Spoilers follow for the entirety of Better Call Saul Season 5.
One of the most acclaimed series on TV, Better Call Saul, recently wrapped up its fifth season, and the show’s co-creator, Peter Gould, was our guest this week on the second installment of Fandom’s new interview series, Hey Fandom!
Peter chatted about some of the big storylines in play – including the ever-fascinating Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) perhaps going to the dark side – as he, fellow creator Vince Gilligan, and their team of writers are hard at work right now shaping the sixth and final season, which they hope will be in production this fall, depending on whether current events allow for it.
Read on for some of the highlights of what Peter Gould told us about the making of Better Call Saul and heading towards the end.
While Season 6 will be an expanded 13 episodes, up from the usual 10 per season for the series, Gould acknowledged there is a lot they need to resolve within that time – from the fate of characters we never saw in Breaking Bad like Kim, Nacho, and Lalo, to the outcome of the Sandpiper retirement home lawsuit that could make Jimmy a ton of money if it were to be wrapped up, and was the key factor in Kim’s big idea to ruin Howard in the Season 5 finale.
Said Gould, “We have so many things to wrap up before we’re finished. We’re doing Season 6 and usually what happens is we have issues — sometimes we call it the Worry Board — it’s issues that really need to be paid off for us to get to a satisfying conclusion, which is what we’re after, obviously. So we have all these issues and certainly [Sandpiper] is one of them and usually each season we resolve some of them but not others and we say, ‘Well, that’s next season’s problem!’ This season there is no next season so we have to do our best to wrap it all up in the most satisfying way and that’s very scary.”
While Better Call Saul primarily focuses on Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman, there are two other big points in time at play – Jimmy as the “full” Saul we met in Breaking Bad and Jimmy after he fled New Mexico, in his “Gene” persona. Better Call Saul has begun each season with scenes of Jimmy as Gene and in Season 4, we even got one scene set during the events of Breaking Bad, as Saul and Francesca desperately worked to rid his office of evidence.
Asked about these three different time periods and how much they might all be used in Season 6, Gould replied, “You know, you’re making a very good point because this show, we always talk about how certainly it is a spinoff and certainly it’s also a prequel, but there’s also this Gene element which takes place after Breaking Bad and we don’t know what happens to Gene. So in a weird way, it’s also a sequel. Because the Gene elements, they could be taking place mostly likely even after the events of El Camino. With this show, we spend a lot of time trying to fit our puzzle pieces. The stuff that happens after Jimmy becomes Saul becomes Gene is wide open.”
While Gould was understandably wary of giving any specifics on Season 6, he did offer one intriguing tidbit. Since the Season 2 episode “Switch,” Kim has kept the ornate stopper from a bottle of Zafiro Añejo – the incredibly expensive tequila first introduced in Breaking Bad – with it symbolizing the first time she actively ran a scam alongside Jimmy.
Said Gould, “If I were going to tease something I would say keep your eye on the stopper. Remember, there’s a stopper? Jimmy and Kim open a bottle of Zafiro Añejo and that stopper, we’re not finished with that stopper. I will say that.”
KIM’S TRUE NATURE
Kim had always been an important part of Better Call Saul, but her role has grown increasingly crucial, especially in Season 5, as we saw her actively become involved in Jimmy’s more nefarious side (and marry him along the way!), including coming face to face – and memorably standing up to – the likes of Lalo and her chilling suggestion regarding Howard in the finale.
Asked how they came to take Kim down this surprising path, Gould noted, “We probably don’t see as far ahead as you might think. We kind of work bit by bit, but one of the things that we try to do is pay close attention to what has already happened. And one of the clues about Kim Wexler that helped us understand who she was in Season 1. There’s a scene where Jimmy, to get publicity, he does this gag where he fake rescues a guy from atop a billboard and it’s on TV. Jenny Hudson wrote that episode. He gets up, he’s doing this whole thing, he gets reported on the local news and then you cut to Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill and there’s Howard and he’s looking and he’s just scornful of this lowlife stunt — and by the way, Jimmy is wearing clothes that duplicate Howard’s, which is another story. And then we saw Kim and we asked ourselves ‘Well, what does Kim think of this?’ And we decided that she smiles. Everybody else is kind of scornful and Kim kind of likes this.”
