Better Call Saul: Ranking the Best Cold Opens

Oftentimes on Better Call Saul, the best scenes arrive before the opening credits roll.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 13
Photo: Greg Lewis | AMC

This article contains spoilers for all of Better Call Saul.

Many shows have pre-credits scenes that are valuable to the greater story of the season. Others don’t care at all about the cold opening, opting to go right into the title card and then to the action. Better Call Saul, like its predecessor before it, takes these few minutes at the beginning of each episode to make some true television magic appear before our eyes.

From montages to flashbacks to mini-expositions about characters we’ve never seen before, the cold open in Peter Gould’s show is pure art in motion. This is a near-impossible task, but we’re going to choose the 15 best ones in the series now that it’s come to a close. Tell us which one is your favorite in the comments section!

15. Season 2 Episode 6 “Bali Ha’i”

When we see Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) doing something laborious, it often comes with massive consequences related to the cartel. When we see Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) doing the same thing, well, there’s really nothing important going on. It’s just Jimmy being Jimmy here. 

Ad – content continues below

Finding his new life at Davis & Main a little too perfect, Jimmy’s even uninterested in the beautiful home the law firm has provided him with. He looks for some food in the fridge, tosses some worthless art around his living room and staircase, and then heads straight back to the comfort of the nail salon. Nothing like a good night’s sleep from the law offices of James McGill Esquire!

14. Season 1 Episode 9 “Pimento”

Chuck (Michael McKean) and Jimmy have nary a happy scene in Better Call Saul, especially in the present timeline. The opening to season one’s best episode is a couple minutes of brotherly bliss, McGill-style. 

Jimmy tries to get Chuck to calm down after an anxiety attack due to his electromagnetic sensitivity by taking his shoes off and feeling the grass between his toes. The serene, fleeting moment of these two characters getting along is a calm before the storm, as Jimmy will find out Chuck has been sabotaging his law career yet again by the end of the episode. 

13. Season 5 Episode 2 “50% Off”

The beginning of the fifth season sees Jimmy trying to fully transform into Saul Goodman mode to gain more clients in the New Mexican criminal underworld. He even stoops so low as to offer 50% off a non-violent felony charge, and he doesn’t really think about the results of opening this can of worms. 

We, on the other hand, get the pleasure of following along with two of the goofy imbeciles who paint the ABQ red. Drinking and driving, taking dope, and urinating in public are just a few of the misdeeds these knuckleheads engage in, all knowing that it’s all good, man! 50% off!

12. Season 4 Episode 5 “Quite a Ride”

Most of Better Call Saul shows the transformation of Jimmy McGill into his eventual shady alter-ego. For the first time in the middle of the fourth season, the cold open shows us a taste of that final result we remember from Breaking Bad.

Ad – content continues below

Trying to frantically clear his office during the events of “Ozymandias,” Saul’s downfall is finally put onto screen for the first time here. Most sad is the stark contrast in Francesca’s (Tina Parker) attitude towards her boss, as we see the effects of working with Albuquerque’s premiere criminal lawyer have taken a toll.

11. Season 1 Episode 3 “Nacho”

Better Call Saul absolutely loved to use the cold opener to explain missing pieces of Jimmy and Chuck’s relationship, and this goodie here is vital to the resentment Chuck felt. Jimmy is about to go to prison and be charged as a sex offender after defecating in a sunroof with kids in the backseat, and Chuck has been tasked by Mrs. McGill with shoveling Jimmy’s crap out of the toilet. 

We get a peak at prime Slippin’ Jimmy, trying to wriggle his way out of trouble, until he needs someone else to do it for him again. Kudos to the makeup department for making both Michael McKean and Bob Odenkirk look years younger.

10. Season 2 Episode 7 “Inflatable”

Jimmy may be a lot of things, but naive is not one of them. In this flashback to his childhood, Jimmy tries to warn his father about the dangers of being too trusting when a conman enters the shop and works his sleazy act. 

Jimmy possesses his signature cynicism for society and a deft verbal touch with the adult who resembles what he will become. This is also a great call-back to Chuck’s story just a couple episodes before when he tells Kim about Jimmy stealing money from their father’s till. This is clearly the first instance of this act. 

9. Season 5 Episode 6 “Wexler v. Goodman”

Kim Wexler once said “You don’t save me. I save me”. This can-do independence is apparently something she always possessed. When her mother arrives late to pick Kim up after school, the young girl decides to dismiss the ride and make her mother think twice about driving drunk and being around her. 

