“Here comes this script, and it’s so well-written, and it’s so much! It’s drama, [it’s] comedy, but mostly grounded… I don’t know why you ever trusted me,” Bob Odenkirk told Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan Saturday night at the ATX TV Fest. After screening Breaking Bad’s season two episode “Better Call Saul,” which introduced Saul Goodman to the world, Odenkirk and Gilligan sat down with Entertainment Weekly’s Sarah Rodman for a wide-ranging discussion about the morally dubious “criminal” lawyer.
While no subject was off limits, the conversation revealed quite a few clues as to what we can expect from Better Call Saul’s upcoming fourth season. Here’s what we learned.
Better Call Saul started off as a joke
When filming his first appearance on Breaking Bad, Odenkirk delivers a line explaining that he changed his name from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman because “he does the Jew thing for the homeboys.” After that scene wrapped, a cameraman asked, “Can I get a job on the sequel?”
“They were prescient. They were way ahead of us,” said Gilligan, who went on to explain the process that led to Better Call Saul. “We probably started joking about [the spinoff] later that season.” By Breaking Bad’s third year, Gilligan started asking Odenkirk about his thoughts in starring in a Saul-centric series. “I can tell you it was a joke — at first. And then, we’d joke about it so often in the writers’ room we thought ‘Maybe this isn’t a joke, maybe in humor lies truth.’ By the time we wrapped up Breaking Bad, we were thinking about it in earnest.”
Before Breaking Bad had even wrapped production on its final season, they’d sold the idea to AMC without even knowing what the idea was. “We jumped off the cliff without even looking,” quipped Gilligan. The idea started as a single-camera half-hour comedy ripoff of Dr. Katz, with Saul playing the straight man. Eventually, with Gilligan conceding they “knew nothing of comedy,” they settled on the show’s hour-long dramedy format.
Don’t count Chuck McGill out
Saul’s relationship with his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean) was key to Better Call Saul’s first three seasons. After Chuck’s career is destroyed in the season three finale, he holds up in his house, obsessively trying to root out any and all electricity. Defeated and delusional, Chuck purposefully kicks over a lantern, burning his house down with him inside. Though Chuck might be gone, the show is notorious for playing around with its timeline. When asked if there was a chance Chuck could reappear in the upcoming fourth season despite his untimely demise, Gilligan said “There just might be, there just might be.”
Odenkirk, who called McKean an idol of his going back to his college days, also praised his dramatic chops, comparing his work as Chuck to Bryan Cranston’s work as Walter White in Breaking Bad. “Working opposite people who are that good raises your game. You just feed off their gravity and energy and power. Chuck is just a majestic part, and he plays it majestically.”
Kim Wexler will become a pivotal role
“If you’re intrigued by the Jimmy and Kim relationship, this fourth season is gonna knock you out,” Odenkirk told the crowd to a rousing round of applause. Now with Chuck gone, “the only person left on Earth for Jimmy to care about, whose love and respect he wants to have and earn is Kim… and it’s just so well-written. It’s just so well-written. There are some scenes between Kim and Jimmy are another level of writing that I haven’t seen on our show, or almost anywhere.”
“There are some scenes between these two characters that are outside of character — in a way that a real couple needs to have once a year or every other year where they just expand who they are just a little bit and make room for the other person. And you’ll never make it if you can’t do that. And if you can do that, you have a real shot as a couple. When you see these scenes, you’re gonna go ‘I wish I had that.'”
Odenkirk ended his explanation on a rather cryptic note, speaking to the fact that Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is never seen — or even mentioned — in Breaking Bad, a fact that has caused fans to worry about her character’s fate since she was introduced as the love interest in Better Call Saul. “She’s not in his life in Breaking Bad, and that makes that all the more tragic.”
We’ll be seeing more of Gene
After the grim outcome of Breaking Bad, very few characters make it out unscathed. Saul Goodman, once Jimmy McGill, goes into hiding as Gene, a Cinnabon manager at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska — a fate (arguably) worse than death. We’re shown snippets of his mediocre life in a handful of black-and-white sequences at the very beginning of every season. In season three, we see Gene tell a shoplifter “Say nothing, you understand? Get a lawyer!” as the cops haul him away. It’s the first time Gene lets his inner Saul Goodman come out, which prompts him to have a panic attack and pass out while frosting a pan of cinnamon rolls a short time later.
“Gene is the guy is I’m most interested in,” said Gilligan. “As much as we thought we loved Saul Goodman, we love Jimmy McGill more. But there’s an implicit promise here, the show’s called Better Call Saul, and we have to get there eventually. And that’s a tragedy. That’s tragic. None of us realized we were telling a tragic story at the beginning of the whole thing. Having said that, Gene of Omaha, the Cinnabon manager, there is the possibility of redemption. I don’t wanna promise it, doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen, [but] that, to me, is what’s exciting.”
We’ll see how this all shakes out when Better Call Saul’s fourth season premieres Monday, August 6th on AMC.