Is Better Call Saul Really the End of Breaking Bad?
Better Call Saul seems to be the end of the line for the Breaking Bad universe. But can its storytellers really resist the call of more content?
It’s been two weeks since the series finale of Better Call Saul. It was an episode of television that gave viewers everything they could’ve wanted in closing the character arcs of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). And now that we’ve had time to absorb the brilliance of the conclusion, we have to come to grips with a very sad thought: this just might be the end of the Breaking Bad universe forever.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has stated that he’s planning to move on from the meth-filled misadventures of Albuquerque’s most infamous criminals.
“You can’t keep putting all your money on red 21,” Gilligan said during the TCA press tour, as transcribed by Deadline. “I feel like we probably pushed it [by] doing a spinoff to Breaking Bad [but] I could not be more happy with the results. Then I did El Camino and I’m very proud of that too. But I think I’m starting to sense you’ve got to know when to leave the party, you don’t want to be the guy with a lampshade on your head.”
He went on to explain that he needs the personal satisfaction of knowing whether he has the ability to make something special outside of the Breaking Bad universe.
“I don’t have any plans right now to do anything more in this universe. I know I probably gave the same answer at the end of Breaking Bad. I gotta prove to myself that I got something else in me. I’m not a one trick pony, that’s what I’m hoping.”
This is all understandable. Gilligan is a man with a keen sense of awareness for his own creation. If he feels there’s nothing left to explore in New Mexico, he’s probably right. At the same time, we live in an era of entertainment overload. The advent of streaming television has turned franchises like Star Wars into something that will live infinitely on our screens.
House of the Dragon is just the first in a long line of potential Game of Thrones spinoffs that prove fans of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy spectacle are hungry for much more content. There’s always more to milk from a franchise if you look for it. This is obviously a double-edged sword.
You walk a tightrope between angering your fans with watered-down fluff that overshadows the high-quality that defined your franchise initially, or leaving your series to the annals of history, only to be remembered during late-night binges or cable marathons. The Breaking Bad universe’s reputation is superb, leaving them in an ideal position to avoid both of these fates. People will hopefully always look back fondly at these two shows no matter how many years pass. Any more spinoffs risk ruining this sterling legacy.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not more to explore if Gilligan and Saul showrunner Peter Gould choose to do so. While characters like Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Saul Goodman have seen every detail of their lives extracted and depicted on the television, there are so many other iconic characters we’d love to see more of in some capacity.
Gus Fring or Mike Ehrmantraut Prequel
Even though we saw more of Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) in Better Call Saul, there’s still so much left to learn. Gus’s background is in Chile, something that was hinted at quite a bit in Breaking Bad’s fourth season. Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) was poking around this fact when trying to shut down the blue meth operation in New Mexico. Mike’s younger years are equally ambiguous. He was a police officer in Philadelphia, but how did his personality fit into that profession?
Full-length TV series are probably not necessary to give fans more answers on these two iconic side characters. Perhaps a movie in the vein of El Camino would be a better way to explore these scenarios. It gives us just a taste of what we desire, and a final send-off that wasn’t really provided in Better Call Saul; that show belonged to Jimmy and Kim.
A pitfall here is the ages of Banks and Esposito. The age discrepancy between Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad and his Better Call Saul cameos was already a little distracting. Trying to show young Gus or Mike as portrayed by their original actors would be an even bigger dissonance of reality. Recasting is always precarious, such as when Han Solo was played by Alden Ehrenreich instead of Harrison Ford in Solo.
Maybe it would be better to leave well enough alone here. Gus and Mike have an allure that is partly attributable to the ebbs and flows of their screen time. Sometimes it’s better left up to our imagination what happened to them in the past.
Other Potential Spinoffs
There are a myriad of other bit parts that would be fun to see fleshed out in this universe, maybe in the style of one of AMC’s other giant properties, Tales of the Walking Dead. An anthology that follows different underexplored characters each week would be awesome if done with pure intent.
Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt) popped up in the Better Call Saul series finale, but we only got a taste of her sad life as a widow. Seeing what else she’s been up to would prove critical in understanding the fallout Walt’s actions had on his extended family. Skyler White and Walter Jr. (Anna Gunn and RJ MItte) deserve to have a happy ending, but we have no idea of whether this happened or not. They were also the only two main cast members of Breaking Bad who didn’t get a cameo in Better Call Saul.
Snippets of the Salamanca family’s past would surely be action-packed and filled with references to their future encounters with the main cast down the line. What was Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) like in his prime? Was Lalo just as scary before he ran roughshod over Jimmy, Kim, Gus, Mike, and Howard?
They could get even more creative and obscure. Maybe showing what one of Walter’s students thought of him when it was revealed he was Heisenberg would prove to be entertaining. A backstory of Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) and Howard Hamlin’s father starting HHM could tell us a lot more about the men who influenced Jimmy and Howard so much. Anthologies allow you to show contained stories that inform the audience without overwhelming them with too much intel. These suggestions would only need an episode or two to satisfy our cravings for this universe.
Even if we never see any of these ideas come to fruition, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have left an immeasurable legacy that will be hard to replicate anytime soon. Here’s hoping there’s still a little left in the tank for Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. They may be ready to say goodbye, but most of us certainly aren’t.