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Better Call Saul S6E11: “Breaking Bad” Brings Us Full Circle

Saul Goodman lies on the floor of his office using the Swing Master
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman - Better Call Saul _ Season 6, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul S6E11 (“Breaking Bad”), written and directed by Thomas Schnauz.

With this week’s episode, it seems clear that we’ve left the Better Call Saul timeline in the past, and it makes sense. All the main BCS characters are either dead (including, I would argue, Jimmy McGill as we know him) or have reached the point in their character arc where there isn’t much more story to tell that wasn’t told in Breaking Bad. The exception to this is Kim Wexler, who we sort of hear from this week but whose post-BCS activities are still mostly a mystery. I’m fairly certain that the writers will give us some closure with Kim (probably in next week’s penultimate episode), but this week they left us with more questions than answers. 

In “Breaking Bad,” we are brought back to the beginning of the Saul Goodman story, and it’s no coincidence that the Breaking Bad episode where he was introduced is called “Better Call Saul” (S2E8) and this Better Call Saul episode is called “Breaking Bad.” We open with a scene we all know well from Breaking BadWalt and Jesse taking Saul out into the desert—only this time it is from Saul’s perspective. The cold open is short but effective: with just a few shots (the flask, the keys in the ignition, the red phosphorous) we know we are in the RV. But what is new here—the context that Better Call Saul provides us—makes it all the more harrowing, because we know that Saul thinks that whatever is happening is happening because of Lalo.

He’ll never really believe that Lalo is gone, no matter what Mike says, and all the fear we first saw him exhibit in Breaking Bad is magnified because now we know exactly why he’s so terrified of the desert. Between his experience with Tuco and Nacho in “Mijo” (S1E2) and his near-death experience in “Bagman” (S5E8), the desert is the most triggering possible place for Saul. Doesn’t help that Walt and Jesse have overdramatically dug a grave for him, either. The cold open is only a bit over a minute long, but it doesn’t need to be any longer; we have all of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul to contextualize it.

Saul looks down into an empty grave in the desert at night

Back in the black-and-white Gene timeline, we move away from Omaha and back to Albuquerque, where we see that Francesca has been working as a disgruntled landlord to some stoner idiots. Jaded, bitter Francesca is my favorite Francesca, and we see that after Saul’s grand exit, she’s only gotten more prickly. After telling the Badger and Skinny Pete wannabes to fix their own sink (which they’ve clogged with weed stems and seeds), Francesca, who is clearly wary of being tailed, drives out to the designated meeting place for the phone call that we’ve been waiting for (passing a bus bench on the way that tells us that the long-suffering ADA Bill Oakley has finally gotten out of the District Attorney’s office and started his own practice).

bus bench ad reading william oakley & associates, trust experience, trust oakley with a picture of bill oakley and a phone number

We’ve finally arrived at the day that was mentioned in “Quite a Ride” (S4E5), where Saul (on his way to be disappeared) told Francesca to be at a certain place for a 3pm phone call on November 12. This also happens to be Jimmy McGill’s 50th birthday, and 50th birthdays have a special significance in the BCS/BrBa universe. The pilot episode of Breaking Bad was Walt’s 50th: the fateful day that Hank suggested he go on a ride-along with him—the event that (in conjunction with his cancer diagnosis), set all the events of the series in motion.

On Jimmy’s 50th, he calls Francesca at a phone booth at an abandoned gas station in the middle of nowhere. He wants an update but, Francesca being Francesca, she demands that he pay up before she tells him anything and he directs her to a stash of cash hidden nearby. Once she gets paid, she updates him on the heat back in ABQ. He had wrongly assumed that things would have settled down after Walt’s death, but Francesca tells him that it’s actually worse—Skyler got a deal (presumably using the coordinates Walt gave her for Hank and Gomez’s bodies) and so now the only ones left to go after are Jesse and Saul. Francesca tells him that they found Jesse’s car by the Mexico border (although we know from El Camino that this is just a ruse and Jesse finally made it to Alaska), so that just leaves the great Heisenberg’s consigliere to be found and prosecuted. In even worse news, the feds have found and seized all of Saul’s hidden assets and shell corporations, which means he’s only got the money he took with him (which, by this point, has to be pretty depleted).

