What the Gaff Change Means
The Gaff of Blade Runner is a strange-talking enigma who Deckard barely gives a second glance to. In 2049, he looks back semi-fondly on their time together, regarding it as a period of shared endurance. Considering that the original frames that period as days - if not a single 24 hours - something feels off.
It's no coincidence that this scene is one of the film's most self-aware moments. The Gaff cameo alone is drawing attention to the real world franchise - it's handled well by Villeneuve so this isn't a criticism, but it's certainly fan service - and at the end he presents an origami sheep; a throwback to his habit and a sly criticism of the replicant cop interviewing him, it's also a reference to the title of Phillip K. Dick's source novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. There's a lot of reading to be made into that, but given the scene it's in, it seems to be a meta callsign. At the least, it pulls you into the real world enough to notice that his lines don't match up. Why?
Perhaps, given his age, Gaff is just going senile and misremembering his time working with Deckard. Or, making that a little less depressing, it's the film highlighting how the passage of time alters perception and memories; the importance of the length of the partners' time together ceases to matter. The reliability of memory is at the center of Blade Runner 2049 - it's what sends K off-book and ultimately resolves the mystery of Deckard's daughter - so it would be fitting for that to be factored in through some other, less explicit means; especially those that could be flagged as plot holes.
That said, it could be more fuel for the raging fire of the replicant theory. In 2049, Wallace posits that Deckard may have been inserted just before the Batty case with the purpose of falling for Rachael. Were this true, Gaff's recollection is technically accurate; he would have worked with him for his entire career, just not as long as he makes it sound. That would mean the entire scene is needlessly flavorful presentation of something simpler, although we are talking about someone who communicates his real thoughts with folded paper, so he's not exactly the most straightforward wordsmith. And, there's the alternate possibility that he could be hiding something; if Deckard's a replicant, Gaff was presumably in on it - a Tyrell chaperone. Regardless of intended purpose, the wording definitely feels to be done to keep their true history vague and maintain the broad possibility of Deckard being artificial.
When it comes down to it, though, this is a slight retcon mainly for the purpose of giving Olmos a recollective scene that ties into Blade Runner 2049's main plot. If we went with a plain recounting of the events of Blade Runner, there'd be little reason for K to seek out the incidental Gaff in the first place; you need that greater relationship, even if it's a continuity-flubbing tease.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) release date: Oct 06, 2017