‘Better Call Saul’ Plays With Color Symbolism Like ‘Breaking Bad’ — Here’s What Red Means

Breaking Bad is broadly regarded as one of the best television shows of the modern era. Fans didn’t want it to end, but the show clearly had a plan from the beginning, and that meant that it had to wind down on schedule in order to bring everything together for the conclusion.

Luckily, fans have been able to keep exploring the gritty and sometimes surreal world of the series in its spin-off, Better Call Saul. These shows have more in common than just crossover characters and a shared creative team. They also have a rich relationship with symbolism that includes intentional use of color — particularly the color red. 

‘Breaking Bad’ was a game changer

RELATED: 8 ‘Breaking Bad’ Easter Eggs in ‘Better Call Saul’

There are a lot of reasons to love Breaking Bad. When the series premiered on AMC in 2008, it ushered in an era of anti-hero protagonists with Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White held up as the gold standard. Watching Walter White transform into Heisenberg — a cold-blooded power hound who barely resembled the mild-mannered chemistry teacher he started out to be — was a thrilling ride for viewers. 

The show was excellent on multiple fronts. The actors have been praised for their ability to bring a believable range of emotions to a show that often ventures into the absurd.

Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Thematically, it mixes incredibly dark moments with very funny ones, giving the audience a complex experience that leaves them feeling equal parts unsettled and amused.

The creative team also paid a lot of attention to details that most viewers would miss — at least on the first watch. The scenes are carefully choreographed and filmed with intense attention to cinematography in order to perfectly encapsulate the mood and add layers to the plot. 

‘Better Call Saul’ is a worthy spin-off 

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Sometimes spin-offs can’t live up to their predecessors, and that’s especially true for a series that was as carefully orchestrated as Breaking Bad. The series premiered in 2015 — two years after Breaking Bad aired its finale — and its titular character is Saul Goodman, Walter White’s morally questionable lawyer.

The show takes viewers back in time to look at how Saul Goodman became who he is, starting when he was known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer who followed the rules.  

On the surface, it seems like the two shows share the story of a good man turned bad, but the truth is a little more complicated. Walter White is an anti-hero, someone who was sympathetic early on but took ever darker turns without capitalizing on opportunities to right his wrongs.

Saul Goodman, on the other hand, is a survivor trying to keep it together in the face of a spiraling set of circumstances. Walter White was ultimately driven by greed and power. Saul Goodman is just trying to survive. 

Color symbolism plays a role in both shows

RELATED: ‘Breaking Bad’: The Surprising Meaning Behind Walter White’s Last Name

Vince Gilligan, head writer and executive producer for both shows, has a reputation for his careful attention to detail. This attentive eye extends to the colors that he chooses throughout the show.

Fans penned a theory dubbed the “Fire and Ice Theory” that suggests cool colors are used to represent innocence and good guys while warm colors are reserved for the criminal and those with ill intent. 

According to Mental Floss, one of the show’s writers confirmed at least part of this theory. Gilligan likes to use red to mark criminals, and sharp-eyed viewers can use this detail across both series. Whether they’re looking at characters in Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, someone wearing red is likely a flag for trouble on the way. Keep an eye on these individuals who may not be who they seem to be.