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Better Call Saul – A Great Show with a Stinky Ending

BQB here.

So, obligatory SPOILER WARNING. If you don’t want to know how BCS ends, look away now. No one else reads this blog anyway so feel free to join the club.

OK.

If you saw it, here’s my list of reasons why the ending stinks:

#1 – While the last few Gene-centric episodes were fun, they aren’t really fitting with the character. Saul was always a contradiction. Very loud, flamboyant and obnoxious but also very devious in his planning and careful in carrying out his plans. TBH, it’s hard to believe a guy on the run with a bag of diamonds and a recognizable face/highly wanted man wouldn’t just lay low in a hole in the wall apartment for a few years before going out into the world as a Cinnabon manager, but they wanted to turn that line from BB about him managing a Cinnabon into something real so, OK.

Fun as the last few episodes were, it’s hard to believe that Saul, when being harassed by a dude from ABQ who recognizes him wouldn’t just call the vacuum cleaner repairman and relocate again.

But OK, I’ll buy that “Gene” was bored, restless, got a taste for scamming, went back to his old ways, got greedy, and got caught.

#2 – One of the central themes of the show is that the legal profession is a very rich and very pedigreed club. If you want a job at a prestigious big city law firm, you might be one of the lucky few who gets there on their own, but more likely you a) need a rich family who can bankroll you through a prestigious undergrad and a prestigious law school as well as the connections to get you in and all the coaching on how to get in i.e. entrance exams, applications, interviews and so on, not to mention all the internships and experiences you’ll need to get to the big time. Ultimately, if you’re a slug like Jimmy McGill, you need not apply and thus, that was the heart of the show. The slug runs circles around the fancy lawyers all the time.

Jimmy’s brother Chuck is the rare top firm lawyer/self-made man so it is tragic when Jimmy bests him. The rest of the fancy lawyers are all country club dimwits who would be working at a drive-thru burger joint without family connections and money. Admittedly though, smarmy pantload that he was, it was still horrible what Jim and Kim did to Howard Hamlin.

Ultimately though, when Saul talks the big time fancy hot shot US attorneys from like, a bazillion years in prison all the way down to 7 in Club Fed, this is like Saul’s masterwork. His entire joy in life was bamboozling top shelf lawyers who view him as pond scum because of his American Samoa degree.

So, I have a very hard time believing that Saul, as in the character who has been built up over the past 14 years, would ever crap on his greatest legal wrangling achievement by copping to the whole enchilada thereby opening the door for him to get slammed with 86 years. I just don’t buy it.

I sort of get what the show was going for. There’s an argument that Saul was such a slippery weasel that the only lawyer who could successfully prosecute Saul was Saul. He wasn’t going to give it to the prosecution. He needed to make them know that he had the power to get up, do a song and dance about how Walt made him afraid and yeah, Walt’s reputation for murdering those who disobeyed him was so well known it is believable that one juror would have bought it and he only needed one.

So he let the fancy lawyers know he could have beat them, and essentially he did, then copped to it. Essentially, he prosecuted himself and put himself away for far longer than a whole slew of fancy US attorneys could have.

This is something that would have only happened on TV. Frankly, the 7 year deal was a stretch. I debate that. He did still make a boatload of money and surely there are money crimes but I suppose he could always argue Walt made him do it.

It’s just very unbelievable that the world’s most slippery weasel would have bailed on such a fabulous deal.

#3 – I do get it is the BB-verse and here, this is a place where crime never pays. Everyone who so much as bites a slice of the forbidden fruit that is the rotten apple of crime pays and pays dearly. So it would not have fit that theme if Saul had won. I think we all wanted to see Saul end with a big legal showdown where he walks scot free and maybe even goes back to practicing but ok. In the end, Jimmy felt bad about how he lived his life, wanted to atone, and saw the only path to pay for his evil deeds was to go to jail forever. In real life, I don’t buy it. Jail is a horrible place. If you can get off in 7 in a quasi resort style jail with golf and ice cream, literally no one will say no please send me to the supermax. Yes, the show was clear to point out that all the inmates love Saul for his defense of crooks everywhere but yeah, not all are going to love and protect him forever. Again, jail is a horrible place.

All in all, if they wanted a Jimmy redeems himself or pays for his crimes ending, another route might have been plausible.

