knew that Todd always looked up to Jesse, and even though Jesse hated Todd (in part, because Todd had kidnapped him), Todd never held a grudge. More than anything, Todd wanted to be Jesse’s friend.
When it came time to put Jesse in a new outfit, the costume designer gave him this shirt.
It’s just a basic grey shirt, and no one probably thought about or understood its implications. It turns out, however, that the shirt actually belonged to Todd. It’s the shirt Todd was wearing when he shot the kid on the dirt bike.
“It’s so f*cking brilliant,” Vince Gilligan said of the detail. “I had to be told that because I didn’t have that great an eye for it. I should’ve noticed it, but as soon as I heard, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I said ‘That is so perfect.” That’s the kind of sh*t, that we’re proud of ourselves for coming up with the perfect detail in the writers’ room, and that was such an ironic thing that makes perfect sense.”
It really is a team effort in the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, and everyone from Gilligan and Gould to the writer’s room on down to the personal assistants and costume designers have impeccable eyes for detail, which is why those are two of the best dramas of this century, so far.