Breaking Bad fans were devastated when the show ended in 2013. Though Walter White’s story came to a perfect end, fans weren’t ready to let go of the incredible universe created by Vince Gilligan. Then came Better Call Saul— the prequel series that follows James McGill, Esquire’s transformation into Saul Goodman, Criminal Lawyer.
Better Call Saul quickly established itself as a show distinct in tone and style from Breaking Bad. While the showrunners are careful to let Better Call Saul stand on its own, it does share a universe with its predecessor. Obviously, the titular Saul originated on Breaking Bad, and there’s even a Breaking Bad episode titled “Better Call Saul”. The show’s deuteragonist, Mike Ehrmantraut, was first introduced as an employee of Gustavo Fring (soon to appear on Better Call Saul himself) on Breaking Bad, too. And of course, the setting of Albuquerque, New Mexico is shared between the two shows– but those are just big, obvious links.
In two seasons, there have been a myriad of characters, settings, and references in Better Call Saul that connect it to Breaking Bad. As we mentally prep for Better Call Saul‘s season 3 premiere, here are the 16 Breaking Bad Connections And Easter Eggs You Missed In Better Call Saul.
The first visual reference to Breaking Bad comes in the opening sequence of Better Call Saul‘s premiere, “Uno”, where we see a mustachioed Saul living under an assumed identity (“Gene”) and working at a Cinnabon. These gray-scaled flash-forward sequences reappear throughout the series, serving to drive home the dire future that awaits Jimmy McGill after his thrilling glory days as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad.
Saul predicted his own fate in Breaking Bad‘s season 5 episode “Granite State”. Saul and Walter are both fleeing the crimes they’ve committed and are being set up with new identities. Saul tells Walt that he’s going to keep a low profile to avoid drawing attention from the authorities in his new life. “Best-case scenario,” Saul forecasts, “I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.”
Sure enough, these flash-forwards show Gene working at a food-court Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. He didn’t get away scot-free though; Gene is paranoid about being found out, both by the police and the skinheads, and seems trapped in a pathetic and lonely life. The future’s dark, indeed.
15. Nail Salons
The “pre-Saul” James McGill who we meet in Better Call Saul is a far cry from the loudly-dressed criminal lawyer with the tacky office in Breaking Bad. Jimmy’s office is a cramped storage room in the back of Day Spa and Nail, run by Mrs. Nguyen– where he doesn’t even get to drink the free coconut water (it’s for customers only). This backroom business might seem worlds away from Jimmy’s Breaking Bad future, but eagle-eyed fans will see the nail salon for what it is: a big fat foreshadow.
Multiple times throughout Breaking Bad‘s run Saul advocates for the use of nail salons as a money-laundering front for drug profits. The proposal doesn’t seem off the cuff or like a lightning bulb moments — rather, it’s delivered casually and confidently, like it’s the most reasonable thing in the world. Saul’s definitely done this before. He suggests the nail salon scam first to Jesse Pinkman, from the comfort of a chair in Mrs. Mokkaiaporn’s Zen Nail Salon, in the season 3 episode “Kafkaesque”. Jesse doesn’t follow through, so Saul proposes the same scheme to Walter in season 5.
14. “Say My Name” Desert
Every Breaking Bad fan remembers Walter’s iconic speech from the season 5 episode, “Say My Name.” It was the crowning moment of Walt’s awesomeness and villainy: forcing his enemy to repeat his alias “Heisenberg” as he utterly defeats him. In that moment, in an isolated desert, it truly felt like Walt had become Heisenberg.
The Albuquerque vistas offer a striking backdrop for both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and the production team took full advantage of that in Better Call Saul‘s second episode, “Mijo.” Tuco kidnaps Jimmy and his dim-witted accomplices and drags them out to the desert to threaten and, likely, kill them. The desert he’s chosen as a killing field is the same one from “Say My Name”. Here, it’s a speech by Jimmy that saves the day – his silver tongue saves his own skin, though his accomplices leave with 2 broken legs between them.
