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How ‘Better Caul Saul’ Brought Back [SPOILERS] and Why the Director Didn’t De-Age Them

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SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the 11th episode of “Better Call Saul” Season 6, titled “Breaking Bad.”

After their “Better Call Saul” cameos were teased by the show’s co-creator Peter Gould before the start of the sixth and final season, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were finally back as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman Monday night.

The two Emmy winners reprised their roles for the first time on the “Breaking Bad” prequel, just a few years after they shared the screen briefly in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.” After fans theorized about when Walt and Jesse would show up, they were introduced during a flashback to “Breaking Bad” Season 2 Episode 8, an episode titled “Better Call Saul,” which introduced Bob Odenkirk’s character.

That 2009 episode of “Breaking Bad” was also the first time we heard the names of the characters Lalo and Ignacio, but at the time they were just throwaway lines from Saul and never addressed again. Now, these lines have new meaning, as “Better Call Saul” has unraveled the lawyer’s messy involvement in the lives of Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) and Ignacio “Nacho” Varga (Michael Mando) throughout six seasons.

Thomas Schnauz, the writer and director of Monday night’s episode, revealed to Variety that there was never a concrete plan for Cranston and Paul to appear in “Better Call Saul,” but their schedules aligned during production for Season 6. He also explains why he didn’t have Jesse say “bitch,” teases a new persona for Saul in the final two episodes and defends why they didn’t do much de-aging on Walt and Jesse, who are reprising a “Breaking Bad” episode shot 13 years ago. (Paul, now 42, jumps back into the role of recent high-schooler Jesse.)

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston as Jesse Pinkman and Walter White in “Breaking Bad” Season 2 Episode 8
AMC

What was it like having Cranston and Paul back in character in the RV?

It was a crazy, time-warp flashback. Everybody slipped back into it like we were doing it all along. Bryan and Aaron got right back in the roles with very little direction needed. Before they got to Albuquerque, they asked for a review of where the characters’ heads were in this timeframe. They went through a whole range of emotions over several seasons, and this is very specific to Season 2. I told them it was set in the world of Season 2 Episode 8 between the kidnapping and their Jimmy In-‘N-Out (Jimmy Daniels) scheme.

Bryan and Aaron were only available together at a certain time. We had this very small window, so even though this was Episode 11, I had to write it way earlier, and we shot it while Vince [Gilligan] was shooting Episode 2. Our team recreated the RV set and put it on stage on airbags so it wouldn’t move.

Was there always a plan for Cranston and Paul to appear in “Better Call Saul”?

We didn’t really have a plan. We didn’t know for sure if we were going to bring back Walt and Jesse. Part of the way of making ourselves feel better if we hadn’t done it was telling ourselves, “Walt came back in ‘El Camino’ with Jesse. That exists, so if we don’t get to it in ‘Better Call Saul,’ that’s OK.” But I think we all desperately wanted them to come back at some point for some reason. We didn’t know how or why, but finally when we got talking about these later episodes, we thought we should. The parallels between what Saul Goodman was going through when he chased after Walter White and when Gene is chasing after these scams he’s doing in Omaha, it felt like a good time to flashback to those scenes and address the Lalo question.

Were there any conversations about de-aging them?

There’s only so much you can do before it starts looking ridiculous. We don’t do a ton of de-aging on the show. There’s a little bit of stuff on the guys’ faces to take a few lines out here and there, but other than that, Aaron is not going to look like an 18-year-old kid or however old Jesse was during this time period. Giancarlo [Esposito] and Jonathan [Banks], as you’re watching “Better Call Saul” you kind of forget how they looked back then, until you start cutting scenes back and forth and you realize, “Jonathan, who I would’ve imagined looks very much the same as he did in ‘Breaking Bad,’ looks very different in the scenes back to back.” I do sort of dread people cutting this scene into the world of “Breaking Bad” and trying to match the way they look then and now, but it’s not something you can worry too much about. It is what it is. We’re telling a story and you can roll with it or you start picking at: “He looks much older than he did in the original scene.” We decided to go for it, and I’m glad we did.

We got Jesse calling Walt a “dick” in the episode. Were there any other classic Jesse lines you wanted to include?

