Walter White and Jesse Pinkman return to the set of Breaking Bad for the eleventh episode, in response to Bob Odenkirk's second season episode "Better Call Saul," which reintroduced the world to Bob Odenkirk's criminal lawyer, and revealing Saul's first encounter with them with the knowledge of everything he has gone through shines a fresh light on their relationship with Walter.
In the aftermath of the episode, there was one slight flaw that came to mind: their appearance. As much as we like Cranston and Paul to discover the secret to eternal youth, it's not surprising that Jesse (a character who is 24 during much of Breaking Bad) now looks older than the future versions of these characters.
A recent study shows that digital de-aging is a viable strategy for preserving iconic actors in their prime for a lifetime. This is not even mentioning the blurb between the de-aged face and the au naturale body, which has created situations where different parts of the anatomy are known.
It is a bold move, and one that has not escaped a certain amount of criticism. But when it came to Better Call Saul's success, you can almost see their dehydrated and sunburnt bodies again. This is a show that lives and breathes in the real world, while also avoiding a sensationalized version of crime that has been done to death in countless series.
De-aging isn't even necessary when it comes to acting. While some of the actors may not appear to be the age they should, something that might have been a terrible catastrophe is ultimately never felt. Take Jesses from the season twelfth episode, Waterworks, that sees him briefly cross paths with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), one of Better Call Sauls greatest characters. It's a moment that makes no sense as the other two people's lives were or will be changed by Saul
The fact that Jesse is being played by a guy who is old enough to be his father makes no difference. His mannerisms, complete with extravagant hand gestures that ensure he never stops chuckling, exuded the demeanor of someone half his age. Hearing him talk about his friend's coming-of-age is refreshing; he allows viewers to focus on the story rather than being distracted by digital lies.
Cranston's return in a brief but welcome cameo as Chuck McGill carries much of the same characteristics as Paul's performances, both demonstrating their respective personalities at a critical time in their history, while in turn becoming excellent examples of their acting abilities that will have no one noticing the additional flaws that appear to have developed overnight.
The advantages of not de-aging extend to a large number of scenes during the post-Breaking Bad runtime, aided by Gould and Gilligan in a way that they may not have intended. When Saul goes to his fate in Breaking Bads' penultimate episode, "Granite State," he appears like a ruthless old man, enslaving him both physically and mentally. His age explains the character's comparative youthfulness in the film.
When comparing Better Call Saul to its predecessor, the absence of de-aging is rendered entirely useless and unreliable. If you combine Walter and Jesses scenes from the two shows together (as many fan edits have done), the difference is immediately apparent, and it is not how the writers intend to approach them. To spend millions on restoring one of the franchise's most iconic moments would not only have been a waste of time but also have harmed the franchise's recovery.
Thomas Schnauz, one of the show's most well-known writer-directors, replied fairly bluntly, "it is what it is." This is a mindset that goes to the heart of the issue. As long as the narrative is compelling, and the performances are genuine, participants are willing to overlook flaws that might otherwise be problematic.
Better Call Saul is an exception to the rule that it is the best prequel ever crafted, with its most recent seasons proving that it has even exceeded its predecessor as the most nuanced character study in modern television? On paper, this may sound great, but in execution, it would almost certainly have ruined the show.