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The Lawrence Of Arabia Nods You Missed In Better Call Saul

"Better Call Saul" had massive shoes to fill when it was first announced. "Breaking Bad" was coming off an immensely successful finale, officially cementing its place as one of the greatest television programs of all time. Prequels don't exactly have the best of reputations, but fans remained optimistic given Bob Odenkirk's portrayal of skeezy lawyer Saul Goodman. It's safe to say that after five seasons and a hotly anticipated final season on the horizon, "Better Call Saul" has more than lived up to the legacy left behind by its predecessor.

The show has done excellent work of incorporating elements of "Breaking Bad" into its storyline, such as finally showing us the terror of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), who was only referenced by name in the original series. However, that's not the only place where "Better Call Saul" draws influence. The drama series has also looked toward iconic moments in cinema to help build out its plots, often to humorous effect. One of the most noteworthy examples of this came during the Season 5 episode "Bagman," where Saul and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) wind up in a desert trying to avoid a confrontation with the cartel. Many fans couldn't help but draw parallels for many of the scenes to the classic film "Lawrence of Arabia."

Fans have pointed out shot-for-shot beats to Lawrence of Arabia

Apparently, the writers' room of "Better Call Saul" has some major fans of "Lawrence of Arabia" in its midst. "Bagman" wasn't the first time a reference to the influential film came up. In a clever bit of retrospective foreshadowing, Saul (or Jimmy as he was known at the time) talks with a friend, who makes the following remark, "I mean, 10 years in a desert, you should look like Anthony Quinn in 'Lawrence of Arabia.'" Several seasons later, Odenkirk did bear a striking resemblance to the actor during his "Lawrence of Arabia" days. 

When rewatching the series, it's hard not to look at the events as an epic retelling of the classic film, and "Bagman" consists of numerous nods to what's come before. Redditor u/Detzeb posts one comparison piece where Saul holds his cell phone up toward the sky. It's eerily reminiscent of a similar-looking shot from "Lawrence of Arabia." That's not the only screengrab that exists, as u/Detzeb goes on to post numerous other images from the episode that look like they came straight out of an "Arabia" remake. 

In case you believe these nods were accidental, writer Gordon Smith spoke about how they actively kept the iconic film in mind when writing "Bagman." When asked about the influences for the desert sequence, Smith stated, "We also talked a lot about 'Lawrence of Arabia' and the desert scenes in that movie. Not to just rip off the greats, but hopefully to understand that there's a whole set of images that come to mind, and we might as well play to them because nobody's going to miss them when they're watching it."

The team behind Better Call Saul wanted to make the Lawrence of Arabia connection even more explicit

When watching "Bagman," it's hard to believe any more "Lawrence of Arabia" references could be crammed into its runtime. But Vince Gilligan and his team certainly gave it a valiant effort with an attempt to bring one iconic piece of the film into their hands.

Vince Gilligan spoke with Variety about how they wanted to copy certain "Arabia" moments and give the episode a look like it came from the same set. It's at this point he revealed that they shot the episode with a long lens, similar to the one used in "Arabia." He goes on to unveil this amusing anecdote: "We were trying to figure out how to make it as 'Lawrence'-like as possible. To the point where [co-creator] Peter Gould wanted to look into renting the actual 'Lawrence' lens, which is apparently still out there, and maybe even still available for rent. That would have been good vibes, but I was too afraid we'd break it!"

It makes sense Gilligan didn't want to be responsible for such an important aspect of Hollywood history. The episode turned out great without it, and if it teaches viewers anything, it's to watch out for more classic Hollywood references going into the sixth and final season of "Better Call Saul."