#4 – A lot is left on the table and unanswered or at least I don’t understand it. Is Kim still on the hook for Howard? I feel like Jimmy copping to it only makes her situation worse, not better. Think about it. Kim admitted to a lot of bad stuff in her affidavit. They won’t prosecute because there is no body and neither Jim or Kim know where it is? OK. Not sure but I believe that is true. If there is no body then they could never 100 percent know for sure that a murder took place.

Even so, she did admit to fraudulently painting a prominent attorney as a drug addict, going so far as to even drug him so it looked like he was on drugs, for the purpose of damaging a law firm’s reputation so as to convince its clients to take a settlement offer early rather than continue with the case just so she and Jim could get their pay days early…come on. That’s a prosecutable crime, isn’t it? Doesn’t Jimmy’s confirmation hurt her?

Again, all crooks pay in this universe, so Kim will face a big time civil lawsuit. Still, eh…even without a body I’m pretty sure there’s some stuff that as long as she said she did it, she can be prosecuted for it. Jimmy could be prosecuted too.

Oh, that and they kinda sloughed off the whole forgetting to prosecute Jimmy for drugging and robbing a bunch of rich guys then threatening to strangle an old lady with a telephone cord to keep her from calling the police.

#5- There is a lot of good writing here. The time travel thing comes up again. The first time, Mike says if he could time travel, he’d go back to the first time he took a bribe and not take it, presumably to ensure that he lives a decent, law-abiding life. He regrets the path he took and understands the money isn’t worth all the evil he has done and a life as a regular, middle-class Joe would have been better. He also says he’d go to the future to check on his family. A laudable goal.

Saul says he’d go back in time to when Warren Buffet took over Berkshire Hathaway and invest 1 million so that it would be worth multi-billions today. Jerk. All about the money.

Time travel comes up again with Walt. Walt is his usual dickish self and as usual, blames Gretchen and Elliot rather than conceding he might have been a dick about that whole friendship breakup. Still, he brings himself to admit he should have stuck with the duo for he’d have big legal and legit bucks today. He at least sort of admits that he is a prideful dick.

Saul would go back to a time when he broke his knee in a slip and fall and not slip and fall so hard. Nothing about, oh I don’t know, not slipping and falling altogether.

The third time, Chuck tells Jimmy it’s not too late for Jimmy to change careers. Jimmy scoffs, telling Chuck that Chuck never changes so why should he? Jimmy leaves and Chuck picks up a copy of HG Wells’ Time Machine. Presumably, this is a sign that both brothers dream about time travel and the ability to go back and right their wrongs and fix their mistakes. If only their relationship was better, they could talk to rather than past one another and figure out how to help each other be happier.

So in the end, Jimmy does finally learn that it was wrong for him to be a scumbag and he sets forth in a very unlikely way to pay for his scumbaggery.

There is also great symmetry when Jimmy and Kimmy share a smoke in the end, as they did in the first episode where they first became co-conspirators/love interests. I think here, if they ended it with Kim saying with a smirk, “OK how do we get you out of here?” that would have landed the dismount. In other words, Saul copped to his wrongdoing, went to jail, now can these two tricksters figure out a way to get him out? But I suppose that wouldn’t be Jimmy paying for his crimes.

SIDENOTE: I have a hard time believing that Kim would still have a New Mexico bar card after that affidavit she signed.

IN CLOSING: Thanks Vince Gilligan and co. and cast and crew for the 14 years you spent on creating a very riveting TV show universe. BB had a great ending. This one, I really expected it would but was disappointed. I’m not sure how it could have been better. I suppose we all wanted to see Saul outwit everyone and I suppose an argument can be made that he did, but I just didn’t buy it.

I will give it credit. This is one of those shows that was hard to quantify. It was a legal procedural, but also a comedy about a scumbag who took pride in his scum-baggery and his absurdly humorous scummy methods, a saga about cartel gangsters at war (where many of such episodes rarely even involved Saul), and a show that was part prequel and part sequel, going back and forth to points in time before and after Breaking Bad yet somehow it did it well.

I just don’t buy Saul giving up a 7 year deal. Crime doesn’t pay and that’s one of the things this show gets right, but if they wanted Jimmy to take responsibility for his crimes, they might have found a more believable way. What that way would have been, I’ll admit, I don’t know.

