AMC's Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul has so far managed to make a name for itself on its own merits instead of being overshadowed by the landmark TV drama that spawned it. However enjoyable the adventures of Jimmy McGill may be, that hasn't stopped longtime Breaking Bad fans from wondering when or if some old friends (namely, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul) will be showing up on the new series.
We know that neither Heisenberg nor Jesse Pinkman will make an appearance during season one of Better Call Saul, but the creative team behind the program are leaving opportunities open at a later date. Since the spinoff takes place at times before, after, and during Breaking Bad, what circumstances would dictate such a callback? One of the show's writers has some guidelines.
While speaking with THR, Thomas Schnauz (who scribed the most recent episode, "Nacho") explains the "rules" that the writing team has for connecting the new series with what came before. For anyone who's been following the development of Better Call Saul, his words will hammer home the familiar mantra that all involved with the show have been saying from day one: for Mr. White to pop up again, it has to make sense for the story they're trying to tell:
"The whole show is a flashback, so we have this free reign to sort of jump further back in time, go way back or flash ahead or jump into the scene that is during the time of 'Breaking Bad' or go to Omaha. We like to play around with that as long as it makes sense and we're not just doing it to be artsy fartsy. Whatever the most interesting way to tell the story is, that's what we're going to try to do."
Again, these words should come as no surprise to fans of Vince Gilligan's Albuquerque. It's true that Better Call Saul has had some Breaking Bad Easter eggs sprinkled throughout (the opening sequence of the first episode in particular), but for the most part, the show has succeeded in its intentions to form compelling narratives around McGill as he walks down the dark path to becoming Saul Goodman. That seems to be the primary focus of the team, as it should be.
The idea that the writers have "free reign" to jump around at points in the timeline illustrate that the regulations for Breaking Bad connections aren't that strict, but the seemingly singular rule is still an important one. Honestly, it's not that different from Breaking Bad, which also used nonlinear structure from time to time to either hint at future events or flesh out character motivations. Since a number of the creative people from the original series are heavily involved with the spinoff, it's safe to say that they've earned the benefit of the doubt by now and will have earned any tie-ins that come up.
Even if the "as long as it makes sense" line has been used several times regarding Better Call Saul's connections with Breaking Bad, it's still refreshing to hear every time it's iterated. One of the pitfalls prequels frequently fall into is that the creators will shoehorn in elements viewers are familiar with as bits of fan service, even if it doesn't work for the purpose of the plot.
That Gilligan and his trusted group are actively avoiding that and working hard on making Better Call Saul its own thing is all the more appreciated. As exciting as it would be to see Saul in situations that give us déjá vu, it's better for everyone involved if the story is served as best it can be.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.