Better Call Saul: “Our ending will be very different from Breaking Bad’s” [interview]

Better Call Saul season 6
AMC/Netflix

Showrunner Peter Gould shares some secrets about the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, and isn’t “closing the door” on another Breaking Bad spin-off.

Originally, there is Saul Goodman, a crooked lawyer born in the mind of Peter Gould during season 2 of breaking Bad. The then head writer of the series imagines the perfect secondary character, a crazy gab talker and scene stealer, always ready to launder a bunch of tickets for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. ” When we thought of something a little too much, a little too weird for breaking Bad, we thought we would keep that for the spin-off with Saul. It was a valve, of course. Except that the closer we got to the end of the series, the more we realized that we weren’t laughing that much “recalls Gould. A few years later, he followed the intuition of his friend Vince Gilligan and co-created with him Better Call Saulprequel to breaking Bad about the winding fate of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman. ” What changed everything for us was Bob Odenkirk’s performance: he started with a somewhat simplistic character and gave it substance with his vulnerability and his sincerity. It was too tempting to see where we could go next to him. »

Two seasons will have been enough to make Better Call Saul a serial shoot of absolute purity, rid of the writing tics of its elder. From breaking Bad on the bone, almost appeased, where we (quite) gently observe a misunderstood man taking the wrong paths, while the notions of justice and morality become more and more blurred.

Midway through Season 3, Gilligan left Gould to handle the show on his own. On the eve of the conclusion of Better Call Saul (the first episode the final season 6 will be broadcast on April 19 in France), the man describes his stress but does not let it show on the phone. Still editing, he admits watching in the evening ” lots of comedy series. I redid the whole thing Mr. Show With Bob and David because I’m a Bob Odenkirk fan. Guess I can’t get enough of seeing him on set all day long (Laughs.) I saw a bit of The Larry Sanders Show also, it makes me feel good. But no dramas, it would make me feel like I was still at work! Finally… apart The Office of Legends. Incredible this series, I saw practically all the episodes twice. »

Peter Gould evokes for us the difficulty of imagining the end of Better Call SaulBob Odenkirk’s heart attack that interrupted filming, the evolution of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman and the possibility of another series set in the same universe.

We are coming to the end of Better Call Saul and potentially the whole universe breaking Bad. How do you feel ?

Ooh La La ! I think I haven’t digested all that yet. We still have a lot of editing work to do. But I can tell you that when it hits me, it’s going to hurt a lot. Better Call Saul and breaking Bad have changed my life. My consolation is that I’m super proud of the work we’ve done. Without adding to it, I really think it’s our best season to date. And it starts with a bang, believe me.

Did you approach this final season differently from the others?

Yes and no. Obviously, the pressure is enormous. But I had to put that aside in a corner of my head and go scene by scene… while ensuring overall cohesion with the rest of the series. What’s going on in the world right now has at least taught me to compartmentalize and manage my stress (Laughter.).

Vince Gilligan had walked away from Better Call Saul since season 3. Has he returned to end the series?

Absolutely, he was there every moment in the writing room. And he directed more episodes this season than he ever had. He was delighted, but it was also a request on my part to see him return. I’m a bit sentimental! And it was important that we finish together what we started.

Wasn’t it a little weird to find you two when you had been alone at the helm for several years?

It was strange. Our chemistry changed a bit, it took a week or two to find our rhythm. But I learned everything about being a screenwriter with Vince. And if we have quite different personalities, our methods are very, very similar. There is an osmosis. Except that the Covid forced us to work remotely for a good part of the year. Not easy to get used to and it obviously complicated things. It was like trying to dance on very wet ground: it’s doable, but it’s a little harder and maybe less elegant (Laughter.)

It’s hard not to mention the heart attack suffered by Bob Odenkirk on the set….

I wasn’t on set that day. Vince was heading to the hospital, and he was the one who called me to tell me what had happened. Horrible, scariest moment of my life. Downright terrifying. Bob luckily recovered at an unbelievable speed. If we had let him, he would have been back the following week! The thing is, it was totally unexpected because Bob is in great shape, he takes great care of himself. He was the last person I would have thought this could happen to. When he finally returned, the atmosphere had changed on set. It brought the whole team together and we collectively reviewed our priorities. There was a sort of return to reality tinged with optimism.

breaking Bad was a series that tended entirely towards its conclusion, at the culmination of Walter White’s trajectory. Better Call Saul is obviously different because of its spin-off status and the storytelling engine itself. How do you end a series like this? We have the impression that we could follow these characters to infinity.

I totally agree with you. It’s a very different series. breaking Bad and our end will be too. I think, without bragging, that we found the perfect way to end the series. In my opinion, no one knows to what Better Call Saul heads. There are real surprises, but it’s completely organic, it’s in the DNA of the series. That’s what I’m most proud of. I’m very curious to see if anyone will be able to guess where we’re going after the first episode, because this season is even less predictable than the previous ones.

Last time we traded, you were wondering what was left of Jimmy in Gene’s character. [l’identité qu’adopte le personnage dans les séquences en noir et blanc qui se déroulent après Breaking Bad]. Is that what this season will focus on?

I will try to answer you without saying too much! He’s someone who has had many identities: Slippin’ Jimmy, Jimmy McGill, Saul Goodman, Gene… When you wear so many masks and you keep changing them, what is it? stays at the bottom? Who is he really? We will discover it at the same time as him. He’s such a fascinating character, always pushed in the wrong direction by a powerful sense of insecurity.

A guy who was always told he was nothing, and who is desperately trying to become someone. Along the way, he becomes toxic to those around him.

I like the way you word it. For me, there is a paradox at the heart of the series: if you desperately need the love and approval of others, then this desperation can prevent you from achieving your goal. It’s the story of a man who strays from the right path because he wants to be accepted, because he wants to be loved. But deep down, he thinks he doesn’t deserve it. It is this ambivalence that I like so much. It’s an endless narrative engine.

We know that some of the characters in Better Call Saul survives because it is a spin-off. But the fate of many others remains a mystery since they are never mentioned in breaking Bad. In terms of writing, was it a headache to justify their absence?

If you knew ! We put a hell of a stick in the wheels with breaking Bad ! I would liken it to solving a Rubik’s cube the size of a Volkswagen, you know? On the one hand, there is the pure writing – the evolution and the trajectory of these characters -, and on the other something almost mechanical. We know that certain things happen in breaking Bad. The future is written, but how to get there? How to reconcile the dramaturgy and the obligation to stick to another story? It was the biggest challenge of this whole series, and the closer we get to the temporality of breaking Bad, the more precisely you have to answer lots of questions. It was indeed a headache, but in the end I’m delighted with how it all fits together Breaking Bad. In my opinion, this is the most emotional season since the beginning. I think everyone will find their way around, even those who haven’t paid attention to all the details sown in breaking Bad. But if you have EVERYTHING in mind, then I can promise you it will add an extra dimension.

Is this really the end? I imagine that it is still entirely possible to create another series in this universe. Do you want it?

I’ve been working on this universe since 2007. My daughter was 7 when I started, she’s going to be 22! I loved every minute of this job, but I want to do something else. I agree, these characters are so complex that I could very well see other stories to be told about them. But for the moment, I need to do something else… before perhaps coming back to it. I’m not closing the door!

Better Call Saul season 6, from April 19 on Netflix. The second part of the season will air mid-July.

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