When Vince Gilligan announced he was creating a spinoff of Breaking Bad titled Better Call Saul I will admit I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t blame the guy for trying to capitalize on his stunning show about a chemistry teacher turned drug lord. As Saul would go on to say in episode one, “Money is the point!”. Breaking Bad was revolutionary for AMC and along with The Walking Dead helped the network stand out from the crowd. I felt like Gilligan earned our respect to give his new show a shot. And so far I am loving it.
Going into the show I feared the green shadow of Breaking Bad might be too large to escape. I expected fans to only tune in hoping a glimpse of Walter White or Jesse Pinkman. Hell I half expected the show to be a ridiculous comedy following the wild antics of a TV lawyer. My fears subsided as the show’s first two episodes weaved it’s way through a truly unique story that just happens to be set in the same universe as Breaking Bad.
The show opens up in a Cinnabon where, as predicted at the end of Breaking Bad, our good pal Saul Goodman is busy creating tasty and fattening snacks in a shopping mall. The scene is in black and white, perhaps signifying the present day timeline. Saul returns home where he drowns his woes with alcohol and old tapes of his commercials from the good old days.
This is all we get of present day Saul. At this point we head back to 2002 where Saul is still known as Jimmy McGill. He is trying to make ends meet as a Public Defender in New Mexico. Here we start to get more questions than answers. He tears up a check for $26,000. He threatens some old co workers that he will take the company to court regarding his friend Chuck. We meet Chuck who is sensitive to electromagnetic activity. Saul has a smoke with a blonde lady and asks her for help. We even get a glimpse of our old friend Mike as a parking lot attendant. A lot is thrown at us but we are still waiting for answers.
The main story of the two episodes centers around Saul hiring two red heads to con a potential client of his into hiring him. The story is fast paced and intense. It has the feeling of an early Breaking Bad story mixed with the ridiculousness of a Weeds episode. Here we see Saul talk him and his buddies out of a tough situation. We get a glimpse of why this show was greenlit. Bob Odenkirk as Saul has the gift of gab and watching him talk his way out of a pickle is extremely entertaining to watch.
My absolute favorite thing about the first two episodes is the pace. It is nearly identical to Breaking Bad in terms of pacing. Which to me says, “get comfortable, this show is going to be around for a while and we are taking our sweet time telling this tale”. Going into the show I thought the writers would want to rush and make the show stand out from its predecessor. The fact that they are taking their time really shows me that they are confident that the show will stand on its own.
My only concern with the show thus far is that I worry whether Saul can handle the load on his own. Saul is a fascinating character and right now I am really engaged in his story. But as I sit and watch I find myself looking for Walter White or Jesse Pinkman. Maybe not the characters specifically but the level of entertainment they can bring. If Saul is the Walter of this show then I feel like there needs to be a Jesse. Perhaps it will be Mike. I want to make it clear that Saul is good on his own for now but I feel like as the show grows we are going to need to fill the universe with some great characters.
My other thought for the show is that it would be the perfect show to be distributed on Netflix. Some shows are better suited for binge watching and I feel like this is the kind of show. Perhaps I am biased because I binge watched Breaking Bad. But I could seriously picture myself blasting through season one of this show right now if the option was available. The mysteries of the show aren’t big enough that I am on the edge of my seat waiting for next week. Rather, the mysteries are on a smaller scale and I will enjoy the show more when they are revealed. That kind of set up makes it the perfect binge watching show. Of course it would never happen since Breaking Bad was such a big hit for AMC.
We are only two episodes into this new series but I believe Vince Gilligan has struck crystal blue again. Better Call Saul is worth tuning in whether you saw Breaking Bad or not.
Kevin’s review: Episodes 1 and 2- 9/10