No more hints now — in the Better Call Saul Season 4 episode “Quite a Ride,” the series completely crossed over with Breaking Bad. The cold open revealed Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) somewhere towards the end of Breaking Bad, where he’s turning his office upside down to find the cash he’s stashed as his secretary, Francesca (Tina Parker), shreds every document on Saul’s orders. His face is bruised from where Jesse had punched him after finding out the truth about Brock, and the scene we see ends with Saul calling the man who can help Saul “disappear.”
For fans of Breaking Bad, it was startling to be thrown back into that world so fully. But for those who are watching Better Call Saul on its own terms, it was a telling flash-forward that revealed another facet of Jimmy’s life through a new persona. What it showed, ultimately, is that Jimmy is never able to find peace on either the straight path or the criminal one. Like what’s happening in the present-day timeline, Saul/Jimmy finds success only to be immediately knocked back.
Odenkirk recently spoke with EW about that scene with Saul, which seems to point to the fact that the transformation may finally be happening (though that’s been said many times before, and frankly, I’ve appreciated how long the writers have been able to hold it off). “I was thrilled,” Odenkirk said of the return to Saul. “Part of me — it really comes from comedy — just really wants to make the audience happy. I was satisfied and pleased at the notion of playing Saul and being back in the office and giving everybody a moment of that character that they love so much and was so entertaining to people. To go there for a few minutes and be that guy and give them that flavor made me really, really happy. Plus, it’s fun to play him. The truth is it’s easier to play Saul than Jimmy. It’s not as rewarding. Jimmy is a rich character with so many angles — there’s so much complexity to the guy that it’s a more rewarding character. But Saul is kind of pure fun.”
Odenkirk also addressed some of the differences between the Jimmy we know in the current series, and who he becomes in Breaking Bad. “He’s burned a lot of himself down. Chuck [Michael McKean] burned his whole self down, and Jimmy is burning big parts of his psyche down […] And I think now that we know this guy, to go into that office and see him in that version of himself — such a thinned-out version of who he is inside — you can’t help but smile, because you know a secret that he doesn’t know. You know who he is, and you’re like, ‘Wow, dude. You really went down!’ [Laughs.] ‘You really came way down on the scale of human value.'”
The actor also revealed what the box that Saul cuts out from behind the Constitution holds, including mementos that we’ve seen before (including in the Gene scenes): “There are videotapes of his commercials and there are passports. I’m sure there’s money in there. And there’s that little Band-Aid box that has the coins that he found in Season 2 of Better Call Saul when he had a flashback to his youth and his dad’s store.”
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the episode, though, came when Jimmy tells PPD officer what his plans are — that he is going to rebuild his firm with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), and become a well-known and successful lawyer. That vision does come true, to some extent; he’s a man whose face and name are on benches (as we saw in the title card for this episode), and he becomes perhaps more infamous than famous. It’s a twisted version of his dream, and it’s pretty devastating to realize that. “I think he’s really lying to himself,” Odenkirk said. “All that remains is that little golden dream that is not being acted upon in any other way with his behavior.” One example of that choice is when Jimmy is given the chance at empathy in his interaction with Howard (a fantastic Patrick Fabian), which he brushes off, shutting down emotionally instead.
As we saw in the scene set to the song “Street Life,” Jimmy is always pulled in that direction, feeling his most comfortable on the streets making a quick buck and convincing people of whatever he is trying to sell. Him being upset later when talking to Kim after his mugging was not because he thought his actions were foolish, but that he had lost some of his edge. So the next time he tries a con, it’ll have to match more of the life he’s living now — enter Saul?
There’s another timeline that the show is also exploring in Jimmy’s life of course, and that’s Gene at the Cinnabon in Omaha. It’s also one of the show’s most depressing elements. “There’s more untold heartbreak. That can be your title. There is more untold heartbreak to come. Definitely,” Odenkirk shared. But he also gave a hint that, even as Better Call Saul gets closer to Breaking Bad, that may not be the end of the story. “We don’t know where the story ends. I know when we started we thought it ended with Saul, but of course, now we have Gene, and there’s a real good chance that the story carries on with Gene.”
“Quite a Ride” had another important Breaking Bad connection in a season that has really leaned hard into bringing these two worlds together. We got to see the creation (or the attempt to create) the Superlab, which will obviously play a key role in Breaking Bad, but is a project that won’t be finished for several years. There’s a lot still to happen in Jimmy and Saul’s life before that fateful afternoon with Francesca shredding documents, but wherever the show decides to take us next it will be a journey worth taking.
Better Call Saul airs Monday nights on AMC.