Ad – content continues below

The actress who plays childhood Kim (Katie Beth Hall) captures all of the intricacies of the character’s mannerisms, making the flashback feel even more real and riveting than it already does.

8. Season 5 Episode 3 “The Guy For This”

Better Call Saul’s cinematography is always purposeful. This opening scene is the only time it seems trite to the naked eye. That’s only because you need to go back to high school English class and put on your literal/metaphorical/allegorical hat. The ice cream cone Jimmy dropped that is being devoured by an army of ants can take on whatever meaning you choose.

Is Jimmy’s life being overwhelmed by the cartel now? The ants are Lalo/Nacho/the Salamancas, and Jimmy is the ice cream. Others suggest it might show you can’t ever have your ice cream and eat it too. Jimmy can be Saul, but it will come with jarring fallout.

7. Season 6 Episode 8 “Point and Shoot”

After seeing Howard Hamlin get his brains blown out all over the Goodmans’ carpet in the sixth season episode “Plan and Execution,” the audience needs a little bit of a cool down in the midseason premiere cold open. 

With some jaw-dropping direction and an awesome location shoot, we get to see what is presumably the story that will be told about the show’s most tragic soul after his murder. Never has a beach been so littered with morbid animosity since the storming of Normandy. 

6. Season 3 Episode 10 “Lantern”

This is one of the shortest cold opens in the series, but it’s also one of its most ominously foreboding. The only time the audience gets to see Chuck and Jimmy together as youths displays a familiar dynamic. Older brother is reading, the younger brother is inquisitive, ready to take in knowledge, only for the older brother to talk down to him – the Chuck/Jimmy pairing in a nutshell. 

Ad – content continues below

The last shot that absorbs into the lantern is a classic Saul puzzle piece. The writers love to tell you bits and pieces of what will happen at the end of an episode in the opener, and this is a sign that is devastating when watched after the fact. 

5. Season 4 Episode 1 “Smoke” 

We had to get one of the Gene Takovic cold opens on here, and season four is clearly the best in our eyes. The nearly 10-minute sequence details the goosebump-inducing paranoia that Gene experiences when he thinks he’s about to be discovered. 

His encounter with a hospital receptionist while checking out of the building is more tense than it has any business being. And then we get introduced to the original version of Jeff (Don Harvey), the man who will help Gene scheme his way to prison in the sixth season. Harvey’s version is much more menacing, making both the audience and Gene wonder what type of antagonist he’s about to match up with. 

4. Season 6 Episode 13 “Saul Gone”

“If you had a time machine, where would you go with it?” This is the central question to Saul’s series finale, and the cold open introduces it to us with a poignant flashback to Jimmy and Mike in the latter parts of “Bagman.”

This is the final time we ever get to see Jimmy and Mike on-screen together. They are the two characters with the most screen time in Vince Gilligan’s crime universe, and sharing a somber reflection on their regrets in life is a fitting exit scene.

3. Season 6 Episode 3 “Rock and Hard Place”

This heart touching opener shows the flower that symbolizes the death of Nacho Varga, one of the best characters in this universe. We don’t know yet that he will die at the end of the episode, so it’s another example of foreshadowing in the pre-credits sequence.

Ad – content continues below

Nacho tried to get away from his mistakes, but he was unable to run from his past. When he can’t get an escape route, he takes his own life in a satisfying fashion. This flower might mean he never lost his truest self in death: being a son who loved his father.

2. Season 4 Episode 7 “Something Stupid” 

The best montage in the show is also one of its best cold openings. This scene was the perfect way to show the passing of time when Jimmy is waiting to get his law degree back in the fourth season. 

We see Jimmy and Kim start to grow apart for the first time, as Kim starts to flourish in her career at Mesa Verde while Jimmy toils away at the cell phone shop. It’s a little bit of foreshadowing to what we eventually find out later on: even though they love each other, they may not be good for one another.

1. Season 6 Episode 1 “Wine and Roses”

The first season premiere cold open that’s not set in the Gene timeline is also the best in the entire series. We get a five minute house tour of Saul Goodman’s abode being cleared out after his escape in Breaking Bad, and it’s also when the writers of this show get to unshackle every Easter-egg restriction they’ve ever wanted to.

Colorful ties, Viagra, bingo balls, a golden toilet, and Kim’s bottle stopper she kept after scheming with Jimmy in season 2 all crop up during the scene. You truly can learn all about someone from their belongings, and Saul’s stuff reiterated his double-life in heartbreaking fashion.