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Better Call Saul: How Walt And Jesse's Return Changed The Final Season's Production

Though the final episode of "Breaking Bad" aired in 2013, the story of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and their haphazard drug empire wasn't quite finished yet. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul would first reprise their roles for 2019's "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" (though Cranston's return was little more than a cameo), and then again in the sixth and final season of "Better Call Saul" in 2022. While their reunion in episode 11 of the Bob Odenkirk-starring spinoff, appropriately titled "Breaking Bad," provided a succinct bookend to creator Vince Gilligan's epic story, having the original stars return apparently caused some trouble behind the scenes.

"We had a limited window, and with Jesse involved in our exterior Saul office, we had to shoot (Cranston and Paul's) pieces out of order and very early in our season because that's when they were available," Melissa Bernstein recently told The Hollywood Reporter. Bernstein, who served as a producer on both "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," revealed that the stars' limited availability forced the production to rethink their approach to the final season of the AMC prequel.

"We were shooting scenes out of episodes that weren't written yet," she said, "which isn't how our show works."

Reigniting the chemistry

With "Better Call Saul" needing to work around a spider's web worth of pre-existing "Breaking Bad" canon, each of its six seasons had to be meticulously crafted considering the larger franchise's devoted fanbase would be watching for any errors. According to Bernstein, the writers' room developed the show's plots "index card after index card." But with Cranston and Paul having become superstars after the success of "Breaking Bad," their limited availability made the "Saul" showrunners scramble to put together a satisfying ending to a saga that began with the original series' 2008 pilot. Thomas Schnauz, who wrote and directed the episode, told Variety that the crossover was never a sure thing, but when the actors' schedules' aligned, he had to film episode 11 before episode 2 had even wrapped.

But despite any last-minute changes happening in the background, Saul Goodman's swan song was a hit with both fans and critics. With "Breaking Bad" being one of the most celebrated shows in recent history, "Better Call Saul" faced an uphill battle to live up to and continue its predecessor's legacy. Still, it stuck the landing, even though the creators were forced to totally reevaluate their storytelling approach. But much like the characters that inhabit the weird world of the "Breaking Bad" universe, the showrunners were able to find a way to make their plan work.