The temptation is to get him to say “bitch.” How do we do a Jesse scene without saying “bitch”? It just felt like as I was writing the scene — it felt forced. I was glad to get “dick” in there, but “bitch” felt like a bridge too far.

Francesca said the DEA found Jesse’s car near the border. Was that Todd’s El Camino or Skinny Pete’s Ford Thunderbird?

That was Skinny Pete’s car that Badger drove off and left for him to throw the scent off. That’s the car they found, and [the cops] think he went to Mexico. Alaska is where he actually is.

So things are still good for Jesse?

Things are still good for Jesse as of the episode you’re watching.

Did you shoot any actual dialogue for the scene with Saul calling about Kim in the phone booth?

Yes, there’s a scene written. What he actually says, it will be addressed in a future episode. We’ll know some more details of what’s spoken about. Because we had just gotten a very long phone call with Francesca, we decided, “Do we want to do another phone call?” Then we started talking about how it’d be interesting to not hear the details of whatever news he heard about Kim and leave that for later. Something upset him — we don’t know exactly what — but we’re going to see how he deals with that pain.

As Gene, Saul really resembles Walter White with the mustache. How intentional was it to have him channel Walt in that way?

We didn’t intentionally try to draw any visual parallels between how he and Walt looked. The Gene look was established in the teaser for Episode 1 [of “Better Call Saul”], that’s just what it was. It’s funny that he does give a Walt vibe with the way he looks. Some of the lines I was writing, they echo Walt trying to stay in control. Two guys struggling to maintain power after these threats — you couldn’t help but have parallels between them.

We see so many different versions of Saul throughout the show: Jimmy, Gene and now Victor. Will we get a new persona of Saul in the final episodes?

I’m hopefully not giving anything away, but I feel like we see a whole new character at some point. There’s a version in a future episode where Bob walks on screen and it looks different than we’ve ever seen him before — and it’s great.

This interview has been edited and condensed.



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The Rings Of Power Episode 6’s Explosive Ending Explained

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Warning: spoilers ahead for The Rings of Power episode 6What in Eru’s name is happening in the final moments of The Rings of Power episode 6? After weeks of slow-build setup, Amazon’s The Rings of Power finally pulls the trigger on its battle for the Southlands. Adar’s Orc army has targeted this region populated by Men and taken it upon themselves to move in… after evicting the locals, of course.


The Southlanders are barely a match but, as luck would have it, the land’s true king recently befriended the only Elf in Middle-earth whose mission is wiping out every last one of Morgoth’s servants. Even more fortunate still, Halbrand and Galadriel found themselves an army of Númenóreans willing to join the fight, and thanks to these timely reinforcements, the Southlands is saved from Adar’s Orcs.

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Alas, celebrations prove premature. As the soldiers enjoy mugs of ale and the stench of rotting Orcs, the Southlands rumble violently. A torrent of rushing water and humid smoke bellows forth followed by fire, darkness and fissures in the ground. Here’s what really happened in The Rings of Power episode 6’s ending.


When Waldreg Gets The Black Sword (& Why Him)

The Rings of Power episode 6’s tragic twist ending starts when a shocked Theo discovers the precious bundle recovered during battle wasn’t The Rings of Power‘s mysterious black sword hilt, but an ordinary axe, with the real artifact secretly in Waldreg’s possession. Though the handover isn’t shown onscreen, Adar must’ve switched items when he first heard the pounding hooves of Númenórean cavalry.

Exiting Tirharad’s tavern just before the Númenórean army strikes, Adar mentions a “task” for Waldreg, but the details are left unspoken and the renegade Southlander disappears for the remainder of the battle. Before Númenórean steel met Orc flesh, Adar must’ve quickly given Waldreg the sword and told him where to take it. Waldreg then slipped away quietly as the battle raged. Adar gets spotted riding away on horseback with the “sword,” but his escape is a calculated maneuver to trick Galadriel into chasing a half-blunt axe while Waldreg slithers away unseen with the real deal.

It’s no coincidence that Adar picked Waldreg – a relative newcomer to his sinister operation – for this task. Using the sword requires the user to summon its magical blade using their own blood as a sacrifice, but as Theo’s attempts demonstrate, there’s a certain knack to this trick. Since Waldreg is the only person other than Theo to actually use the weapon (he was the one hiding it in the first place), the Southlands’ tavern landlord is already adept at drawing out the blade’s inner sorcery, which he does effortlessly during The Rings of Power episode 6’s final moments.