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Better Call Saul Ends Tonight!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Better Call Saul ends tonight. I assume it ends. If it ends on a cliffhanger that introduces yet another variation of the Breaking Badaverse that is explored in another sequel show down the road, all us fans will be irate.

In Vince Gilligan’s defense though, he does know how to give us an ending. Other shows leave us hanging but he usually does bring us to some kind of a conclusion.

Thoughts:

#1 – I gave up on this show midway through Season 3. It’s not that I gave up on it so much as I said I’d stream the rest of it later only for years to go by and I was like, “Is that still on? I’ll get to it later.” With the last season in the news this year, I re-binged Breaking Bad, then re-binged the first few seasons of BCS then finally got caught up.

#2- TBH, this might be the way to do it. BCS is by and large, the longest, most expensive exercise in fan fiction ever produced. Especially when you get to season 4, I mean, did we need to spend all that time on the Germans who built Gus’ underground meth lab? There are so many little homages and callbacks to Breaking Bad that if you haven’t seen it in a while, you’ll miss them. Whether that matters, up to you.

#3 – Maybe I misunderstand the Jimmy/Saul/Gene character but I felt like in later seasons, they really made him meaner and unforgiveable than usual. I admit over the years I glazed over Saul from BB as a sleasy lawyer who gilded the lilly a bit only to be sucked down the rabbit hole by Walt. When I rebinged I remembered, oh yeah, he really was a criminal in and of himself, introducing Walt and Jesse to various criminals and committing crimes himself to keep Walt and Jesse out of jail. Hiring bad guys to take a rap, openly advising money laundering, intro’ing your meth dealing client to a meth kingpin via a third party, these are all things no legit lawyer would do.

But I always thought Saul was about the money and somewhat practical about the crimes that lead to money. He often counseled Walt against revenge and rocking the money boat. Ergo, all the nasty stuff he and Kim do to Howard – while hookers showing up at his lunch to demand money was funny, framing him as a coke head was not. Yes, in the end it was about money, getting HHM to look bad so the clients would settle the Sandpiper case and Jimmy and Kim would get their paydays but surely there was a way to do that that didn’t lead to Howard’s total destruction. Howard hits the nail on the head in his final confrontation with the pair, that their lives were hard so they must have felt a man who came from a wealthy background and had an easier life was a target that deserved all manner of nasty punishment. However, Howard is still a person and didn’t deserve what he got and ironically, was the only one who stood up for Jim and Kim multiple times.

#4 – The show also let Jimmy off the hook for Chuck. Chuck was painted as a bad guy for getting Jimmy disbarred but come on. Chuck was a self-made man who rose to be one of New Mexico’s greatest attorneys and his stupid little brother screwed with some document forgery to make him look like a fool and ruin his reputation. Chuck saved Jimmy from criminal charges and got him down to just a temporary law license suspension. Chuck had a right to be pissed.

I would have liked to know more about Chuck’s aversion to electricity. The show waned back and forth from it was real, to it was in his head, to it was in his head so bad that it was real. At times you wonder if he really did suffer from a very rare allergy so rare that modern medicine science has never studied and therefore never cured it. At other times it seems obvious he made it all up in his head but why? My only guess is he was getting older, probably had a harder time keeping up with the fast pace of the law profession but being a prominent lawyer was all he had so mentally, he cooked up a fake illness that gave him an excuse to slow down and do less work from home. It’s clear when Chuck is pushed out of the firm that he kills himself because being a lawyer was his entire identity and that was gone so he felt like he had nothing.

At any rate, the show moved on from Chuck’s death pretty quick. If Jimmy ever felt bad about it we didn’t see much of it, though maybe the point is Jimmy is a sociopath that is just about what he needs and wants.

#5 – The show is almost two shows in one. Especially in later seasons, it veers almost entirely to Mike, Ignacio and the cartel wars. There almost could have been two shows – Better Call Saul and I Like Mike. The Ignacio storyline has to be the longest fan fiction exercise ever, all designed to bring us to the point of that throwaway line in Breaking Bad where Walt and Jesse in ski masks try to intimidate Saul at gunpoint only for Saul to say something about he thought Ignacio said they were cool. At the time it just seemed that the purpose of this line was to show us Saul was so crooked that when someone kidnapped him and put a gun to his head, he had so many scumbags in his life that he assumed it was another scumbag entirely and thus, dear audience, this man is so crooked.

