‘Better Call Saul’: One Thing You Didn’t Notice About Show’s Opening

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Better Call Saul is a Breaking Bad prequel, yes, but it is really an examination of transformation. The writers brilliantly portray the slow moral decay of the show’s titular character in many ways, both through plot and symbols. And when it comes to symbology, all aspects of the show are fair game, even the show’s opening sequence.

In the Netflix era where skipping intros is normal and often automated, you may have missed Better Call Saul‘s subtle nod to physical decay as a symbol for moral decay. The opening sequence of the show is overtly simple: a melody and some balloon imagery. Astute viewers will notice that although the imagery never changes from season to season, the quality of the footage decreases steadily over time.

In season 1 of Better Call Saul, the footage was pristine, if not a bit sad — like Jimmy’s life. By season 5, static appears on screen, color goes in and out, and the focus dissolves. What began as sharp imagery became a chaotic mess; a creative choice deliberately made by producers to represent Jimmy’s spiral towards Saul.

No doubt the introduction to season 6 will sport the most obvious signs of wear and tear yet.

The Themes of Better Call Saul

As a quick refresher for Outsiders who haven’t watched an episode lately (season 5 aired nearly two years ago), the show centers on fledgling lawyer Jimmy McGill. Facing the frustrating treadmill of life with a penchant for shortcuts, Jimmy slowly transforms from honest lawyer to legendary schemer. His ruses border on outright cons in which he flirts with criminal activity in the form of manipulation and fraud.

Like Breaking Bad before it, Better Call Saul focuses on the momentum of poor choices. The “villains” of the world don’t often fit the stereotypes of cartoons or James Bond films. Unsavory people often make one small, poor decision, and then instead of rectifying it with integrity, they try to fix the impending problem with another poor decision. Soon, their lives begin spiraling out of control, like Walter White’s did, and like Jimmy McGill’s will once he becomes Saul Goodman.

Fans of Better Call Saul believe the eroding footage in the show’s intro has a more literal meaning, too. Reddit fan theories have suggested that the loss of quality also represent Jimmy’s constant watching and re-watching of his own commercials after going into hiding as Gene Taković. Sadly, this theory means that Jimmy still romanticizes his dirty deeds. Or he refuses to acknowledge how much damage he caused himself and his loved ones.

By the time Saul goes into hiding at the end of Breaking Bad, presumably no trace of Jimmy the friendly lawyer remains. He has experienced a true loss of identity, just as the intro footage experiences a true loss of quality. Nothing remains but poor perspective and grainy memories.

Better Call Saul is set to debut its sixth and final season in the spring of 2022.