As “Better Call Saul” creeps closer and closer to its own future, fans are getting more and more eager about the return/emergence of familiar faces, and one of the most teased returns remains Aaron Paul reprising his role as “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Pinkman — maybe.
It’s a possibility creator Vince Gilligan recently acknowledged to Digital Spy as feasible,. “You never know if that character may get revisited in the future… Anything’s possible,” Gilligan said, and Paul, as has been reported previously, would also be willing under the right circumstances. But just because we miss the visceral joy that comes with hearing Jesse Pinkman shout “YEAH! SCIENCE!”, should we be crossing our fingers for this to happen?
On the one hand, as a fan of what “Better Call Saul” has evolved into since its earliest episodes, there’s a concern that adding too many cameos (like Jesse) would ultimately clutter the landscape with characters who might only be making appearances for the sake of fan service. But the writers have demonstrated their ability to integrate “Breaking Bad” characters into the world of “Saul” in ways that haven’t felt gratuitous, beginning with the reveal of Hector Salamanca in Season 2 and most profoundly proven by Season 3’s “introduction” of Gustavo Fring, the Los Pollos Hermanos franchise owner and future Walter White nemesis.
While Gus’ addition to the series could have felt gimmicky, the writers instead did a lot of careful work to establish just why it was important to bring in Gus at this stage, letting his ongoing drama with Hector Salamanca play out as a slow burn. We might know how closely linked their fates will ultimately be in the future, but so far the journey toward that future hasn’t lacked for twists.
One can thus not only hope but believe that Jesse would receive similar treatment, especially because there’s no telling how — or when — he might come back. Much of the response to Jesse entering the scene has been imagining him as his future self, given that the character was born in 1984; in 2003, the year in which “Better Call Saul” is now approximately set, Jesse would be 19 years old. So, theoretically, it would make more sense for any appearance by him to be in flashforwards to events that occur after the end of “Breaking Bad.”
But consider these two photos of Paul:
He definitely looks older in the second photo, but only by a few years, right? Here’s the thing: Those photos were taken approximately 10 years apart. The first is a “Breaking Bad” Season 1 publicity shot, circa 2008, while the second is from a recent episode of the Hulu drama “The Path,” now airing its third season.
Would we still buy Paul as a 19-year-old (especially without the application of anti-aging VFX)? Well, we’re continuing to buy the 55-year-old Odenkirk as his significantly younger self, and a beanie cap might honestly be all he needs to pull off the look.
However “Better Call Saul” chose to do it, the show’s earned our trust. Most importantly, we feel confident believing that however they managed to do it, it wouldn’t detract from the stories of the “Saul” characters we’ve also come to care about over the years. As long as we also get more of Kim and Jimmy’s delicate love story, Nacho’s dangerous behind-the-scenes machinations, and the legal woes of Hamlin, Hamlin, and McGill, we’ll be happy.