10 Fun Facts About Better Call Saul

Matthias Clamer, AMC
Matthias Clamer, AMC

If making Breaking Bad was a high-wire act of maintaining perfection, Vince Gilligan stepped onto an even thinner wire when he decided to spin off the beloved series into Better Call Saul, a compendium of the legal misadventures of Saul Goodman (a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Gene).

Played with exhausted enthusiasm by Bob Odenkirk, Jimmy’s journey to strip mall success is as harrowing and taut as watching Walter White navigate the meth business, but it’s (thankfully) a whole other animal.

Just ahead of its fourth season premiere, grab a Jell-O cup and eat up these 10 facts about Better Call Saul.

1. THE BREAKING BAD WRITERS USED TO JOKE ABOUT MAKING A SAUL GOODMAN JOKE.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

While whittling a huge pile of ideas into the winners that became Breaking Bad's scripts, Vince Gilligan and the other writers had a lot of lines for Saul that got scrapped. “We love writing for the character,” Gillian told Uproxx. “We love putting words in his mouth, and we had so much fun, indeed, doing that, that it started as a lark. We’d come up with some great term or phrase, and we’d laugh about it in the writer’s room, and then we’d say, “You know, when we’re doing the Saul Goodman show we’ll be able to blah, blah, blah.” Be careful what you joke about.

2. JIMMY PICKED HIS ALIAS BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE.

Gilligan initially wanted to call the character Saul Good (like, “It’s all good”) as a hyper-memorable name for clients to remember when faced with their one phone call. Another writer suggested “Goodman,” and they all loved it. They were just lucky the first name rhymed with “Call.”

3. THE TITLES HAVE HIDDEN MEANINGS.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

You can take nothing for granted in the Better Call Saul universe, including the episode titles. In the first season, every episode (from “Uno” to “Marco”) ended in the letter O, except “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” which was supposed to be called “Jell-O” before the producers waved it off to avoid being sued by the gelatin makers. Even crazier, the first letters of season two’s episodes (S-C-A-G-R-B-I-F-N-K) unscramble to spell “Fring’s Back”—a clear message for Breaking Bad fans.

4. IT WAS ALMOST A COMEDY.

Sony and AMC were eager to buy the show even before Gilligan knew what it would be about. He toyed with the idea of exploring the events after Breaking Bad but thought it would rob the show’s finale of its mystique. Gilligan also considered a comedy where a famous comedian would cameo every week, bringing a funny legal problem to Saul to fix. Not all good, man.

5. IT (SORT OF) USES THE BREAKING BAD THEME SONG.

Dave Porter’s title theme for Breaking Bad utilized a dobro guitar stretching the sound over a moody, percussive vibe. For Better Call Saul’s outro titles, he’s remixed it into something a bit more surf rock—just on the edge of familiarity. Listen close, and you’ll hear the Breaking Bad theme in the mix.

6. CHUCK WASN’T INTENDED TO BE A BAD GUY.

Everyone who watches the show hates Chuck McGill, Jimmy’s brother played by Michael McKean, but it wasn’t until writing the seventh episode that Gilligan and the writers realized Chuck was a villain. “Believe it or not, the idea of Chuck being the ‘bad guy’ was a late addition to Season 1,” Gilligan explained during a 2015 Reddit AMA. “This points out one of the things I love most about writing for TV. There are enough episodes and enough lead time (if you’re lucky) for writers to change the direction of a story midstream."

7. THE SHOW USES A FAMILIAR TEQUILA.

Obviously Better Call Saul regularly pays homage to its predecessor. Yet one of the subtlest nods is the use of a rare brand of spirit. On Breaking Bad, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) poisons an entire drug cartel with Zafiro Añejo tequila, the same fictional brand Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down while trying to bilk an investor in the first episode of season 2.

8. YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT COLOR PEOPLE ARE WEARING.

Gilligan’s fanatical dedication to detail includes the colors that get associated with each character. It was a major element in Breaking Bad. It’s also a big part of Better Call Saul in the form of the “Fire and Ice Theory,” partially confirmed by writer Peter Gould, who confessed that hotter colors like red were associated with criminals. That tacitly means cooler colors are meant for the innocent, so it’s curious that Jimmy’s car is yellow with one red door …

9. THE SHOW WAS INFLUENCED BY STANLEY KUBRICK.

Breaking Bad was shot on 35mm, which gave it a grainy texture that fit with the cinematic tone of the show. Better Call Saul is shot in 4K digital, offering a crispness and enormity to the proceedings that echo Stanley Kubrick’s photographic style. That connection is intentional, as Gilligan tries to craft the show according to Kubrick’s rule of making the first image the most intriguing thing the audience has seen that day. Doing everything possible to stand out goes for the music cues, too. “Our needle drops come straight from Kubrick,” Gilligan said. “And then we’ll go for these one-point perspective shots as specific Kubrick tributes, or deliberate slow zoom-outs that we take from Barry Lyndon.”

10. JIMMY ENDS UP LIVING HIS “BEST CASE SCENARIO.”

In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, Saul erases his identity, prepares to move away from Albuquerque, and claims his best case scenario is managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s exactly what he’s doing as “Gene” in the very opening of Better Call Saul. Congrats, Jimmy. You’re living the dream.

10 Dramatic Downton Abbey Fan Theories

Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Despite its exhaustively polished veneer, Downton Abbey was always a soap opera. Julian Fellowes's historical drama about a family of aristocrats and their many servants could never resist a good shocker, and it deployed plenty of them over the course of six seasons. The valet was suspected of murder (twice). One of the Crawley sisters got knocked up by her older married boyfriend, who promptly went missing. And another sister’s first sexual encounter ended in death. Considering all this, it should come as no surprise that fans have developed similarly wacky theories about the show. These fan theories include secret parentage, undercover spies, and, of course, poison.

Brush up on the best of them before the Downton Abbey movie hits theaters—just in case the whole miscarriage curse comes up.

1. Mr. Carson is Lady Mary’s father.

This theory all comes down to eyes. As you may recall from science class, certain genes are dominant and others are recessive. This is perhaps most easily understood through eye color, where brown eye color, a dominant gene, is expressed as BB and blue eye color, a recessive gene, is expressed as bb. A parent with brown eyes might carry the recessive blue eye gene (i.e. Bb), but if you plot out genetic probabilities on a basic Punnett square, two blue-eyed parents with double bbs have seemingly no shot at producing a Bb baby. Now, what does any of this have to do with Downton Abbey? Both Lord and Lady Grantham have blue eyes, but their eldest daughter, Mary, has brown eyes. This has led some fans to speculate that Lady Mary is actually the daughter of Carson, the family’s beloved butler who has always acted as as sort of second father to Mary. As debunkers have noted, two blue-eyed people can have a brown-eyed child, because recessive genes aren’t that simple. But isn’t it wild to think of Carson and Cora having an affair?

2. Thomas Barrow poisoned Kemal Pamuk.

One of the soapiest subplots of Downton Abbey's first season involved “poor Mr. Pamuk,” the dashing Turkish diplomat who makes a fateful visit to the Abbey. After enjoying a day of fox hunting and an evening of sparkling conversation, Kemal Pamuk drops dead ... right in Lady Mary’s bed. The cause, it is later revealed, was a heart attack, but many viewers suspected something more sinister. Earlier in the episode, the Crawleys’ closeted footman, Thomas Barrow, made a pass at Pamuk, which the diplomat rejected quite forcefully—so much so that he threatened to get Thomas fired. That placed the footman in a tricky situation, but it was nothing a little poison couldn't fix, and that’s exactly why some fans believe Thomas slipped something into Mr. Pamuk’s dinner.

3. Lady Grantham’s miscarriage started a curse.

In the Season 1 finale, tragedy strikes. The newly pregnant Lady Grantham slips on a bar of soap, falling onto the bathroom tiles and inducing a miscarriage. It’s a sad moment, but it’s also, Reddit claims, the source of the house’s future misfortune. According to this theory, the miscarriage kicks off a curse of deadly pregnancies: Lady Sybil dies in childbirth; Matthew Crawley dies in a car accident soon after the birth of his son; and when the maid Ethel Parks becomes pregnant with Major Bryant’s child, he dies, too.

4. Mr. Bates is actually a bad guy.

Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
Focus Features

Downton Abbey invests a lot of time and effort in convincing us that John Bates, Lord Grantham's trusty, is a great guy—despite his checkered past and multiple murder allegations. But what if everyone’s assumptions about Bates are exactly right? Some Redditors believe Bates is just a remorseless serial killer, pointing to his intense hatred of his first wife and “creepy vibes” as evidence. Anna had better watch out.