PREDICTIONS:

Funny thing is I let this show go a long time, but then the past half-season I have been glued to my seat. I have never had appointment watching like this since Game of Thrones. Sidenote: I have to watch it Tuesday nights so please don’t post any last episode spoilers in the comments. I’ll have to get through Monday night and all day Tuesday without reading any.

#1 – As Gene tells Kim in the last episode, Mike’s dead. Lalo’s dead. Gus Fring is dead. Add to that Walter White is dead. Jesse Pinkman is presumed on the run. There’s no one alive who can testify against them so who’s to say Gene can’t come out of hiding, beat any cases against him and become Saul again? Gene did do criminal stuff as Gene, but are there any witnesses willing to testify?

#2 – Jimmy loves Kim to the point where he comes out of hiding to cop to everything and get Kim off the hook.

#3 – Jimmy goes into hiding somewhere else with the help of the vacuum cleaner salesman. Or he doesn’t because Robert Forster died so maybe the vacuum man/relocator died too. If only Forster had lived, wouldn’t a relocator series have been fun? Younger actor in a prequel relocator series, Vince. Look into it.

#4 – Gene gets arrested for his Gene crimes and is ID’d as Saul and pays for Saul’s crimes.

#5 – A fun theory going around is the story ends with Saul being locked up next to Walter White who as it turns out, survived his gunshot wound. BCS indicates Walt is dead though, but perhaps only dead to the public. Maybe the relocator relocates Saul and a recovered Walt together in a 2 for 1 deal. They live out their golden years as an Oscar and Felix odd couple. Cue new series.

ULTIMATE PREDICTION: The show is adept at defying prediction so the outcome will be something we won’t predict.

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Better Call Saul Prediction – Saul Becomes Saul Again

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal, BQB here.

Can you believe it? Better Call Saul just entered the last half of its final season, and unless there’s an impending reboot or sequel or prequel we don’t know about (always possible) this will mark the end of the Breaking Badaverse.

I’ll expand later but right now, I want to predict that Saul will be Saul again. Right now, he’s Gene, hiding out in Omaha on the run from the law after being the lawyer for chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin Heisenberg.

If you check out the promos, you see Gene in black and white slipping on a red suit jacket. Meaning? “Gene’s” life is always shown in drab black and white. “Saul” was once very flamboyant. He lived for arguments and action and courtroom drama and intrigue and stacking that cheese and outwitting his opponents.

But as Gene, he just goes to work, comes home, and tries his best to go unnoticed, hoping the police won’t pick him up. The show is in color when it shows Saul’s earlier life, the one where he was a fast talking ambulance chaser and having a great time.

SPOILER – If you have seen Breaking Bad and the later Jesse-centric El Camino Netflix film, you know pretty much anyone who could testify against Saul is either dead (pretty much everyone) or on the run (Jesse). So, is there anyone left to testify against him?

He could very easily step out of the shadows and reclaim his lawyer fame, blathering about how dare the criminal justice system railroad him into going into hiding. That’s what I get out of the promo photo. For Saul, being a civilian is drab gray. Being a lawyer is color. It seems like a hint he’s slipping that lawyer coat he loves on to ride again.

The thing that always made this show stand out is how it illustrated crime does not pay. It really, really does not. Over the course of the original, Walt and friends and enemies all pay a high price eventually, even those who got too close and didn’t distance themselves before it was too late. This isn’t one of those shows that whips out a happy ending or absolves the wrongdoer. Crime is a horrible life and it catches up to you.

But Saul? Arguably in that gray area. Definitely did illegal, immoral and crooked stuff, but he’d say he did it all in the name of defending his clients. I don’t think that would fly in the real world but in the world of TV lawyers, I could see Vince Gilligan possibly letting Saul off the hook.

Then again, there’s the argument that Saul has done wrong and like all wrongdoers, doesn’t matter their reasons, if it was understandable how they got into it or if they’re even somewhat likeable, those who do bad on this show get punished.

Then again, isn’t a guy who loved to talk being forced into exiled silence enough punishment?

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Better Call Saul Series Finale Predictions

Hey 3.5 readers.

