Drugs! Crooked lawyers! Cinnabon!
BQB here with a review of the Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul.
Once upon a time, Bob Odenkirk brought the comic relief to Breaking Bad as notorious ambulance chaser, Saul Goodman. On that series, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) informs meth cook partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston) that they need a “criminal” lawyer, emphasis on the criminal – not just a lawyer who specializes in criminal law but one who engages in criminal activities to get his clients off.
And the rest is history.
Better Call Saul is a prequel of the life perpetually down on his luck attorney, Jimmy McGill, led, long before he took the name Saul Goodman or became Walter White’s lawyer.
You’ve probably seen shows that paint the law as a fantastic profession to be in. TV lawyers are often portrayed as wealthy, fast talking beautiful people who drive fancy cars, eat at the best restaurants and make out with other beautiful people.
This show gives us a look at the grimier side of the legal profession. Jimmy McGill practices out of a literal closet in a nail salon, drives a car with mismatched doors and barely makes ends meet.
He has a love/hate relationship with his brother Chuck (Michael McKeen), one of New Mexico’s most respected lawyers. Chuck is a rabid electro-phone, meaning that he is convinced that anything that uses electricity is sending electric waves into his body that could kill him.
Michael McKean displays some of the best acting of his career as he sits in a dark house, eats food out of a cooler full of ice instead of a fridge, forces visitors to leave their cell phones in his mail box, and covers his home and his body with tin foil space blankets.
Meanwhile, there’s an on-again/off-again romance between Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), an attorney that actually strives to do honest work. Sometimes she serves as Jimmy’s conscience. Other times, she gets dragged down into Jimmy’s world of crap.
Rounding out the cast is grizzly ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut, the fan favorite of many a Breaking Bad viewer. We find Mike in a lowly state at the beginning of the series, working as a parking lot booth operator who regularly feuds with Jimmy over his inability to remember to obtain the required parking validation stickers.
From there, the two start going down the rabbit hole of the Mexican drug cartel world, that same world that Walter White gives a big giant enema to in Breaking Bad.
To be clear, the show is nowhere near as good as Breaking Bad. That’s not an insult to Better Call Saul but rather, a compliment to Breaking Bad, as that show captured lightning in a bottle and is a rare commodity.
However, just as its predecessor took an unlikely concept, i.e. a terminally ill chemistry teacher who stops giving a shit and rises through the drug underworld to become a kingpin, and spin it into gold, this show does the same with an unequally unlikely idea, namely, that the comic relief of the previous show should get a show that’s all about him.
The show has heart. Jimmy has a dream to become a great, powerful lawyer, yet there are so many obstacles in the way. Maybe you, the viewer, never tried to become a lawyer, but you probably had some dream. Maybe you achieved it, maybe you didn’t but either way, most people can relate to obstacles getting in the way of their dreams.
The show features Vince Gilligan’s signature storytelling style. It’s “show, don’t tell” to the max. The viewer is presented with a lot of mysterious, ominous stuff. None of it is clear at first but if you keep paying attention, the mental energy you expend will not be wasted. Everything that happens in the show means something. There’s very little filler or fluff that can be cast aside.
I admit when I heard this show was in the works, I had my doubts. Breaking Bad could never be topped and perhaps if this show sucked, it would taint the legacy. But somehow, the show, while not surpassing the first show, still holds its own and is a boon to fans who still want to see that Gilligan style on the screen again.