Breaking Bad (2008) changed the way people looked at dramatic television. With its tight construction and attention to details that paid off as the story progressed, the show was satisfying not just as traditional entertainment but also as a rewarding intellectual puzzle that continued to add layers over time. Better Call Saul (2015), the spin-off prequel following Breaking Bad's closure, continues that tone and clean-storytelling style in its narrative of how young laywer Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) transforms into the morally flexible champion of the criminal underworld, Saul, whose path will later cross with Walter White's (Bryan Cranston). Although fans known what will become of the hero of this spiritual companion to Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul has managed to secure passion and praise equal to its predecessor's intense fandom. Both series are unique yet intertwined, existing in the same fully realized and carefully crafted universe of New Mexican crime and immorality.
Fortunately for Breaking Bad fans, Better Call Saul is fond of dropping plentiful Easter eggs that reference the series set in its future. Let's look at some of Better Call Saul's smaller, more missable goodies that draw on what we remember from Breaking Bad.
Dinner at Loyola’s and other recycled locations
The diner in Breaking Bad
The diner in Better Call Saul
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) meets with the Kettlemans at a diner called Loyola’s as a means of diverting them from discovering he operates out of a crummy office in the wash room of a nail salon. It's easy enough to forget this is the same diner where Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) share an uncomfortably silent meal in “Cornered,” Season 4, Episode 6 of Breaking Bad. Further, Mike and Lydia (Laura Fraser) meet there in "Madrigal" (Season 5, Episode 2), when she presents him with the infamous 11 names.
The nursing home as seen in Breaking Bad
The nursing home as seen in Better Call Saul
Plus, remember the Breaking Bad nursing home where Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) lives? The one Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) frequently visits to psychologically torment the old man, before receiving his own comeuppance? That nursing home is Sandpiper, the same place where Jimmy spends a good portion of Better Call Saul's first season tending to the legal needs of its elderly residents and calling out Bingo numbers (before Jimmy starts building a class action lawsuit again Sandpiper for a pattern of overcharging its residents).
McGill's check with his address
Jimmy receives a meager $700 paycheck at the county courthouse early in Better Call Saul’s run. Upon close examination, his address on the check is listed as "160 Juan Tabo NE." This detail is almost unnoticeable and requires freeze-framing the shot to even identify, but avid fans may realize that Jimmy lives on the same street as the intelligent and ill-fated co-chemist of Walt, Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), from Breaking Bad. Gale's address is 6353 Juan Tabo, as spoken by Walter when he sends Jesse to make an unfortunate house call in "Full Measure" (Season 3, Episode 13).
The red key fob
Breaking Bad wrapped up with Walt triggering an ingenious remote-controlled machine gun mounted to the trunk of his car, quickly dispatching Jack (Michael Bowen) and his white supremacist gang in what would become the final moments of Walt’s life. Triggering the gun was achieved via a red key fob -- the same one, a Reddit user pointed out, which Jimmy uses in his Suzuki Esteem in the first episode of Better Call Saul.
Desert trouble in the backlot
The desert location in Better Call Saul
Michelle Maclaren, director of many Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul episodes, revealed that Saul’s second-episode encounter with Tuco (Raymond Cruz) in the desert took place at the exact same spot as Walt’s famous “Say my name” speech, among a number of other Breaking Bad scenes. The anonymous tapestry of the empty desert provides the ability to re-use the location without anyone being the wiser, but this Saul Easter egg was intentionally designed to mirror Breaking Bad and harken back to the predecessor. Plus, the presence of Tuco himself is a throwback to Breaking Bad, in which the then-meth-addicted Tuco causes some real angst for Walt and Jesse.
Jimmy’s bad knees
Saul's bad knees in Breaking Bad
Jimmy's bad knees in Better Call Saul
In the third episode of Better Call Saul, Jimmy is tackled by police officers and announces that he has bad knees. We’ve heard this before, in Breaking Bad, when Saul is taken to the desert. Thomas Schnauz, writer and co-executive producer of both series said, “We thought he must have taken a lot of bad hits on the ice of Chicago and he probably messed up his knees falling down all the time. When we did it in Breaking Bad, we didn't have a reason that he had bad knees, but it's nice when we can tie those threads together.”
What’s a JPI?
Has Jesse been branding Albuquerque for years?
After Jesse’s house gets trashed in Breaking Bad, the walls are covered with graffiti and other destruction. Among the graffiti are the letters JPI, a seemingly innocuous and entirely forgettable thing until it reappears in Better Call Saul on a pay phone in episode three. Both instances of the letter trio would pass by 99.9% of people without thought, but the recurrence suggests those letters were chosen intentionally. JPI = Jesse Pinkman? Most likely.
Gus' trademark yellow shirt and tie can be seen above Jimmy
Breaking Bad character Gus Fring is one of television’s most memorable villains. Equally iconic is his wardrobe, introduced through a yellow button-down and tie that looks shockingly similar to the one on display when Jimmy goes shopping for his "Hamlin suit."