With that seed planted, Gould recalled, “In Season 2, we had this scene where, right at the beginning of the season, Kim asks Jimmy, “So what are you going to do if you’re not going to be a lawyer?” because he’s kind of had it with being a lawyer after everything that went down with Chuck. And he shows her by scamming and including her in the scam and she does really well. And that’s when they kiss. And that told us that Kim has a wild side and that she’s not religiously opposed to scamming or to breaking rules. And what we found was when we wrote the scenes and when we looked at the scenes, was that when she objects to something that Jimmy is doing she very rarely objects on moral or ethical grounds. She says ‘What if you get caught? Are you willing to sacrifice that?’ And I think there’s also a thing where we all look at the relationship and we kind of assume that one person is the wild one and the other person is the stable one and what we’ve found as we kept working on these characters is that maybe that’s not true. Maybe there’s more to her than met the eye. It was just step by step by step.”
BREAKING BAD CHARACTERS
Better Call Saul has continued to delight Breaking Bad fans by bringing in characters from that series beyond just Jimmy and Mike, with the likes of Tuco, Hector, Gus, Lydia, Hank, and Gomez all gradually appearing.
Said Gould, of how they decide when to do this, “I think if we had our way we would have brought them all back in Season 1, but it has to work within our story. Betsy Brandt is one of my favorite people in the whole world. She is a spectacular human being. She’s funny, she’s just a brilliant person and a brilliant actress. It’s been frustrating to me that we could never find the right way – yet! – to bring Marie back. We actually did have a pitch once where Marie would be a medical technician working on Chuck. The thing about it is, if you’re going to see Marie you want to spend some time with her. You want it to be substantial. You don’t want to just have a face in the crowd, at least for me. You want it to be more than just strictly a cameo. So we’ve tried to be disciplined about bringing people back only when they serve a function on the show.”
Gould noted, “The show is the story of Jimmy McGill and Mike Ehrmantraut and Kim Wexler and if those characters don’t cross over — you know Walt and Jesse of course being the ones we get asked about a lot — if they don’t cross over, if they don’t serve a purpose in our show, then they really don’t belong there. That’s why I think when people have shown up, like Tuco in episode one, for me anyway as a fan, it’s kind of thrilling because you know it’s going to be more than just a walk by.”
Beyond the very familiar Breaking Bad characters who had prominent roles on that series, Better Call Saul has also managed to include a ton of more peripheral faces from the original series – folks like Officer Saxton, real estate agent Stephanie Doswell, or Gus’ doctor, Barry Goodman, who fans might not instantly recognize at first glance but are an established part of the universe.
Gould described bringing back characters like that as, “So rewarding. JB Blanc is a great example, who plays Gus’ doctor. He’s a great actor and he’s a great guy; he’s actually got an English accent in reality! I think it gives a richness to the world for people who have really watched the show carefully. You see that guy at the beginning of episode five last season and you’re like ‘Oh, he looks familiar’ and then you’re like ‘Oh, that’s the doctor who Gus had taking care of him after he took poison way back on Breaking Bad’ – or way ahead on Breaking Bad. So I think it helps to make it feel intentional but it’s also just fun. If you’ve cast these actors who are doing a great job, you’d be crazy not to bring them back when you have a great opportunity like that one.”
KEY ON-SCREEN MEETINGS
With so many characters to choose from, Better Call Saul has also allowed Gould and the writers to show the first onscreen interaction between key characters – some we first met on Breaking Bad, some we met on Saul itself.
For instance, Lydia wasn’t introduced on Breaking Bad until after Gus’ death, but as Gould noted, “Lydia and Gus are a special case because we know they work together, we just never met Lydia until Gus was dead. So what was that relationship like? It’s fascinating to try and figure out. And that was such a fun scene in episode seven where you got to see Giancarlo [Esposito] as Gus propping up his associates and being the go-to guy.”
Gould says the joy in these scenes even extends to characters we met relatively recently, like Lalo, remarking, “One of the great joys of this season, was seeing Jimmy McGill, Bob’s character, with Lalo, with Tony Dalton, who is just a thrill. And then on top of that the scene towards the end of the season that Tom Schnauz wrote and directed with Lalo and Kim and Jimmy which I think is a giant turning point in the series.”
With Jimmy and even Kim now directly connected to the cartel side of things, Gould observed, “It’s been an interesting journey because the show for several seasons had two halves that only rarely touched. You know we had seasons where Mike and Jimmy would only have one scene together and it was always the right thing to do dramatically but there was always this feeling of ‘I want to see them all together! I want to see these actors play together!’ That’s always something that’s a thrill. If we could think of a Gus and Kim scene, I’d love to see that. I mean, Mike has still never met Kim! And these are two of my favorite people in the world, Jonathan Banks and Rhea Seehorn, and they’ve never had a scene together. Wouldn’t it be great? So these are all things I’m hoping for in the next season.”
You can check out our full Hey Fandom! conversation with Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould below!