13. Marco’s Ring
Better Call Saul‘s season 1 finale, “Marco”, gave us a fascinating insight into Jimmy/Saul’s pre-law days, when he was a low-level conman who got his thrills from fooling arrogant business men and making a few hundred bucks in the process. The titular Marco was Jimmy’s best friend and partner in crime – left behind when Jimmy moved to Albuquerque to be near his brother.
When Jimmy flees back to Chicago, he takes up with Marco again, until Marco has a heart attack and dies as they’re pulling one last con together. Marco led a lonely life and so his mother gives Jimmy his most precious possession– a pinky ring that Breaking Bad fans saw Saul Goodman wear throughout his appearances on the show.
When Jimmy puts the ring on after Marco’s funeral, it’s a reminder to fans– and to Jimmy– that he can’t stay straight for long, and will always go back to his conning ways. Saul Goodman is inevitable.
12. Loyola’s Family Restaurant
Mike Ehrmantraut is one of the great delights of Better Call Saul. Getting to spend more time with the terse, hyper-competent former cop is something all Breaking Bad fans are grateful for. Since Mike doesn’t talk much, especially about himself, it’s really the small character details that count.
Throughout Breaking Bad, Mike favored the same diner: Loyola’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant in a real diner in Albuquerque and has served as the setting for many big moments in Breaking Bad history. Mike takes Jesse to eat at Loyola’s in Breaking Bad‘s season 4 episode “Cornered”, and he has a meeting there with Lydia in season 5 as well.
In Better Call Saul, he’s shown to be a regular there, bantering flirtatiously with the waitress. Hector “Tio” Salamanca himself approaches Mike at Loyola’s and makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
11. Casa Tranquila
On the subject of Tio Salamanca, the retirement home where Jimmy courts elderly clients in “Alpine Shepherd Boy” should be familiar to Breaking Bad fans as well. Though Jimmy’s scenes in the retirement home are light-hearted — he’s dressed like Matlock and handing out large-print business cards that claim he’s focused on elder law– the facility has a much darker, more violent association in Breaking Bad.
The ironically named Casa Tranquila (“quiet house” in Spanish) is first introduced in Breaking Bad‘s season 3 episode, “Caballo Sin Nombre”. Tuco has been taken out of the equation and his uncle Salamanca now lives in the retirement home. From Casa Tranquila, Salamanca plots his revenge against Walter and is subjected to gloating visits from his enemy, Gus Fring.
10. Kevin Costner Con
During the conning montage from Better Call Saul‘s “Marco” episode, one sequence involves a woman being horrified to discover that the man she slept with is not Kevin Costner, but Jimmy McGill. When they were drinking together the night before, Jimmy apparently managed to convince her he was actually Costner. In addition to being a shining example of Jimmy’s abilities of persuasion, this scene is a reference to an off-hand comment from season three of Breaking Bad.
While pitching a laser tag franchise to Walt as a money-laundering front in “Abiquiú”, Saul references the events of “Marco.” He tells Walt that genuine conviction will sell any story. “I once convinced a woman that I was Kevin Costner. And it worked because I believed it. It has nothing to do with the story,” he says.
9. Ken Wins
Jimmy’s love of pulling one over on arrogant business men takes a human form in the despicable, yet pitiable Ken. Referred to as “Ken Wins” by fans– a snide reference to his now-ironic vanity license plate— Ken is the kind of guy everyone has wanted to take petty revenge on.
Ken, played to irritating perfect by Kyle Bornheimer, is the victim of a con that Jimmy ropes Kim into running in Better Call Saul‘s “Switch.” Jimmy and Kim pretend to be gullible, wealthy siblings looking to invest, and then saddle the opportunistic stock broker with the bill for an incredibly expensive bottle of tequila.
A few years later, in Breaking Bad‘s season 1 episode “Cancer Man”, Ken Wins’s obnoxious and unsafe driving gets him on Walter White’s bad side. In one of the earlier signs of Walt’s fierce pride and fiery temper, he sabotages Ken’s BMW, which bursts into flames. Once again, Ken loses.
