A deep dive into the cold and colorful opening of “Better Call Saul”


“These have all been carefully selected, to start with monochromatic ties and then to start introducing color. You start and oh, it’s another season of You better call Saul start in black and white. But wait a minute, maybe not.
Photo: AMC

The sixth and final season of You better call Saul breaks with a tradition established since the very first episode of the series. Instead of the now-expected black-and-white streak, the Omaha streak focused on mild-mannered Cinnabon manager Gene Takovic – formerly Saul Goodman, formerly “Slippin'” Jimmy McGill – the final part of You better call Saul begins in Albuquerque, rolling out a streak of bravery infused with the series’ saturated color palette.

In the five-plus-minute opener, the camera glides through the garish mansion where Saul Goodman lived as movers pack up his (many) things and pull them out, like “Days of Wine and Roses,” the song that gives the episode its title, plays. Each shot is rich in detail and meaning, along with tons of Easter eggs that hint at moments of You better call Saul that we have seen or will see in the very near future. It’s so carefully choreographed that many moves had to be performed by members of Albuquerque’s dance companies, because they’re the kind of people who understand how to move naturally through a space and hit marks with precision.

For more on how this season-opening showstopper came together, we asked episode director Michael Morris and Peter Gould, who co-created You better call Saul and wrote “Wine and Roses”, to dig into the details, homages to Citizen Kane to the golden toilet at the appearance of a Zafiro Añejo tequila bottle cap which played an important role in breaking Bad and You better call Saul.

Michael Morris, Director of “Wine and Roses”: This idea of ​​directing this season’s opener — I was just like, ‘I can do black and white. I can do Omaha. It’s huge.” And I turn the first page of the episode, and it says, “In glorious color,” and it’s not in Omaha. I’m like, “What?”

Peter Gould, co-creator of You better call Saul and author of “Wine and Roses”: This season is structured very differently from our other seasons in a way that will quickly become apparent. In fact, they will become apparent over time. It seemed fair to change things up because, of course, for the other five seasons at the start of the season, you see Gene Takovic, the manager of Cinnabon. In this case, we thought we’d do something a little different. We really liked it at the start of the season. I think it’s going to have resonances that go beyond what’s obvious right now.

MM: It’s a sequence about nostalgia in some ways, isn’t it? Like it was the end of something. I think that’s why we came up with these long, slow crossfades, which is such an Old Hollywood technique, between shots. There’s a version we put together where I just used the shots with no crossfade in between. It went from, I think, five and a half minutes, which is the current sequence, to, like, maybe nine minutes.

PG: We were definitely thinking of Citizen Kane.

MM: The overall approach to this season’s opener has a lot in common with that big streak ending with Rosebud’s reveal. The way that sequence rushes into that last frame is deliberately reminiscent of this big, huge, what must have looked like a magic crane pulled back in the day, going through the whole mansion.

The script called for all of those glorious Saul Goodman ties to be an opening image. My little hint like, I want some black and white fame, was actually to adapt it so that we start out in black and white, and the ties start to fade, color-wise.

PG: We don’t do anything technological to change color. It’s actually black and white ties and then colored ties. Jennifer Bryan, our brilliant costume designer—sure, she probably has a warehouse full of crazy ties at this point. These have all been carefully selected, to start with monochromatic ties and then to start introducing color. It’s also just fun because you start and oh, it’s another season of You better call Saul start in black and white. But wait a minute, maybe not.

MM: I had looked Alice doesn’t live here anymore, which opens in this incredibly over-the-top color palette and then returns to normal. I think it was weirdly in the back of my head somewhere.

PG: The house we chose to be Saul Goodman’s future home happened to have a swimming pool. We ended up with standee Saul face down in the pool, which I think reminds everyone sunset boulevard. We’re all movie freaks here. You can’t throw a stone without referencing something on this show, for better or for worse.

MM: As soon as I saw this pool, I was like, “I really want to do this weird abstract shot, and then in the shot floats Saul Goodman staring at us.” It just made me laugh every time.

We had a completely different shot with a camera mounted on the standee. I hope there will be a Blu-ray one day and you get this picture, because it was amazing. The team built a rig, and we used a separate type of camera, to mount the camera directly to the bottom of the standee so that when you walk through the house what you see in focus is Saul’s face Goodman, but the whole world is moving behind her.

PG: This tall standee floating in the pool and thrown in the trash: this is a photo I took of Bob at the time breaking Bad. Bob and I made a Saul Goodman website together, and we did a fashion show, and I took all the pictures myself.

MM: Shooting underwater, randomly, was very difficult. It took ages to clear the water from the ripples and then enter. We just had to push her and hope.

PG: The scene was filmed in a house in Albuquerque. I don’t mean the family name, but they are associated with casinos and in real life it doesn’t look exactly like what you see. We have an awesome production designer, Denise Pizzini, and she and the whole team have worked incredibly to transform the house. There are parts of the bathroom that are actually a set that was built at Q Studios. But the rest of the house is a real house.

MM: The gold toilet was something we threw away and made. We couldn’t find toilets with enough gold. It’s hard to find, I guess, so we painted a toilet gold. And I remember we got there and we looked at it in the morning like, “That’s not enough gold.” So they had to take the toilets apart and repaint them completely. They did a brilliant job. It was enough gold in the end.

“We couldn’t find a sufficiently golden toilet.”
Photo: AMC

PG: These fantastic stained glass windows are all real. The dressing room was a transformation of another bedroom that was next to this large room. It took a long time to figure this set out. In fact, that was one of the first things we started to tackle this season, and we actually decided to postpone that scene because, for various logistical reasons, it turned out to be better to shoot it later in the season. This season is like that – it has to do with COVID and Bob’s health and a lot of other things. There are a lot of scenes that are shot six months apart.

We went very deep in the writing process before we started production on the opening. We were able to load this teaser with hints, not just of things that have already happened, but things that are about to happen. And it was especially fun for us.

MM: One thing we’re proud of is that the streak has as many future Easter eggs as past Easter eggs. So once you get to the end of the season, go back. Go back and press pause. Hopefully it’s worth repeat viewing to see what we’ve crammed onto the screen.

PG: Jenn Carroll, one of our producers, generated a list, and lots of people contributed to it, of things that would make sense to be in the house that are from past seasons. I wrote a bunch of them in the script. But then I wrote something along the lines of, “There’s gonna be more, let’s think about more.”

I must say that the ones that turn me on the most are things that don’t make sense to you yet. I was so excited to have the Beanie Babies, to have these CC Mobile stress balls. There are shoes he uses to trick one of his victims in season three. There’s a lot in there, and it’s just packed. And then you get, at the very end, the Zafiro cap.

MM: The last shot was super tough because we were really running out of light and that’s when they pulled the cabinet into the truck and the door opened and the camera went in and sank into the gutter. It was scary just because all the productions are pressed for time, and it was our last day there and we definitely couldn’t go back.

PG: I think we wanted to kick off the season with something that would specifically allude to that relationship. One of the questions you always ask yourself is, Saul Goodman – does he still have a thought for Kim? Is Kim part of his life? And the teaser certainly says she’s always on his mind.

MM: That’s what I like You better call Saul. He never spoon-feeds his audience. In many TV shows, even very, very good, very smart ones, there’s usually a conversation about how do we get enough information across at the beginning of that script to remind people of all the important things that are at stake? Even good shows that don’t want to reset or use exposure do a bit. Peter and Vince [Gilligan, co-creator of the series] always had the confidence to say, “Our people will know what we’re doing. They will know. And you know what? If they miss it, they’ll see it a second time.


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