The Rings Of Power Reveals The Black Sword’s True Purpose

Previously in The Rings of Power, Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir explained that the black sword hilt was a “key” imbued with ancient and dark magic from the era of Morgoth, and also pointed out an identical weapon embedded into the walls of the Elves’ Ostirith tower. Arondir only needed to cast his eyes a little lower and the answer would’ve revealed itself. Underneath the stone sword at Ostirith is a suspiciously sword-shaped slot that Adar must’ve known existed in advance. Theo’s black sword serves as the key to this very slot, and turning it brings down the stone dam built into the Ephel Dúath mountains, unleashing a cascade of river water from top to bottom.

A major question The Rings of Power leaves unanswered is who created this cataclysmic keyhole, because it probably wasn’t the Silvan Elves keeping watch at Ostirith. The Rings of Power already revealed the Southlands was controlled by Morgoth during the First Age, so one can only assume the geographical trap was left by either Sauron or Morgoth himself as part of their contingency plan to regroup in the Southlands in the event of defeat. The Ostirith Elves either never noticed it, or assumed it was just a convenient holder for their arrows. Either way, the keyhole’s location adds another reason to why the Southlands specifically was chosen.

The Rings Of Power Explains Its Orc Tunnel Mystery

Since Adar arrived in the Southlands, his Orcs have been busily digging underground tunnels, with one confirming, “The tunnel is complete, my Lord” in The Rings of Power episode 5. Captured humans and Elves, meanwhile, were forced to dig trenches above ground. Initially, the Southlanders (and most viewers) would’ve assumed these tunnels were made for the purpose of launching sneak attacks, since an Orc attacked Theo in his home by popping up through the floorboards. The Rings of Power episode 6 reveals a deeper purpose behind Adar’s subterranean excavation project: a waterway.

After Waldreg uses Theo’s black sword to release the river running through Ephel Dúath, the torrent rushes into the tunnels prepared by the Orcs over The Rings of Power‘s past five episodes. This water then gushes through the trenches Arondir and his fellow prisoners were digging, and it rapidly becomes clear that the purpose behind all of these gullies was carving a path for water to flow from Ostirith to a nearby volcano.

The Southlands Is Transforming Into Mordor (Udûn Explained)

Whoever masterminded The Rings of Power‘s black sword plan – whether it be Morgoth, Sauron or Adar – the ultimate intention was for river water to flow beneath a huge volcano near Tirharad, triggering an eruption that razes the nearby plains and turns the Southlands into a wasteland where nothing grows and nothing good lives. The smoke spewing from the volcano creates a plume of blackness that gradually covers the Southlands and blocks out the sun. In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is well known for its permanent darkness, regardless of whether the time is day or night. That darkness appears to begin with Waldreg’s turn of a sword hilt in The Rings of Power episode 6, meaning this explosive ending represents the founding of Mordor.

Confirmation comes when the captured Orcs begin chanting “Udûn” in unison (also the episode’s title). In Tolkien’s lore, Udûn is a massive valley in Mordor stretching from the north-west corner to the Isenmouthe. The Rings of Power‘s destruction of the Southlands shows precisely how that huge valley was carved but, more importantly, means the volcano Waldreg’s black sword activates is almost certainly Mount Doom, where the One Ring will be forged and destroyed.

J.R.R. Tolkien writes little on what Mordor looked like before Sauron’s Second Age rule, and even less on how the Dark Lord made it his home. The Lord of the Rings‘ appendices and The Silmarillion only specify that once Sauron resurfaced in Middle-earth in the aftermath of Morgoth’s defeat, he settled in Mordor and set about building the battlements and fortifications seen throughout The Lord of the Rings. Sauron’s presence and magics are said to have turned Mordor into a blackened, barren wilderness. The Rings of Power adds its own embellishments to Tolkien’s telling, revealing the sad chain of events that led to Mordor’s creation.

What Next For The Rings Of Power’s Southlands?