He asks after Kuby, Huell, Danny, and Ira, who are pretty much his only living friends (but are all mostly work associates) and you can tell that Gene is desperate for any sort of human connection here—any information about the people in his previous life. We learn that Huell went back home to Louisiana after being held under false pretenses by the DEA in “To’hajiilee” (BrBa S5E13). Nothing about Kuby, Ira, or Danny, but in an interview with Rolling Stone, writer/director Tom Schnauz confirmed that Laser Tag Danny is, in fact, Daniel Wormald (aka “Pryce”). Francesca mentions Oakley’s career move, but she saves the most important person for last.

A black and white image of Francesca holding the phone to her ear at a payphone with bullet holes in it

It seems like Francesca almost doesn’t tell him that Kim called her, which would make sense—Francesca always really liked and respected Kim and she wouldn’t want her involved in any of Saul’s Heisenberg mess. But she also knows how much Kim means to him and she can’t not tell him. Kim called Francesca to ask how she was doing, but she did ask if he was alive. Francesca didn’t tell her anything, but it’s enough for Gene to know that she asked about him. While we don’t know exactly how long it’s been since the two of them had any communication—whether she cut it off completely after the events of “Fun and Games” or not—Gene’s obvious shock that she asked about him (and the implication that she still cares about him) is enough to tell us that he’s never stopped loving Kim even though they have (in all likelihood) been apart for six years.

Francesca basically hangs up on him, not allowing him to engage in some drawn-out goodbye because she has had more than enough Saul Goodman for one lifetime, and he gets in his car. When he reaches a crossroads (not at all subtle), he makes the decision to contact Kim. He knows exactly where she is (Titusville, Florida) and where she works (Palm Coast Sprinklers), and I’m assuming this information came from Mike since it’s in his best interest to know where Kim is and what she’s up to. We don’t get to hear his conversation with Kim, which was both an incredibly frustrating and interesting choice. Whatever was said, it didn’t go well. I know there’s a transcript floating around on Reddit somewhere but I’m choosing to ignore it because it’s more interesting not to know and to trust the show to shed some light on it as we move forward. With Kim working at a sprinkler company and next week’s episode being titled “Waterworks,” I think it’s a safe bet that we will get some answers soon enough.

A black and white image of Gene in a payphone next to a row of parked cars

Whatever went down in that conversation, it put Gene in a very dark place. Last week’s “Nippy” saw him pulling one scam (a fairly benign one at that) in order to get himself out of the Jeff situation, but then he went back to his regular life as Gene. Talking with Kim set him off in a bad way, and he decides to continue scamming with Jeff. Losing Kim the first time killed Jimmy and turned him into Saul Goodman; losing her again here (or being rejected by her in some way) is making Gene break bad. It’s the same thing all over again: scamming as his drug of choice to try and ease the pain he’s feeling, because Jimmy/Saul/Gene—whatever iteration we’re dealing with—never actually deals with his traumas. He buries everything and he goes off and does increasingly more dangerous and harmful things for the rush of it and for the money. And here we see him doing this again, but it’s much darker.

Gene pays Marion another visit and teaches her how to use YouTube to watch funny cat videos (and something tells me that Marion learning how to use the Internet may come back to bite Gene in the ass). He’s really there to see Jeff, of course, and this time Marion seems to notice. Last week, we saw her happy that Gene was around to be a good influence on Jeff, but here she seems unhappy that Gene would prefer to spend time with Jeff than her—she’s not exactly suspicious yet, but she’s a smart lady and she can sense something isn’t quite right.

Gene pours a glass of schnapps for Marion at her kitchen table with her new laptop
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

As for Jeff, he thinks Gene is there because he’s done something wrong—that perhaps the discount laptop he bought his mom was too big a purchase, or that Gene thinks he talked when he didn’t. That’s not why Gene has come back, though. Gene has a new idea, and he needs Jeff and Buddy back on the scamming train. He knows they’ll go for it after the taste they got with the last one, and he’s right in assuming so. The new scam is much darker, though. It involves Gene pretending to be drunk with a mark (using the name Viktor, which he used to use with Kim), getting them in Jeff’s cab so he can drug them with barbiturate-laced water and drop them home, where Buddy will come in while they are passed out and take photos of ID, credit cards, bank statements, etc. for identity theft purposes. This isn’t stealing some merchandise from a large department store or scamming someone out of a few hundred bucks Slippin’ Jimmy style; identity theft is a serious crime and it can really damage people’s lives.

