Six very minor characters in Breaking Bad who deserve their own spinoff too
Spinoffs have been part of the television landscape for more than half a century, and despite what TV culture writers seem to collectively believe, most have not been Joey-sized flops. From classics like The Andy Griffith Show and Maude to 90’s powerhouses like Fraser and (yes, technically) The Simpsons and, of course, the big world of procedural spinoffs, the right shows prove that, when done right, spinoffs don’t read as tacky or forced. Nevertheless, Better Call Saul might be the best example of a spinoff through the lens of prestige TV. The show has now officially outlived its predecessor, and Bob Odenkirk has now been acutely established as a strong dramatic actor.
But are we being deprived? For a show with such an enormous and fascinating ensemble cast, is it really fair that we only got one prestige spinoff (and one event movie released nearly a decade too late)?
Breaking Bad was unique because at its peak, the cast was much larger than it was at the beginning, yet none of the character introductions felt wedged in or a poor fit with the rest of the cast. Characters who showed up seemingly out of nowhere could come back half a season later and become pivotal, if not leading antagonists. In Breaking Bad, not only could anyone die, but anyone could also become a principal cast member (in the case of Tuco, whose actor Raymond Cruz had to leave the show to take another role, he died because he could not become a principal cast member).
That kind of writing makes you wonder what the writers could have done if they had chosen different minor characters to develop further throughout the show, or to lay the groundwork for a spinoff.
There are plenty of unsung heroes in Breaking Bad. Here are just a few that I’d gladly tune in for a spin-off with.
Cynthia, the Pollos Hermanos day manager
Why she’s great: Ashley Kajiki doesn’t appear to have had any major roles outside of three episodes of Breaking Bad, but she is supremely entertaining and relatable as Cynthia, especially if you’ve worked in food service. Cynthia takes her job extremely seriously, which you can tell from the way she deepens her voice and puts on her Serious Posture whenever she’s dealing with a customer. But you can also see such exhaustion in her eyes when dealing with the utter insanity of Walt, the Cousins, Gus and the various other characters coming in and out of her sweet little restaurant.
What her post-Breaking Bad life would be like: Pollos Hermanos is gone, and poor Cynthia — who was probably just working this job “until something better comes up” — now has to find a new job, with her most significant management experience involving close ties to a man she had no idea was a powerful drug lord. Tuning in to watch Cynthia regain normalcy after knowing just how close she was to such chaos all the time would be fascinating, especially if her journey takes her from menial job to menial job.
Who shows up to say hi? Most of the people Cynthia associated with are dead (which will also surely affect her character), but if Cynthia is assisting in staffing up ABQ’s newest boutique/family restaurant/movie theatre/retail store, who’s to say she can’t hire everyone’s favourite, hard-up-for-cash, comedic duo of Badger and Skinny Pete?
Why he’s great: Who doesn’t love Joe? The DEA and law enforcement, probably, which is part of why he’s awesome. Along with Saul, Joe is one of the few people on the show with an acute, demonstrable knowledge of civil rights, but he’s much more relaxed and is just interested in running his business in a way that protects his clients — all of them. He has zero judgment against criminals (people with genital piercings, yes) and is also one of the most relaxed characters on the show. Of course, you would be too if you got to smash things for a living.
What his post-Breaking Bad life would look like: Joe’s business, Rocker Salvage, is a hotbed of illegal activity, which already makes for an interesting show, and Joe is one of the most impartial and non-judgmental observers around, which can add some levity to serious subject matter. Rocker Salvage is where people go when they want a clean slate, and Joe can do it — but what happens when the breaks aren’t so clean? What happens when some unexpected baggage lingers behind?
Who shows up to say hi? Joe has a natural rival built in — Badger’s no-nonsense cousin, Clovis. Clovis has shown that he’s not above selling out the clients in his lot for financial gain, but is also a lot more paranoid than Joe. And with Clovis attached, our good friends Badger and Skinny Pete just might stop in to say hi as well.
Francesca Liddy, Saul Goodman’s receptionist
Why she’s great: Francesca’s disposition in Breaking Bad reads like someone who has already figured her character out and understood her story, despite the relatively minor role that she plays. She’s savvier than she looks, she’s completely unshaken by the chaos in Saul’s office and despite seemingly showing utter contempt for Saul, she’s also fiercely loyal. Is it any wonder creators chose to bring her back to fill out this backstory in Better Call Saul?
