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‘I Called Saul'?: Conditions are Right for a ‘Breaking Bad’ III
May 14, 2017  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

Writer and producer Vince Gilligan was extensively on record during the final two seasons of Breaking Bad that his worst fear would be the show would not finish with the steam that drove its popularity – that it would be doomed to the fate of all hit series that stay around too long because it was making money: watch ratings dwindle year-by-year as Walt engineered his way out of yet another impossible jam in Season Umpteen.

Original fans would have been long gone, and the writing room would be mailing it in. For the series to maintain its character and integrity, it had to come to a decisive – and timely – end.

And yet… immediately after came Better Call Saul, the prequel to the Breaking Bad story. Far from being a weak stepsister to the original, BCS has created its own world of Saul Goodman’s backstory as scam artist Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and his ascent to legit attorney and Walter White-like decline to the wily criminal jailhouse lawyer we met originally in Season 2 of Breaking Bad.

But since Saul has appeared briefly with a rapidly receding hairline as “Cinnabon Gene” (top photo) in all three seasons of BCS, in a current timeline after the Breaking Bad finale (as he teased in his final BB scene, “best case scenario, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha”), why not a third leg to this story, with McGill/Saul/Gene and other characters merging for a Breaking Bad sequel? (Gilligan and team also prefigured the Breaking Bad finale at the start of season five, with a similar flash-forward shot of Walt arming up for the finale gun fight.)

That would be a notable way to extend a show that was never meant to be extended and is still going.

After five original seasons and after (hopefully) at least another four of Saul, a sequel could add on another 4-5 more for fans of Gilligan’s unique take on American crime and his trademark camera and editing styles.

Better Call Saul has given us a chance to follow Breaking Bad characters we never thought we’d see again like Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks, right) and cartel distributor and Los Pollos Hermanos fried chicken proprietor Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

A host of others like deranged meth dealer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) and his uncle, Hector (Mark Margolis), have also appeared, and there has also been a delightful parade of many other minor BB characters including arms dealer Lawson (Jim Beaver) and last week, Huell Babineaux (Lavell Crawford).

Odenkirk has proved more than capable as leading-man antihero material for a series to be built around, and since Gilligan has revealed a few scenes of Jimmy/Saul in his new alter-ego as "Cinnabon Gene,” it’s logical to assume that the series will, at some point, meet that current timeline and likely go a little a little further as it wraps.

Better Call Saul has been a slow burn, with the level of danger increasing this season as Saul and Mike are now forming their arrangement and allegiance to Gus, moving towards the time when they appeared in the original Breaking Bad storyline.

But BCS has clearly been its own show, too, departing significantly from the original series, having adopted a more quiet tone and unraveling first as a family story of Jimmy’s conflicted relationship with disapproving older brother and straight-arrow corporate attorney Chuck (Michael McKean with Odenkirk, right). Chuck is intensely critical of Jimmy, and perhaps resentful from childhood, and suffers from what he thinks is an electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

So why not a third set, following what seems to be Jimmy’s growing unrest as a nobody doing nothing in nowhere, when his true nature is to be in the game, doing what he does best – outwitting the law, and making good dough (not pastry), or some other variant of the Breaking Bad saga?

Well, Gilligan himself teased the Better Call Saul audience as much, recently telling Den of Geek:

"Just from watching this show you can tell that it’s a finite story. And we know that even further from the fact that this show has to butt up against the beginning of Breaking Bad. So there is a finite nature here. But there’s one difference in Better Call Saul’s finite nature that wasn’t there with Breaking Bad, which is that there is yet again the possibility of a whole other story to be told through the black-and-white beginnings of a post-Breaking Bad world that we’ve put at the top of each season. So while I think that there is a definite end in sight for the pre-Breaking Bad story, there still seems like there could be a lot in the post-Breaking Bad world. I’m kind of fascinated by that, simply as one of the first fans of the series. What could come out of that? No promises, but it seems to me that there’s a little more opportunity for scope there than there even was in Breaking Bad."

Gilligan remarked in the Daily Beast in 2015 about the “existential, life and death stakes” that are at the foundation of a great show and those, more than anything else, were his reasons for joining co-writer Peter Gould in Gould’s idea for a prequel exploring Saul’s long, slow transformation.

It’s obvious from their second tour of Breaking Bad duty that they easily bring these ingredients along to any new project.

And while the body count was high at the end of Breaking Bad, including Walt, there are plenty of characters still available that Jimmy/Saul/Gene could somehow cross in a future timeline going forward.

Yes, critics aren’t screenwriters (or else, we’d be screenwriting), but it's a compelling landscape. Better Call Saul brother Chuck could still have a role, endangering Jimmy’s continuing underground life, as could sometime-girlfriend and law partner Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) who has tacitly admitted her bad-girl streak, joining in on some of Jimmy's more benign sporting scams.

Walt's protégé Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) survived (barely) the Breaking Bad finale shootout, and his widow, Skyler (Anna Gunne), would presumably be past a plea deal made for her role as Walt’s unwilling accomplice during his drug–dealing days.

And of course, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) is probably in law enforcement in this scenario, taking up late uncle Hank’s (Dean Norris) DEA drug crusade after his being murdered by gangsters that Walt had earlier made a devil’s bargain with.

We’d be pulling for Badger and Skinny Pete (Matt L. Jones and Charles Baker), Jesse’s dimwit buddies, to make their comedic comeback, too.

The territory is wide in the Breaking Bad-Better Call Saul universe, even though Gilligan and Gould have both been on record expressing the challenges and anxiety of a spinoff, with TV history liberally littered with their failures. (Gilligan cited Lou Grant as one, completely different in tone from its comedy parent, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as one of the reasons why he thought Better Call Saul was a good idea.)

There's no reason to expect anything less than the success of part three, if it emerges.

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Lisa Helwig-Payne
I would like to see Brian Cranston back. Perhaps he could be re-invented as Walt's brother, a ne'er-do-well looking to get into the drug trade that was so successful for Walt.
May 16, 2017   |  Reply
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