The fact that he chooses to go by Viktor during these scams is no accident either because a Viktor without his Giselle is simply not the same. Viktor and Giselle were playful. They would scam douchebags like KENWINS out of a pricey bottle of tequila and make him think he would make bank off of their investments, but it didn’t actually cost him that much in the end (“Switch” S2E1). They would take a $10,000 check from an investor in their fake business but they wouldn’t cash it (“Bali Ha’i” S2E6). Here, though, Viktor is solo, and without Giselle to ground him, he is going to cause serious damage to these people’s lives. Kim told Jimmy that separately they were ok but together they were poison, but that didn’t end up being the case. She is likely ok on her own, but without Kim, Jimmy becomes someone else entirely and that person is always dangerous. Even Gene, who we thought was too broken to do any damage to anyone but himself, has shown himself in these past two episodes to be capable of hurting people just to appease his inner demons.

The first man that we see Gene running the new scam on is a jerk: a meaner version of Slippin’ Jimmy with the way he pulls stupid little bets and scams on Gene and talks down to him. We can kind of root for Gene here just because the guy is such an ass, but the farther things go—the drugging, the breaking and entering, the identity theft—the harder it is to rationalize it. I think it’s interesting that the first scam, which they show us uninterrupted, is Gene running it on a guy who is not entirely dissimilar to versions of himself. There’s a lot of Slippin’ Jimmy in there and a bit of Saul Goodman, too. The self-loathing is maybe a bit too on the nose here, but I’m sure it made it easier for Gene to pull it off.

A black and white image of Gene sitting at a bar with the mark for his scam in Better Call Saul S6E11

Just after this first identity theft is completed, “Breaking Bad” takes us back to Breaking Bad (alternately, and equally as accurate, Better Call Saul takes us back to “Better Call Saul”). Here we get an all-new scene—one that fits right into the “Better Call Saul” episode. It occurs in the RV right after Walt and Jesse take Saul on as their lawyer, and we see Saul discovering that he’s found himself right in the middle of Heisenberg’s meth lab. You can practically see the dollar signs in Saul’s eyes as he looks around, but Walt doesn’t want to give him any information about their business. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul don’t miss a beat here—the Walt/Jesse banter and bickering is perfectly on point. Between that and the fact that we’re seeing Saul in full Saul Goodman mode, it feels like a cutscene from the Breaking Bad episode (we will ignore some of the obvious differences like the 4K and Aaron Paul being in his 40s now because who cares—that’s how time works).

Walt and Jesse stand in the back of the RV in Better Call Saul S6E11

But even though this scene feels like it could have been ripped from Breaking Bad Season 2—especially with all the fuss about getting the Crystal Ship to start, which is a callback to the mess Walt and Jesse found themselves in in “4 Days Out” (S2E9)—this is unmistakably a Better Call Saul scene once Jesse asks Saul who Lalo is. For a brief moment here, we are seeing Jimmy. He tries to change the subject and get Walt to try to start the RV again with an offhand comment about being found “buried in a sandstorm a thousand years from now”—a reference to the Shelley poem “Ozymandias,” which was the basis for the title of the iconic Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias” (S5E14). In Breaking Bad, Walt was the Ozymandias, but after Better Call Saul, we can view Saul Goodman the same way. 

It’s important to note also that this is the moment where everything changes—the point of no return in the BCS/BrBa universe. Without Saul as a part of their operation, Walt could never have reached the level of success and notoriety that he did. Likewise, without Walt and Jesse, Saul would have just continued being a sketchy criminal lawyer. It’s when Walter White and Saul Goodman come together that both of their fates are sealed; this partnership makes them the worst possible versions of themselves, a form of mutually assured destruction predicated on each of them underestimating the other and using the other for their own gain. It can only end badly, and in case this wasn’t crystal clear, the transition from a shot of the empty grave in the Breaking Bad timeline superimposed with a shot of Gene in bed in 2010 really hammers the point home—not even remotely subtle, but effective.

