Warning: This post contains storyline and character spoilers for tonight's premiere episode of Better Call Saul.
Sure, we suppose you could have watched tonight's Better Call Saul premiere without having seen Breaking Bad first… but oh, you would have missed so much.
Here are the four big shout-outs to Breaking Bad we noticed in Saul's first episode — along with a little background info on each, in case your memories of Walt and Jesse are a little hazy.
1. Saul's working at that Cinnabon in Omaha, just like he said.
The last time we saw Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad — in the penultimate episode, "Granite State" — he set Walter White up with a fixer who can erase your identity and give you a brand-new one. And Saul was signing up, too: "If I'm lucky, a month from now, best-case scenario, I'm managing a Cinnabon in Omaha."
So the opening moments of Better Call Saul must've inspired a knowing chuckle from Breaking Bad fans: In an extended black-and-white sequence set to The Ink Spots' "Address Unknown," we see that Saul (sorry, "Gene") has indeed found a new life kneading dough and sweeping up floors at a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. He's hiding behind dorky dad glasses and a handlebar mustache, but we can tell it's him.
He's still looking over his shoulder, though: He spots a tough guy staring at him a little too long, and you can see the beads of sweat starting to form on "Gene's" forehead… until the guy walks off harmlessly to meet some friends. Still, it's clear Saul hasn't exactly gotten a fresh start.
Once his shift is over, he heads home to a drab townhouse, pours himself a cocktail (Scotch, Drambuie, and a squirt of lemon juice), and flips aimlessly around the TV dial. But something inspires him to dig out a shoebox of mementos and get out an old VHS tape, which he pops into the VCR. It's a compilation of his TV ads as Saul Goodman, and you can see the old fire start to flicker in his worn-out eyes as we zip back to 2002…
2. Saul, meet Mike Ehrmantraut.
We knew Jonathan Banks would be reprising his BB role as laconic hitman Mike Ehrmantraut (aka the grandpa we all wish we had) on Saul, but we didn't know exactly how he and Saul actually first met… until Sunday night, that is.
After Saul, then known as Jimmy McGill, loses a court case as a public defender (to be fair, that video of his clients defiling a corpse was pretty damning), he drives up to the parking lot exit and hands over his validated ticket. And who takes it? Mike, who's working as a parking lot attendant at the Albuquerque courthouse.
Actually, he doesn't take it: The surly-as-ever Mike informs Jimmy he doesn't have enough stickers to get out for free, and forces him to go back inside to get more. That's the only time we see Mike in the first hour, but we know from this Saul advance sneak peek that Mike and Jimmy's sticker disagreements will turn physical, at some point:
Of course, Mike goes on to become Saul's "cleaner" and his connection to local drug kingpin Gus Fring. And from Breaking Bad, we know Mike was once a Philadelphia cop. But how did he go from police officer to parking lot attendant? Saul star Bob Odenkirk told us that Mike's backstory is the subject of an entire episode coming up, and that "it's a f--king mind-blower." Something to look forward to, Mike fans.
3. Yes, you've spent time in this diner before.
Did the diner where Jimmy tries to talk that nice couple Craig and Betsy into becoming his clients look familiar? It should have: Loyola's Family Restaurant (an Albuquerque staple since 1984 — 4 stars on Yelp!) was the setting for at least two scenes on Breaking Bad.
In fact, it's apparently a favorite of Mike Ehrmantraut's: He took Jesse there for a late-night meal in Season 4's "Cornered," back when Jesse was helping Mike make runs for Gus:
And then in Season 5's "Madrigal" (a great Mike episode, by the way), he met jittery executive Lydia there and did his best to calm her nerves after Gus's death, assuring her that "my guys are solid… I vetted them with great care":
Saul creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould clearly love Loyola's, so don't be surprised to see Mike back in one of those booths in a future episode — maybe brokering a peace agreement with Jimmy? (After the arm-twisting, of course.)
Yes, we gasped when we saw this face pop up at the end of Sunday's premiere. (You did, too, right?) With all the speculation about Walt and Jesse and Gus Fring possibly making an appearance on Saul, we totally forgot about our favorite meth-snorting, bull-in-a-china-shop drug dealer: Tuco Salamanca.
In Saul, Jimmy finds himself getting a pistol shoved in his face by Tuco after trying to pull a con job on a kindly old Mexican grandma with the help of a pair of burnt-out skaters. And Jimmy better (ahem) tread lightly here, because we know Tuco is the textbook definition of "loose cannon." In Breaking Bad's Season 1 finale, Tuco became Walt and Jesse's meth distributor — and beat his own right-hand man to death for talking trash to Walt. (RIP, No-Doze.)
Tuco eventually met his maker in Season 2 after a fierce gunfight with Hank, but it's great to see him alive and angry again. And don't forget Tuco's uncle: the mute, bell-ringing invalid Hector "Tio" Salamanca. Tio, of course, went on to play an integral part of Walt's takedown of Gus in BB Season 4. (That ringing bell still haunts our dreams.)
Will we see more of Tuco and Tio as Better Call Saul rolls on? Fingers crossed. But either way, we're sure there will be plenty more Breaking Bad nods for fans to pick out and obsess over in the weeks to come.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.