When most successful TV shows reach the end of their run, the producers start thinking about spin-offs to keep the train going and, more importantly, keep the money rolling in. After the final season of Breaking Bad hit the airwaves and it was lauded as the perfect end to the greatest series in the history of television, AMC announced a prequel about the origin story of Walter White’s lawyer, Saul Goodman.
Now that Better Call Saul has been on for five fantastic seasons, it’s safe to say that the spin-off was a great idea. It might be even better than its predecessor. Saul was the perfect focus for the spin-off, but the Breaking Bad universe has plenty of fascinating characters that could’ve been expanded into their own series.
Saul Was Perfect: We Knew Virtually Nothing About Him
Saul was first introduced in the second season of Breaking Bad and remained a main character until the penultimate episode, “Granite State,” when he disappeared to Omaha to become Gene Takovic.
However, viewers only ever saw him when he was “in character” as Saul Goodman. By the end of Breaking Bad, we still knew almost nothing about the real Saul, also known as Jimmy McGill. He was a blank canvas for the writers working on Better Call Saul to develop into a three-dimensional human being.
Alternative: The Salamancas
When the Salamanca family has appeared in the Breaking Bad universe, it’s usually through the eyes of outsiders: Walt, Jesse, Jimmy, Mike, Gus, Nacho etc. The introduction of Lalo in Better Call Saul’s recent seasons has offered an insight into how they operate as a family business.
Although they’re the villains in most Breaking Bad narratives, they’re the good guys from their own perspective, and a very tight-knit family unit. A show about the Salamancas could be a Sopranos or Sons of Anarchy for a drug cartel.
Saul Was Perfect: He’s Nothing Like Walter White
If a spin-off from Breaking Bad had focused on an ingenious character whose driving motivation is to consolidate power, it could’ve come off as a re-tread of the original series, copying the character arc of Walter White that made Breaking Bad so compelling.
Saul Goodman is a completely different character than Walt. His driving force is his instinctive proclivity to rebel against any and all rules enforced upon him. This has created all-new tensions, conflicts, and themes in the spin-off.
Alternative: Huell & Kuby
Whenever Saul needed someone to play a character in a criminal scheme, he tapped Huell Babineaux or Patrick Kuby — or both — to pull off the scam. Stand-up comics Lavell Crawford and Bill Burr always nailed these two characters, who feel like a couple of small-time crooks from an Elmore Leonard crime story.
If Vince Gilligan and co. expanded these two characters into their own show, it would’ve had a completely different tone to Breaking Bad. It could’ve even been a half-hour comedy.
Saul Was Perfect: Lawyers Make For Interesting Protagonists
There’s a reason why the law procedural is one of the most successful genres in television: lawyers make for good protagonists. They may not be the most popular people in real life, but dealing with criminals every day and fighting cases in court is exciting.
Jimmy McGill, in particular, is compelling because his M.O. is to bend the law and find as many loopholes as possible. As Jesse said in his Breaking Bad introduction, he’s not a criminal lawyer; he’s a criminal lawyer.
Alternative: Gus Fring
In many ways, Better Call Saul has also acted as a Gus Fring spin-off in, as we’ve see the stilted construction of Fring’s super-lab and his tensions with the Salamanca cartel.
But the show picked up when Gus’ chicken-and-meth empire was already in full swing. A series chronicling his relationship with Max and his rise to power would’ve been terrific.
Saul Was Perfect: He’s Deeply Connected To Breaking Bad’s Criminal Underworld
Throughout Breaking Bad, after Walt and Jesse’s humble beginnings cooking in an RV in the desert, the writers fleshed out a criminal underworld in the show’s fictionalized version of New Mexico.
Saul is deeply connected to this underworld, representing almost everyone operating in it and keeping the rest on his payroll for odd jobs. With Saul at the center of the Breaking Bad spin-off, the writers have been able to feature cameos from pretty much everyone who appeared in the original series.
Alternative: Mike Ehrmantraut
Mike has featured heavily throughout Better Call Saul. In fact, the show is probably as much of a Mike spin-off as it is a Saul spin-off, but ultimately, the show belongs to the slippery lawyer.
Saul’s season 1 episode “Five-O” gave the audience a glimpse at Mike’s rich backstory. From his days as a cop to spending his twilight years as a freelance criminal enforcer, there’s more than enough Mike Ehrmantraut story material to fill an entire series.
Saul Was Perfect: We Know His Tragic Fate, But There’s Still Some Flexibility
Like all the best prequels, Better Call Saul has used the inevitability of fate as a dramatic tool. Saul didn’t die in Breaking Bad; he met an even worse fate. He now lives a mundane existence as a Cinnabon manager named Gene, constantly looking over his shoulder, stuck in the 9-to-5 cycle that Jimmy McGill desperately wanted to avoid.
But since Jimmy’s eventual identity as Gene is still flexible, and not as definitive as a straightforward death like Mike or Gomez, we still don’t know how the series is going to end. His past could still catch up to him.
Alternative: Jesse Pinkman
As much as Breaking Bad’s series finale was definitive conclusion to the story, we didn’t get an awful lot of closure on Jesse. Many fans assumed he was killed by the cops as they arrived at Uncle Jack’s compound. These gaps were later filled in by El Camino.
Vince Gilligan could’ve made El Camino as the pilot episode of a sequel series focusing on Jesse’s life after he escaped from Mr. White’s dominion, adjusting to life with a new identity in Alaska.