8. Ice Station Zebra
One of the biggest mysteries of Better Call Saul is the fate of Kim Wexler. This supporting character is the heart and backbone of Better Call Saul, but she was never even mentioned in Breaking Bad— at least not directly.
In Better Call Saul‘s season 2 episode “Amarillo”, a loved-up Kim and Jimmy settle down to watch Kim’s favorite movie, Ice Station Zebra. Kim shares that her dad loved the movie; a spy story which takes place at the North Pole. Kim and Jimmy’s romantic night-in is interrupted by Jimmy’s shady business dealings, as foreshadowed by the movie’s dialogue: “It’s going down fast.”
In Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman’s holding company just so happens to be named Ice Station Zebra Associates. Is this a tribute to Kim by Saul or is it a hint at her future somehow? We’re sure to discover Kim’s fate by the end of Better Call Saul‘s run, and can only hope that movie Ice Station Zebra doesn’t actually foreshadow anything.
7. Kaylee’s Toy Pig
One of the few notable inconsistencies between Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad is the age of Kaylee, Mike’s granddaughter. Kaylee is aged 10 in Breaking Bad, which premiered in 2008 and is presumably set around that year, but in Better Call Saul, which is definitely set in 2002, she seems to be 6 or 7 years old. In a universe that is so detail-oriented, it’s a surprising plot hole.
But plot holes aside, Kaylee is Mike’s primary motivation– at least ostensibly– throughout both series. All the money Mike makes from his shady jobs goes to Kaylee, the daughter of his dead son.
In Better Call Saul‘s season 2 episode “Amarillo”, Mike gifts his beloved granddaughter a toy pig, which reappears as a decoy in Breaking Bad‘s season 5 episode “Madrigal”. Mike uses Kaylee’s pink pig to distract a man who’s been sent to kill him, giving Mike enough time to take out his enemy before he gets taken out himself.
6. Lawson The Gun Dealer
Lawson, played by the terrific Jim Beaver (of Deadwood and Supernatural fame), is a steadfast, seemingly trustworthy illegal gun dealer who appears in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
He and Mike hit it off immediately in season two of Better Call Saul; both former military men recognize a kindred spirit in the other. Years in the future, during Breaking Bad‘s season 4, Saul will send Walt to see Lawson when Walt wants to buy a gun– and the eminently reasonable Lawson will advise the inexperienced Walt to tread carefully with the weapon. It’s also Lawson who sells a much darker Walt the machine gun in season 5.
As of Better Call Saul season 2, Jimmy/Saul has yet to meet Lawson personally, or even to hear of him on screen, so whether Mike introduces the two remains to be seen. Either way, we can expect to see more of Lawson– or hear more about him, at the very least– in Better Call Saul.
Another familiar face from Breaking Bad that’s made an appearance on Better Call Saul is Domingo Molina, aka Krazy-8. This drug dealer works under Tuco Salamanca, and appears in Better Call Saul‘s season 2 episode “Gloves Off” as one of the dealers who meets Tuco in a Mexican restaurant to hand over his cut.
Krazy-8 nearly faces a swift end due to Tuco’s drug problem, but the cool-headed Nacho steps in. This close call was hardly a surprise to Breaking Bad fans, however. We know that Krazy-8 is Jesse’s future partner, and that Walt will kill him in season 1.
In “…and the Bag’s in the River”, Walt agonizes over Krazy-8’s fate; the dealer knows of Walt’s connection to his FBI agent brother-in-law Hank, and could reveal everything. Then again, as Walt’s pros and cons list states: “Murder is wrong!”
Walt’s role in Krazy-8’s death is a major step in Walt’s transformation into a villain, so regardless of how many more times he will appear in Better Call Saul, we at least know Molina will make it through the series.
4. Tampico Funiture
During the dearly departed Krazy-8’s appearance in Better Call Saul, he flees Tuco and the Mexican restaurant in a van emblazoned with the “Tampico Furniture” logo. This furniture store is owned by Krazy-8’s dad, and young Domingo Molina even worked there in his pre-drug dealing days.
