‘Better Call Saul’ S’all Good, Man

Photo courtesy of The Movie Database

Photo courtesy of The Movie Database

How do you top the King of Kings?

“Better Call Saul” had a lofty legacy to live up to after the conclusion of the legendary “Breaking Bad.” Most people kind of turned up their snouts when a prequel show about Saul Goodman of all characters was getting made. Sadly, this show didn’t gain the same traction that its predecessor had. Sure, it is definitely popular but “Breaking Bad” was and is a cultural phenomenon only rivaled by the likes of “Friends” and “Game of Thrones.” 

Regardless, “Better Call Saul” stands on its own two feet and manages to establish a unique identity separate from the rest of the “Breaking Bad” franchise. I do not hyperbolize when I say that this show in almost every respect is nearly flawless. This show not only lives up to the legacy of the story of Walter White but in some ways it actually exceeds it.

This is a very different show than “Breaking Bad” despite both being classified as dramas. It’s like comparing premium whiskey to fine wine. Both are good but are also very different so it’s hard to choose a favorite. “Breaking Bad” has a more breakneck pace with a higher emphasis on action meanwhile “Better Call Saul” is slower paced and really likes to sink its claws into the story.

It is very clear that showrunners, Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould learned a lot in between both shows because “Better Call Saul” is just immaculate in terms of writing and direction. This show has the best visual storytelling I have ever seen on a TV show. It is so well shot that you could write an entire essay on any given shot because every camera angle and scene was meticulously crafted to immerse you in what is going on. In particular, the finale provided some of the best visual callbacks I have ever seen. They were incredibly subtle and potentially hard to miss but when the realization dons on you it is so incredibly satisfying. This show is not really one you can have in the background because so much of the story relies on visuals for its delivery. 

Right from the start I knew I was in for something special when I saw the first episode and not a single line of dialogue was spoken for 8 entire minutes. Everything you needed to know was told visually without a single line of dialogue needed and this same philosophy is carried throughout the show. 

The characters, oh man the characters. “Breaking Bad” already had fantastic characters but “Better Call Saul” has the best-realized characters I have ever seen on television. Each and every cast member is relatable in their own way (even the evil ones). They get so much meticulous development to the point where they don’t even feel like characters, they feel like real people.

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seahorn absolutely kill it as Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman/Gene Takovik and Kim Wexler. Saul was mostly just comic relief in “Breaking Bad” but here he very well might be the best-written character in the entire franchise. If you felt conflicted about Walter White’s moral decent, just wait till you see what they do with Jimmy because his arc is given painstaking development. His downfall is tragic and heartbreaking because you really get to see the good in Jimmy despite all the terrible things he does.

The supporting cast are also on a whole other level. There is legitimately not a single bad or even mediocre character in this show. It is incredibly difficult to pick a definitive favorite because they all are exceptional. The returning characters from the original show like Gustavo Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut are even better than they were with even more development. The new characters such as Nacho Varga, Lalo Salamanca, and Howard Hamlin are scene-chewing and it’s hard not to get sucked into their stories despite knowing their eventual fates.

Right from the start, you know the show’s endgame. You are expected to watch “Breaking Bad” 

Before this so you know exactly where this show will end up. It is by design predictable but that’s what makes this show shine. Knowing where it ends gives “Better Call Saul” a constant sense of unease and tension. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. You know what will happen but you can’t help but watch.

The only “problem” I have with this show is that the actors very clearly look older than they did in “Breaking Bad” which makes the transition between the two shows feel just a little awkward

The finale, “Saul Gone,” might just be my favorite episode of TV ever because it feels like a celebration of all things “Breaking Bad.” It wraps a bow around both shows and further cements them as kindred spirits but it also is unequivocally a conclusion to Jimmy/Saul/Gene. It’s not super high stakes or bombastic. There is no machine gun scene in this episode. It’s all about showing the many lives of Jimmy McGill throughout both shows and it’s both beautiful and tragic.

“Better Call Saul” is a haunting show about a man surrendering himself to his worst desires and losing his humanity in the process. It is by all definitions a masterpiece of the highest order and a must-watch for any TV goer because it very well may be the best TV show ever made.

Score: 10/10