December 6, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Better Call Saul “Breaking Bad”

Season Six, Episode Eleven

OK, honestly, this is the one episode I was waiting for.  The one that brought back Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman.

Should I do a Breaking Bad rewatch at some point?  Eh, probably not.

There aren’t many episodes left, but it does look like the series is catching up to what has previously gone down with Saul Goodman becoming Gene in Nebraska.  Gene, in that timeline, has lost whatever sort of sympathetic vibe that Jimmy McGill ever had, and there’s a part of me that thinks that’s due to Kim’s absence.  Yes, he’s starting a new scam that involves rolling over rich assholes, drugging them, and then with some accomplices swiping information from them to do some basic identity theft.  Why?  Is this because, at some point, Jimmy McGill can’t stop hustling?  Is it because he seems to have some sort of fight with Kim after finally getting her on the phone after who knows how long?  Is it because Chuck was right?  Is it because the only person in his old life he had any contact with was Francesca, and she clearly holds him in contempt while not exactly having good news for the guy?  Is it because all his money’s gone?

Who knows?  He’s getting ready to rob a cancer patient at the end of this episode.

So, why bring back Walt and Jesse for this particular episode?  For one thing, the two do fit well into the Better Call Saul corner of this universe.  There’s no reason to think they wouldn’t, but Breaking Bad was more a pulp crime drama sort of show while Better Call Saul is a deep character study.  That’s not to say Breaking Bad didn’t develop its characters very well (Walter White may be one of the most multi-layered protagonists in TV history) or that Better Call Saul doesn’t do good stuff with the pulpy crime stories either.  It is still the same universe after all.  No, the thing here is there’s an in-character reason for bringing the show full circle here now:  Jimmy is about to do something that is going too far and against the better judgement of others.

Perhaps ironically, both involve cancer victims.

Chances are good that most people who watched Better Call Saul have also seen Breaking Bad, so all the in-color scenes basically show Jimmy’s time in and around that episode.  Much of it is new material, and it does appear as if Paul and Cranston just slid back into their respective roles with what looks like ease with Walt’s pushiness and Jesse’s feeling that he’s being disrespected probably because he is.  And then in comes Mike, apparently working on the side as a personal investigator for Jimmy, and he outright recommends not working with Walt and Jesse just as, in Omaha, one of Gene’s new scam partners advised against robbing the cancer victim even if he does otherwise fit Jimmy’s definition of a victim who otherwise deserves it because he’s a rich asshole.

And if you don’t get that this episode shows Jimmy making a bad decision both times, the episode ends with Jimmy (as Saul) approaching Walt’s old high school for the final scene from the Breaking Bad episode intercut with Jimmy (as Gene) walking up to the cancer victim’s house and breaking in.  Given there are only two episodes left, I can’t imagine this is going to go well for Jimmy in Omaha any more than it went well for him in Albuquerque.

Maybe Chuck was right and some people never really learn.