I enjoyed this show at first but must admit I let it fall by the wayside for years. Then upon hearing it was ending this year, I went on a binge and got all caught up.

SPOILERS ABOUND.

My main criticism is after season 3, when Chuck is killed off, the show descends into wacky fan fiction territory. It’s definitely for the hard core Breaking Bad fans, with every little aspect of BB getting expounded on. I’m not sure all of it was needed. For example, did we ever care how Hector got his little bell? I had already assumed someone just gave it to him to help him communicate through dings so I’m not sure there was anything else we needed to know. And Gus’ crew constructing the underground meth lab. I mean, sure, I suppose it’s interesting but why don’t we just spend a whole season on watching Walt’s tumor grow while we’re at it?

Anyway, for those who caught the mid-season finale, it was very tragic and shocking. Longtime Jimmy nemesis Howard Hamlin was in the wrong place at the wrong time and maybe that’s all I should say about that.

Perhaps in future posts I’ll go into my thoughts about other parts of the series but for now, my predictions as to how the show will end.

#1 – “Gene” gets to be Saul again.

In black and white vignettes, we see Jimmy/Saul as Gene, a mild mannered nobody managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. Living the life of an average schmuck was Jimmy’s worse nightmare and now it has come true. Once boisterous and full of life, he now keeps his head down and avoids all manner of personal connection, just trying to get through the day without being noticed.

We’re never quite sure when the Gene days happen or how much time has passed. Is it years after the Heisenberg debacle? Is it right after?

If it is right after, then seeing as how Walt dies and Jesse goes on the run and all the Nazis are dead and Gus is dead and all the major cartel players are dead and all the Madrigal players are dead Hank and Gomie are to our continued shock and horror, dead and loyal Francesca will play dumb, is there anyone out there left who could testify against him? If not, is there anything stopping him from dipping into that diamond bag, coming out of hiding, opening a new law office and Sauling it up once more? Maybe in a big league market like New York or LA this time?

I’ve been checking out theories and no one has predicted this scenario so I’m going to. It would be awesome.

#2 – Walt Whacks the Guy Who Recognized Saul

Word has it that Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston will reprise their Jesse and Walt rules for guest starring roles on the end of the series. Not quite sure how that would work. If the Gene days are right after the whole mess, I can only picture it as somehow they both stop by Nebraska on their respective ways out.

Gene tells the vac salesman/professional evil-doer relocator (the late Robert Forster) he’ll take care of the problem himself. For those who don’t remember, the problem is a former ABQ resident moved to Omaha who recognizes Saul and apparently intends to make his life miserable. Could “handling it” mean a phone call to Walt telling him he owes Saul one and he’d better handle this problem for him? Maybe on his way back to ABQ to harass Gretchen and Elliot and commit mass amounts of Nazi murder, he stopped on Omaha to take that menacing cabbie out to do his old lawyer a solid.

I don’t know how Jesse would get involved though, yo. Stopping in Omaha while on the run from ABQ to Alaska seems like a detour the disappearer wouldn’t have made. Then again if it is years and years later, maybe Jesse visits Saul for…some reason. Doubt it is to kill the cabbie. Jesse as we know doesn’t like doing such things.

#3 – Reunite with Kim

From the start of the series, we assume the Jimmy and Kimmy romance doesn’t last because after all, Kim wasn’t seen at all in Breaking Bad. There is a fun fan theory that she was behind the scenes all the time, perhaps as the mastermind behind Saul’s crooked tax dodging scheme “Ice Station Zebra Associates.” After Saul visited Walt and Jesse, he’d go to his love for advice on how to help these dumb yahoo meth cooks stay out of jail and she was the real maestro behind Saul’s operation but just stayed out of the limelight to not get her hands dirty.

Eh, that seems unlikely, though anything is possible. A safe assumption, what with the Lalo mess, is Jim and Kim breakup. Whether it’s just sort of a low scale breakup where Kim says she doesn’t want to be crooked anymore and goes back to a quiet law abiding life and never sees Jimmy again, or perhaps something bad happens that she herself must enlist the disappearer’s services, we don’t know…yet. Keep in mind though according to the show, Kim grew up in the Nebraska area so perhaps she went home to live with her mom and so when Gene says he’ll take care of the cabbie, he means he’s going to call his old flame who is also in hiding to bail his ass out one last time.

