Better Call Saul just might give Breaking Bad a run for its money
Better Call Saul has a lot riding on its shoulder. It comes from the creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan. Not just that, it also acts as a prequel and a spin-off of Breaking Bad as well. With such strong pedigree and lineage, it is only natural to have colossal expectations with this show. And thankfully to our relief, the show doesn’t disappoint.
Better Call Saul is the origin story of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the shady, street smart and shrewd criminal lawyer we all came to love in Breaking Bad, who was always by the side of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), teaching and suggesting them how to launder drug money and make it legitimate and at times he was their accomplice.
The show is set in a time which precedes Breaking Bad, six years before to be exact, where the titular protagonist hasn’t earned his stripes as of yet and he doesn’t seem to catch a break. He is wallowing in his self-induced mediocrity as he is reduced to accepting cases by the court that don’t pay all that much yet seem to drain all the energy out of him as they seem to be unwinnable. Contrary to what people may have thought, this is not a comic show at all, though it does provide comic relief here and there in an otherwise dramatic thriller setting.
This show is set in the same fictional universe as that of Breaking Bad. In fact three episodes into the season and the audience will already witness two central characters (spoiler alert: Tuco Salamanca and Mike Ehrmantraut) from Breaking Bad in the show. Not only that, the possibility of other Breaking Bad characters making cameos in future episodes can’t be ruled out. There’s even a chance of Aaron Paul making an appearance.
Another interesting titbit is the lawyer’s name; it isn’t Saul Goodman but Jimmy McGill. Obviously it will be later revealed in the season as to what led to this transition but do expect a good back-story behind it as well. Moreover, those who haven’t seen Breaking Bad need not worry; the one good thing out of many is that, judging the show on its own merits, it stands on its two feet firmly and without faltering. Better Call Saul excels not because of Breaking Bad’s association to it but despite of it, albeit having the creator of Breaking Bad at the helm, which does really help a lot.
For one thing, Better Call Saul successfully manages to avoid staying in the shadow and glory of its bigger spiritual brother, Breaking Bad. Thanks to an excellent script and acting to boot, the audience are in for a ride. The show’s pace is slow, sometimes excruciatingly and painstakingly, but the viewers of the series will be on the edge of their seats, curious to find what happens in the next scene. There are some cliff hangers as well, the first one in the show’s premier end.
This is good old quality drama at its best. The most enduring quality of the show so far has been how it has established the morality factor. While the conniving and scheming Saul Goodman of future years in Breaking Bad wouldn’t even flinch when he finds himself in a moral dilemma, in his alter ego as Jimmy McGill in this show, he’s actually a caring guy. One can catch some subtle cues as to where he is headed in the future when he employs the services of two skating con men for soliciting business clients, when the con men hit their cars on purpose and demand damages incurred to them.
The show is off to a promising start; its premiere episode registered 6.9 million viewers according to Nielsen, establishing itself as the highest-rated cable TV debut ever in US history. On top of that, this data doesn’t factor in the illegal torrent downloads, which is a popular way of downloading these shows especially in countries like Pakistan. If those were included in the statistics, that figure might have been much higher.
Better Call Saul beats the stigma that has been associated with spin off shows. Especially when one of the most popular sitcom comedies ever Friends’ spin off, Joey, failed miserably and got a permanent place in the hall of mediocre shows. Better Call Saul might not be the cult classic Breaking Bad has been, a show which defined and epitomised the whole action-drama genre, but it could carve out its own niche.
It remains to be seen whether Better Call Saul will turn out to be one of the most iconic drama series post Breaking Bad days, especially considering the fact that Breaking Bad wasn’t an instant hit. It was only after few seasons into the show that we saw it earning an almost cult following.
To sum it all up in a nutshell, Better Call Saul rides the coat tails of Breaking Bad’s fandom, popularity and admiration but never to a point of being generic, mediocre or to collapse under its own weight. Using the words of Tuco Salamanca, which has now become a part of popular internet meme culture,
“Better Call Saul is tight, tight, tight!”
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