A superimposed image making it look like Gene is in a grave in the desert

Back in 2010, we see a scamming montage where Gene, Jeff, and Buddy carry out their identity theft grift countless times. With Saul Goodman’s money gone, this has got to be quite a good haul for Gene, but it’s not about the money—not really. It never really has been. Whether it’s Jimmy, Saul, or Gene, the scamming is at its core about hiding inside another person and feeling that rush, which is the only thing that has ever really eased his pain. We see Gene revert to some iconic Saul Goodman behavior, first purchasing the Swing Master machine we’ve seen him use in his office before (and which is an actual thing you can buy), then doing some pleasure-seeking at the strip club and with some sex workers. We’ve always known that Saul Goodman has an affinity for strippers and escorts, and in Breaking Bad it just seemed like one more sleazy thing he does, but in the context of Better Call Saul, I find it fascinating that the only form of sexual intimacy that Saul (and now Gene) engages in is transactional. It’s pretty safe to assume that, after Kim, he never bothered with any sort of relationship that didn’t come with a time limit and a price tag.

When you compare the “Nippy” scam to what Gene, Jeff, and Buddy are up to now, there’s such a huge shift in the tone—not just what they are actually doing (which is much more harmful) but also in the way that Gene himself reacts to it. He had a pep in his step last week that was very reminiscent of a (mostly) harmless Jimmy scam, but this week we see him drugging and robbing people and it doesn’t even seem to bring him all that much joy. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bob Odenkirk said that “there’s yet another iteration of Jimmy on his way,” and I think that’s what we are seeing here. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in his interaction with the final mark we see in the episode: a finance guy who Gene discovers has cancer. Even though he’s in finance, which is a notoriously corrupt and dishonest industry, this guy seems like a straight shooter. He’s the polar opposite of KENWINS in that he doesn’t seem like the type who would take advantage of anyone. It’s clear that Gene was expecting more of a scumbag type—the kind he’s familiar with—and he seems hesitant even before the guy pulls out his cancer medication. You can see Gene wrestling with it in his head as the guy buys him a drink and toasts, “You only go around once.” I so desperately wanted him to call an audible here and take the cab instead of letting the man get in, but he doesn’t. He knows it’s wrong—that this guy especially doesn’t deserve it, and that he could even end up dead from mixing whatever drugs he’s taking with the sedatives—and it does it anyway. You can literally see the point where he says to himself “F**k it” when the cab is driving away. This is that fourth iteration Bob Odenkirk was talking about. This is the darkest version of Jimmy McGill we’ve ever seen because he’s lost absolutely everything and he simply does not care anymore. The only thing he’s got left is the grift and it must go on, no matter what.

A black and white image of Gene sitting at the bar next to the man with cancer who is taking a drink

At this point, Schnauz chooses to cut back to the Breaking Bad timeline, to a meeting between Mike and Saul in Saul’s office. It’s great to see Breaking Bad-era Mike interacting with Saul because, by this point, the absolute disdain he has for him is so obvious. When we saw them together last in “Fun and Games,” it was a kinder, gentler Mike Ehrmantraut, and he was dealing with a traumatized Jimmy McGill. Here, we can see in a millisecond how much Saul Goodman has grated on Mike over the years. But money is money, and Saul pays Mike well for his investigative services, and so Mike tolerates him (although he refuses to report his findings until he’s up off the floor and out of his chi machine). 

