Gilligan’s only regret is that Anna Gunn’s Skyler White in Breaking Bad – who certain of the show’s fans seemed to despise for the crime of not wanting her husband to cook meth – did not get the same reception. “To my dying day, I’ll never understand why people did not cotton to Skyler, because Anna Gunn is one of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “They were on team Walt and were against anyone who was in his way.” Gunn, in a column for the New York Times, cited misogyny towards a TV wife that didn’t just ‘stand by her man’.
Gilligan stepped back from the writers’ room of Better Call Saul after season three, leaving Gould as sole showrunner. He returned for the final season however to write the penultimate script and to direct three episodes, including the season six, part two premiere Point and Shoot. It was during the filming of this episode’s opening scene in July 2021 that Bob Odenkirk suffered a heart attack.
“It was just terrible,” says Gilligan, who struggles to recall the incident without becoming emotional. “I’ve learned since that most people survive a heart attack. He had full-on cardiac arrest, which most people do not survive. It was awful. He died right in front of us.”
He credits the quick actions of various people, including the on-set emergency medical technician, for saving Odenkirk’s life. “They saved his life right in front of me,” he says. “I’m standing there like an idiot. I don’t know what to do. Just completely useless… We were sure he wasn’t going to make it.” After being rushed to hospital, Odenkirk made a full recovery (possibly, suggests Gilligan, because he was in such good shape from filming action movie Nobody). “We didn’t even know at that point if we were ever going to finish the show or not,” he says, “but knowing he was going to survive helped an awful lot. Those were some very dark days.”
Odenkirk returned to set a few weeks later, to complete the scene that he had left unfinished. “It’s a very dramatic scene near the beginning of the episode,” says Gilligan. “Two thirds of it was shot before he had a cardiac arrest, a third of it after. I defy you to notice the difference.”
What’s in store?
As for the rest of the season, or indeed how the show ends, Gilligan and Gould are understandably keeping details sparse. There are some things we do know. We know that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul will finally be making appearances as Walt and Jesse, which Gould describes as a “thrill”. We know that Jimmy will eventually turn into Saul Goodman. We know that after the incident in season six’s mid-season finale, in which a major character is inadvertently killed thanks to the actions of Kim and Jimmy, that the couple – and the show itself – have crossed a line they can never uncross.
“There’s no question that [what happens at the end of season six, part one] is going to propel us into these last few episodes,” says Gould. “I think these remaining stories are maybe the best work we’ve ever done.” The ending – whatever it may be – is not the product of a long-term masterplan but emerged organically during the filming of season five. “As we moved through that season, we started to see where this has to end up,” says Gould. “It’s been a slow evolution. We take it moment by moment, scene by scene. We try to think ahead as much as we can but if the characters aren’t ready to do something we won’t do it. That discipline has served us well.” He pauses. “My hope and my dream is that the ending we have is surprising, but then once you think about it, feels inevitable.”
Both Gilligan and Gould describe coming to the end of Better Call Saul as bittersweet. “I’m very proud of the show. I’m still amazed that it had the legs it did,” says Gilligan. “We didn’t see it going as long as it did. I’m not even sure I ever thought it’d be as good as it was.” How does he feel about the popular idea that it is better than Breaking Bad? “I love it,” he says. “I didn’t think I would. I thought I would be a little jealous. But it honestly blows me away.”
“I always date things by my daughter,” says Gould. “She was seven when I started Breaking Bad and is now 22 years old. I don’t think I’ve completely assimilated it.” Is there a temptation to return to the Breaking Bad universe, to keep the band going? “It would be very easy to,” says Gilligan, who is currently leading the writers’ room for his mysterious new show. “It would be very seductive. And I think because it is so attractive, that’s the reason I’m resisting. I feel like I have to prove to myself that I’m not a one-trick pony. But check with me in a year or so. I might be saying, ‘oh my God, we’ve got a new spin-off! Oh yeah, it’s gonna be great!'”
Better Call Saul season six part two begins today on AMC and AMC+ in the US and on 12 July on Netflix in the UK and other regions
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