Tampico Furniture plays a key role in the interactions between Walt and Krazy-8 in Breaking Bad‘s “…and the Bag’s in the River”. Trying to bond with Krazy-8 to save his own skin, Walt recalls that he bought his son Walter Jr’s crib from Tampico Furniture years ago. He and Krazy-8 also reminisce about the memorable lyrics from the store’s late-night TV commercial:
“Don’t let shopping/ Strain your brain-o/ Just sing this short refrain-o/ Our furniture is bueno/ Tampico is the name-o.”
Obviously, singing a jingle together is not enough to get Krazy-8 on Walt’s team, but given Better Call Saul‘s affection for cheesy low-budget commercials, it seems possible that we’ll see the original version of that song someday.
3. The Dog House
Another real-life Albuquerque location like Loyola’s, The Dog House is an actual drive-in that serves hot dogs. Kim and Jimmy go there on a date, in Better Call Saul‘s season 2 episode “Fifi”, to celebrate Kim’s decision to leave HHM and team up with Jimmy. They strategize on how she should quit and poach a major client, Masa Verde, as they chow down on hot dogs.
The Dog House seems to be a favorite restaurant of Jesse’s in Breaking Bad. It’s where he dealt Walt’s blue crystal meth in season 1, it’s where he bought a gun in season 2, and it’s where he napped miserably in his car in the season 5 episode “Blood Money.”
The Jesse of season 5, who hands off a big stack of money to a homeless man in the parking lot of The Dog House, is worlds away from the immature “Cap’n Cook” Jesse, who is peddling meth to make a buck in season 1.
2. The Cousins
By far the most terrifying crossover is the appearance of the mute assassin pair known as The Cousins, aka Marco and Lionel Salamanca. Nephews of Tio Salamanca and cousins of Tuco, the duo strike fear into the hearts of anyone who sees them with their silent, intimidating glares and their brutally efficient means of violence.
The Cousins are summoned from Mexico by Tio in the Better Call Saul episode “Bali H’ai”, where Mike sees them looming on a roof near the apartment complex where Kaylee is playing in the pool. Tio uses the threat of the Cousins to manipulate Mike– an act that he surely never forgot, based on his actions in Breaking Bad.
In Breaking Bad, the Cousins have an unforgettably awesome introduction in the season 3 premiere “No Más”, and are also responsible for the iconic “Tortuga” scene from season 2. Tio sends his nephews after Walt and Hank, but Hank kills Marco and wounds Leonel in self-defense. Hank and Leonel are taken to the hospital after their confrontation and Gus sends Mike to finish Leonel off– something he likely relished, given the Cousins’ earlier menacing of Kaylee.
1. Ignacio “Nacho” Varga
Though Better Call Saul has brought (and is bringing) back a lot of familiar faces from Breaking Bad, the show has also introduced some incredible new characters. Chief among these is the mysterious, calculating, low-level gangster Ignacio “Nacho” Varga.
Nacho starts off as a threatening character who menaces Jimmy, but quickly develops into a sort of third-tier protagonist. Nacho is the cool, intelligent counterpart to this hot-headed, rash boss, Tuco. We meet Nacho’s father and see that he’s a fish out of water in his own culture. He even teams up with Mike– and in the world of Breaking Bad, if Mike respects you, you’re made of good stuff.
Though Nacho’s ultimate fate in the Breaking Bad universe is still unclear, there is a hint left in Saul’s first appearance in the series– in the aptly-named season 2 episode “Better Call Saul.”
When Saul’s client Badger risks exposing Walt, aka Heisenberg, Jesse and Walter kidnap Saul and drag him out to– where else– the desert. They try to disguise their identities, but the ever-sharp Saul susses them out pretty quickly. Still, the initial kidnapping freaks Saul out and he can be heard babbling: “No, it wasn’t me. It was Ignacio!” and asking “Did Lalo send you?”
Though the meaning behind this is still ambiguous, it does hint that Nacho will at least survive long enough to cross someone named Lalo. Here’s hoping we don’t meet Lalo til season 8 or later.
Better Call Saul will continue with season 3, Monday, April 10 @ 10 PM on AMC.