Many viewers would’ve naturally assumed Adar has been carrying out Sauron’s will, but The Rings of Power episode 6 drops a huge bombshell. Joseph Mawle’s evil Elf claims that he and Sauron had a disagreement over the treatment of Orcs, with Sauron willing to experiment on his soldiers, and Adar feeling parental and protective. Adar believes he killed Sauron during this confrontation, and while The Rings of Power viewers will know he’s wholeheartedly mistaken, the conversation proves Adar and Sauron aren’t necessarily on the same page in terms of their goals. Adar seeks to create a land suitable for the Orcs’ home (hence the cover of darkness), whereas Sauron will be seeking to reestablish dominance over Middle-earth.

Because Adar and Sauron’s intentions don’t align, the Southlands’ future in The Rings of Power isn’t clear. Adar doesn’t exactly have many Orcs left to resettle thanks to the Númenóreans. On the other hand, Sauron is nowhere to be found, giving the Orc-father a free run at seizing the newly transformed land he helped create.

Why Galadriel Doesn’t Run From The Rings Of Power’s Volcano Eruption

One of the most curious elements from The Rings of Power episode 6’s ending is Galadriel’s reaction compared to everyone else’s. As the Southlanders and Númenóreans run for their lives from flying chunks of molten rock, Galadriel simply stands and watches the black ash and fire wash over her. Though Galadriel’s strange reaction is difficult to decipher, one interpretation is that she’s dejected by the realization Sauron’s forces just beat her. Galadriel has dedicated her life to quelling darkness in Middle-earth, and the Southlands is the closest she’s come to achieving that goal. Just as Galadriel was beginning to enjoy the taste of a major victory, the ruptured landscape forces her to accept a complete and utter failure to protect the Southlands, as well as a demoralizing blow to her long-held aspirations of revenge. In this moment of misery, The Rings of Power‘s Galadriel genuinely doesn’t seem to care whether she lives or dies.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.

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Trevor Noah Announces He’s Leaving ‘The Daily Show’ After 7 Years

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Trevor Noah is ending a storied run on the famed Comedy Central late-night series, The Daily Show. Noah has hosted the program for seven years after taking over for Jon Stewart in 2015. 

The host made the announcement of his forthcoming departure to the studio audience on Thursday evening, though no official date has been announced. 

In a special message to the viewers, Noah revealed that on his seventh anniversary with the series, “One of the one of the overriding feelings I found myself experiencing throughout the night, and even today, waking up was was a feeling of gratitude.”

He continued, “There’s so many people who make this thing come together. And I want to say thank you to the audience for an amazing seven years. It’s been wild. It’s been truly wild.”

“I’ve loved hosting the show. It’s been one of my greatest challenges. It’s been one of my greatest joys. I have loved trying to figure out how to make people laugh, even when the stories are particularly shitty on the worst days. You know, we’ve we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together. But after seven years, I feel like it’s time,” Noah revealed. 

In a statement to ET, a Comedy Central spokesperson shared, “We are grateful to Trevor for our amazing partnership over the past seven years. With no timetable for his departure, we’re working together on next steps.”

“As we look ahead, we’re excited for the next chapter in the 25+ year history of The Daily Show as it continues to redefine culture through sharp and hilarious social commentary, helping audiences make sense of the world around them,” the statement continued. 

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NBC to Develop Drama Series ‘Knockoffs’ Inspired by Narratively Article

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NBC is developing a drama series inspired by the Narratively article ““The First Family of Counterfeit Hunting” by Amy Ridout.

Per the official logline, “Two brothers reunite after a long estrangement and are pulled into a special investigation surrounding closed FBI cases. Known as “Knockoffs,” these cases have been manipulated or outright fabricated to pin the crime on someone innocent and protect the real criminal who’s still out there.”

Cameron Litvack is writing and executive producing. Justin Lin, Andrew Schneider, and Salvador Gatdula of Perfect Storm Entertainment will also executive produce along with Noah Rosenberg for Narratively. Universal Television will produce, with Perfect Storm currently under an overall deal at the studio.

Litvack’s past credits include “True Story” starring Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes at Netflix, “Quantico” starring Priyanka Chopra at ABC, “Grimm” at NBC, and “Ugly Betty” at ABC. He is repped by UTA and Felker Toczek.

Perfect Storm currently produces the CBS revival of “SWAT,” which is going into its sixth season, as well as the reboot of “Magnum P.I.,” which had aired on CBS before moving to NBC. Lin and Perfect Storm are repped by CAA and Sloane Offer.

Narratively is repped by APA and Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.



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