Breaking Bad was awesome but it had to end, and if you were to pick one character (or in reality two) who you’d like to see a prequel based on then it would have to be Saul. Yes Walter White was the star of Breaking Bad and usually prequels deal with the early years of the main character but I’m not sure a show about a nerdy chemistry teacher would be as interesting.
There will be spoilers for the first season of Better Call Saul so shield your eyes if you don’t want to know what happens.
I think it is tough to make a show based around lawyers and make it seem different and original in any way whatsoever because it is such an oversaturated television show market, yet Better Call Saul did a really good job. Better Call Saul had a level of desperation to it, this wasn’t the lawyer who shows up and works magic in the courtroom winning the case from an unbelievable position (like almost every other lawyer show), it was about a man’s journey as he struggled to prove himself, it was more of a story about someone who happens to be a lawyer rather than a show about a lawyer.
A huge advantage Better Call Saul had was that it already has two established and well-loved characters before the first episode even aired. There’s a difference between making a show with new actors and making a show with the same actors, you already know the characters but the actors give them a special familiarity.
You wouldn’t really expect any less from the folks who brought you Breaking Bad but Better Call Saul is a really well-crafted show. You can see in the style, the acting, the dialogue, the characters, the use of flashbacks, heck even the lighting that Better Call Saul is very much Breaking Bad light. That isn’t meant to be a criticism; in fact it’s a compliment. They had something wonderful; they had the magic formula, why in the world would you change it?
I like how they took Jimmy McGill (Saul) and instead of having him be the ducker and diver that he was in Breaking Bad had him trying to make an honest living out of being a lawyer. Yes there were shades of the Saul Goodman that we would later see, and as flashbacks became more regular we were introduced to ‘Slippin Jimmy’ his conman nickname (although are all lawyers not conmen in suits?). The first season of Better Call Saul is in the end a depressing story, a man on his last legs is given a chance to go straight by his brother, he works hard to try and impress him by becoming a lawyer only to be slapped in the face by said brother who is the reasoning behind all his efforts to go straight as he finds out that he doesn’t really respect or trust him, loathed by his own brother he self-sabotages his big chance at becoming a credible lawyer and decides to go back to his old ways because that is in the end what he really is. It’s sad, the reason his brother was holding him down (that he was still at heart a conman) was the reason that Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman, the exact thing his brother had stabbed him in the back to stop. It is even sadder when you think all the work which Jimmy put in to looking after Chuck and in reality he resented him the entire time. I do however like the idea that Jimmy took on the persona of Saul Goodman as one final fuck you to his brother. At heart you know Jimmy’s a good guy, so to see him get shot down like that and move back towards the dark arts of being a conman, you knew it was coming but it doesn’t make the blow any easier.
We only received a quick glance of Mike throughout the season; we got the back story to why he moved to Albuquerque and how he ended up working on the wrong side of the law. Mike didn’t really come into his own until about half way through the season when our patience was rewarded and Mike became the badass we all love him to be. The Mike story is one of real intrigue because along the way we will surely be re-introduced to Gus Fring which should be very interesting.
The non-Breaking Bad characters added folds to the season but you have to wonder if they will show up again going forward. It feels to me that the Chuck story arc is now finished, Saul has said that he won’t see him again and his house bound status explains why he hasn’t appeared elsewhere. Kim is a slightly different situation however as she is his best friend in Albuquerque and surely doesn’t just get dropped with little to no explanation. Better Call Saul is set in the past however and it wouldn’t shock me if she moved to LA and got into shenanigans with two lawyers who don’t play by the rules but are super lovable.
I loved how they left a bunch of Easter Eggs in there for Breaking Bad fans, things as simple as name dropping Belize or having Tuco show up for an episode are delightful little chunks of kickback to the show which pre-empted Better Call Saul.
If I were to have one criticism of Better Call Saul is that I had expected it to be funnier. It isn’t that the show wasn’t funny, because at times it was, but rather that I had thought they were going to make it more of a comedy series. More often than not Saul was the comic relief in Breaking Bad so naturally you think that it’s likely to follow that sort of pattern, however they instead decided to make Jimmy a more serious character. It will be interesting to see if they make the show progressively funnier which would move in line with Jimmy becoming a caricature of himself in the persona of Saul Goodman.
The other question I would have for the show is how many seasons are they planning on making? I wonder because there is only so much back story which can be found useful before you begin to tread water and go around in circles, and we are on a limited timescale before old Heisenberg walks into his office looking for a bit of legal advice.
My gripes are small gripes and that is generally the sign of a good season or show. The thing about Better Call Saul is that we know where we’re going and we know where we’re starting but the part in the middle is a mystery, it’s a bit like if you were to go travelling where you book a flight in one city and a flight in another city for a few months’ time, you don’t know exactly where you’re going in between but you know where the journey will eventually take you, it doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable, in fact it can sometimes make it even better.
I really like Better Call Saul, for the first season of a TV show it was quite exceptional and I’m already desperate for more. As long as they don’t drag it out I think that Better Call Saul could become very fondly remembered and more than holds its own when compared to its forefather. Where will the show go next? Maybe a time jump, maybe we pick up with Jimmy driving away from Mike, who knows but I look forward to finding out.
What did you think of Better Call Saul? Why not leave a comment and share your thoughts, because why the fuck not?