What her post-Breaking Bad life would look like: Now that Saul is seemingly out of her life, who is Francesca? She’s relatively employable, but as Francesca settles into a humdrum administrative job, will that be enough for this supreme keeper of secrets? Perhaps, in order to climb her way up the ladder, Francesca uses her survival instincts and secret-keeping abilities to her advantage, and quickly becomes the best person to have in your corner.
Who shows up to say hi? Francesca’s former boss may be out of the picture, but you never know when the bumbling Huell and Kuby will show up, eager for a new job — and now that Francesca’s in charge, she can attempt to pull off all the old tricks her former boss did, with none of the nonsense.
Why she’s great: Myra Turley has made a career for herself through a series of very minor roes, usually only with a few lines, but her few lines as Hector’s nurse — hours before he and a good portion of Casa Tranquila are blown up — are perfect. Like Cynthia at Pollos Hermanos, Turley’s PSW character shows the struggle of an underpaid and undervalued worker who, day in and day out, has to put up with absolutely intolerable people (usually men) and does so with only a tight smile and profuse apology. Of all the people who got a raw deal in Breaking Bad, she might get it the worst.
What her post-Breaking Bad life would look like: It’s unknown what became of Casa Tranquila, but presumably it was able to resume business. But the situation of being in an underfunded nursing home where individuals like Hector’s caregiver are tragically ill-equipped to deal with those who come in — even those who, despite being physically incapacitated, still conduct dangerous business — is the great backdrop for a dark drama. Just look at how well it worked out with an underpaid, desperate high school chemistry teacher.
Who shows up to say hi? The nurses at Casa Tranquila probably aren’t fans of unexpected people dropping in, but maybe things can become complicated when one forms a friendship with the parent of an elderly charge — like, perhaps, Walter’s former boss Carmen Molina (who, perhaps coincidentally, shares a surname with Krazy-8).
The friendly, talkative, sex-positive arms dealer
Why he’s great: In less than 120 seconds of screentime, the unnamed arms dealer (Nate Mooney) proves to be exceedingly friendly, non-judgmental, highly resourceful and knowledgable in the subject of guns, ammo and armour and, apparently, has a way with the ladies. He is a hilarious over-sharer, who probably gets away with talking about his potential partner’s fetishes simply because he verbalizes at such a rapid speed. And he’s honestly a pretty good sport about getting shot.
What his post-Breaking Bad life would look like: He’s got an interesting job as a trucker and arms dealer, and despite his chipper disposition, it’s an undeniably high-risk position. So a “client of the week”-style show could easily become a serialized, long-form storytelling journey as the arms dealer finds himself in a few situations he can’t talk himself out of. Hopefully, though, he does eventually get to meet up with Lainey or Lolly or whoever.
Who shows up to say hi? Ideally, we get to meet his “friend” Lainey/Lolly who likes to get peed on but also keeps to strict bedtimes. Otherwise, one of Albuquerque’s many residents looking for armour is bound to show up at some point — say, perhaps, Old Joe. Maybe he has a friendly rivalry with the more buttoned-down arms dealer Lawson.
Pamela, Skyler’s divorce attorney
Why she’s great: Sometimes, characters come in with what I like to call Seinfeld syndrome: they exist within the main characters’ universe, but are played so straight that they serve mainly as a vehicle for the audience to see just how off-the-wall and morally bankrupt the show’s characters are. That’s Pamela for you. She’s so over the characters’ drama, because she lives in the real world where there’s like beyond the divorce of two insufferable people. The best part is, Pamela turns out to be correct in the end.
What her post-Breaking Bad life would look like: Since Albuquerque’s most corrupt attorney is out of town, someone needs to take on the scourge of the city and all their legal issues. Wait until Pamela finds out that the Whites are the least of the city’s crazies?
Who shows up to say hi? While most of Breaking Bad’s marriages have been decimated by way of spousal death, one marriage could potentially still be on the rocks: Gretchen and Elliot Schwarz. Whether the untimely demise of these two came from their petty fight over Thai food and pizza, or simply because they realized they are two of the most uninteresting milquetoast millionaires on the planet, Pamela can guide them through the least amicable divorce in history — while each of them comes closer to divulging the secret behind the mysterious scholarship they awarded to one Flynn White.