The third season of Better Call Saul arrives on Netflix this month, continuing the adventures of slippery lawyer Jimmy McGill and further extending the Breaking Bad universe. For as long as the show remains a prequel it's unlikely we'll bump into Walt and Jesse, but showrunner Vince Gillian has been sneaking in references and Easter eggs to Breaking Bad this whole time. Only super-fans would have spotted them...
Heisenberg is in the building
The Breaking Bad references started from the very first episode. Here we can see Slippin' Jimmy McGill, the man who will one day become Saul Goodman and represent a client named Walter White, arguing with courtroom staff. Conspicuously placed in the centre of the frame, however, is a very familiar looking hat and coat combo. It could be coincidence. But it's not. That hat, that colour coat: it's clearly a Heisenberg reference, and although at this point the meth lord was just a twinkle in chemistry teacher Walter White's eye, it's a nice nod and shows that showrunner Vince Gilligan is always happy to toss Breaking Bad fans a bone.
The Cadillac fake-out
It's a cool visual gag that shows just how far Saul/Jimmy has to come in the prequel series. As Jimmy walks from his office to the car park, he looks to be heading for a slick-looking 1997 Cadillac – the very same car he drives throughout Breaking Bad. However, Jimmy veers off course and instead goes to his current car, a battered and beat-up old Suzuki Esteem parked right next to it. Psych. Give it five years or so, buddy. We have a feeling things will eventually work out for you.
The return of Ken the douchebag
The second season premiere saw the return of one of Breaking Bad's most influential minor characters – not that you'd recognise him. We got to once again meet Ken, played by Kyle Bornheimer, complete with the same douchey bluetooth headset and sneer we saw when he appeared in Breaking Bad's fourth ever episode – frankly, he deserves to get conned by Saul and Kim. Don't remember him? He was the guy whose car had the number plate 'KEN WINS' – a car that was eventually torched by one Walter White, putting him well on the road to becoming Heisenberg. Once a douche, always a douche, Ken.
Zafiro Añejo tequila
A callback within a callback? Why not! During the scene in which Jimmy and Kim scam poor old Ken, they hoodwink him into ordering a round of drinks. But it's not just any old drink they order – it's a cripplingly expensive Zafiro Añejo tequila. Does this set any alarm bells ringing? It should, because it's the very same fictional brand of tequila that our old friend Gus Fring uses to poison Don Eladio and his Mexican cartel buddies in Breaking Bad, at the cost of his own stomach lining. For Ken's sake, he can count himself lucky he at least got to enjoy the tequila as intended.
A familiar waitress
No location is wasted in the Breaking Bad universe. In season two of Better Call Saul, we hit up a cafe with Mike (Jonathan Banks) and realise that it's the same cafe he frequents in Breaking Bad – he's even sitting in the same seat. Later, when he meets Hector Salamanca in the same cafe in Better Call Saul, we even get a glimpse of the same waitress, Fran, from Breaking Bad episode 5.02, played actress Debrianna Mansini. It's a total bit-part and she doesn't have any lines, but the devil is in the details.
Ice Station Zebra
Way back in Breaking Bad, when Walt was cooking up truckloads of meth for all manner of bad dudes, Saul would launder their money under the fictitious company name 'Ice Station Zebra Associates'. He's been pulling this one for a while: in the Better Call Saul episode 'Bali H'ai', Saul has a poor sucker make out a cheque for $10,000 to none other than 'Ice Station Zebra Associates'. In a later episode, we even see Saul and Kim watching the 1963 Cold War thriller on TV for what we're sure is not the firs time – clearly he's a fan of Rock Hudson.
Remember in Breaking Bad where if you rearranged the episode titles, you got a coded message? Episodes 'Seven Thirty-Seven', 'Down', 'Over' and 'ABQ' referred to the plane crash that brought season two to a shocking end. Well, Gilligan and pals were at it again with the second season of Saul. Rearrange the first letters of each episode, and they spell 'FRINGSBACK', clearly a hint that everyone's favourite fried chicken proprietor/drug lord Gustavo Fring will return in season three. And if you needed further clarification, the 'DON'T' note left on Mike's windscreen strongly suggests... well, Fring's back.
The Cinnabon callback
“If I'm lucky, a month from now, best case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.” The portentious words of Saul Goodman there, from the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, as the slippery lawyer starts to realise he's pushed his luck too far. We didn't have to wait long to find out his fate: before prequel show Better Call Saul began properly, it opened with a glimpse of Goodman, dressed in one of his three pairs of Dockers, exactly where he predicted he'd be – working the counter at Cinnabon.
Badger's bench is in the show's opening credits
This one is little more than a visual reference really, a nice bit of texture, but it just goes to show how far Vince Gilligan and his team are willing to go to make sure the connection between Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad remains firm. Remember the bench on which Jesse's hapless chum Badger sat when he was subject of a narcotics sting in Breaking Bad? It's right there in the Better Call Saul credits, minus Badger. That one goes out to the eagle-eyed Albuquerque massive.
One of the things we love most about Saul aka Slippin' Jimmy is just how slippery he can be, and when it comes to women, he's willing to tell them anything to have his way with them. We marvelled at Saul in Breaking Bad when he told Walt that he could achieve anything if he just believed in it – and that he had once convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner. Well, that wasn't a bald-faced lie, because in Better Call Saul, we meet the woman who really believed our slippery friend was the actor-director star of Waterworld. Lying to women is not big or clever but you sort of have to give him credit for this one.
One of the best bits about Better Call Saul being a prequel is being given the gift of surprise – nuggets of info we didn't even know we needed. Like how the story of Saul Goodman's pinky ring – the one he wears throughout the entirety of Breaking Bad – is actually so tragic. The entire first season finale, 'Marco' is dedicated to telling the story of how Saul came to wear that ring, how it belonged to his old conman friend Marco, and about the con eventually killed him. Now every time you see Saul absent-mindedly fiddle with his ring in Breaking Bad, it's layered with meaning.
Better Call Saul season 3 is available to watch on Netflix from Tuesday 11th April.