Things we learned from the producers and cast of the AMC drama at PaleyFest LA
Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

It was all good, man, when the Better Call Saul team invaded the Dolby Theatre on Saturday afternoon for day 2 of PaleyFest LA. After a screening of Monday’s episode, “Rebecca,” series star Bob Odenkirk, along with his castmates Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, and Michael Mando (Jonathan Banks was not present) took the stage with co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to dish on season 2 of AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel that focuses on Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk), the self-defeating lawyer/grifter who would one day become Walter White’s consigliere, Saul Goodman. Below, some illuminating highlights from the panel (that do not include any spoiler conversation about “Rebecca,” which features the return of a familiar face):

• The complex romantic relationship between Jimmy and Kim seems headed for more, well, complications. And not that you were expecting it, but it doesn’t sound like you should hold much hope for a fairy tale ending for these two. “How is their relationship? It’s, uh, tenuous,” says Gilligan. “We had press folks ask us questions about, ‘When are they going to have a happy ending?’ ‘Are they going to have a happy ending?’ We want happy endings in our lives, but there’s a reason the fairytale ends with, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ And there’s a reason you never see that part. Because it’s boring. That’s the boring part. It’s not what we want in our real lives, it’s not what we want in our dramas… We want to see the struggle. We want to see the uphill climb. We want to see them rolling the rock up the mountain. So I suspect if Breaking Bad is any guide, and if the first season and a half that you’ve seen of Better Call Saul is any guide, that difficulties will continue. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t care for each other and love each other.” (Odenkirk then poked fun at Gilligan for not revealing much with that hint, teasing, “Can I say that without a spoiler alert: ‘Difficulties will continue?’ Thanks for ruining it!”)

• Is Kim Wexler part of the Breaking Badverse, even if we never saw her in it? When panel moderator Debra Birnbaum of Variety expressed worry that Kim doesn’t exist in the world of Saul Goodman, Gilligan responded: “Just because we never saw her on Breaking Bad doesn’t mean she doesn’t’ exist in it.” Quipped Seehorn: “If she was in Jimmy’s life and important enough, would he bring her up to Heisenberg? ‘By the way, there’s someone I care deeply about…’ I feel like all possibilities are open, and I refuse to hear otherwise.”

• Asked about Jimmy’s motivation this season being his desire for a relationship with Kim, Odenkirk quipped: “Desire? I think he’s doing pretty good, man. We had a scene in bed eating pie. I don’t think it gets any better. Come on! By the way they should raffle that off: You get to eat a pie on a bed with Rhea Seehorn. For charity! Help the kids! Help the children — think of that. Don’t think of yourself. For every pie you eat, we donate one pie. That’s a good Mr. Show sketch.” (And speaking of pie and the Squat Cobbler scene, it was actually Odenkirk’s suggestion to provide a name for the type of titillating videos that he told the cops that his client made, one in which he would sit in a pie and wiggle around while crying.)

• Gilligan spoke of the immense challenge of pacing the storytelling in this show, and admitted that he was very nervous early in season 1 that the show needed to transform Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman rather quickly. “I was saying all the time in the [writers’] room, to the other writers, ‘We better get cracking here, We better get to Saul Goodman, because if people tune in, the safe assumption is that’s who they’re tuning in to see,'” he said. Added Gould: “If you call a show Batman, you don’t expect it to be all about Bruce Wayne.”

• The last scene of the season 1 finale was written with the transformation of Jimmy into Saul in mind. Jimmy’s driving off after rejecting the job offer and humming “Smoke on the Water” was “obviously Saul Goodman, that’s the kind of thing he would do,” said Gilligan, and the writers entered season 2 thinking that the switch would happen very quickly. But those thoughts would change. “It took us weeks at the beginning of this season to figure out, no, the very last thing we were thinking about doing is the thing he should do, which is he should take the job,” said Gilligan. “It takes that whole first episode for him to do the thing that he clearly was not going to do at the end of the previous season. We did that not to throw you guys for a loop, not to confuse things, but simply because we thought about it… and Jimmy wasn’t ready to become Saul Goodman.”

