“No man is an island,” they say. Except for one man – madly panicking Breaking Bad creator and Better Call Saul Season 4 writer, Vince Gilligan. He’s an island… Gilligan’s Island.
Erik Adams, A.V. Club TV editor from the excellent AV Club website recently interviewed writer-director Vince Gilligan on his upcoming, darker Better Call Saul and it made for interesting reading… between the lines.
Erik asked: “Knowing that you have to be coy about season four: Can you tell us about any themes you might be writing toward for the new season?”
To which Vince replied: “Every year gets us closer to Jimmy McGill becoming Saul Goodman, and this year will be no different. The worlds of Jimmy and Saul are coming together, and therefore it stands to reason the worlds of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad are overlapping deeper and deeper into one another as well.
“Thematically? It’s not a great answer, but it’s the truth: The thing we always found, going back to the earliest days of the show, is that sometimes we let the audience figure out the themes for us. I often think they’re better equipped to do it.
“On our best days, we let the characters tell us where they’re headed, and on the very best days, we writers feel like stenographers: We’re taking down what these characters are doing and where they’re going. They’re leading us around, instead of the reverse. And when you’re deep into it, trying to figure out to follow these characters and follow their hearts and tell their stories, theme becomes something that’s on too macro a scale to be readily recognized. In other words, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
“But I can tell you, again as a fan, there’s some fascinating stuff coming. The show gets darker this season. I think it’s still going to have moments of humor and those fun Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill moments—I don’t know that they’ll ever go away completely. But as you would expect from the end of season three, Jimmy’s in for quite an emotional ride.”
The interesting part, for me, is the section that suggests the characters lead the writers, something the Star Trek: Discovery writers could learn a lot from instead of letting a list of pre-planned events dictate character’s decision making. Gilligan’s comments remind me of when Quentin Tarantino famously said: “I had no idea Mr Blonde had that knife in his boot until he pulled it out.”
In summary slash note to self, characters must make their decisions based upon the personalities they’ve become via their backstories.