To date, the Breaking Bad franchise consists of two TV shows and a movie, but the timeline for each title is a bit tricky. All three projects were developed by Vince Gilligan for AMC, although El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie first debuted on Netflix. With Better Call Saul heading into its final seasons, let’s take a look at how the main narrative fits into the shared Breaking Bad timeline.
Breaking Bad first debuted in 2008 by introducing Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as a teacher who left his ordinary life behind to risk it all by becoming a drug kingpin. Along the way, he partnered with young Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and often gained assistance from con artist extraordinaire and lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). After Walt met his demise when Breaking Bad ended in 2013, the franchise expanded with the spinoff prequel series based on Saul’s life when he was still known as Jimmy McGill. Many other familiar faces from Breaking Bad have since popped up in Better Call Saul and more are on the way.
After numerous rumors, plans to release a follow-up Breaking Bad film was finally announced in the summer of 2019. El Camino focused on Jesse after the events of Breaking Bad while also filling in many blanks left by the original series. In order to keep track of the tumultuous events, here’s a breakdown of the entire Breaking Bad timeline – from Better Call Saul through El Camino.
Considering Better Call Saul serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, it’s clearly set predominantly in the past. The series continues to focus on how Jimmy McGill fully transformed into a bigtime con-man Saul Goodman, who gets swept up into Walter White’s drug operations. When Better Call Saul begins, the narrative is set in May 2002, a time when Jimmy was struggling financially as a public defender. After trying to get revenge on a potential client, Jimmy encounters Nacho Varga and the Salamanca crime family. Around the same time, Mike Ehrmantraut gets involved with the Salamancas. The entire first season is only set over two months.
Better Call Saul season 2 still takes place in 2002, from July to September. Jimmy is working as a lawyer for Davis & Main at the recommendation of Kim Wexler, but the gig doesn’t last long. The pair later team up for their own private practice while Jimmy manipulates his brother to benefit his own work. That is until Chuck McGill commits suicide and Jimmy loses his law license. Gus Fring finally enters the fold in Better Call Saul season 3, which is initially set in September 2002. Flashbacks fill in some of the blanks left in Gus’ backstory but in the present storyline, he assists Mike in laundering money while vying to take over from the Salamanca family. The entire season spans across six months.
Better Call Saul season 4 picks up just after the events of the previous season. Without a law license, Jimmy works at a cell phone store but eventually gets another chance at being a lawyer due to a successful appeal. He, then, decides to practice law as Saul Goodman. Meanwhile, Gus begins building the super meth lab underneath the laundry facility. The season features a nine-month time jump bringing the storyline to early 2004. Better Call Saul season 5 is still in 2004, over four years before the events of Breaking Bad sets off. If Better Call Saul is planning to directly lead into the original series, the final two seasons would need to include a few time jumps.
Breaking Bad takes more of a present-day approach since the series was launched in 2008 and set within the same year. It begins in September 2008 when Walter White, still a high school science teacher, celebrates his 50th birthday while also learning about his cancer diagnosis. A few weeks later, he makes his first kill stemming from his new meth operation with partner Jesse. Season 2 picks just where the debut season ends in November. Walt is now known as Heisenberg and he gets assistance from Saul to connect with Gus. When the season ends, the setting is early 2009, which features the plane crash over Albuquerque.
Similar to season 1 in terms of length in the timeline, Breaking Bad season 3 also takes place over just two months. Skyler learns about her husband’s meth business around the time Walt is hired by Gus to cook in the superlab. When Breaking Bad season 4 picks up, it’s mid-April 2009 and Walt’s working relationship with Gus starts to go south very quickly. Over the course of four months, Gus cuts Walt from the business. Walt and Skyler then turn to Saul to find a way to launder their money. By the end of the season, Walt finally carries out a successful plan to take out Gus once and for all.
Breaking Bad season 5 was split into two segments when AMC broadcast the episodes. The season as a whole also encompasses a large portion of the timeline. Between July 2009 and March 2010, which occurs in season 5A, Walt, Jesse, and Mike start a new meth business. Walt ends up killing Mike and aligns with Todd Alquist and Jack Welker’s gang which turns out to be a terrible choice. Just before the midseason finale, Hank figures out that Walt is Heisenberg.
The second half of Breaking Bad season 5 continues where the previous episodes left off with a few flashforwards mixed in. Hank goes after Walt as the White family fully falls apart. Hank is then killed by Jack’s men, Jesse is taken hostage, and Walt’s only option is to leave his family before hiding out in New Hampshire. Six months go by until Walt’s 52nd birthday when he decides to tie up loose ends since he’s dying of cancer. The series’ timeline concluded on September 7, 2010, when Walt ambushes Jack’s compound, killing the men and allowing Jesse to escape captivity before dying from a gunshot wound.
When Jesse is freed from the compound at the end of Breaking Bad, he steals Todd’s car and speeds away. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie picks up just moments later while Jesse flees before ending up at Skinny Pete’s house. The story is still set in early September 2010 despite the fact the movie was released in 2019, nearly a decade after Breaking Bad ended. Jesse fights to acquire enough money to pay Ed Galbraith for a new identity and relocation.
The El Camino movie also features several flashbacks, including one in 2008 when Jesse and Walter first started cooking meth. There are also appearances by Mike, Jane, and Todd in the form of flashbacks to share more of Jesse’s complicated past. When Jesse finally pays Ed for his services, about two weeks pass until he’s safely brought to Alaska to start a new life. This brings the events of the Breaking Bad franchise to an end in late September 2010. That is unless Gilligan decides to further expand the series in the form of movies or TV spinoffs.
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