The writers have been dogged by another thing as they try to figure out the moment of transformation: They’re not ready to say goodbye to Jimmy just yet. “We don’t want to see Jimmy McGill turn into Saul Goodman,” said Gilligan. “We the writers, all of us, because we like Jimmy better. I didn’t know this going in to the job. We like Jimmy better than what we know of Saul from five seasons of Breaking Bad.” He added: “We don’t have an answer for how long this thing is going to go, how long it’s going to take; we just know that we want to step through the minefield as it were as delicately as possible, tell the story as close to perfectly as we can and not miss any beats, not miss any tricks, and not leave any good stuff on the table.”

• One of the influences on the creation of Jimmy’s brother, Chuck McGill (McKean), was the 1994 documentary Crumb, specifically pioneering cartoonist R. Crumb and his brother Charles. “It’s a wonderful documentary,” says Gould. “[R. Crumb] is a genius and he’s very obsessive, and then you meet his brother who is arguably even more of a genius, but is also terribly handicapped by mental problems. I think that’s one of the inspirations we had for these two brothers.”

• The producers shot a sequence during season 1 that did not appear in an episode. But it will soon see the light of the day. “I will say there is a scene — this is the first time this has happened — there is a sequence, quite a wonderful sequence that we shot in season 1 that we didn’t use,” said Gould. “It’s the first time I can remember us banking a scene, and you’ll see it in a couple weeks.” (Quipped Mando: “Is that the one of Patrick coming out of the shower in slow motion?”)

• Gilligan and Gould shed some light on the season 2 premiere scene in which Saul (now hiding in plain sight in Omaha as a Cinnabon manager named Gene) carves the initials “SG” in the wall. And they seemed to indicate that “that was the only act of defiance he could muster, that tiny little ‘SG was here,’” said Gilligan. “And it’s a pretty sad act of defiance… He can’t even spell out ‘Saul Goodman.’” That said, he noted that there was “that tiny ember is still glowing, that ember of defiance, that ember of, if not criminality, that desire to walk that path again.” Added Gould: “If you had an ability the way that Jimmy McGill/Saul does to see shortcuts and find your way through, it would be very hard to resist. It would be like having the ability to levitate and then just say ‘Okay, I’m just not going to levitate because people will look me at when I levitate.’ We’ll see. All bets are off once we get to Omaha.”

• During the audience Q&A, the creators were asked, of course, about those Breaking Bad cameos (which so far have included such characters as Tuco, Ken Wins, and Lawson), and how they balance the audience’s strong appetite for them against the needs of the show. “The difficulty is to not overdo it,” Gilligan said. “The difficulty is to maintain a certain level of self-discipline, so that you don’t go willy-nilly and say, ‘Let’s have this person walk through the background,’ and ‘Let’s have this person get splashed with mud as Jimmy walks by.'” (“That’s a good one. I love that one,” cracked Odenkirk.) This led Gilligan to reveal something tantalizing (yet also disappointing) to fans aching to see more Bad guys. “We had a perfect opportunity a very organic and logical opportunity for someone from our Breaking Bad universe to show up in the final episode of this season, and we didn’t do it,” revealed Gilligan. “And I kind of got talked out of it, because I really wanted to do it. And I’m glad I got talked out of it, because as Peter and the other writers rightly told me. It would have been distracting and it would have distracted from a very important thing that was going on in that moment.” Teased Gould: “It killed me, though. That would have been so great.” Gilligan got one of the biggest laughs of the panel when he quipped of the “pressure” to lace the show with cameos: “I don’t feel a lot of pressure to do it luckily, and part of that is because I’m never on the Internet, except to find pornography.”

Episode Recaps

Better Call Saul

Saul Goodman, first introduced in Breaking Bad, gets his own Vince Gilligan prequel.

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