From the very first episode of “Better Call Saul,” viewers were primed to notice points of connection between the prequel and its parent series. If Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill so much as winked a certain way, “Breaking Bad” fans were eager to analyze it. Is this the moment? Is he becoming Saul Goodman in front of our eyes? When a scene of transformation finally did come, it was much later than anyone expected, but series creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould made sure to sprinkle in plenty of “Breaking Bad” connections in the meantime.
The series also doled out its cameos slowly and surely, including crossover characters only when it made sense for Jimmy’s story and the parallel origin stories of Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike (Jonathan Banks). So when Walter White’s brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) appeared in the third and fourth episodes of the show’s penultimate season, the context for their scenes was a little bit disorienting. The pair of DEA agents come into play when Jimmy sets Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) up as their confidential informant, leading them to stakeout that results in a massive bust.
Two Identical Drug Busts
Hank and Gomez’s appearance does move along the “Better Call Saul” plot, as it heats up the tension between Nacho, Gus, and Lalo. But it also includes one of the show’s more confusing Easter eggs, when Hank and Gomez land the drug bust. After hilariously bickering about the etymology of the word “culverts,” the pair ends up successfully arresting three people involved in Gus’ operation, seizing cash that amounts to “$ 700,000 and some change.” “We sure took a bite outta crime tonight, Macgruff!” Gomie says to Hank, before the whole team heads to a bar to celebrate.
This episode marks the end of their short time on “Better Call Saul,” and weirdly, it also aligns perfectly with the pilot episode of “Breaking Bad.” In one of the show’s first scenes, Walt (Bryan Cranston) gets the idea to cook meth after Hank makes everyone at his birthday party watch a local news interview about his latest drug bust. On TV, we see Hank describe three arrests, and when Walt asks his brother-in-law how much money was seized, he says about $ 700,000. It seems to be the same exact bust, only there’s no way it could be, as “Better Call Saul” season five is still set a few years before the events of “Breaking Bad.”
Coincidence Or Intentional?
The familiarities between the two scenes are ample enough that when it aired, some fans suddenly began to question their own mental timeline for the series. But on closer inspection, these are clearly two different events that are likely meant to echo one another. The most noticeable proof comes from an intentional character change: Gomez of the pre-“Breaking Bad” past has facial hair, while he doesn’t at Walt’s birthday party. There’s also the fact that Hank’s being interviewed on the news at what appears to be dawn or dusk, whereas he and his team leave the “Better Call Saul” bust in the dead of night to celebrate. This isn’t the same crime scene, then, but it is a strangely similar one.
Gould and Gilligan are consistently thoughtful about their filmmaking choices, so it’s likely the sense of deja vu this scene gives viewers is intentional. Perhaps the pair of DEA agents, who both die in “Breaking Bad,” return partly as ghostly warning signs. Their timing makes them perfect harbingers of the fatal turn the spin-off series will take once Lalo, Nacho, and Gus begin to escalate their conflict. The DEA agents win a battle that night, but the Albequerque drug lords ultimately win the war. An identical bust years later is proof to this point, as it shows just how much money and power is at stake in the business Jimmy finds himself wrapped up in.
Or maybe, just maybe, Gilligan and Gould wanted to give ASAC Schrader himself one last moment of victory on screen, a big bust worth bragging rights. If so, we can’t fault them for that: it was great to see Hank and Gomie back together again, and we could’ve watched them argue about culverts for several more episodes.
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