For the most part, Better Call Saul has stood on its own as something vastly different from its predecessor Breaking Bad. However, when the AMC drama returns for Season 4, expect the series to lean more towards its Breaking Bad roots after the death (yes, he's confirmed dead) of Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) brother Chuck (Michael McKean) at the end of Season 3. The loss of his brother will send Jimmy down the path towards becoming the sleazy strip mall lawyer we first met on the Bryan Cranston-led series, which undoubtedly changes the vibe of the show.
With the series taking an even darker turn in Season 4, TV Guide hit up Better Call Saul showrunner Vince Gilligan to weigh in on what to expect in the coming season, including Jimmy's relationship with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and whether or not a certain Breaking Bad alum will make an appearance.
As Better Call Saul shifts more toward the Breaking Bad world, where do you draw the line between Better Call Saul standing on its own and alluding to what comes next?
Vince Gilligan:We didn't set out to do this but we've kinda given the audience two shows for the price of one. I love thinking about it that way. The worlds are colliding, they're overlapping as each season of Better Call Saul progresses. If I had thought this deeply about it five years ago, I would have thought, "Well gosh, what I don't want to have happen is Better Call Saul get completely subsumed and overrun by Breaking Bad." Lucky, it hasn't turned out that way at all. It really feels like two shows and they operate on parallel rails. We're sort of jumping back and forth from car to car of both trains and seeing both these stories progress. I didn't realize it was gonna work out that way. I don't think Peter [Gould, showrunner] did either but we love that about it. If it had simply been more and more Breaking Bad and less and less Better Call Saul, I think that would not have been as pleasing.
We kinda know where the show is headed, that Jimmy has to become Saul Goodman at some point. Have you already figured out how you want to wrap up his story on Better Call Saul and how it leads into Breaking Bad?
Gilligan: No! Fans will be shocked at how little we know at any given moment. It would be great to know everything long before we get to that point because then we can bend everything toward where the plot is ultimately heading. But we never really operate that way. We've never been able to know that far in advance where the show is going. A good example is [Chuck]. We thought Jimmy McGill's brother was gonna be a good guy who loved him and looked out for him and the truth became much more complicated than that. [Chuck] probably did love his brother on some level but he was also insanely envious of him and that came out in all kinds of negative ways, where his brother was trying to sabotage him at every turn. No way did we know that when we started plotting out the first episode of the show. It's sort of like life. We're all living it day by day. If we knew where it was all going, it would stump us as human beings. And I think that metaphor holds with the storytelling in a long-term, ongoing television structure. You don't wanna know too much where it's all going because otherwise, the storytelling gets stale. Do we know where it's all headed and how it's all gonna end? No, we don't. We're making it up day by day and episode by episode.
That should be comforting to fans, knowing there's no end in sight. Just keep going!
Gilligan: I am not saying it's gonna go on forever because it's not. This show is a tragedy. We thought it was gonna be straight-up funny. Peter and I would always say, four or five years ago, this show is gonna be 75-percent comedy and 25-percent drama. At the end of the day, this show might be less funny than Breaking Bad ever was. And there's some really intense scenes coming up in Season 4, as intense as anything we've ever did on Breaking Bad. But it's a tragic story because Jimmy McGill is a good guy. His soul, week in and week out, seems to get chipped away at and it's a sad thing. We know eventually he must become Saul Goodman who is this calcified, morally withered version of Jimmy McGill and that's gonna be a terrible thing when that happens. But happen it must because this show is called Better Call Saul. We've explicitly promised you're gonna see this guy so we have to get there. But there will be pain involved. There will be sadness more than happiness.
And I imagine some of that pain stems from Chuck's death at the end of Season 3 which leads him further down the path toward becoming the man we see in Breaking Bad. What can you tell me about Jimmy's journey towards becoming Saul Goodman this season?
Gilligan: There's no point in being coy. We don't ever pull the rug out from the audience. If we show the audience something, even if we show it obliquely, you can pretty much expect that it happened. And it looks like Chuck expired at the end of Season 3. An event like that is gonna have consequences, very dark consequences. These are the kind of moments that put Jimmy McGilll on the path to becoming Saul Goodman and he's gonna get a lot closer to being Saul Goodman this season than he ever has before.
Jimmy destroyed his brother's career in order to protect Kim. How do you think that revelation is going to affect Jimmy's relationship with Kim in Season 4?
Gilligan: Kim and Jimmy's relationship is gonna undergo some changes in Season 4 and a great many complications. There's a reason all the fairytales end with the phrase "and they lived happily ever after" and don't begin with that. Because living happily ever after is what we all aspire to but we don't want it in our drama. I don't know that you're gonna see Kim and Jimmy living happily ever after in Season 4.
You've previously said you've wanted this to happen so what are the chances we'll see Aaron Paul appear in Better Call Saul?
Gilligan: I very much want to see Jesse Pinkman again. I wanna touch base with him and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) for that matter. I can tell you that Peter and the writers want that to happen too. We're all thinking in terms of how do we legitimately bring these characters back into the larger story of this universe (of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul). Not a day goes by without some mention of that. The key part is how's it gonna be done in a way that's truly satisfying to the audience, that it doesn't just feel like these characters were shoehorned in. I can tell you it's an ongoing discussion and I think it's gonna get figured out. I would say don't hold your breath about seeing Jesse or Walt in Better Call Saul this season but just know that we want it to happen every bit as much as the fans do. But we just know it has to happen in the right way otherwise it's not worth doing that.
What Breaking Bad Easter eggs can fans expect this season?
Gilligan: We've got some good Easter eggs this season. There's a Breaking Bad location that will be very pleasing to the audience when they recognize it. I wish I could be in people's living rooms when they see this particular location get revealed and the particular storyline that starts to form. People are gonna be very excited about that.
Better Call Saul returns for Season 4 Monday, Aug. 6 at 9/8c on AMC.