Saul has asked Mike to look into Heisenberg, and he reports back the pertinent info on Walt and Jesse, including Walt’s cancer diagnosis. Mike advises Saul not to go near them, but Saul says, “You see an amateur. I see 170 pounds of clay ready to be molded.” When Saul asks if it’s Mike’s assessment that Walt isn’t worth it or Gus’s (although he doesn’t use Gus’s name), Mike basically says he’s not even on Gus’s radar because he’s too small time and he reiterates that it’s not a good idea to get involved with him. Of course, we know Saul doesn’t listen—that he goes and pays a visit to Walt in his classroom and cements their partnership. Saul thinks that Walt’s amateur status is a feature, not a bug, that this down-on-his-luck chemistry nerd with cancer will obviously do everything he says and that they’ll both get rich. He truly thinks he can mold him into a successful drug dealer (just as he molded Jeff into a successful scammer), but of course, we know that Walter White doesn’t blindly follow anyone.

Mike stands holding a notebook as Saul sits behind his office desk in Better Call Saul S6E11

Back in 2010, we see Gene at home fixing himself a rusty nail and settling into his armchair, just like he did in the series premiere “Uno” (S1E1). Only this time, he doesn’t have to clandestinely drag out the Saul Goodman commercial tape because he’s actually out living those Saul Goodman urges. He’s not a shell of a person anymore; he’s been transformed into something new and unrecognizable—that fourth person we are only just meeting. He gets a call from either Jeff or Buddy and heads over to meet them at Marion’s house in the garage. She’s in bed watching cat videos but she hears Buddy’s dog barking and goes to the window to find Gene there. The look on her face here is very foreboding. Between her newfound knowledge of Internet searching and YouTube and her growing suspicions of Gene, wouldn’t it just be perfect if a little old lady is the one to bring him down? (Justice for Irene Landry at last!)

A black and white image of Marion looking out her window with suspicion

The scam has gone sideways because Buddy actually has a functioning conscience and, when he discovered cancer pills in the guy’s pocket, he called it off. It’s obviously an intentional choice to have the mark have cancer of all things, because—as Gene points out—Walt’s cancer didn’t stop him from being a complete asshole. He can rationalize it this way, but Buddy can’t do it and says that he’s out. We learn here that Gene has specifically targeted single men with money and no family, which seems like his attempt at scamming somewhat honorably, but it doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny if he’s willing to go forward with this particular mark. Not hurting women and children always seems to be the line that men draw when it comes to who it’s ok to hurt (and it always has me asking what that says about men, but I digress).

Buddy is a hard no, and Gene thinks he’ll be able to change his mind, that he’s only having doubts because he’s new to the game. He tells him, “You get over it, okay? Please, believe me. Before you know it, you forget all about it.” It’s the same logic he tried to use on Kim at the beginning of “Fun and Games,” trying to convince her that one day they would wake up and they wouldn’t even think about the atrocities they caused. I think, for Jimmy, it probably is true—he can easily move past and forget a lot of the bad things he’s done… until he can’t. I think the phone call with Kim (and whatever was said on it) brought back a lot of the things he had pushed down (which is his version of forgetting), and when it came up again, he turned to this scam as a way to drown out all that noise.

Gene fires Buddy and decides to do it himself, and while Jeff is willing to go along with it and be his wheelman, he has doubts about how it will even work. Not only is the door locked, but the drugs may have worn off since it’s been a lot of time. Gene seems completely unbothered by either of these facts—both things that (on their own) would have been enough for any iteration of him to call off a scam. It quickly cuts to Breaking Bad where we see Saul approaching the high school before he goes in to seal the deal with Walt, and then back to 2010, where Gene breaks into the cancer man’s house. This is very clearly a point of no return for Gene, whether he gets caught or not. All the over-cautiousness and paranoia we’ve come to associate with Gene is gone, and this version is more reckless than Jimmy or Saul ever was.

A black and white shot of Gene looking through the door of the cancer man's house with his shadow on the wall
Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

I think he simply has reached the point where he just doesn’t care anymore, and I think that has everything to do with that phone call with Kim. Maybe she told him to turn himself in and this is his way of doing that—being so incredibly stupid and reckless that he can’t help but get caught. Maybe she said something awful to him and this is his way of proving that she’s right—that he’s a terrible person who does terrible things. I don’t know because they left it purposefully vague, but I have a feeling that next week’s penultimate episode will give us some of the answers we seek (although we may not like them).

Written by Alison Morretta

In addition to her position as Senior Editor and Writer for TVObs, Ali is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time, she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her hyperactive Corgi, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.


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