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Is Better Call Saul Worth The Time?
On the 29th of September 2013 our eyes were glued to the screen as Breaking Bad delivered its final ever episode, in which our favorite meth cook, Walter White (Spoiler!) collapsed to the floor from a gun wound, in his real home: his meth lab. We were all thankful for Vince Gilligan’s landmark series, but most of us probably felt “if only it didn’t have to end.” As it turns out, Gilligan fancied delving back into the Breaking Bad universe and announced on the 11th of September 2013 that there would be a spin-off series entitled Better Call Saul, airing on AMC and Netflix in November 2014. Is Better Call Saul worth the time and money to try and live up to the name of Breaking Bad?
For those of you who are not Breaking Bad followers, the new spin-off series follows the criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, who first appeared in season 2 episode 8 of Breaking Bad and helped Walter White and Jesse Pinkman out of difficult legal issues, and told Walter to use “Laser Tag” for money laundering; I mean, why wouldn’t you? As Saul Goodman said “7,000 square feet of rollicking fun in the heart of northern Bernalillo County!” The comedy touches Saul Goodman brought to the show made him one of the most popular characters in Breaking Bad, in part thanks to Bob Odenkirk, who acted the role fantastically.
The first issue I have with Better Call Saul is the idea of it being a prequel. The show, according to Vince Gilligan, will be revealing how Saul Goodman became the criminal lawyer we know him as now and how he got to where we first met him in Breaking Bad. That right there is the problem Gilligan has left him and his team of writers with: if we know Saul is going to become a successful lawyer with his own business in the future – how is there going to be high stakes tension? Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of room for new characters to bring conflict, but overall we don’t know the path, although we know the destination of Saul Goodman.
However, there is still hope for the prequel idea, as Gilligan stated recently that he is still in the early stages of the script; so maybe they can work the script so that half the season is a prequel, building an early plot-line, with story threads into post Breaking Bad? Possibly showing how Saul had to live with a new identity and how his clients from the prequel need him to come back.
The reason why the prequel idea was conceived was maybe because of the temptation of having returning characters, as Gilligan said he has already tried to nail down cameos for Jesse, Walter and Mike to reappear. This seems strange because Gilligan stated he wanted Better Call Saul to be completely different from Breaking Bad, which could hinder the spin-off because if it is not being well received, then bringing back old faces will just remind us of how much we miss Breaking Bad.
Initial reports suggested that the show would run for half an hour and just be a comedy, spraying out gags every two minutes; however, those rumors were put to rest as AMC has scheduled it for an hour’s running time, but not as a drama like Breaking Bad, it will be a “very dark comedy” so there is hope Better Call Saul will try and take the Breaking Bad world to a new place. Bob Odenkirk has reportedly been told to hang around a few courtrooms, suggesting that the show might involve a case or two.
Last month, in an interview, Gilligan made the point that he was having his doubts about the show too. “The thing we realize is tricky… is that Saul Goodman is very comfortable in his own skin. He seems to be a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, and that makes him everything that Walter White is not . . . And that also makes for tricky drama. When I say drama, even in a comedy, you want drama, you want tension and conflict, and a character that at heart seems at peace with himself is intrinsically undramatic. So we’ve been thinking about how to address that issue.”
There is no doubt Vince Gilligan has the talent to make Better Call Saul a hit. After all, when you have the strength of Bob Odenkirk’s acting and the opportunity to flesh a character out in a rich universe, plus watch the seedy side of lawyers, we might get a chance to see another side of the Breaking Bad finale! Why not tune in? We should also believe in Saul Goodman as he rightly put it, “If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it.”
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