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Better Call Saul

By all accounts, BREAKING BAD is generally regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time. Taut, exciting, and wonderfully acted, every season was magnificent, and most of the characters were extremely memorable. One of these, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) even got the green light for his own spin-off series. Saul was easily one of my favorites on BREAKING BAD, and though I was looking forward to seeing where they could go with him, I never thought for a second that it could rival its predecessor in terms of quality.

The finale of the penultimate season of BETTER CALL SAUL aired on April 20, wrapping up another run of 10 episodes that further proved that the series no longer lives amidst the shadows of its forbearer. Creator Vince Gilligan and Odenkirk, alongside Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, Rhea Seehorn and Michael Mando, have delivered a saga that may not achieve same level of jaw-dropping fireworks as BREAKING BAD did, but was equally tremendous in vastly different ways. It is a magnificent, slow burn fusion of crime, drama, thrills, and comedy whose inevitable conclusion is largely known, yet still finds a way to keep its viewers guessing.

In BREAKING BAD, Goodman was just the smooth-talking, unscrupulous lawyer that would do anything so long as it lead to a large payday. Throughout the duration of BETTER CALL SAUL, however, we learn that before he was Saul, he was the ambitious Jimmy McGill. In the previous seasons, he was not only attempting to emerge from the shadow of his incredibly illustrious brother Chuck (Michael McKean) but prove that his intelligence and ingenuity could lead to great things. By season five, however, Jimmy has changed his name to Saul Goodman, and truly begins forging the path that would lead him to become the sketchy solicitor who was more than happy to help Walter White launder a fortune worth of meth amphetamine.

The most remarkable thing about SAUL (and, believe me, there are many remarkable things about it) is the evolution of the characters. Odenkirk gives such a brilliant, nuanced performance, that I would easily say that he has become one of the most compelling television characters I have ever seen. Smart, boisterous, driven, and intuitive, we are invested in his descent, even though we know where it leads. Despite the multitude of questionable decisions he makes on an episode-by-episode basis, some of which lead to the downfall or even death of others, he somehow remains this lovable guy whose success we are completely invested in. Though Odenkirk has yet to win an Emmy for the series (a streak I truly believe will end this year) it’s not mere hyperbole to proclaim that it may stand as one of the all-time great performances in the history of the medium.

The thing is, it’s not just Odenkirk who dazzles. The evolution of Seehorn’s Kim Wexler is almost as profound as that of Jimmy. As Jimmy and Kim have become entwined together, we have witnessed as she has grown from supporting player, to catalyst for Saul’s evolution. With season five in particular, she has proven that she is not just blindly floating alongside her man and adapting to Jimmy’s whims, but that she is a strong, equally ambitious, and completely willing participant whose belief system and methods line up cohesively with Jimmy’s.

BREAKING BAD favorites Gus Fring (Esposito) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Banks) have exhibited great growth as well, adding depth and introspect to their beloved characters. In season five, they are now working together, and their motivations and actions in BAD come into clearer focus with each passing episode. Providing heavy doses of intensity and savagery with trademark placidity, they are the same frightening and ruthless entities who entertained us all the first time around.

Whereas BREAKING BAD seemed tailor-made for about five seasons, and admittedly had started to run its course (though every episode, including the finale was superb), I’m already saddened by the fact that BETTER CALL SAUL has only a handful of episodes left. Season six will be its last, yet I feel like there is so much more to tell. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t rely so heavily on the aforementioned fireworks of BREAKING BAD, but exudes unnerving drama far more effectively. I’m invested in the stories of these characters, including newcomer Tony Dalton who was electric as the dangerous, yet gleeful Lalo Salamanca. The minute season five ended, I desperately wanted more, and am dreading the time it will take to get to season six. Even when we finally arrive there, however, I’ll still be slightly disappointed, as I feel there is so much more to tell before and after the events of BREAKING BAD. That is not a condemnation on the decision of Gilligan, but a testament to the greatness of BETTER CALL SAUL.

BETTER CALL SAUL

RATED: TV-MA

RUN TIME: 46 min

GENRE: Crime, Drama

STARRING: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks

CREATORS: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould

GRADE: A+

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.