Breaking Bad superfans can rest easy: Tonight at a packed panel screening of the upcoming ninth episode of Better Call Saul, creator Vince Gilligan made it clear that the hit spinoff will be inordinately faithful to canon established by its parent show. “The folks who watch this show, they deserve to be rewarded for their strict… close attention,” Gilligan said.
Following the screening, Gilligan was joined on the panel, held in the Cary Grant Theater on the Sony Pictures lot, by Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould, the “Pimento” episode writer-director Thomas Schnauz, and stars Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, and Michael Mando. The jovial, meandering conversation was light on spoilers but heavy on impressions from the cast and creators about how the characters coalesced, and where they might — or will — end up.
The prequel series, set six years prior to the first season of Breaking Bad, follows Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill as he gradually becomes the sleazy lawyer calling himself Saul Goodman. According to Gilligan and Gould, how he gets there is less a question of specific steps and more one of establishing motivation. “I worried all through Season 1 that we weren’t getting to Saul Goodman fast enough,” Gilligan said, but added “now I’ve come around 180 degrees and I’m thinking ‘God, I don’t want to get to Saul too quick’, I love Jimmy McGill so much.” The key question, so Gilligan and Gould said, isn’t “how long does it take to turn Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman,” but “what kind of problem does becoming Saul Goodman solve?”
To that end, the show has certain places it must reach in order to eventually meet in the middle with Breaking Bad, something Gilligan and Gould say they’ve loosely mapped out. In doing so, they’re taking pains to stay faithful to the parent show. Asked how much the creators feel beholden to established canon, Gilligan was firm. “We’re beholden to the fans, the fans who pay strict attention and we want to honor them for that, we want to reward them for that,” he said.
“We will make mistakes, no doubt about that, but we intend not to, we intend to make as small a number of mistakes as possible…. Instead of us saying ‘Yeeeah, we have a vague memory of this happening, but we like this thing better so we won’t abide by some offhanded comment or some bit of plot that we had back in Breaking Bad. We got something better, let’s just go with that and hope people squint their eyes at it.’ We wanna be as accurate as possible.”
The episode airs March 30 on AMC.