But then again it’s possible she just stayed in ABQ and went back to a normal life and just kept Jimmy out of it.

There’s always the possibility that something horrible happens. Maybe Kim dies by the end of the series. That would truly be awful but BCS and BB have never shied away from embracing the fact that a life of crime comes with truly disastrous and horrifying consequences.

However, if Gene and Kim could reunite in hiding that would be awesome. Maybe even come out of hiding. Didn’t she call herself Giselle when she and Jimmy did their scams? Maybe Jimmy and Giselle ride again. Maybe Saul gets to be Saul again and Kimmy is his co-counsel Better Call Giselle. Better Tell Giselle?

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TV Review – Better Call Saul (2015 – Present)

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.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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TV Review – Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

I am the one who reviews!

High school chemistry teacher with cancer + his former student who calls everyone “bitch” = show that most critics would agree is the best television show of the twenty first century thus far.

BQB here with a review of Breaking Bad.

When this show came out in 2008, someone close to me had just died from cancer, so I wasn’t interested at all.  I saw the previews for it and was like, “eh” then I saw the previews for Showtime’s The Big C, a show that came out around the same time about a woman trying to keep her life together while fighting cancer and I was just like, “Look Hollywood, cancer is not funny or glamorous and it is the last thing I want to see on TV when I’m looking for an escape, thank you very much.”

So the years passed and then somewhere in the early 2010s I heard people talking about this show so I gave it a chance on Netflix and was immediately hooked.  And from what I’ve heard, the invention of streaming media breathed life into this and a lot of other shows.

Because when you think about it, a show about a high school chemistry teacher dying from cancer doesn’t exactly sound like good time appointment viewing, but once it was available in a format for people to check out when they had a free moment, boy howdy did they get hooked.

And truth be told, the show isn’t so much about cancer as it is a study of a) the sadness people feel when they reach the end of their lives feeling like they never reached their full potential and b) how much the legal system keeps us all behaving like good doobies without us ever realizing it.

Remove a) the fear of dying because you are already dying and b) the fear/humiliation of ending up in prison (because you’re dying) and the nicest person you know might end up walking down an evil path.

The set-up – Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was, in his youth, a promising chemistry scholar who starts a business with friends Elliot (Adam Godley) and Gretchen (Jessica Hecht).

Walter sells his share of the company early, the company becomes huge, like Facebook huge.  Meanwhile, Walter grows old and bitter, having spent his life in mediocrity as a high school teacher with a part time job at a car wash just to make ends meet.

Somehow he manages to snag a hot wife, Sklyer (Anna Gunn) while his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) oozes happiness and gets along as a typical teenager despite a handicap.

When Walt is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his despair over his untapped potential haunts him. He’ll die without using his genius brain to make it big.

Alas, his brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, takes Walt on a ride along.  Walt catches a glimpse of just how much cash a good drug dealer rakes in and the little hamster starts rolling around the wheel in his brain.

What begins as an idea to use his chemistry know how to cook crystal meth in order to leave some extra cash behind for his family turns into a long journey into the proverbial heart of darkness, as Walt uses his smarts and fearlessness (because, hey, he’s dying anyway) to rise to the highest ranks of the criminal underworld.

He takes on Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his former student turned junkie as his partner in crime and together, they become expert meth cooks.  As Jesse becomes like a second son to Walter, their relationship is sometimes tragic and sometimes even hilarious.

Add to the mix criminal lawyer (the show stresses you are to read this as a “lawyer who is a criminal”) Saul Goodman (veteran comedian Bob Odenkirk) who steals the show with his obnoxious TV lawyer ads.  Saul teaches the boys how to launder their money, dodge law enforcement, get out of trouble, etc. etc.

Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is the old ex-cop/problem fixer that Walt works with. The combination of the grizzled old man who has seen and done it all and the chemistry teacher who sees things through gentrified eyes is comical.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito as crime boss Gus Fring is one of the scarier bad guys on television.

Throughout the series, Walt struggles to keep his public and private lives separate.  He continues to pose as a good dad and husband while sneaking off to cook meth and deal with criminals with Jesse.

All the while, lovable Hank, and I do mean lovable, is chasing some criminal without realizing the man he wants is his beloved brother-in-law that he spends the weekends with grilling burgers and shooting the breeze.

