Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are cooking up another return. Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will reprise their iconic roles during Better Call Saul’s sixth and final season. But when will that happen chronologically? The prequel series began six years before Heisenberg started making blue crystal. Yet, with just one season left, Better Call Saul is still years behind Jimmy McGill’s first encounter with the science teacher-turned-drug dealer. And that gap assures two major characters we never saw on the original series will haunt Saul Goodman for a long time.
Within the timeline of the Breaking Bad Universe, Saul Goodman entered Walter White’s life in December 2008. That was just a few months after Mr. White cooked his first batch of blue. In Bob Odenkirk’s first episode, season two’s eighth installment “Better Call Saul,” the amoral attorney took on the lawyer-less Brandon “Badger” Mayhew as a client. Badger was under arrest for selling White’s signature creation, and the DEA was interested in his case and the mysterious Heisenberg.
Jesse convinced a skeptical Mr. White that, despite outward appearances, Saul was the right guy for the job. Not because Saul was a “criminal attorney,” but because he was a “criminal” attorney. Jesse knew they needed a lawyer with a track record of getting drug dealers off because he’d break the law to protect his clients. However, by the time Walt arrived at the strip mall office, Saul already had a deal in place to keep Badger out of prison. Badger simply had to tell the DEA what he knew about Heisenberg. Walt offered Saul a $10,000 bribe to make sure the loyal and scared Brandon didn’t accept the plea. Saul turned down the money, but only because he refused to take bribes from strangers.
Desperate to keep Badger both quiet and out of jail, Walt and Jesse kidnapped the attorney that night. They tied him up and drove him to the edge of a shallow ditch, where at gunpoint they told Saul he screwed up by not taking the bribe. They then warned him that if Badger went to jail or spoke to the DEA they’d kill Saul. Once the former Jimmy McGill realized what was happening, he convinced the pair to hire him as their lawyer too, thus beginning his ruinous path to Gene the Cinnabon manager.
But despite only having one season left, Better Call Saul is still four years away from that moment. Jimmy and Kim got married on May 26, 2004. And season five only ended in June of that year, little more than two years after the prequel series began. There’s still a big span of time between the two shows and when Walt and Jesse meet Saul. (This is all assuming their roles won’t be limited to merely popping up as background characters in Albuquerque years before the events of Breaking Bad. We’re giving one of the best shows on television a lot more credit than that.)
Four years is an incredibly long time storytelling wise for Vince Gilligan’s series. Breaking Bad‘s main story took place exactly over two years. And that includes the six months Walt hid in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, so far Better Call Saul has covered over just two calendar years. The current remaining chasm between shows would seemingly make it unlikely the events of both overlap very much. Or at least it would if not for what Saul said during his kidnapping. Jimmy McGill’s problems remained at the forefront of his mind that night.
When Walt and Jesse pushed the bound lawyer to his knees on the edge of the shallow grave, Saul pled for his life. And while his comments didn’t reveal much about Breaking Bad, they now tell us a lot about the prequel. Saul screamed, “Jesus! No no no! It wasn’t me! It was Ignacio! He’s the one! Siempre soy amigo! Siempre soy amigo del cartel!” (The latter translates to “I am always a friend of the cartel.”) Then, after Jesse told him to shut up, Saul said, “Lalo didn’t send you? No Lalo?” before finally adding, “Thank God! I thought…”
Ignacio “Nacho” Varga and Lalo Salamanca are two of the most important characters on Better Call Saul. But despite their roles on the prequel, they played no part in Walter White’s story. They never appeared on Breaking Bad nor did anyone else ever reference them. When Gus poisoned nearly every major member of the cartel, Lalo wasn’t there. Nor did Gus ever rely on his cartel informant, Ignacio, on Breaking Bad. Yet, despite not being relevant during that era, four years later they were the first two people Saul Goodman thought of when he believed the cartel had come for him.
Jimmy McGill’s work for the cartel, which has involved working directly with both Lalo and Ignacio, has already shown the lawyer the inherent dangers of being a criminal enterprise’s attorney. Saul also will seemingly know by the year 2008 why it makes sense to blame Ignacio for perceived crimes against the cartel. In Better Call Saul’s season five finale, Lalo realized Ignacio double-crossed him, his family, and the business. The sociopathic Lalo will surely be on the hunt for the traitor when the final season debuts. And from what we’ve seen of Lalo, it’s safe to say he will never stop seeking revenge until either him or Ignacio is dead.
What that means for the next four years and the fates of both Ignacio and Lalo is still unknown, but the possibilities aren’t limitless. The pair might simply play a cat and mouse game during that time, with a resolution of their connected story not happening (if ever) until Walter White starts cooking. That would explain why Saul Goodman still feared Lalo and blamed Ignacio for his troubles in 2008.
But considering how important Lalo Salamanca is to both the cartel’s work and his own family in 2004, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be involved with the main business in any capacity by 2008. All of which suggests Lalo isn’t alive in 2008, a fact Jimmy doesn’t know for sure. Because when he realizes Lalo did not send his kidnappers he completely relaxes, as though he has no one else from the cartel to fear. That would also explain why Saul started working for Walter White, despite Saul knowing Walt would be cutting in on the cartel’s turf. No Lalo means no more cartel problems.
The fact Saul placed general blame for some unknown crime on Ignacio isn’t a great sign for Ignacio, either. There would be no better person to accuse of a crime than someone who is already dead. The dead tell no lies nor do they tell any truths. They can never refute your claim. And yet, that’s no guarantee Ignacio will end up in his own shallow ditch.
Ignacio has considered running away from his criminal life previously. He’s stayed in some part to protect his innocent father from getting caught up in his problems. But after his betrayal, with Lalo alive and on the prowl, there might be no other option for Ignacio now but to run far, far away from Albuquerque, the cartel, and his life. (We’re choosing to ignore the obvious other reason why Igancio could finally flee: Lalo kills his poor sweet dad as part of an eye-for-an-eye response. That’s….that’s going to happen, isn’t it?)
Whether Ignacio, Lalo, or both are dead in 2008, their presence in Saul Goodman’s life will be far from over. The irony is that by being free of Lalo and Nacho, Saul will let two other men enter his life on that fateful night in 2008. And it won’t be the cartel that leads Jimmy McGill down a much darker path paved with cinnamon and icing.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.