How Will Better Call Saul Reintroduce Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul?

Breaking Bad’s Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are confirmed to appear in Better Call Saul’s final season. How will the prequel pull it off?

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in the Breaking Bad series finale, Felina
Photo: AMC

Going into Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul’s sixth and final season, one question loomed large: would the former series leads Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) make guest appearances?

Though Better Call Saul has created a name for itself as one of the best TV spinoffs ever (and maybe just one of the best TV dramas ever outright), the influence of its flagship series still cannot be ignored. The prospect of Walt and Jesse’s involvement in Saul’s final act is so enticing that Better Call Saul producers have decided to go ahead and just confirm it ahead of time!

During Better Call Saul’s appearance at PaleyFest LA on Saturday, Breaking Bad writer and Better Call Saul showrunner Peter Gould revealed that both Walt and Jesse will indeed appear in Better Call Saul’s final season. 

“I don’t want to spoil things for the audience, but I will say the first question we had when we started the show was, ‘Are we gonna see Walt and Jesse on the show?’ Instead of evading, I’ll just say yeah,” Gould said on the panel, as reported by Variety. “How or the circumstances or anything, you’ll just have to discover that for yourself, but I have to say that’s one of many things that I think you’ll discover this season.”

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It’s unknown when Jesse and Walt will pop up in Better Call Saul’s final 13 episodes, the first seven of which premiere on April 18 and the final six of which will premiere on July 11. Having their presence confirmed, however, means that we can now speculate on exactly how the much-anticipated duo will arrive. 

Better Call Saul’s status as a prequel means that the show will have to get creative in reintroducing Walt and Jesse for multiple reasons. Better Call Saul began its story in 2002, roughly six years prior to when Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman met Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. As of the show’s fifth season, Saul’s story has reached 2004. As you may know, 2004 was quite a long time ago…nearly two decades ago in fact. 

When Breaking Bad began in 2008, Jesse Pinkman was around 23 or 24 years old, given that his birthday was revealed as September 24, 1984 in the show. The actor portraying him, Aaron Paul, is five years older than Jesse and is currently 42 years old in the year 2022. While Better Call Saul has had little problem playing fast and loose with ages thus far (Bob Odenkirk is nearly 60 years old and is playing a character in his early 40s), having a 42-year-old Paul portray a teenage version of himself is likely a bridge too far. 

The elegant solution to reintroducing Jesse to the Breaking Bad continuity would be via the use of a flashforward. Though mostly a prequel, Better Call Saul does include a future timeline. Each season so far has begun with a black and white dispatch from Saul’s future life as Gene Takovic, a mild-mannered Cinnabon manager in Nebraska. Given that Breaking Bad ended its story in 2013, it’s fair to assume that these dispatches take place in at least the mid-2010s, giving Paul a far more believable age to work with. We also know that Jesse is alive and (reasonably) well in Breaking Bad’s present thanks to the events of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Using a flashforward for a Jesse cameo presents another problem, however. While Jesse is alive in Breaking Bad’s “future”, Walter White is decidedly not. The Southwest meth kingpin known as Heisenberg dies in the Breaking Bad finale “Felina.” Unless Better Call Saul wants to get very trippy and have Saul and Walt remeet in the afterlife, the future is quite simply not an option for Walt’s cameo. 

So if Jesse (or at least a Jesse portrayed by Aaron Paul) can’t reasonably be included in Better Call Saul’s past timeline and Walt can’t be included in Better Call Saul’s future then can Walt and Jesse even appear together? I would wager that they cannot.

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The likeliest route for Better Call Saul to take would be to have the show present Walt and Jesse separately. Perhaps Saul could come across Walt briefly in the line at Los Pollos Hermanos in a poignant, yet benign encounter that neither would remember years later. And then Saul, now Gene Takovic, could meet Jesse in the future as they try to tie up some final loose ends. 

However Better Call Saul chooses to bring back Walt and Jesse, it’s probably better to anticipate a Bryan Cranston cameo and an Aaron Paul cameo…not a Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul cameo.

Better Call Saul season 6 episodes 1 and 2 premiere Monday, April 18 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.