Prequels are inherently tricky business. Knowing the end of the story ahead of time can either lend events a horrible feeling of impending tragedy (Titanic) or it can rob our enjoyment of an arc that is predetermined before it even begins (Star Wars Episodes I-III). So planning a Breaking Bad prequel seemed an iffy prospect at best when it was announced that AMC and Vince Gilligan would be spinning off his beloved Emmy-winning drama with a new series focused on slimy lawyer Saul Goodman. Thankfully, Better Call Saul Season 1 was even better than expected — and part of what made it so fun for fans was looking for the Breaking Bad Easter Eggs that were scattered throughout the 10-episode season.
It became abundantly clear over the five seasons of Breaking Bad that showrunner Vince Gilligan had an incredible eye for detail and planning things way in advance. Take those seemingly innocuous Season 2 episode titles: when put together, the names of all the episodes that opened with a black-and-white flashforward read "Seven Thirty-Seven" "Down" "Over" "ABQ"… foreshadowing the cataclysmic season-ending airline disaster that littered Albuquerque with debris.
Very few viewers caught that subtle Easter Egg at the time. But did you catch these 13 Breaking Bad Easter Eggs that Gilligan scattered throughout Season 1 of Better Call Saul?
1. Bad Knees
Speaking of subtle… The Hollywood Reporter pointed out that the very first time we meet Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad Season 2, Walt and Jesse kidnap the new character and carry him out to the desert in order to intimidate him. "I have bad knees!" the lawyer protests. Jimmy McGill uses the same protestation when being arrested in Better Call Saul… and now we know why his knees are so bad, thanks to his "Slippin' Jimmy" backstory.
In Breaking Bad, "sending him to Belize" became a well-known euphemism for offing someone, coined by Saul in reference to Walt's bothersome F.B.I. brother-in-law Hank. Saul has clearly had the Central American country on his mind for years, because back when he was Jimmy McGill hosting bingo at a nursing home, he used it to enunciate the letter "B"… as in Belize. (Fun fact: According to the New York Times, Gilligan and the whole Breaking Bad cast were invited by the Belize Tourism Board to visit their country after they dropped that homicidal reference in Season 5.)
3. The Cadillac
In Better Call Saul's first episode, Jimmy struts out into the parking lot, making a bee line for the classic beige Cadillac that was the lawyer's preferred mode of transportation throughout Breaking Bad. However, he makes a hard right at the last second and goes for the car next to it: a beat-up, old, garishly yellow jalopy made even more pathetic looking by the gleaming sedan next to it. Kudos to What Culture for pointing out this blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference.
Better Call Saul opens, not in the past like the rest of the series, but in a black-and-white future, in which Saul Goodman finds himself working incognito as a manager at a Cinnabon in Omaha, NE. This scene probably rang an eerie bell for Breaking Bad fans, considering the very last time we saw Saul in that series, he was telling Walt, "If I'm lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha." Maybe he should have a career in fortune telling, instead.
Even if you are actively hunting for Easter Eggs, you're probably paying more attention to subtle references in dialogue or location than in an innocuous jacket hanging on a coat rack in a courthouse. But take a closer look at that very purposeful choice of clothing situated just down the hall from Jimmy, as pointed out by Uproxx: does that trench coat and black porkpie hat look familiar? Similarly, when Jimmy is shopping for a suit, Gus Fring's distinctive yellow Los Pollos Hermanos outfit can be seen on a mannequin in the background.
Breaking Bad fans obviously knew that Better Call Saul characters like Mike and Tuco were pulled from that earlier show. But even the most eagle-eyed of viewers may have missed the fact that they know Season 1's main antagonist, Nacho Varga, from Breaking Bad as well… by name, if not by face. That first time we met Saul, when he was being dragged into the desert by Walt and Jesse, he screamed, "No, it wasn't me! It was Ignacio, he's the one!" Well, according to Varga's portrayer, Michael Mando, "Nacho is actually short for Ignacio — it's his nickname."
How someone at Panjiba caught this innocuous little Easter Egg I'll never know. But not only does the conspicuous graffiti on this pay phone apparently directly mirror graffiti that was on the wall of Jesse's trashed house in Season 4, but the symbol itself — J.P.I. — could very well be short for "Jesse Pinkman." Was a certain juvenile delinquent already leaving his mark around Albuquerque before Jimmy McGill was even Saul Goodman?
8. Juan Tabo Blvd.
In the nail biting Season 3 finale of Breaking Bad, Walt staved off Gus' henchmen by reciting Gale Boetticher's address (on Juan Tabo Blvd.), proving that he and Jesse knew Gale's location and intended to kill him, which meant they needed to keep Walt alive. Then the episode memorably ended with Jesse tearfully shooting the dorky meth cook. An eagle-eyed writer on Dorkly noticed that in Better Call Saul, the pitiful check that Jimmy slams on the clerk's window bears the lawyer's address: Juan Tabo Blvd. Apparently Jimmy and Gale lived on the same street! What a small world.
9. Kevin Costner
Way back in Season 3 of Breaking Bad, Saul told Walt a throwaway story about how one time he convinced a woman that he was Kevin Costner. It seemed like nothing more than an anecdote used to illustrate the point that you can sell anything to anyone as long as you believe in it yourself. Well, in the Better Call Saul finale, we got to actually see the real event behind that anecdote, when he seduces a woman into a one-night stand by convincing her that he's the famous Dances With Wolves actor. The Huffington Post helpfully spliced the two scenes together for comparison.
10. Loyola's Diner
Not wanting anyone to see his tiny ramshackle office, Jimmy invites his clients — like the unscrupulous Kettlemans — to meet him at Loyola's Diner instead. It's a location Breaking Bad fans know well, having been a favorite watering hole of Mike's. Like me, you'll probably recall that he had tense meetings with both Jesse and Lydia there over the course of the series.
11. The Nail Salon
Speaking of Jimmy's office… Before Walt and Skyler bought the car wash, you might remember that Saul helpfully went through the options with them of the best businesses to use for laundering money. He seemed particularly keen on using a nail salon… and now we know why the lawyer had such an affinity for manicures: he used to have his law offices set up in the back of a nail salon!
12. Pimento Sandwiches
The penultimate episode of Better Call Saul's first season was named "Pimento"… a bit of an odd title, considering that the only reference to the eponymous pepper was the pimento cheese sandwich that Mike brought with him while on a job. But while I was watching the episode, I remembered that both the sandwich and the title are a callback to Breaking Bad: once, while on a stakeout with Jesse, the erstwhile enforcer offered Pinkman — you guessed it — a pimento cheese sandwich.
In Mike Ehrmantraut's standout focal episode, "Five-0," the ex-cop took a train from Philadelphia to Albuquerque. Before he left the City of Brotherly Love, a bartender told him to be sure to watch out for tarantulas. This reference to the creepy crawlies stood out because, in the Season 5A episode "Dead Freight," after Walt & Co. have successfully siphoned methylamine off a train running through Albuquerque, a young boy on a dirt bike happens upon their gang after having been hunting tarantulas in the desert. In the interest of eliminating witnesses, psychotic Todd shoots the boy dead. Beware tarantulas, indeed.
How many more Breaking Bad Easter Eggs will be dropped in Better Call Saul this year? Will we ever actually see Walt or Jesse on the prequel? Find out when Season 2 premieres on AMC this Monday, Feb. 15, at 10 p.m. ET.
Images: Ursula Coyote (8), Jenn Carroll, Lewis Jacobs (4)/AMC