Westworld season 3’s latest installment dropped a great reference to Aaron Paul’s Breaking Bad history by nodding to Jesse Pinkman’s closest friends. Paul made his name opposite Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, which saw Jesse transform from a small-time meth cook with poor choice in clothing and a habit of yelling “bitch,” to an expert manufacturer of high-grade meth, hoping to finally break free of the drug world (but still regularly yelling “bitch”). From early Breaking Bad through to Jesse’s long-awaited return in El Camino, the character was often flanked by his duo of associates and best friends, Badger and Skinny Pete, who stand by Jesse throughout his ordeal as Walter White’s assistant.
Aaron Paul’s Caleb has played a pivotal role in Westworld season 3, aligning himself with Dolores after years of dissatisfaction at his limited opportunities in life. After Evan Rachel Wood’srunaway android points out how Caleb’s existence is pre-written by an advanced computer program, he joins her crusade for revolution, but since this is Westworld, it’s clear from the start that Caleb’s backstory isn’t what it seems. “Passed Pawn” reveals that Caleb was identified by Rehoboam as an “outlier” and subjected to reprogramming therapy, after which he worked hunting down fellow potential anomalies. In a mission gone wrong, Caleb and his partner were forced to turn against each other, but the incident was wiped from Caleb’s mind, leaving him under the false belief that his partner was killed while they served together in the military.
As “Passed Pawn” reveals the truth of Caleb’s story, his memories of a secret mission in Russia gradually fade, and are overridden by images from the US, proving Caleb’s recollections of working abroad were merely covering his time unknowingly serving Serac by rounding up the other outliers. One of these transforming shots features a graffiti-covered building whereby the writing turns from Russian to English, signifying how Caleb’s mind was reconditioned. However, the most interesting aspect of this shot is how the most prominent words in the shot appear to read “Skin” and “Bager.” This could be a deliberate reference to Breaking Bad‘s Skinny Pete and Badger, especially as the words come into focus just as Aaron Paul’s character strolls past.
Since the graffiti is only a close approximation of Jesse’s friends’ names in Breaking Bad, it’s possible the connection could be a mere coincidence, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the morphing effect was intended to bring the audience’s attention towards those words. Furthermore, Westworld is known for paying close attention to detail, particularly in its set design, and those words would’ve been chosen deliberately by someone involved in the show’s production. The timing of the graffiti coming into focus as Caleb walks past and the obvious similarity to the names of the famous Breaking Bad duo who starred alongside Aaron Paul would be an amazingly unlikely occurrence if it wasn’t intentional.
Westworld has developed somewhat of a reputation for Easter eggs, and dropped references to both Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park earlier in season 3, although these were far more obvious to spot. A subtle Breaking Bad reference would certainly fit with Westworld‘s MO, but it’s also true that a key theme of the series is the human tendency to look for order in chaos. In this sense, perhaps the graffiti is nothing more than the random doodling of a bored set designer, to which viewers have automatically assigned a deeper meaning.