Billboard guy in BCS
Billboard guy in BB
Better Call Saul has a unique ability to recycle minor characters to show what people were doing years before they showed up on Breaking Bad. For instance, the guy putting up Jimmy’s Hamlin-mocking billboard in Season 1, Episode 4, also played a cartel gunman in the “Full Measures” episode of Breaking Bad. It seems the billboard business just wasn’t enough for him. He is easily forgettable in Breaking Bad, as Mike dispatches him after a very brief on-screen appearance, but this detailed level of congruence between series is something the writers clearly have fun playing with.
The same nurse in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul
Similarly, Chuck (Michael McKean) checks into the same hospital where Brock (Ian Posada) is treated for poisoning in Breaking Bad, and a familiar nurse (T.C. Warner) takes care of both of them (and kicks Jesse out of the hospital in Breaking Bad).
A bearded man repeated on both shows
And then there’s the big bearded man who squeezes into the bathroom at Loyola’s during Jimmy’s meeting with the Kettlemans. We’ve seen him before, in the final season premiere Breaking Bad episode “Live Free or Die,” as one of the fellows who helps rig up the mega (magnets bitch!) magnet. "It's the same character, just so everyone knows," co-creator Peter Gould said on the Better Call Saul Insider Podcast.
Character Ken Wins in Better Call Saul
Ken Wins in Breaking Bad
Not all the recycled characters are as obscure. Of course, there’s Tuco and his henchman No-Doze (Cesar Garcia), but also folks like Ken Wins (Kyle Bornheimer), the rich snob whom Jimmy and Kim take on a wild ride of deception in order to get a free bottle of $50/shot tequila. (The tequila brand, Zafiro Anejo, by the way, is also a fictitious recurrence from Breaking Bad: Gus poisons a bottle to take out the Juarez cartel.) Ken Wins is the same character who steals Walt’s parking space in Breaking Bad and ends up with a flaming car. The character’s name is ironic, since he loses greatly in each appearance.
And then there’s Officer Saxton (Stoney Westmoreland), the policeman who arrives at the scene of the dorky drug dealer’s house to investigate his missing baseball cards. Not surprisingly, this is the same cop who visits the White house following Skyler’s (Anna Gunn) report that her home had been broken into, as identified by another Reddit user.
Trains and tarantulas
In their tireless effort to interweave minor details from both series, Better Call Saul writers used a shot of railroad tracks and a story about tarantulas to make a connection. On Breaking Bad, a boy named Drew (Samuel Webb) finds a tarantula in the desert before being gunned down by the reprehensible Todd (Jesse Plemons). On Saul, before Mike leaves Philadelphia and heads off to his new life in New Mexico, a bartender advises he keep an eye out for tarantulas. It’s a subtle connection made partly by dialogue and partly by camerawork, tying together the two worlds in a wonderful way.
Steven Ogg and Jonathan Banks in a conversation beginning with pimento sandwiches
...and another pimento sandwich moment
Mike is a man of intense simplicity. Early in Saul, he’s ridiculed by fellow heavies for arriving at a protection gig armed only with a pimento sandwich in a brown lunch bag. Breaking Bad fans will remember Mike offering Jesse a pimento sandwich during one of their Gus-mandated stakeouts, indicating it has been his go-to food for quite a number of years. (After all, it is the “caviar of the south.”)
The foreshadowing of Jimmy's automotive ownership
Saul drives around Breaking Bad in a stupidly huge white Cadillac but in his Jimmy McGill days putzes about town in a dingy yellow car worth "$500 only if there is a $300 hooker in the backseat." In a cleverly shot scene, Better Call Saul foreshadows Jimmy’s future automobile as it’s parked next to his junker.
A conversation from BCS...
...and the one that references it
Vince Gilligan and company are masters of dialogue, and they keep every minor sentence in their back pocket for circling back upon later. In Better Call Saul’s first season finale episode, we see Jimmy scolded by a woman who is waking up to realize the man she just spent the night with is, in fact, not Kevin Costner. Jimmy replies, “I was last night,” and feels proud of his accomplishment. It’s a moment of comedy but also a reference to a minor piece of dialogue from Breaking Bad when Saul spoke to Walt about the power of a convincing performance, saying, “I once convinced a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it.”
A familiar wardrobe
Sometimes Easter eggs come in the form of little more than clever pieces of set dressing. One such instance is in Saul’s premiere episode, in which a courthouse coat rack is propping up attire that looks strikingly like Heinsenberg’s famous hat and tan jacket. Coincidence? Absolutely not.
Better Call Saul is a wonderfully crafted television show. Its risky premise of telling a story to which we know the ending is fueled by rich new characters, a desire to watch a man's evolution as a criminal and de-evolution as a moral public servant, and the spattering of tie-ins to one of television's most beloved narratives. The list of Easter eggs will likely grow with each new episode AMC brings to audiences, and hopefully one day we'll learn where he got that Hello Kitty cell phone.