(This article includes references to Better Call Saul up to Episode 4, and some references to Breaking Bad plot points so is best read if after you’ve watched the episodes if you care about watching it without advance information.)
In my weekly recap(let) and discussion of Better Call Saul on AMC/Netflix (US & UK), I’ve noted how I began the season with guarded skepticism about too much wishful “linking” between old and new by both creators and fans. Breaking Bad left big shoes to fill for fanatics of that show. I trusted it would work as a show on its own; my skepticism was born out of respect for both shows, the brave creators and actors who take on a “spin off” , and for the viewers. Especially the viewers. Viewers who can dial back to the end of BB season 2, in May 2009, when the strange ending of that strange season left many scrambling to the internet to find a consensus for our head-scratching disappointment about the big reveal as to the cause of all the terrifying debris in the White’s swimming pool, the charred pink teddy bear, and its one gaping eye hole where a plastic eye should have been.
Binge watchers and first time watchers: never wade into Breaking Bad alone. In the WTF moments, the WTF! moments and the holy hell WTF ing F!!?? moments, you’ll need more than a teddy bear to hold you. For this solo watcher, the Jane and Jesse season of Breaking Bad and its ending left me empty, reeling and annoyed. Of course, there were no loose threads. It was just a brief direction change that I found unsatisfying at the time. Much of that season’s story line (but not all) was spun out for years to come, beautifully, so that we always saw Jane in Jesse’s pained eyes til the very end, and we always waited for the key parts of that season’s darkest moments to reveal themselves to all still in the darkness of Walter’s destructive path. The show was so gleefully wanton at times, but yet did an artful, sensitive job of making every principal death matter, something which is rarer than a compliment from your boss.
While Breaking Bad stands up to the most obsessive scrutiny, its artfulness also lies in the fact that it can be enjoyed without those things (if that’s not your thing) or if you are trying to watch it on a smart phone (please don’t.) Better Call Saul had me at “Saul”. It would all be good. I didn’t need to spoil myself about who might appear in the prequel. But the success that this show has achieved already means that those so inclined may now readily get deep down into the rabbit hole of inside jokes, casual obsessing (thank you Facebook, tumblr, mememakers worldwide) and unique black humour that make the fictional ABQ our number one destination for weird call backs and layered meanings. Let’s go:
Chuck McGill’s house is located across the street if you hang a left from Jesse Pinkman’s house. IT’S EVEN Google Mapped.
I feel like HAMLINDIGO BLUE is the joke that will keep on giving, like Stevia. I think this joke alone is worth an Emmy for these writers.
Did I just find my long searched for graffiti tag to start my far-too-old for it taggin’ career in Toronto? Feel like his tag should be “The Cap’n”.
After Better Call Saul episode 2 aired, the amazingly devout wasted no time getting several new definitions of Biznatch into the Urban Dictionary (the only dictionary, amirite?)
What’s in a name? A lot in the world of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul…..“S’all good, man,” And viewers worldwide smack themselves in the head in unison.
The one and only Lydia Rodarte Quayle, who’s kept the flame alive since Lydia first turned heads with her ruthlessness and her way with the coffee spoon, has carried the flag from the later seasons of Breaking Bad and through the year in between the two shows and is now ON POINT on Facebook. Rodarte-Quayle leads the way with obsessive watching and comparisons, noting a major link between Breaking Bad & Saul with this call back to Ignacio, now a major underworld player known as Nacho (a short form). This was revealed by the actor who plays Nacho, Michael Mando, in a Huffington Post interview.
The theme of shitty car as an anti-status statement continues, now instead of Walter White’s Aztec we have Jimmy McGill’s “Esteem” – the choice of car name is not coincidental. (Note also that both cars are covered in new-windshield shit-heel car tape.)
Pop Culture references:
“It’s SHOWTIME” Having just watched All That Jazz, the most depressing movie I can remember seeing that was not about Blood Diamonds or include a twist ending with an innocent’s head in a box, a month ago, I cannot believe I missed this reference! The great Roy Scheider stars in this ultra-meta auto-biopic magic (nightmare) realism film about superstar and vastly influential film & Broadway director and choreographer Bob Fosse, directed by Bob Fosse. (Bonus/aside: word of warning- don’t ever watch All That Jazz alone on your birthday.)
Full disclosure. Even worse than missing the All That Jazz reference, I literally JUST watched Network a few days ago, with plans to write about it here. And yet. YOU WILL ATONE as said by the hilarious Bob Odenkirk sailed over my head like an unsecured space blanket. Ned Beatty was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor based on this pivotal, deserving, scene in Network, a film in which he had only a few scenes and under 10 minutes of total screen time.
The potential for the close watching, binge watching obsessives to enjoy Better Call Saul on a meta-narrative level will get annoying for non-watchers a cubicle away or across the breakfast table (Walt Jr./Flynn’s favourite meal/hobby). But it’s just too bad. It’s so irresistible, ripe for deeper viewing, and fun. It’s the very opposite of the nitpicking and dismantling we all know too well, that flip side of internet community chatter about TV shows in a medium that is now so easy to find flaws with. Technology and repeat viewings by the critical watchers have made just watching difficult. But rather than dismantle the work of creaters and writers and the actors who speak their words, the meta level of TV watching adds layers, meanings and greatly deepens the enjoyments for those with the obsessive bent. It’s our time, obsessives.
And then, as a reward for doing our homework for extra credit, there are marvelous in jokes like this:
There’s no end to where this road of exploration can take us, but it was always a foregone conclusion that Saul/Jimmy would end up mirroring this, side by side of “Mijo” vs. “Crawl Space” for one of a dozen criminal/lawyer reasons:
All this madness started as soon as Better Call Saul aired,if not before. If you want to get ahead of the curve, get caught up now on AMC TV.com or Netflix (US, UK). Expect the Easter Eggs, call backs and offbeat pop culture references, along with signs that Jesse WUZ HERE BITCHES, to continue to fill Jimmy McGill’s ABQ, to the delight of the faithful. It’s done without tainting the original or the promise of the new, now when can you say that?
Uncover any other great references we should note, look into, screen cap or meme-ify? Let us know.
This article has been edited to correct the photo attribution for the following photos : “It’s Showtime” “You Will Atone” and “Mijo vs. Crawl Space” are credited to http://breakingbadfriends.tumblr.com/