Better Call Saul did what many prequels and spinoffs failed to by delivering a show that was as good or perhaps even better than Breaking Bad, but it also created a question regarding the correct order to watch the Breaking Bad universe. As of now, the Breaking Bad universe consists of two shows and one movie. Breaking Bad has 62 episodes in a total of five seasons whereas the spinoff Better Call Saul has 63 episodes in a total of six seasons. While Better Call Saul was initially promoted as a Breaking Bad prequel set before Walt met Saul, the Breaking Bad timeline is not that simple.
Better Call Saul is both a prequel and a sequel to Breaking Bad, which is unusual for a spinoff. The idea was that Better Call Saul would show Saul Goodman’s origin story, meaning that it was expected to cover Saul’s past only. However, in a clever twist, Better Call Saul actually started by following Saul Goodman after the Breaking Bad finale. From then on, Better Call Saul could no longer be labeled as a simple prequel, as the show was very much continuing Breaking Bad’s story. Still, the vast majority of Better Call Saul takes place before Saul Goodman met “Mr. Mayhew” in Breaking Bad.
Why Breaking Bad’s Chronological Watching Order Doesn’t Work
It is possible to watch Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie in perfectly timed chronological order. Some lists and compilations place each episode of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul in chronological order, which should, in theory, offer the best viewing experience. However, a strict chronological order simply breaks the flow of both shows. By jumping from Better Call Saul to Breaking Bad back and forth, someone who is watching these shows for the first time would not get the full experience of either of them. Essentially, the pacing of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul is more important than any chronology.
Another problem with the strictly chronological Breaking Bad watch order is that most of Better Call Saul Gene’s scenes are placed in episodes that take place, for the most part, before Breaking Bad. For example, Better Call Saul’s first episode UNO opens with a flash forward to Saul’s life after Breaking Bad only for it to “go back” and present viewers with Jimmy McGill. For someone to watch Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul in chronological order, they would have to skip parts of a lot of Better Call Saul episodes. The result would be an inconsistent, badly paced watching experience of what are two incredible shows.
Better Call Saul’s Gene Moments Don’t Land Without Breaking Bad
With the strict chronological watching order ruled out, another option is to watch Better Call Saul before Breaking Bad as the former is supposed to be a prequel to the latter. The problem, however, is that Better Call Saul is not entirely a prequel. Without the Gene scenes, watching Better Call Saul before Breaking Bad would be an interesting option. Audiences would get the chance to follow Jimmy McGill’s entire fall before meeting Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, not to mention how characters like Gus and Mike become far more complex after what is revealed in Better Call Saul. Still, the Gene scenes play against this option.
For someone who has never watched Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul’s black-and-white scenes would not make a lot of sense. It would not be difficult to infer that Gene was a wanted man who was not keeping a low profile, yet what exactly he had done and how it connected to the story of Better Call Saul would not be so easy to deduce. Without Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is “spoiled” from the spinoff’s first scene that Jimmy will get in trouble at some point without actually knowing how Saul Goodman got there. In addition, the Gene scenes spoil most of the events of Breaking Bad.
During Gene’s call to Francesca in Better Call Saul season 6, for example, the characters discuss the aftermath of Breaking Bad. The fates of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Gus Fring, and other Breaking Bad characters are discussed during that conversation, meaning that those who never watched Breaking Bad would get spoiled. Some moments during Better Call Saul season 6 work as a Breaking Bad epilogue, which is why watching Better Call Saul before Breaking Bad doesn’t work. Granted, viewers can always skip the Gene scenes and keep them for later, but the result would be an inconsistent watch of both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.
Why You Should Watch Breaking Bad Before Better Call Saul
The best order to watch the Breaking Bad universe is by starting with Breaking Bad. While Better Call Saul covers a lot of events involving Breaking Bad characters that happen before Walter White’s story begins, the best possible experience regarding this universe starts with Breaking Bad. Firstly, that is how the “Breaking Bad universe” was envisioned in the first place – the story of Walter White. Characters like Saul or Mike were created to gravitate around Walter White and elevate Breaking Bad’s story, although they obviously became important characters on their own. The same applies to Gus, Jesse, and other Breaking Bad characters that appear in Better Call Saul.
Watching Breaking Bad first honors why and how that universe’s characters were created, which only makes Better Call Saul even more impressive. For example, Mike Ehrmantraut was created because Bob Odenkirk would not be available to shoot on a certain day (via Rolling Stone), therefore Breaking Bad needed a new character to interact with Walt and Jesse during season 2’s “ABQ”. A few years later, Jonathan Banks was a co-lead in Better Call Saul, with Mike often stealing the show in the spinoff series. Likewise, Saul Goodman was almost a plot device at first in Breaking Bad – far less layered and complex than Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill.
Starting with Breaking Bad before moving on to Better Call Saul informs audiences of who those characters are and what they are fighting for. In fact, Better Call Saul assumes that viewers have watched Breaking Bad in a lot of moments. For example, when Gus appears for the first time in Better Call Saul, those who have watched Breaking Bad know exactly why he is doing what he is doing. Finally, seeing the worst of Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and then getting to know Jimmy McGill is an experience that outdoes any advantages of watching the Breaking Bad universe chronologically.
How El Camino Fits Into Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul’s Watching Order
El Camino, a Breaking Bad spinoff movie, takes place after the events of Breaking Bad’s finale. In fact, El Camino begins right where Breaking Bad left off. Therefore, it is recommended to watch El Camino right after finishing Breaking Bad as the movie serves as an epilogue to the show. It is also recommended to watch El Camino before Better Call Saul, as one brief moment in Better Call Saul season 6 spoils El Camino’s ending. Therefore, the best possible Breaking Bad universe watch order is Breaking Bad, El Camino, and then Better Call Saul – especially for those who are watching it for the first time.