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[This story contains spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.]
In the years since Better Call Saul premiered in 2015, audiences who have wanted a glimpse of Breaking Bad‘s future have waited patiently for installments doled out a few minutes at a time annually. The prequel spinoff has opened all four of its seasons with black-and-white segments depicting the life of “Gene,” the identity that Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman adopted after going on the run in the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad.
That slow drip changed Oct. 11, with Vince Gilligan unleashing the largest dose yet of the post-Bad universe with El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. After completing the script, the first person Gilligan spoke to about it was Peter Gould, his Better Call Saul partner and co-creator. Gould runs point on Saul, and Gilligan came into the writers room to talk through his vision of El Camino.
“I said, ‘Can I come to the writers room and take 20 minutes of your time, talk to you and the writers all at once? What do you guys think of this idea?’ And also, ‘Do you foresee any problems, would it mess anything up with your ultimate plans for the ending of Better Call Saul?'” Gilligan tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Saul recently wrapped production on its fifth season, and the team is plotting an endgame for the show, which presumably will tackle Gene’s storyline following the events of Bad.
“I don’t know that Peter and the writers have the entire ending figured out yet, which is no surprise, because we didn’t have the ending of Breaking Bad entirely figured out,” says Gilligan. “But we all put our heads together and tried to figure out what possible pitfalls there may be, and it seems to be the case that we will not screw up Saul. That would be my worst fear. It’s such a damn good show, I wouldn’t want to do anything to damage it.”
How exactly will Saul end? El Camino takes at least one possibility off the table: Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) showing up to rescue “Gene.” In the final scene of El Camino, Jesse reaches Alaska, driving forth into “the Last Frontier,” far away from “the Land of Enchantment,” to say nothing of Gene’s current whereabouts: Nebraska, the Cornhusker State. With that said, it’s hard to say exactly when the Better Call Saul flash-forwards take place. Are they set long after Jesse escapes from New Mexico? Are they set before Jesse’s liberation — and therefore, before Walter White (Bryan Cranston) reaches New Mexico after exile in New Hampshire? If so, it’s still entirely possible that Heisenberg and Saul Goodman could cross paths one last time before Gould and Gilligan hang things up on Better Call Saul.
With El Camino, audiences have now seen the journeys of three people who used Ed “The Disappearer” Galbraith (Robert Forster) to get new identities. Two endings are now locked and loaded: Walter White, who spent months alone in New Hampshire, only to die back home in New Mexico after what he would likely consider a successfully accomplished mission; and Jesse, who bursts free from his old life and into a wide-open future about as far away from his old stomping grounds as he could possibly get. Jesse’s ending is the happiest one yet. Walter’s is a fatal one but bittersweet in its own right, as he gets to put an end to Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) and the Nazis and end the reproduction of his crystal blue recipe.
Between Breaking Bad and El Camino, Gilligan has offered up two tonal poles for the Better Call Saul ending to measure against — and while it’s possible Jimmy McGill may end up escaping whatever dark fate is looming over Gene, it’s also possible that the former lawyer turned Cinnabon manager may face the bleakest ending of the trio, if only to offer a very different emotional contrast. All will be forgiven as long as no harm comes to Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who doesn’t appear at all in El Camino — hopefully only because Gilligan decided not to interfere too deeply with the Better Call Saul endgame and not for other, more nefarious reasons.
One request for how El Camino may have an impact on Better Call Saul moving forward: an infusion of Scott MacArthur and Scott Shepherd’s Neil and Casey, the Kandy Mobile Welding duo who try to rob the late Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons), only to fatefully encounter Mr. Pinkman. Both of these men were filled with menace, Neil especially, which could be well applied within the world of Saul. And who cares that we know what happens to them in the long run? That’s never gotten in the way of the energy behind Saul, where at least two of the series leads are already marked for brutal deaths at the hands of Walter White — and potentially a third, should Heisenberg ever come calling for the once and future Saul.
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