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The Real Reason Better Call Saul Brought Back Hank From Breaking Bad

As Better Call Saul continues its penultimate season, the moment every fan has been dreading approaches more obviously with every episode: when Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad's timelines will close and audiences will be confronted with Jimmy McGill's (Bob Odenkirk) ultimate fate. This time, viewers have many more reasons to care about Jimmy, too, and if Better Call Saul is destined to conclude as poorly as it did for Walter White (Bryan Cranston) at the end of Breaking Bad, these final two seasons' entertainment will largely be brought by ratcheting up the dread. 

The prequel series has plucked characters from Breaking Bad as the situation demands, but the reintroduction of Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) might come as a bittersweet surprise for fans. The last time Breaking Bad fans saw Hank, he was being murdered at the hands of white supremacists. But including him on Better Call Saul now isn't for cheap nostalgia points — it wasn't even the original plan to just start tossing more Breaking Bad alumni in. 

"When we were talking about this season, we didn't say, 'Oh, let's bring this character and that character back," co-producer David Gould explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "But once we started thinking about episode 3, it seemed obvious that Jimmy would be facing off against two DEA agents." And lo, they do indeed have one of those in their future-narrative pocket.

Better Call Saul's storyline is all about the long game, so let's take a minute to understand why dropping Hank back in for (at least) this one episode is part of that characteristic slow plot progression.

Completing the narrative circle

Within Better Call Saul, Jimmy, Hank, and Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) are brought together into a single circumstance — the perfect setup to more fully tie it to Breaking Bad as the show eases into its endgame. Jimmy (then known as Saul Goodman) doesn't appear as a character on Breaking Bad until the second season, but Better Call Saul season 5 establishes him into the former's universe before he's ever seen through Breaking Bad's first-season antagonist Krazy-8 and the enduring conflict character Hank represents. 

This single choice enriches and complements both series, especially when you realize that the events of Better Call Saul season 5, episode 3 mark the genesis of Krazy-8's reputation as a DEA informant that's so important to the first season of Breaking Bad. Introducing a new character rather than bringing back Hank might be economical in the short term, but it does nothing other than solve the problem presented by a single scene and retains no memory of its greater universe. Gould put it best and most simply when speaking with Entertainment Weekly: "As soon as you say the letters D-E-A in our world, that means Hank Schrader."

Better Call Saul is in the back 40 yards of its story, which has always been meant to explain how a mild-mannered, initially harmless perennial screwup like Jimmy McGill turned into Saul Goodman, a full-tilt empowered criminal enterprise. It only makes sense for Jimmy to begin meeting the primary objects and interrelated conflicts of his destiny on-screen, and it shows a lot of wisdom on the showrunners' part to recognize that importance now. For a franchise built on major, late-season plot twists, Better Call Saul is only going to heat up as it carries on — and we can't wait to see just how real it's going to get for Jimmy before the end of the journey.