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Better Call Saul trivia: 10 things you didn't know about the Breaking Bad spin-off
From secret codes to making the perfect Cinnabon - discover some surprising facts about Better Call Saul as the stunning final episode arrives on Netflix.
It started as a throwaway line between producers, but Better Call Saul has turned into one of the most popular spin-off shows ever, and one of those rare sister shows that viewers rate as highly as the original.
The Breaking Bad prequel - now available in its entirety on Netflix - has won numerous awards and critical acclaim, garnering some pretty big celebrity fans. As the end draws near for Slippin' Jimmy McGill, expertly played by Bob Odenkirk, we take a look at some surprising facts about the show.
1. Better Call Saul was going to be a comedy
The concept of a Saul Goodman spin-off started as early as season 2 of Breaking Bad, initially as a throwaway comment before the concept grew and grew.
On the Better Call Saul insider podcast, co-creator Peter Gould explained: “Instinctively we knew there was a show there.”
“Who was this guy before he was Saul Goodman?” he asked.
Because the character was such a big personality, initially the Saul Goodman spin-off was going to be a half-hour comedy show. But writers Gould and Vince Gilligan were intrigued by the character’s past and where it could go.
2. Breaking Bad prophecy
In episode 15 of the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman says to Walter White: "If I'm lucky, month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha."
And after fleeing Albuquerque, Saul aka Gene ends up doing exactly that, working in a Cinnabon in Nebraska, Omaha in the black and white scenes that bookend seasons 1-5 before featuring significantly in the final season.
3. Baking bad
To make Gene even more authentic, Bob Odenkirk learnt how to make real Cinnabon rolls. He was taught by someone from the Cinnabon head office in a real bakery to make sure he could do it correctly on camera.
Genuine Cinnabon staff were also used in the filming of the Cinnabon scenes.
4. Just because you’re paranoid does not mean they’re not after you
Gene in the flash forwards is not the confident brash character Saul Goodman was. He’s morose and paranoid, and maybe with good reason.
Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that the obnoxious man in season 5 episode 1 who recognised Gene as Saul in the mall was also the cab driver who picked him up from hospital in episode 1 season 4: the same cab driver who also had an Albuquerque air freshner in his taxi. So perhaps Gene is not so paranoid after all...
5. The pets in the vet's look just like their owners
Shady vet Dr Caldera, played by comedian Joe Derosa, may have criminal leanings but he’s also a dedicated animal doctor. The legitimate pet owners that we see in his waiting room all had pets specifically choosen that look like them.
Jimmy, meanwhile, has a goldfish which some have speculated represent the character in some way: does Slippin’ Jimmy = a slippery fish?
“The fish came to represent Jimmy’s grasp on the more innocent aspects of his personality. In that way, it could symbolise his conscience,” theorises Showbiz Cheatsheet.com.
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6. There are secrets contained in the episode titles
The episode titles all have special meanings. In the second season, for instance, the first letter of every title revealed a hidden message.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Peter Gould explained:
“We had this - to us - this very bright idea of encoding the words 'Fring’s Back' in the episode titles,” he said.
Fans of the show managed to decode it much earlier than the writers expected
“We thought we’d be revealing it maybe sometime over the summer. I guess we really underestimated the genius and hard work of our fans," Gould admitted.
7. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul timelines collide in season 4
It's commonly thought that Breaking Bad will pick up where Better Call Saul ends, but in fact the shows' timelines have aready crossed by way of a flash-forward in episode 5 of season 4. Luckily, producers found the original set of Saul Goodman’s office but had a little trouble recreating the plaster on Saul’s nose to be exactly how it looked in Breaking Bad after Jesse punched him.
One for cinephiles: Breaking Bad was entirely shot on film, so to make this scene feel like it's part of the Breaking Bad timeline it was also shot on film.
8. Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean both have comedy backgrounds
Saul Goodman himself, Bob Odenkirk, is a stand-up comedian and comic actor and had not played such a serious character before taking on the role of Jimmy.
Michael McKean, who plays Jimmy’s brother Chuck, is also a well known comic actor best known for his role as David St. Hubbins, lead singer of Spinal Tap in the cult 1984 rockumentary, This is Spinal Tap.
In an interview with The Guardian, Vince Gilligan commented about the use of these comic actors.
“Peter and I have this theory that if an actor can be funny and make you laugh out loud, and give a wonderful performance in doing that, it’s a lead pipe cinch that they can do drama. The reverse I don’t believe is necessarily true," he said.
9. What is Ice Station Zebra?
One for the conspiracy theorists out there. In his very first episode of Breaking Bad, Saul Goodman gets Badger, played by Matt Jones, to fill out a cheque to Ice Station Zebra associates, claiming it’s a holding company he uses for funds.
In Better Call Saul, season 2 episode 3, Jimmy and Kim, played by Rhea Seehorn, watch the real film Ice Station Zebra, and in episode 6 of the same season, when Jimmy and Kim have performed a con, we see Kim holding a cheque made out to Ice Station Zebra associates. This appears just to be for fun at the time, but does this company get established in the final season, and if so, who is behind it and who is running it by the time of Breaking Bad?
Screenrant.com argues that this could explain Kim's absence from Breaking Bad.
“Kim secretly running Ice Station Zebra Associates in cahoots with Jimmy would neatly explain her Breaking Bad absence," they surmise.
10. Better Call Saul has some pretty powerful friends
Billionaire Warren Buffett is a big fan of both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. In one of only 10 tweets he’s ever written, he mentions the season finale of Breaking Bad along with a photo of himself dressed as series protagonist Walter White.
Buffett was a fan of the show before it even began. During filming of the first season in 2015, the investor and philanthropist visited the set of Better Call Saul, even wrapping himself in Chuck’s foil blanket.
“Great writing, great acting, great people. When Vince Gilligan is in charge, a show is a cinch to be five stars,” he confidently told the Hollywood Reporter.
Gene being in hiding in Omaha is also a nod to Buffett, known as 'The Oracle of Omaha', as well as it being conveniently 700 miles away from Albuquerque.
Buffett even gets a namecheck in the opening scene of the very last episode of Better Call Saul. When Mike and Saul are sharing thoughts on where they would go in a time machine, Saul says "May 10, 1965... that's the day Warren Buffett took over at Berkshire Hathaway."
The lawyer explains that if he went back in time and invested his half-million-dollar cut from Lalo's stolen bail money on that day, he could come back to the present and be a billionaire or maybe even a trillionaire.
Watch seasons 1-6 of Better Call Saul and seasons 1-5 of Breaking Bad on Netflix now.