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*This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
As Better Call Saul approaches its final season, three questions loom large. 1) the fate of Jimmy and Kim’s relationship; 2) the future of Gene; and, 3) Walter White. The third and final question is the most difficult to pull off. Not because of Bryan Cranston’s schedule, but due to the unrealistic expectations for what would likely be merely a single line of dialogue.
Last week, previewing the upcoming The One and Only Ivan film, Cranston added another flame to the fire. He said he’d be all-in on appearing in Breaking Bad’s acclaimed prequel, “I would be in it if Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who are co-executive producers on it, wanted me to be in it. I would do it in a second.” Cranston continued, “but it hasn’t happened yet, I can tell you, and we’ll see. I don’t know. There’s one more season to go and we’ll see what happens!”
I’ve changed my opinion. Of course, when the series was first announced, mixed with my concerns, I was all about the possibility of spending more time with Walter. This feeling stayed with me until this past season, which, so far, is 2020’s best. Now, a Walter cameo sounds distracting. In addition to the expectations, it wouldn’t add anything to the story.
The prequel has broken out itself. It doesn’t need Breaking Bad anymore; it has carved its own legacy. An appearance from Walter would exemplify “fan service.”
Based on Jesse’s description of Saul in Breaking Bad, by the time he met Walter, he was full-on Saul Goodman: “You don’t want a criminal lawyer… you want a criminal lawyer,” Jesse explained to Walter. And that Saul was. A criminal lawyer all-in on his unethical law practice, alone, only concerned about himself. That is the destination the present-day part of the series (so far, the main storyline) is writing its protagonist toward. Thus, however Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould plan to get Saul there doesn’t include Walter.
What’s more, the impact Walter had on Saul’s life is shown in the events post-Breaking Bad, the black-and-white scenes with Gene. A time period that Walter has already died in. Heisenberg’s unsettling presence is already felt.
Perhaps, a return, in past events, would be appealing, if it didn’t just happen last year in El Camino. Unlike Better Call Saul, the movie needed that emotional spark.
Better Call Saul is the best show on television. A late-season appearance from Walter and/or Jesse would be the conversation, not the two stories Gilligan and Gould have brilliantly told. If it were to occur in the series finale, it’d lead the post-show discussion. It would be a crucial mistake to overshadow a journey this long, this well done with a meaningless nostalgic moment.
That said, I expect to be wrong and to see both Walter and Jesse before this series wraps up. My prediction: in the finale, in a panic, Walter and Jesse rush into Saul’s office. Then, the show flashes forward to the events post-Breaking Bad. I’ve said since the show debuted, the real story is Gene. So far, each season premiere has started with that storyline — that is where this ends.
It’s unclear where Gene’s storyline is going. In last season’s opener, he finally had enough. After a mysterious cab-driver found out his true identity, Gene appeared ready to come clean and stop running from the past. The most fitting ending is that, somehow, it leads to Gene/Jimmy/Saul reuniting with Kim, wherever she is at that point (assuming alive).
Who would’ve thought Better Call Saul wouldn’t need Walter White, TV’s greatest creation? But it doesn’t. While it’s not better than its predecessor, a Mount Rushmore lock, Better Call Saul is en route to entering the discussion among the all-time great TV dramas.
AMC announced Better Call Saul ‘s final chapter will include 13 episodes and is slated to air in 2021.
To interview Bobby Burack, contact him on Twitter @burackbobby_.