The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Better Call Saul

Like so many others, I was looking forward to "Better Call Saul" with trepidation. Disappointing spin-offs are a dime a dozen. For every "Frasier" or "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", there is a "The Tortellis" or "Star Trek: Voyager" or "Legend of Korra". While normally it would be too soon to say, after the spectacular two evening premiere of this "Breaking Bad" spin-off, I am confident that this will, at worst, go into the "good spin-off" category... and if it keeps up this quality, or exceeds this quality, it just might become the greatest spin-off of all time.

Like "Breaking Bad" before it, we are watching the transformation of our protagonist. Walter White was an egotistical, yet beaten down by life, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who transformed into the murderous, methamphetamine kingpin, Heisenberg. Here we will slowly watch fast talking, down on his luck, lawyer, Jimmy McGill transform into criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. And yet, thus far I don't feel like we're going back to the same wall. Walter and Jimmy are both very different people, in very different situations, likewise Saul while shifty and crooked is still someone you'd want to have a beer with while Heisenberg was someone to be avoided at all costs.

I was enjoying the show from the first moment, but as soon as we got to the New Mexico desert, where Jimmy and his two scammer cronies were facing execution at the hands of Tuco Salamanca, this is where we began to see the sparks of Saul Goodman. Jimmy is a natural performer, as many good lawyers are. And right there, when he talked his way out of an execution and talked Tuco into letting his cronies off with a single broken leg, each... Jimmy was finally in his element, he even later pointed the experience out as a good thing. He's found his audience. And when he retorts to the accusation of being the worst lawyer ever with "I got you off of death row to six months of probation, I am the best lawyer ever", you can't help but agree with him.

The two-part pilot did everything it needed to do, it re-introduced us to Vince Gilligan's Albuquerque and built up Jimmy's supporting cast, from his brother, Chuck, to his new business associate, Nacho. Michele McLaren and Gilligan's cinematic directing for the small screen made a very welcome return as I am confident enough to say that, like "Breaking Bad" before it, "Better Call Saul" will be the most visually beautiful show on television. Gilligan's use of cinematography would make Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock proud, and television is lucky to have him. It's like "Breaking Bad", but very much its own series.

So let it be known, a spin-off to a much beloved series just took a popular supporting character, successfully built him a supporting cast consisting of potentially interesting characters, all portrayed by actors who are not thespianly challenged. Sharp writing and cinematic directing has been brought to this spin-off. It can be done! It has been done!

Do you need to watch "Breaking Bad" to appreciate this? No. But you'll get so much more out of it if you have. Long time fans are rewarded while new fans are welcomed with open arms. Besides, when a show opens up in a courtroom with three nineteen-year-old hooligans on trial for breaking into a morgue and having sex with a decapitated head, you know you're in for something very special. I give it an A+

1 comment:

  1. I finished the second episode myself. Yeah, this show is destined to become the greatest spin off of all time.

    Like I did notice a few parallels with Walter White like in terms of shitting lifestyles but did not repeat similar beats. And it does show Bob Odenkirk's acting chops. He isn't just funny, he has a lot of range.

    And no joke, at the end of the first episode, I literally gasped and said out loud, "Oh my god" when it showed a very, very familiar character where I knew Saul was going to be in trouble. Big time.