5. Michael Gregson is a spy.

Lady Edith’s boss and lover Michael Gregson is the publisher of a London magazine, The Sketch. Thanks to his job, he knows tons of important people, travels all over the world, and speaks multiple languages. He eventually disappears inside Germany in season 4, and later dispatches to the Crawley family imply that he was a victim of Adolf Hitler’s “thugs.” (The show timeline places Gregson in Munich right around the time of the Beer Hall Putsch.) Or at least, that’s the official story. Another one suggests that Gregson was a British spy gathering intel on the insurgent Nazis—and he might not have died at all. His superiors simply needed to feed Edith a lie that would discourage her from poking around, so they made up a cover story that someone who follows the news would believe.

6. Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lady Edith’s mother.

When Lady Edith becomes pregnant with Michael Gregson’s child, she finds a strong support system in her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick. Upon learning Edith’s secret, Rosamund travels to Downton Abbey to help her niece through her pregnancy, and suggests adoption options as the due date draws near. Some fans have interpreted this empathy as a clue that Rosamund, not Lady Grantham, is Edith’s true mother. It could also explain why Edith looks (and behaves) so different from her sisters. Or it could just be a sign that Rosamund cares about her niece.

7. Lady Mary’s “operation” was IVF.

In season 3, Lady Mary claims to have undergone a “small operation” that will help her start a family with Matthew. It’s maddeningly unclear what this operation entails, but one wild guess is that she had an early version of IVF. The complete crackpot theory is that this was a cover for Matthew’s infertility, which the doctors wouldn’t disclose to him, presumably to preserve his 1920s masculinity.

8. Lady Mary’s son George becomes a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II.

Lady Mary’s son George is only five years old in the series finale of Downton Abbey. But that means he would theoretically be 18 in the fall of 1939, which is exactly when World War II broke out in Europe. He would almost certainly enlist, as show creator Julian Fellowes himself has suggested. But Decider has more specifically theorized that George would join the Royal Air Force (RAF), “with a desire to rebel against his emotionally distant mother and find purpose in a greater cause.” Sounds like George would be taking part in some dangerous missions, putting the entire family’s future at risk.

9. Public tours keep the estate alive.

The Crawleys spend much of Downton Abbey fretting about the future management of their estate—partially because Lord Grantham is kind of bad at it. But Lady Mary has taken over when the series ends, and Fellowes believes she’d find savvy ways to keep her family’s home in their hands. “She would probably have opened the house to the public in the 1960s, as so many of them did,” Fellowes told Deadline. “And she’d have retreated to a wing, and maybe only occupied the whole house during the winters. My own belief is that the Crawleys would still be there.”

10. The Dowager Countess keeps Denker and Spratt around for the drama.

Gladys Denker is a maid to the Dowager Countess. Septimus Spratt is her butler. These two do not like each other, and they’re quite public about it. Denker and Spratt’s unprofessional squabbles would’ve gotten plenty of other servants fired, but fans believe the Dowager Countess keeps them employed for her own amusement.

You Can Rent This Wizard of Oz-Themed Cottage in North Carolina

Airbnb
Airbnb

This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the classic 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. In addition to watching the film, you can opt for a more immersive way to celebrate the occasion. As Travel + Leisure reports, a cottage in West Jefferson, North Carolina offered on Airbnb is perfect for any traveling Oz fan—and it’s only $35 a night.

The studio cottage is considered a glamping destination and is slim on amenities—it has a breakfast nook, porch, sofa bed, and a Porta John—but the Oz-themed details more than make up for the lack of luxurious perks.

A pair of stockinged feet are visible under the home, hinting at a witch’s untimely demise; a character mural of Dorothy and her three escorts, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, appears on the side of the cabin; inside, various other decorations pay homage to Baum's books, including a pair of ruby slippers and a few stuffed Totos.

A cottage with a 'Wizard of Oz' theme in West Jefferson, North Carolina is pictured
Airbnb

If you go, you’ll have to act quickly. The cottage is open only in the spring, summer, and fall, as it has no heat.

The Airbnb listing has a perfect score across 16 reviews. You can book it here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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