If anything, the Hank/Walt dynamic is what really makes the show. The show runners could have made Hank the stereotypical tough guy cop but instead they made Hank an average joe.  He loves his wife, Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), loves his in-laws Walt and Skyler, loves his nephew Walt Jr. and brews beer in his garage as a hobby.  He is, one might say, a true mensch.

The star of the series is Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator and man behind the scenes.  Every detail, every little thing that happens means something.  Take notes as you watch because if someone so much as sneezes it will turn out to be important later. Not letting a single second of time go wasted has become Gilligan’s signature.

So many shows take off and then descend into chaos.  The actors get too big for their britches and want to leave for bigger, better things.  Ironically, prior to this show, Bryan Cranston wasn’t that well known, his other biggest acting gig having been as the father on Malcolm in the Middle.

Like Walt, Bryan found fame and fortune late in life (albeit legally) but he never forgot the viewers and juggled all the big movie roles that came his way with Breaking Bad, keeping it all together to keep the show going.

And sometimes writers run out of gas, but Vince and company keep viewers on the edge of their seats to the very end.

In fact, if you’re a wannabe writer, I highly suggest checking out this show. (At present, all five seasons are available on Netflix.)

And catch the prequel, Better Call Saul on AMC. It doesn’t have a lot to do with Breaking Bad but you get to learn how Saul and Mike worked together before Walt came along.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Better Call Saul 2/23/15 – “Hero” – Episode Wrap Up (Season 1 Episode 4)

Better Call SPOILERS

It’s Saul vs. the big corporate law firm.  Who will win?  Who should win?  Was Saul in the right with his bill board or was he copying his big rival?

Discuss!

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Better Call Saul – Season 1, Episode 3 – Airdate 2/16/15 – Wrap-Up

Saul Callers!

Do you love this show or what?  It may not be Breaking Bad, but so far, it’s the next best thing.

At this point, I better call SPOILERS.

This episode focuses around the missing Kettleman family.  Saul wanted Mr. Kettleman as a client, believing him to be guilty of siphoning over a million dollars through his job for the county.

Long story short, Nacho wants the money and Saul’s in a pickle – does he warn the Kettleman family and risk Nacho’s wrath or does he keep quiet?

Do I go on or do I avoid spoilers?  I’ll avoid spoilers.

Best parts:

  • Saul’s hunt to find the Kettlemans
  • Character development for Mike (who kicks Saul’s ass)

What do you think so far?  Is it as good as Breaking Bad?  Is it at least some balm to heal our Breaking Bad wounds?

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Better Call Saul Premiere

So…what did everybody think?

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Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad

Yo Mr. White! This post has SPOILERS, bitch!!!

First thing to understand about showbiz people is that they are, in fact, businessmen (and women).

Imagine you open a yogurt store. For the first year or two, you suffer as you try to get it off the ground. Your yogurt stinks for awhile until you find the perfect recipe. Your workers stink until you find the right employees. Your location stinks until you find the right place. Eventually, you turn a profit and become successful. You want to reinvest your profits. What do you do? Do you start a banana stand? Open a pizza shop? A drycleaner store?

No, you go with what has worked for you – you open another yogurt stand.

And that’s why you see Fast and Furious 7, Transformers 4, Spiderman Reboot, Star Wars 7 and so on. Movies and TV shows cost money and the showbiz types want to put their money in tried and true products. That’s why somewhere in the world a fabulous heart wrenching movie script is lying in a drawer somewhere, never to be produced while 95 Jump Street will be out before you know it.

Better Call Saul is an upcoming spin off of the mega-hit show Breaking Bad, starring Walter White’s hilariously sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, played Bob Odenkirk. On Breaking Bad, Saul provided much needed comic relief to an otherwise serious show, but can he carry a whole series on his own? I have my doubts, but then again, I don’t have any doubts about the people behind Breaking Bad so if they’re behind this, then I will be too.

The latest news is that the character of Walter White will appear on the show – that the show will take place before, during, and after Breaking Bad. I am worried that if the show tanks, it might devalue the whole Breaking Bad brand. Breaking Bad is a masterpiece – you don’t make a Mona Lisa Part II.

I suppose this is one of those things where we’ll just have to wait and see.

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